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The barbell pullover fills out your torso when done regularly.
If you long for the v-taper that makes your back look wide and strong and your waist skinny, add barbell pullovers to your training arsenal. The exercise trains your latissimus dorsi, the broad muscle that covers the back of your ribs, along with other muscles of the back and the chest to create a strong-looking, thick upper body. The exercise is not popular, but it's good if your goal is to fill out your midsection while creating optimal function in the shoulders.
The dumbbell pullover progresses the shoulder through a full range of flexion, the movement of extending the arms overhead. This action uses the lats as well as the rhomboids of the upper back and the posterior deltoids at the back of the shoulders. The move thus creates a wider, more muscular back that's desired by many bodybuilders and fitness competitors, especially when used to augment a routine that includes lat pulldowns, pullups and rows.
You can get a leg-up on gym-goers who use the bench press as their primary, or only, chest builder by adding the barbell pullover to your routine. The pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, the two primary muscles of the chest, activate during every rep of the barbell pullover. The move helps expand your rib cage, explains bodybuilder Lee Hayword on the website "Critical Bench," and thus makes muscular arms and shoulders look proportional to the rest of your frame.
Even if you aren't a bodybuilder, the barbell pullover can help move your shoulder through a full range of motion, which improves its mobility and strength. People with a rounded forward posture benefit from the pullover because it opens and expands the rib cage while strengthening the muscles of the back, which can help you keep optimal posture. Athletes who throw overhead, such as those who compete in tennis, football, javelin, badminton and rugby, will also gain functional benefit from regularly doing barbell pullovers, notes the physical therapy site "Peak Performance."
Do It Right
You can do the barbell pullover by lying parallel or perpendicular to a workout bench. Lying perpendicular requires more balance finesse and activation of your core muscles to keep you stable. You should be holding the barbell with an overhand grip and position it above your chest -- arms extended with just a slight bend in the elbows. Use control to lower the bar over head. Your upper arms will be near or even parallel to your ears. Move the bar back to the starting position to complete one repetition. Take care to keep your back and hips from arching as you move your arms overhead. Keep the movement slow and controlled, using light weights when you first begin adding the exercise to your routine so you can perfect form. If you have any shoulder pain, discontinue the exercise -- it's not for you. Aim for one to three working sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Leave them for near the end of your workout, says Hayward, when your muscles are already warm and ready for an extra pump.