Dumbbell Pullover Alternatives for Lats

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Dumbbell pullovers are an old-school exercise used by golden-era bodybuilders to add width to their lats and definition to their pecs.

But as you progress and get stronger, you might not have access to a big enough dumbbell. Or you may want to switch things up and hit your muscles from different angles.

Either way, you’ll find the most complete list of dumbbell pullover alternative exercises on this page.

What Is a Dumbbell Pullover?

The dumbbell pullover is a resistance training exercise that involves pulling a single dumbbell over your body while lying on a bench. Generally, you hold the inside of one end of the dumbbell, but you could also wrap both hands around the dumbbell handle.

Also, you can lie lengthwise on the bench or with your body across the bench. Usually, I recommend lying across the bench so you can drop your hips and get more stretch and range of motion.

In theory, the dumbbell pullover is an isolation exercise because only your shoulder joint should move. However, this exercise actually works multiple muscle groups depending on your arm position and range of motion.

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Dumbbell Pullover Muscles Worked

The primary muscles worked during a dumbbell pullover are the upper latissimus dorsi or lats. These are the largest muscles of the back inserted in your sides and up near your armpits.

But dumbbell pullovers can also work your chest, triceps, and serratus muscles. If you’re unfamiliar, the serratus is the finger-like muscle attached to the rib cage below your chest.

Learn More: Dumbbell Pullover for Lats vs. Chest

However, the dumbbell pullover is not a direct chest exercise nor the best exercise for building your pectorals. So this article shows you several dumbbell pullover alternatives for building your lats.

Dumbbell Pullover Muscles Worked 2

14 Dumbbell Pullover Alternative Exercises for Lats

Now you know what a dumbbell pullover is and how it works your muscles. So it’s time to jump into some of the best alternative exercises.

I’ve sorted the list by equipment, so you can easily find a dumbbell pullover alternative that works with your gym setup. There are sections for free weights, machines, and other equipment.

Free Weight Dumbbell Pullover Alternative

This section includes exercise variations using dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or weight plates.

1. Dual Dumbbell Pullover

One of the main reasons you might need a dumbbell pullover alternative is that you don’t have a heavy dumbbell. But you can get around that problem by using two smaller dumbbells.

For this pullover variation, start by holding a dumbbell in each hand and grip it by the handle instead of the inside of the weight plate. Then lie back on the bench and extend both arms straight over your chest.

Lower the dumbbells simultaneously over your head from this starting position while keeping your arms relatively straight. Now pull the dumbbells back over by squeezing your lats and keeping your elbows locked.

Dual Dumbbell Pullover Alternative

2. Dumbbell Pullover on Exercise Ball

Another way to bypass a heavy dumbbell is by performing the pullover on an exercise ball. This makes the exercise more challenging by forcing you to stabilize your body throughout the movement.

You should notice more activation in the stabilizer muscles of your shoulder blades and back. Plus, your core will get more of a workout as well.

Exercise Ball Dumbbell Pullover Alternative

3. Single Arm Dumbbell Pullover

The single-arm variation is the third way you can perform dumbbell pullovers with relatively light weights.

Again, start by grabbing the dumbbell handle and lying back with your arm extended in front of you. Keep your other arm at your side or across the front of your body.

Now lower the dumbbell overhead while keeping your arm relatively starting. Finally, pull the dumbbell back to the starting position when you feel a stretch in your lat.

Performing this variation on an exercise ball, as shown below, will up the level of difficulty even more.

Single Arm Dumbbell Pullover Alternative

4. Kettlebell Pullover

You can also perform the pullover exercise with a kettlebell instead of a dumbbell. In some ways, the kettlebell is better for this exercise because the handle is easier to grip.

For this variation, hold the kettlebell with one hand on each of the angle shafts of the handle. Your thumbs and index fingers should be facing the weight.

Next, lie on your back with the kettlebell on your chest and hoist it to arm’s length. Now perform the pullover movement as you would with a dumbbell.

I should also point out that you don’t even need a bench to perform these exercises. You could do them while lying on the floor, as shown below. But not having your body elevated will reduce the range of motion.

Kettlebell Pullover Variation

5. Barbell Pullover

The barbell pullover is arguably more versatile than the single dumbbell pullover because you can change your grip width.

For this variation, start by grabbing a straight bar or EZ bar with an overhand grip. Then lie on a bench and press the bar to arm’s length.

Next, lower the bar over your head without bending your elbows. Once your reach full overhead extension, pull the bar back over your body to the starting position.

I recommend using a narrower grip, as shown below, when performing the barbell pullover for lats. Because the wider you go, the more likely you are to feel it in your chest and serratus muscles.

Barbell Pullover 2

6. Plate Pullover

The plate pullover is another great dumbbell pullover alternative that you can do with most basic gym setups. All you need is a standard weigh plate.

Start by holding a weight plate on either side with your palms facing in. If the weight plate were a clock, your hands should be at 3 and 9.

Next, lie on the bench or stability ball and extend the plate in front of your chest. Then lower the plate overhead without changing the angle of your elbows.

One advantage to the plate pullover is that it develops grip strength while working your lats. However, you are limited to 45 lbs of weight unless you combine plates.

Again, you can get around limited weights using an exercise ball to make the pullover more challenging.

Dumbbell Pullover Alternative with Plate

Machine Dumbbell Pullover Alternative

Next, let’s look at some dumbbell pullover alternatives you can do with machines and cables instead of free weights.

7. Machine Pullover

Some gyms have a pullover machine that consists of a seat, backrest, and rotating arm bar. This is my favorite way to do pullovers because it helps isolate the lats.

I should also mention that this equipment looks very similar to some ab crunch machines. However, the critical difference is that only your arms move on the pullover machine, not your whole torso.

First, make sure the seat is adjusted to the proper height. You want your shoulder joint to be aligned with the pivot point to provide the most natural movement path.

Next, sit in the seat and place the back of your upper arms on the pads with your arms extended overhead. Now pull your arms down in front of your body as far as you can before controlling the weight on the way back up.

Machine Pullover Plate Loaded

8. Cable Pullover

The cable pullover is another popular alternative to the dumbbell pullover. And you might hear people refer to it as a straight arm lat pulldown.

One benefit of this variation is that it provides more constant tension throughout the range of motion. And you can play around with the angle of your torso to apply more tension in different parts of the range of motion.

First, grab a straight bar or EZ bar cable attachment with an overhand grip. Now step back and lean forward until your arms are extended straight overhead, and you feel the tension in your lats.

Pull the cable down towards your thighs from this starting position while keeping your arms straight. Then control the weight as you return to the top.

Dumbbell Pullover Alternative with Cable

9. Rope Pullover

Another option for the cable pullover is using the rope attachment. This handle places your hands closer together with your palms facing in.

The most significant advantage of this handle is that you can pull your hands past your thighs at the bottom. And this greater range of motion helps you feel a deeper contraction in your lats.

In addition, you can perform this excise while lying on a bench, as shown below. This body position replicates the laying dumbbell pullover, but it still keeps more constant tension on the lats.

Lying Cable Rope Pullover

10. Cable Pullback

The cable pullback is similar to a straight-arm lat pullover, except that you’re working in a different range of motion. Specifically, this works your arm behind your torso.

Before you begin, set the pulley at about hip level and attach a single handle. Then hold the handle with an underhand grip and step back so there is tension on the cable when your hand is by your hip.

Now pull your hand back behind your hip while keeping your arm relatively straight. This variation works the lats and muscles of your upper back, such as the rhomboids, teres major, teres minor, and infraspinatus.

11. Rope Pull Machine

This final machine pullover variation is one you might not expect or even have access to. But if you do, it can be a fun alternative to the dumbbell pullover.

The rope pull machine is basically a single loop of rope threaded around a large pulley. And with this apparatus, you can replicate a rope climb or rope pull, which works your back and arms.

In addition, you can replicate the pullover exercise by leaning forward and pulling the rope while keeping your arms relatively straight.

Rope Pull Machine Dumbbell Pullover Alternative

Other Dumbbell Pullover Alternatives

Lastly, we’ll look at some dumbbell pullover alternatives using less conventional equipment and/or body positions.

12. Incline/Decline Pullover

Even if you have access to dumbbells, you might want a pullover variation that hits your lats differently than the standard exercise.

One way to change the range of motion is by performing the dumbbell pullover on an incline or decline bench instead of a flat bench. The reason is that the angle changes the direction of the gravitational force relative to your body.

Specifically, by angling your torso up on the incline bench works your lats more in the stretched part of the range of motion. In contrast, a decline angle works your lats in the contracted range of motion.

The image below shows a decline barbell pullover.

Decline Pullover with Barbell

13. Resistance Band Pullover

The resistance band pullover is another option for those working out at home with limited equipment. One banded pullover involves anchoring the resistance band overhead or at the top of a door.

Then, grab a handle in each hand and lean forward with your arms extended overhead. Now pull your hands down towards the sides of your thighs while keeping your arms straight.

You’ll notice that the tension increases the further you pull down, which is great for working your lats in the contracted part of the range of motion. But the downside is that you have limited resistance with the bands.

You can also use a resistance band with a dumbbell for added resistance. For this variation, anchor one end of the band to a sturdy object near the floor. Then wrap the other end around the dumbbell, as shown below.

Dumbbell Pullover Alternative with Bands

14. Ab Wheel Lat Rollout

The final dumbbell pullover alternative uses a simple piece of equipment called an ab wheel or ab roller. This device is a small wheel with handles on either side, generally used for abdominal workouts.

With the ab rollout exercise, you start on your knees with your hands on the wheel directly below your shoulders. From here, roll the wheel forward as far as you can while keeping your arms straight.

Then pull the wheel back towards your knees by pulling with your abs and lats. You can also perform this exercise while standing and leaning against a wall if the kneeling version is too difficult.

Dumbbell Pullover Alternative with Bodyweight

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More Back Exercises

Now you have a baker’s dozen dumbbell pullover alternatives for building your lats with whatever equipment you have available.

But a complete back workout should also include some pulldown and rowing exercises. So make sure you check out some of these other back exercises and workouts!

More Dumbbell Lat Exercises

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Complete Dumbbell Back & Bicep Workout

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15 Top T-Bar Row Alternatives

Best Exercises for Lower Lats

With this information, you’re well on your way to building muscle mass in your back and lats. And if you found this article helpful, take a look at some of my other great content below!

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