How Do I Do Barbell Pullovers?

Dan Cavallari

Barbell pullovers are extremely difficult exercises that will strengthen the back and arms, as well as the chest. This exercise should only be done with a spotter standing nearby, as it is very easy to lose control of the weights during this exercise, which can potentially lead to injury. Barbell pullovers are done while lying down on a weight bench; the bar is held with the arms raised above the head and the weight positioned below the level of the weight bench. This exercise is very strenuous on the back and arms, so proper technique is necessary. If you have never performed the exercise before, start with a very small amount of weight.

Man lifting weights
Man lifting weights

Your body should be positioned so your feet are squarely on the ground, or resting squarely on the platform of the bench. The position of the feet will affect balance and the ability to complete the barbell pullovers. The back should be in a neutral position on the bench, and once you begin lifting, your core muscles should engage, as should the back, shoulder, and arm muscles. You will grip the barbell a little wider than shoulder width, though a grip that is too wide will limit your range of motion during the barbell pullovers.

Once in position, you will lift the barbell in an arcing motion until it is positioned at a perpendicular angle to your body. Your arms and back will support the weight in this position. Then you will slowly lower the weight back to the starting position. Several repetitions can be done to get the most benefit from barbell pullovers, though some weight trainers will only do two or three repetitions with higher weights to build muscle and tone. Beginners should start with just the bare barbell to practice the proper motion of the exercise.

Barbell pullovers can also be done in a similar fashion with dumbbells instead of barbells. The dumbbells can be easier to handle, though the motion of the exercise is altered slightly when using dumbbells instead of a barbell. In either case, beginners should start with a low amount of weight, and even with the lower weight, a spotter should be standing by. This exercise cannot be done in a weight rack, so it is not possible to do this exercise self-spotted. A variation of the exercise can be done with the body lying perpendicular to the weight bench; much of the body will then be hanging off the bench, providing even more difficulty.

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