If you want to work your chest, but would rather avoid the meatheads screaming at each other by the bench press rack at the gym, give lying dumbbell pullovers a shot. This exercise specifically targets the pectoralis major, the large flat muscle on the front of your chest, and is also much less intimidating than other chest exercises. Even if you’re a bench-press and pushup pro, dumbbell pullovers work your pectoralis major from a different angle and also recruit your latissimus dorsi -- a muscle in your back. Whatever your current fitness routine, incorporate dumbbell pullovers for well-conditioned chest muscles.
Start with light dumbbells. Since your arms are fully extended during this exercise, even very light weights can feel heavy and cause your form to suffer if you can’t keep control. If you are new to this exercise, choose very light dumbbells to start with. You can always evaluate later and move up in weight if you need to.
Position yourself on the floor. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. With a dumbbell in each hand, extend your arms over your head so the backs of your hands are resting on the floor. If you prefer to do this exercise with one dumbbell, hold the dumbbell with your palms facing each other and rest the end of the dumbbell on the floor. Your arms should be mostly straight, but keep a slight bend in your elbows to prevent locking your joints.
Pull the dumbbells over your head. As you exhale, move the dumbbells in an arc with straight arms over your head until the dumbbells touch your legs. Move slowly and focus on using your chest to bring your arms up and over.
Slowly lower the dumbbells to the floor. Don’t let your arms just fly back to the starting position for the next rep. Inhale and stay in control as you slowly follow the same arc to bring the dumbbells back to the floor over your head. Repeat the exercise until you have completed two or three sets of eight to 10 reps, and gradually increase the weight as you become stronger.
- Perform lying dumbbell pullovers on the same day as other dumbbell chest exercises, such as pec flys or the dumbbell bench press, to get a well-rounded chest workout. Doing multiple, but different, exercises on the same area of your body in the same day exhausts the muscle fibers of that area and leads to faster toning and strength increases.
- To allow your muscles enough time to recover, you shouldn’t do chest resistance exercises two days in a row. If you don’t allow a muscle to repair, it will lead to muscle breakdown or unnecessary and prolonged soreness. To avoid injury, space chest workout days at least 48 hours apart.
Jilana Dennis is a health and fitness writer based out of San Antonio, Texas. Dennis is a nationally certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise and holds a B.S in exercise science from Illinois State University.