Those intimidating hunks of metal sit in your gym, challenging you from every corner. The pullover exercise machines sport pulley systems, padded bars and rows of adjustable weights; they target your lats, delts and traps. While they appear to be medieval torture devices, learning to use them will leave your back and shoulders ready for bikini season. And after paying those hefty gym fees, that's exactly what you'd expect them to do.
When you are using the pullover machine, you'll be working a series of chest, arm and back muscles. The main go-to muscle for this machine is your lattissimu dorsi -- or lat muscles. The long, broad, flat muscle helps you to raise your arms. It begins at the lower back, one on each side of the spine, and wraps around under the armpits to attach at your lower ribcage. Your lats also help rotate the shoulders. Pullover machines will also tone your delts, traps and rhomboids for a rounded shoulder and slim upper back.
Safety is paramount when using exercise equipment. Always make sure to adjust the machine's seat for your height. Your gym's pullover machine may have adjustable leg and back rests, so check for both. You should be able to reach handlebars and footrests without straining. Lock your seat, and then set your weight stack. Once you are ready, sit on the machine's seat, centering your trunk on the backrest. If your machine has a seat belt, grasp the ends and strap yourself in. Always use the machine for its intended purpose. If a pullover machine is for lat pulls, then only perform lat pulls. Misusing machinery can result in injury.
Pros and Cons
A chance of injury doesn't mean you will get hurt. With proper usage, pullover exercise machines can be safer then bench exercises. Since the machine controls the weight, unlike you or a human spotter, you're less likely to injure yourself. Pullover machines are ideal for toning the muscles of the upper back -- the teres major and lats -- without affecting the biceps. If you want ripped biceps, you will need to add biceps curls or rowing exercises to your routine.
If your schedule or budget isn't ready for a gym commitment -- or you're just not ready to commit to the pullover machine -- try a pullover with dumbbells. You can exercise the same muscle groups with a pair of light to medium dumbbells -- 5 to 8 pounds. Just grab a pair and lie down on a bench with your arms straight above your chest. Keep your arms together, elbows straight and hands clenched around the dumbbells as you lower them behind your head. Raise the weights to their starting position. Start with 15 repetitions or until you feel muscle fatigue in your lats.
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.