Stiff-Arm Dumbbell Pullovers

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Weight lifters will incorporate the dumbbell pullover into their chest and back workouts. The stiff-arm version of the exercise involves holding the elbows to a nearly straight position, which means most of the work comes from action at the shoulders. Always do a dynamic warm-up for five to 15 minutes before your weight training workouts so that your muscles are warm and ready for activity.

Doing the Exercise Correctly

The stiff-arm dumbbell pullover requires just one dumbbell, which you hold with both hands. Lie on your back on a flat bench with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Begin by holding the dumbbell over your chest with your arms fully extended and held up vertically. While keeping your elbows primarily straight, lower the dumbbell back behind your head until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. How far you’ll be able to lower the dumbbell depends on your shoulder joint flexibility. Pull the dumbbell back over your chest to return it to the starting position and then go into the next rep.

Targeted Muscles

The primary muscle worked during the stiff-arm pullover is the pectoralis major, which is the largest muscle in the chest. Your latissimus dorsi, which is a muscle in your back, is also heavily involved. Both the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi are responsible for performing shoulder extension during the pullover. The back of your deltoid, which is considered the posterior head of the muscle, also assists shoulder extension. Your triceps brachii, at the back of your arms, work to keep your elbows extended as you lift and lower the dumbbell.

The Right Dumbbell

Use a dumbbell weight that will make it a challenge to complete each set. For example, if you’re shooting for 10 reps, you want to lift a dumbbell that will make performing the eighth, ninth and tenth rep difficult. However, you also want to have control of the weight the entire time so your exercise form is stable. If the load of the dumbbell is too much for you to handle and it pulls your arms too far back, you’ll put unnecessary stress on your shoulder capsule, which could result in injury. In addition, avoid lifting a heavy dumbbell if you’re lifting alone and don’t have a spotter around to help you in case you lose control of the weight.

Bench Position

The most common way to do a stiff-arm dumbbell pullover is to lie on your back in the same direction of the bench. However, according to, if you lie perpendicular to the length of the bench, with your upper back resting on the bench and your hips and lower back off the bench, your lower body acts as a counterbalance to the upper body. You’ll may be better able to handle heavier dumbbells this way. When lying perpendicular atop the bench, keep your hips up so that your thighs are level with your waist.