An exercise that is often overlooked by many in the gym, is the pullover. It’s great for developing the bulk in the upper torso, and among the muscles worked are: the pecs (pectoralis major and minor), the long head of the triceps, the lats and serratus.
It’s considered by some in the bodybuilding world, to be an ‘old-school’ exercise; like anything, things go in and out of fashion. However, there aren’t that many core chest exercises out there, and yet the pullover seems to get relegated to the bottom of the pile or even omitted completely.
You will be able to achieve good expansion of the rib cage if you work through a full range of motion, and over a period of training will help to improve the overall physique of your chest and upper torso.
The pullover can be done in two ways, either with a single dumbbell or a barbell – the difference being that, with the bent arm dumbbell pullover, you can get a slightly better stretch in the chest, whereas the barbell pullover tends to place a little more emphasis on the lats.
So where in your routine should you include pullover exercises?
It’s preferable to perform them after you have finished your bench and dumbbell presses – as these should always be your bread and butter chest exercises.
Dumbbell Pullover Exercise
There are two ways you can lie on the bench to perform this exercise: 1) along the bench or 2) across it (perpendicular to it). When you perform the cross-bench dumbbell pullover, you can achieve better expansion of the rib cage – by keeping your pelvis lower than the shoulders.
Use a Safe Grip:
Grab a fat dumbbell at one end, with the palms of your hands against the plates and your thumbs underneath the handle.
Your grip is important here, because it’s not a conventional way of holding a dumbbell and it’s probably the only exercise where the weight will pass directly over your face.
With the correct grip, it is a safe exercise to perform, as your palms and thumbs form a triangle under the plates. Just make sure that the weight plates of the dumbbell are secured to the handle and/or spin-locks are tightly fastened.
Never hold the dumbbell from the plates themselves – it’s not the correct grip – sweaty hands could cause them to slip and cause you injury
- Position yourself across a flat bench (at a 90 degree angle) with your shoulder girdle resting on the bench and the back of your head half-way over the edge.
- With your feet flat on the ground, knees bent at 90 degrees, keep your pelvis as low as you can – let it sink down and you should feel a stretch in the abs.
- Holding the dumbbell with both hands, extend your arms vertically so the weight is directly over your face. Keep your elbows slightly bent. This is the starting position.
- Inhale and lower the dumbbell behind your head, until your upper arms are in line with your torso. Keep your arms bent at the elbow. Return to the start position, while exhaling.
- Repeat for as many reps as you can do.
Barbell Pullover Exercise
Grab a small barbell and load it with relatively light weight- say 2.5 – 5 kg on each end of the bar. Start off with light weight, as a warm up, and gently increase the weight so you can gauge how much heavier you will be able to go after each set.
It’s important to do this with proper form, so don’t sacrifice this for heavier weight. This exercise isn’t suitable for you to put really heavy weights on the bar.
- Using an overhand grip, your hand spacing should be shoulder-width but not too wide as it makes this exercise more difficult and places more strain on your shoulders.
- Lie high up on the bench, with your head sitting right on the edge – your shoulders will be rotating during this exercise so your arms will need some room to manoeuvre; if you lie farther down the bench, your arms will hit it as you lower the bar.
- Extend your arms vertically and from this starting position, lower the bar gently behind your head until horizontal.
- Allow your chest to expand as much as it can – you will feel a good stretch in your chest, triceps and your rib cage will open up.
- Keep your stomach tight by contracting your abs – this will help to keep your hips down on the bench.
- Bring the bar back up to the vertical position until it is directly over your chest.
Including pullovers in your chest workouts, will make your upper body look and feel stronger and improve your posture and flexibility. Perform them towards the end of your routine and see and feel the benefits after a few weeks of consistent training.