Safety for Dumbbell Pullover Exercises

Adjustable dumbbells are not ideal for the pullover exercise.
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The dumbbell pullover exercise is unique as it targets two opposing muscle groups simultaneously -- the chest and back muscles. If you perform this exercise incorrectly, you risk injuring a joint or dropping the dumbbell on your face. Before including the pullover exercise in your strength routine, learn the proper technique, body position and range of motion to reduce your risk of injury.

Body Position

Perform the dumbbell pullover in one of two positions. Beginners should lie on a weight bench with their feet flat on the floor. Make sure your low back maintains contact with the bench. If your back arches during the exercise, you may experience low back pain. If the bench is too high, place a step at the end of the bench and rest your feet on the step instead of the floor.

More advanced exercisers may choose to position themselves perpendicular to the weight bench with their shoulders on and their hips off the bench. Your neck and shoulders should be firmly supported by the bench. Do not allow your head to hang off the back edge as this can cause neck pain. Slightly flex your hips, but do not let them sag. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor.


The dumbbell pullover has a high risk of injury because you hold the dumbbell over your face. Use a diamond grip to ensure you have a secure hold on the dumbbell. Wrap your hands around the stem of the dumbbell with your palms facing the ceiling and the cap of the dumbbell resting against your palms. The dumbbell sits perpendicular to the floor. As you lower and raise the dumbbell, keep your elbows tucked in close to each other; do not allow them to flare out as this places extra stress on the joints.

Range of Motion

The general instruction is to lower the dumbbell until it drops just past your head and your upper arms are parallel to the floor. However, your range of motion depends on the flexibility of your shoulder girdle. Do not force the dumbbell lower than is comfortable. Pull the dumbbell back up and stop the movement when your arms are perpendicular to the floor. If you bring the weight too far forward, you transfer too much of the load to your front shoulders.

Other Safety Considerations

Especially if you are using a heavy weight, have a workout partner spot you on this exercise. The spotter should stand to the side of your head and squat down or kneel on one knee, then place one hand under the bottom cap of the dumbbell and the other near the stem. The spotter's hands should follow the path of the dumbbell, but not touch it. If you lose control, the spotter can grab the dumbbell from you. If you use adjustable dumbbells with weight plates, make sure the collar is secure so the weight plates don't slide off and hit you in the face.

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