Colossal Chest: Dumbbell Pullover Exercise for Chest Muscles

Dumbbell Pullover

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Many bodybuilders of the past, famous and not so famous, have touted it as being instrumental in increasing their chest girth. No less an authority than modern British bodybuilding writer Stuart McRobert has given unqualified support for doing this exercise. Some argue the exercise does not live up to its claim of being able to expand the rib cage, that rib-cage expansion is anatomically possible. Older weight trainers, , who over the years have enjoyed the benefits of this exercise and other exercise nuggets such as Rader chest pulls and heavy breathing squats, know otherwise, and younger bodybuilders can't argue with the impressive chests their more seasoned practitioners built by using it. Neither can we. Read on to find out more about this mystery exercise.

A definition of the word colossal you are likely to find in a dictionary is along the lines of "extraordinarily large in size or amount or degree." Does that definition describe your chest? If so, read no further. You already know what to do to build up your massive bodypart. If not, you may be looking for a way to pack some more size onto one of the upper body's most prominent regions.

You have probably used any of a number of chest exercises to try to stimulate muscle growth: bench press, machine press, pec-dek, flys - perhaps you have tried them all in pursuit of pumping up the pectorals. You have probably overlooked one significant chest exercise that can help you boost your chest measurement substantially. This exercise is not seen that much in gyms today. In fact you hardly ever see anyone performing it. That's unfortunate because it can give the chest the massive base that many have not yet attained.

This exercise harks back to the earlier days of bodybuilding. But just because the exercise is old doesn't mean it wasn't effective or couldn't be effective for you. Body-builders used it to attain tremendous chest girth. Don't forget that some guys from the early days had a huge chest: Sergio Oliva and Arnold had chests measuring close to 60 inches, a colossal size.

Exceptional Exercise

What is this exercise that builds up such a huge base for the chest? It is the dumbbell pullover. The pullover had been considered one of the core exercises of chest training up until the early 1980's, when it inexplicably disappeared from common training routines for the chest. Why bring it back? Consider Arnold's comments on this exceptional exercise. The following excerpt is taken from Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder (Arnold Schwarzenegger with Douglas Kent Hall, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1977, p. 234): This is the best possible movement for expanding the thorax and enlarging the rib cage. It also stretches the pectoral muscle and the latissimus, aids in developing the serratus muscles, pulls hard at your bone structure, and helps tone up the abdominals. It's a fantastic exercise which can help increase your chest measurement considerably. The exercise works in a handful of ways, but the one we are interested in is for bulking up the chest. If you are typical, you have targeted your chest with basic exercises that are known to work the pecs. While nothing is wrong with that, you can take this pec work only so far. To get to a new level of development, throw the dumbbell pullover into your training routine and watch what happens.

The pullover stretches out the pecs, but its main accomplishment is to distend the thorax and widen the rib cage. The larger your rib cage, the bigger your chest measurement. The higher and wider your rib cage, the higher and wider your pecs will sit on top of it, giving your chest a fantastic appearance. That's not all. More good news comes from building up the rib cage. The bigger you build your rib cage, the smaller your waist and hips appear. Expanding your rib cage is a convenient way to make your waist look smaller and to improve your physique's silhouette. Also, the bigger your rib cage, the bigger your back appears, for some of the back muscles lie on top of the rear of the rib cage. Expanding your rib cage boosts the appearance and size of a number of areas of your upper body. The dumbbell pullover is one of the best exercises you can include in your weekly workout scheme.


How do you execute the dumbbell pullover, this fantastic chest developer? There is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Arnold pointed out in his book that the best way to work the exercise is to lie across, not along, a bench. He continued: Flatten your hands against the inside plates at one end of the dumbbell and hold it at arm's length over your chest. Only the upper back ought to be in contact with the bench. Keep your hips low throughout the exercise. Lower the dumbbell, while inhaling deeply, until it is in line with your head, then exhale as you return the weight to [the] starting position. Inhale as deeply as possible - force all the air you can into your lungs - and keep your chest expanded - even after you exhale. In other words, keep the chest held high throughout the entire movement of this exercise, (pp. 234-5) Arnold suggested doing 5 sets of 15 repetitions for this exercise; however, in the initial stages, doing a lower number of sets is probably better. Then move up to 5 sets.

Many bodybuilders have empirically found that the pullover works best following a heavy compound exercise because of the deep breathing that the latter requires.

The high-rep squat, done in the range of 15 to 20 reps, was a very popular exercise used in combination with the dumbbell pullover. The bench press and the bent-over row are other good exercises to use with the pullover because they engage the back, the antagonist muscle group of the chest.

If you want a colossal chest, expand its size with the dumbbell pullover. Consider Arnold's chest today. As he closes in on age 60, he still has a massive chest, and part of the reason it remains so big is he built it up by significantly expanding his rib cage through the dumbbell pullover. Put this superb exercise into your training cycle and soon you will add inches to your chest measurement.

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