Dumbbell Pullover: How-to, Muscles Worked, and Benefits

Dumbbell Pullover Exercise

The dumbbell pullover is a muscle-building workout that primarily targets the chest and lats muscles. It is an excellent exercise for adding strength and definition to your upper body.

You can do this exercise at the gym as well as at home with only a dumbbell and a bench. Performing pullover correctly will help you build muscles, increase strength, and improve balance.

The dumbbell pullovers have different variations, such as flat, incline, and decline pullovers. And each variation works differently to hit your upper body muscles. The combination of all variations helps you improve your overall fitness.

Dumbbell Pullover Muscles Worked

1. Chest (Pectorals)

The chest is one of the major muscles worked during dumbbell pullovers. When you pull the dumbbell and squeeze it at the top, your chest engages entirely.

A study published by the Journal of Applied Biomechanics has demonstrated that the chest is more activated than the latissimus dorsi during the pullover exercise.

2. Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)

The dumbbell pullovers also forge the back muscles, particularly the latissimus dorsi (lats).

Other than the lats and chest, the dumbbell pullover also works on the core, triceps, and shoulders to some extent.

Dumbbell Pullover Benefits

1. Build Chest and Lats Muscles

The DB pullover is a great upper body workout for increasing muscle mass, especially pecs and lats.

You can do the pullover on a flat bench to target your chest and on a decline bench to focus more on your lats.

You can do it on your chest day as a finisher exercise or your pull day if you follow the PPL split program.

2. Increase Strength

The DB pullover enhances your grip and pulling strength. Better pulling strength helps you do better in other exercises, such as face pull, bent-over row, and standing overhead forward triceps extension.

3. Improve Mobility

If you want to improve your mobility while building muscles, consider performing dumbbell pullovers, especially on the stability ball. The pullover requires you to pull the weight from behind your head to over your chest while keeping your lower back and hips off the floor, and this helps you improve your body balance.

Dumbbell Pullover Variations

You can do dumbbell pullovers in several ways to target the muscles at different angles. For example, you can do it on the floor, bench, and the stability ball.

Here’s a list of variations:

  1. Flat Dumbbell Pullover
  2. Decline Dumbbell Pullover
  3. Incline Dumbbell Pullover
  4. Stability Ball Dumbbell Pullover
  5. Floor Dumbbell Pullover

Let’s see how to do them with the step-by-step guide.

1. Flat Dumbbell Pullover

A flat bench dumbbell pullover primarily hits the pectoral and lats muscles and helps enhance upper body strength.

How to:

  1. Grab the inner part of a dumbbell with your hands and place your upper back on the floor.
  2. Bend your knees to 75-90 degrees and keep your feet flat on the floor with hips and lower back parallel to the floor.
  3. Extend your arms behind your head (with your elbows straight). That’s the starting position.
  4. Slightly lift your lower back off the bench, inhale and pull the dumbbell over you until it comes directly over your chest.
  5. At the top, Squeeze your chest and then return the dumbbell to the start.


  • Performed each rep slowly and in a controlled manner.
  • If you’re a beginner, use lightweight dumbbells.
  • Suggested sets and repetitions- 3 x 12.

2. Decline Bench Dumbbell Pullover

The decline pullover can be an effective exercise if you want to chisel out the lower chest and latissimus dorsi.

To perform this movement, you need an adjustable workout bench so you can make it a 30-degree decline.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on a decline bench, holding the inner part of a dumbbell with both hands, and position your feet under the lower part of the bench.
  2. Stretch your arms behind your head, brace your core, inhale and pull the dumbbell overhead until your arms are directly over your chest.
  3. Squeeze your chest at the top and then lower to the start. That’s one repetition.
  4. Keep your arms extended during the movement so that you can engage your pecs.
  5. Do three sets of 10-12 repetitions each.

3. Incline Dumbbell Pullover

The incline dumbbell pullover focuses more on the upper pecs and adds definition to your entire chest muscles. You can do it alternatively with other variations.

How to perform:

  1. Set a bench at a 30-degree incline, grab one dumbbell, and lie on the bench with your feet firmly on the floor.
  2. Hold the inner part of the dumbbell with both hands and extend your arms behind your head, with your elbows slightly bent. That’s your starting position.
  3. Keeping your core tight and arms straight, pull the dumbbell toward your torso until your arms are straight over your chest.
  4. Hold for a moment and then return to the starting position. That’s your one repetition.
  5. Make sure you focus on the lats during the movement.
  6. Suggested sets and reps: 3 x 10.

4. Dumbbell Pullover on Stability Ball

The stability ball pullover is more about improving balance than building muscles. It’s an advanced movement, but you’ll be better at it over time.

How to do it:

  1. Holding one dumbell with your hands, place your upper back on the stability ball and feet firmly on the floor with your knees bent.
  2. Extend your arms back and brace your core. That’s the right.
  3. Pull the dumbbells all the from over your head to your chest. You’ll feel the work in your pecs at this moment.
  4. Pause and then return your arms behind your head and repeat for the desired reps and sets.

5. Dumbbell Pullover on the Floor

You can also do the dumbbell pullover lying on the floor. It strengthens your pecs and develops upper body musculature. However, it limits the range of motion and isn’t as effective as other pullover exercises.

How to:

  1. Start with lying on the floor, holding the inner part of a dumbbell with both hands, bending your knees, and placing your feet on the ground.
  2. Move your arms behind your head until your chest and lats are stretched. Do not bend your elbows.
  3. Keeping your abdominal muscles tight, pull the dumbbell overhead until your arms are reached directly over your lower chest.
  4. Pause for a second, and lower the dumbbell behind your head. That’s your one rep.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  6. Perform each rep in a controlled manner.

Dumbbell Pullovers Tips and Suggestions

When it comes to building muscles, form is everything. With the right technique, you can target the muscles you want. And, if your form is poor, you can’t get the desired result.

Here are a few tips you can consider while performing the dumbbell pullovers.

  1. Your abdominal muscles should be engaged throughout the movement. Keeping your core tight provides stability to your spine and protects your lower back from any discomfort during and after the training session.1 Huxel Bliven, Kellie C, and Barton E Anderson. “Core stability training for injury prevention.” Sports health vol. 5,6 (2013): 514-22. doi:10.1177/1941738113481200
  2. Maintain a soft bend in your elbows during the movement.
  3. Perform each rep with a full range of motion. Pull the dumbbells from behind your head until your arms are straight over your lower chest so you can feel the work in your pecs.
  4. Keep your feet firmly on the floor. It helps pull the weight effectively toward your chest during the movement.

Possible Dumbbell Pullover Alternatives

The dumbbell pullover is an effective exercise for developing strength and mass in your lats and pecs. However, if you don’t do it for any reason, you can do the following exercises with dumbbells.

Pullover Alternatives for ChestPullover Alternatives for Lats
Dumbbell Bench PressDumbbell Superman Pull
Dumbbell Squeeze PressBent-over Dumbbell Row
Dumbbell FlyOne-arm Dumbbell Row

These exercises aren’t identical to pullover in terms of how that works, but they help you develop your chest and latissimus dorsi.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How heavy dumbbell Should you use?

You can use as heavy a dumbbell as you want as long as you perform the recommended 8 to 12 reps with the correct form.

Is the dumbbell pullover a good exercise?

Yes. The dumbbell pullover is an excellent workout for developing strength, balance, and mass. It works on two muscles of the upper body simultaneously, the chest and lats, and help add definition to your overall physique. However, it will be challenging to perform at first, but you’ll be good at it over time.

Are pullovers bad for shoulders?

Pullovers are not bad for shoulders as long as you perform with the proper form. They even help strengthen your delts and increase your shoulder mobility. But avoid it if you have any shoulder discomfort.

On which day should you do a dumbbell pullover, Chest or back?

You can target your back (primarily lats) by doing both flat and incline dumbbell pullovers. Both variations can help you develop stronger and wider lats. For targeting your back, you need to modify a couple of things, such as elbows position and wrist.


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Murshid Akram

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I help people achieve their best shape through my science-based and practical workout programs.
Picture of Murshid Akram

Murshid Akram

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I help people achieve their best shape through my science-based and practical workout programs.
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About Me

I’m Murshid Akram, a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I primarily design workout plans and share science-based and practical information that can help you become stronger, functional, and healthier.

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