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Exercise of the month: straight arm pullover

The straight arm pullover is an exercise that utilizes muscles in the back, chest and arms. In addition to strengthening, one if its greatest values is that it aids in breathing and with the expansion of the ribcage.

Starting position (photo 1): Lie face up with knees bent and feet on the floor. Grasp a lightweight dumbbell with both hands as shown, and hold it at arms length over your collarbone.

Lowering phase (photo 2): Keep the arms straight and slowly bring them over your head toward the floor, until you feel a gentle stretch. Inhale to help expand the ribcage as weight is being lowered.

Pause, and slowly return to starting position, exhaling as you pass the most difficult part of the lifting phase. Concentrate on pulling with the shoulder muscles rather than the arm muscles.

Beginners should start with one to two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions and add sets or reps as strength increases.


Instead of holding a dumbbell at each end with palms facing each other, you can cup one end of the weight in your hands, with palms facing up. If using this method, range of motion is slightly limited.

The pullover can be performed using a weighted bar or medicine ball instead of a dumbbell.

You can also perform this exercise lying on a bench, or using a stability ball, which allows for greater stretch as the weight is lowered. If using one of these methods, it is very important that the head and neck are supported throughout each repetition and that the back does not arch excessively.

Safety tips

If unfamiliar with this exercise, it is important that you are able to maintain a secure grip on either end of the dumbbell, or have a spotter available to assist you.

Don’t exceed normal range of motion, as the degree to which the weight can be lowered is determined by shoulder joint flexibility.

The pullover does not require heavy weight. Using too much weight can cause the arms to overbend, diminishing benefits.

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