Why the Dumbbell Pullover Needs to Make a Comeback

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Remember the days when the hottest strength workouts were practically nothing but 20-rep squats followed by a high-rep dumbbell pullovers and a gallon of milk? Maybe not, but if you’ve ever thumbed through old bodybuilding magazines you’ve probably noticed that the old DB pullover used to be the hottest upper body exercise on the block — but when’s the last time you saw one performed on Instagram?

If social media had been a thing in the 70s, it would have been wall-to-wall “OMG look at this sick heavy pullover!” Here’s why it should make a comeback.

1) It’s a Chest and Back Exercise

Back in old-timey strongman days when low-volume workouts were in vogue, one set of twenty heavy squats would be followed with one set of dumbbell pullovers because it’s one of the few exercises that works both the chest and the back.

EMG devices suggest the chest is worked more — Arnold famously credited the movement for his incredible chest development — but the lats get a great stretch under load at the bottom position. Not feeling your lats fire, or want to engage them more? Try using a barbell and widening your grip, making sure your hips are really glued to the bench; or you can try a cable pullover (demonstrated above), which gives more tension throughout the movement and recruits more of the lats.

2) It Targets the Serratus Anterior Better Than Anything

Speaking of forgotten exercises, the serratus anterior is an often-forgotten muscle. It wraps around the rib cage under the upper arm and it promotes a strong, healthy bench press and scapular health and stability. Plus, when they’re strong and shredded, they look like badass shark gills.

3) It Brings a Ton of Other Muscles Along for the Ride

Secondary movers include the rhomboids, rear delts, triceps intercostals, long head triceps, and abdominals.

When an exercise is this effective and hits this many muscles, it can be hard to know where it fits in a workout cycle. Try placing pullovers toward the end of a “chest day” workout. Do them with great purpose and a nice, long range of motion — move the weight slowly and mindfully contract as many muscles as you can, particularly at the bottom of the movement, for reps in the 10 to 20 range.

You won’t just help your chest and back development; you’ll press better, improve your posture, and you’ll be paying respects to the strength legends of old.

Featured image via @sribeiro130 on Instagram.

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Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of different kinds of things, but his passion for health ultimately led him to cover it full time.Shanghai was where he managed to publish his first health related article (it was on managing diarrhea), he then went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before he finished his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and headed to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.Nick’s interest in health kind of comes from an existential angle: how are we meant to live? How do we reach our potential? Does the body influence the mind? (Believe it or not, his politics Master’s focused on religion.)Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.