Bent Arm Barbell Pullover – Strong Lats Through Proper Form

Man performing bent arm barbell pullovers on flat bench.

Are you looking for a good isolation exercise for your lats? The bent arm barbell pullover is a simple and effective isolation exercise for your lats.

The bent arm barbell pullover has similar characteristics as the straight arm barbell pullover. Both exercises can be used to emphasize either your lats or chest. There is a fine line to what parts of your body is utilized more when doing the bent arm barbell pullover. The focus muscle depends on several factors, such as your stretch, hips, and hand position. Additionally, what body parts you are flexing at the top of the movement also contributes to which muscle will grow.

The Difference Between Straight Arm And Bent Arm Barbell Pullover

When you want to work your lats and not your chest you should be doing the bent arm barbell pullover vice straight arm. Since having your arms bent throughout the movent causes you to raise the barbell in an arc, the pull force comes from your lats, similarly to pulldowns.

Exercise Summary

  • Primary Muscles Worked: Latissimus Dorsi
  • Other Muscles (Secondary) Worked: Pectoralis Major, Triceps, Teres Major, Deltoid, Rhomboids, and Levator Scapulae
  • Equipment: barbell, and flat bench
  • Mechanics Type: Isolation
  • Force: Pull
  • Utility: Auxiliary

Correct Bent Arm Barbell Pullover Procedure

  • Lie on a bench, with your head over the end. Place your feet flat on the floor.
  • Place your hands approximately 10 to 14 inches apart on the barbell.
  • Keep your elbows in and bent at close to a 90-degree angle at all times.
  • Lower the bar towards the floor behind your head slowly in a semicircular motion.
  • Pull the bar back up over your head using the same path.
  • Repeat.

Note: If you straighten your arms at the top, like the gif to demonstration gif you will be incorporating your triceps. Additionally, extending your arms turns the exercise into a compound exercise.

Man performing barbell pullover with MuscleMagFitness logo background.

Performing Bent Arm Barbell Pullovers With EZ-Bar Across A Bench

The following video shows great form for isolating your Lats.

Bent Arm Barbell Pullover - Lat Exercises

Muscles Utilized For The Pullover

Target (Agonist) Muscles

  • Latissimus Dorsi

Synergist Muscles

  • Pectoralis Major, Sternal
  • Triceps, Long Head
  • Teres Major
  • Deltoid, Posterior
  • Rhomboids
  • Levator Scapulae
  • Pectoralis Minor

Stabilizers Muscles

  • Pectoralis Major, Clavicular
  • Wrist Flexors
  • Deltoid, Anterior
  • Triceps Brachii

Antagonist Stabilizers

  • Deltoid, Posterior
  • Rhomboids

Caution Needed Performing Pullovers

If you feel or have any shoulder pain while performing this exercise, STOP. When you lower the barbell if you start feeling pain, STOP before the point where you first started feeling pain. You don’t want to continue with the bent arm barbell pullover beyond this point, or you could injure yourself. If you have any shoulder problems, you might want to avoid the bent arm barbell pullover altogether, or at least until you shoulders heal. There are plenty of other exercises which deliver success without such risk, and we cover them in alternate exercises below.

Tips for Better Results and Proper From

For the best results and to look and feel like an expert when performing this bent arm barbell pullovers, make sure you follow all these tips. You will get faster results and reduce your chance of getting an injury.

  • Begin with a lightweight to practice proper form and control.
  • Keep your elbows in to keep the emphasis on your pecs and lats, thereby preventing possible shoulder injury.

Common Errors While Performing the Pullovers

It is difficult to perform bent arm pullovers improperly by cheating. To cheat the bent arm pullover would require you to throw the weight up by either using your legs or your core. Although it is difficult to cheat, here are plenty of ways to reduce the effectiveness of the pullovers.

  • Using too much weight. A common mistake many novice lifters are having to arch your back to pull the weight up.
  • You are raising your hips. Don’t use your body to throw the weight up and takes the focus off your Lats.
  • You are not keeping your feet flat on floor or bench. Lifting your feet can cause lower back injury or strain.
  • Don’t jerk the weight up. Not only can this cause you to lose proper form and lead to injury, but it also takes the tension off your lats and will reduce the effectiveness of the pullover.
  • Don’t Perform the movement too fast. When you perform the action too quickly, you don’t recruit as many muscle fibers. As such, you can do more reps, but you will build less muscle.
  • Letting your elbows flare out. Flaring your elbows takes the emphasis off your lats and causes possible shoulder injury.

Variations And Alternatives For The Pullover

Variations are intended to work different subgroups of muscles or work the same muscles in slightly different ways. There are plenty of alternatives for the bent arm barbell pullover. Some additional exercise for the bent arm barbell pullover include:

Additional Exercises To Compliment Pullovers

The following exercises can be performed instead of the bent arm barbell pullover or to complement it.

Should You Add Bent Arm Barbell Pullover To Your Routine

The bent arm barbell pullover is one of those few exercises that can benefit both your pecs and lats. When you do bent arm barbell pullovers correctly, they will stimulate your lat growth and help aid in the development of your chest in the process. You should perform these pullovers occasionally as an auxiliary exercise. For example, mix it into either your chest day or back day for a couple of weeks and then switch to another exercise for a couple of weeks and then come back to it. Rember if this exercise hurts your shoulder then you should not do it. Instead, check out some of these other Latisimus Dorsi Exercises.

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