Exercise Analysis: Pullovers

Exercise Analysis: Pullovers


Do pullovers target your pecs (chest) or your lats (back)?



In the training world there is debate over what muscles pullovers with a barbell or dumbbell actually target. We’re going to put an end to that debate once and for all! The pullover is a very popular exercises because it is a multi-joint upper body movement in which the athlete can move pretty heavy weights because of the major muscles groups involved.


How to perform the lift properly?

  1. Your arms should start perpendicular to your body with weight in hands
  2. Move weight and arms straight backward until the are parallel to the floor
  3. Elbows can be bent or straight at this point

    1. Straighter arms result in a larger resistance and it helps eliminate the triceps from being involved
  4. Pull the weight back to the starting position without movement at the elbow.

An analysis of the muscle activity during this exercise has shown that pectoralis major (chest) had a significantly higher activation during the entire lift. In fact, the latissimus dorsi was only about 10% of the muscle activation level of the pecs. Finally, they established that straighter arms during the ascent of the lift resulted in greater muscle activation of the pecs.


Bottom Line: Pullovers target your pecs significantly more than your lats and they should be done with your arms as straight as possible to maximize pec muscle activity.


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Featured Image By: IronGrif

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