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Pullovers - A Forgotten Exercise That Can Add Inches Of Serious Mass To Your Chest



Aug 11, 2010
The pullover is an exercise you seldom see done in the gym anymore. Yet back in the "Pumping Iron" days of bodybuilding it was a staple in almost everyone's routine.

In fact, way back in the old days before the invention of bench presses with upright racks for holding the bar, guys would do a barbell pullover, lifting the bar from the floor to their chest, and then do their bench presses. But gradually over the years this exercise got pushed to the wayside and is hardly ever done by the average gym goer.

The main benefit from pullovers is that they help expand the rib cage and work all the supporting muscle groups along the torso, chest, lats, arms, and shoulders through a full range of motion. This can really help add thickness and depth to your torso, which is one area that a lot of people lack these days.

I know from the majority of people that I see at the gym that very few of them have a well developed torso. It's actually quite common to see a guy with muscular arms and shoulders stacked on a slim chest and torso. But by adding pullovers to your routine you can help fill out and expand your rib cage and correct this problem.

Your rib cage is the frame work that supports all your upper body muscles. So if you have a well built frame underneath, the muscles of your chest, shoulders, lats, and arms will look much more impressive.

I was fortunate enough to have included pullovers as a regular exercise in my workouts from the start and I think this has certainly helped me to develop a large rib cage and good chest expansion, which is clearly seen when I hit a side chest pose as in the pic above.

The main reason I even did this exercise was the fact I started training in a simple home gym and didn't have access to a lot of the fancy machines that are so common in most gyms today. So from having limited equipment I tried to include as much training variety as I could using basic free weight barbell and dumbbell exercises. For this reason I sometimes feel that training with limited gym equipment can be a blessing in disguise.

There are two basic variations to the pullover, the barbell version and the cross bench dumbbell version. One is not necessarily better then the other, both work well. I personally feel that the dumbbell pullover stretches the chest a bit more and the barbell pullover places a little more emphasis on the lats. But you can pick the one that feels the best for you, or if you have no preference you can alternate back and forth between both variations. The main thing is that you just do them.

The pullover is a stretching exercise, so you'll make better gains from using a moderate weight, higher reps, and really working through a full range of motion. Add weight to the exercise in a gradual progressive fashion, but never at the expense of sacrificing your exercise form.

Depending on your body structure and how you do the exercise you may feel it working the chest, or you may feel it working the lats, or a combination of the two. So you could include pullovers with your chest or back workouts. The main thing is that you do them consistently so you reap the results that they have to offer.

The first time you do the exercise start off with a light weight and just get used to the movement and the range of motion required. Then go up by 5 - 10 pound jumps in weight each set. By going through this process you'll naturally find the sweet spot where you have enough weight that allows you to stimulate the muscles hard, yet still be able to perform the exercise through a deep range of motion and fully stretch out your entire rib cage, chest, and lats.

Start off with 1 - 2 warm up sets and then take a working weight that allows for 15 reps with good form. Do 2 - 3 working sets and really focus on feeling the muscles stretch and contract with each rep. Another little tip that will help add to the effectiveness is to take a deep breath before each rep and hold your air in as you lower the weight. This will give you an even deeper stretch throughout the rib cage.

You'll get more benefit from doing pullovers at the end of your workout when your muscles are already pumped. Doing stretching exercises when you are pumped up and the muscles feel tight will aid in muscle growth because the connective tissues are already being stretched from the blood volume in the muscles, and then by doing stretching exercises at this time as well you get a double whammy effect. This really stretches the connective tissue and increases your muscle growth potential.

By doing pullovers as a staple exercise in your workout routine you are going to experience a good upper body growth spurt and also notice an improvement in your flexibility and mobility for a lot of your other exercises as well. Give it a try and don't be surprised if you add an inch or two to your chest measurement in as little as 6 weeks.

By Lee Hayward


VIP Strength Advisor
Sep 15, 2010
good info. I personaly use the pullover always have thats old school and my workouts are old school thats how I learned too train


Dec 24, 2010
Ahhh From Lee Hayward. I like some of Lee's info. I'm actually on his mailing list. I would agree that pull overs are a great addition to anyones chest routine, they are even mentioned in DC training. The only drawback is age. Once a person reaches about 40 this exercise isn't as effective. Great article!


Sep 29, 2010
Wow, nearly forgotten that one, dumbell pullovers were part of my beginning arsenal, was supposed to expand the chest by stretching the cartilage in addition to the muscle worked- really effective for younger trainees who are still growing.

Never heard about the lack of effectiveness for trainees over 40- gonna have to feel that out.

I remember the feel of the stretch when you get into position on the bench and then drop your ass, full on pullover stretch!
Lizard King

Lizard King

Staff Member
Sep 9, 2010
I usually do pull overs as a warm up to chest, back and shoulers. They really get the blood moving everywhere you need it


Oct 4, 2010
Nifty read. I'm always the black sheep of this exercise. I like how it said in the article, "depending on your body structure" is where you feel it because I feel it in my lats so when I do it, I add it to the end of my back workout. I'll do db pullover or some cable lat pullover interchangeably depending on what's available. kneeling, using a long rope on a cable and moving your hands apart towards the end of the concentric motion is a nice feel. I doubt this variation is news to anyone, but Hell it's nice to get reminders every once in a while. ;)


Sep 10, 2010
I used to do pull-overs with the nautilous machine and it was amazing! Nowadays, i rarely perform this exercise because i feel it involves too much tricep work (for me).


VIP Member
Jan 31, 2011
I always found they worked my lats more then my chest.


Dec 30, 2010
I use them still at the end of my chest workouts do 4 sets till failure as heavy as possible


Sep 20, 2010
its not forgotten to me ..except i use a barbell instead of a dumbell...great exercise......nothing builds a bigger rib cage.dw
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Sep 20, 2010
I agree, I use them at the end of my back day.
try them with a barbell...u wont have that same problem...but dont bent arms wile going back ...keep arms stright.You will feel it in your chess and rig cage,,,mostly the day after...dw