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Pullovers – A Forgotten Exercise For Chest Mass

guest post by Lee Hayward
Competitive Bodybuilder and Powerlifter

The pullover is an exercise you seldom see done in the gym anymore. Yet back in the “Pumping Iron” days of bodybuilding it was a staple in almost everyone’s routine.

lee-hayward-benchIn fact, way back in the old days before the invention of bench presses with upright racks for holding the bar, guys would do a barbell pullover, lifting the bar from the floor to their chest, and then do their bench presses. But gradually over the years this exercise got pushed to the wayside and is hardly ever done by the average gym goer.

The main benefit from pullovers is that they help expand the rib cage and work all the supporting muscle groups along the torso, chest, lats, arms, and shoulders through a full range of motion. This can really help add thickness and depth to your torso, which is one area that a lot of people lack these days.

I know from the majority of people that I see at the gym that very few of them have a well developed torso. It’s actually quite common to see a guy with muscular arms and shoulders stacked on a slim chest and torso. But by adding pullovers to your routine you can help fill out and expand your rib cage and correct this problem.

Your rib cage is the frame work that supports all your upper body muscles. So if you have a well built frame underneath, the muscles of your chest, shoulders, lats, and arms will look much more impressive.

I was fortunate enough to have included pullovers as a regular exercise in my workouts from the start and I think this has certainly helped me to develop a large rib cage and good chest expansion, which is clearly seen when I hit a side chest pose as in the pic above.

The main reason I even did this exercise was the fact I started training in a simple home gym and didn’t have access to a lot of the fancy machines that are so common in most gyms today. So from having limited equipment I tried to include as much training variety as I could using basic free weight barbell and dumbbell exercises. For this reason I sometimes feel that training with limited gym equipment can be a blessing in disguise.

There are two basic variations to the pullover, the barbell version and the cross bench dumbbell version. One is not necessarily better then the other, both work well. I personally feel that the dumbbell pullover stretches the chest a bit more and the barbell pullover places a little more emphasis on the lats. But you can pick the one that feels the best for you, or if you have no preference you can alternate back and forth between both variations. The main thing is that you just do them.

Dumbbell Pullover


Barbell Pullover


The pullover is a stretching exercise, so you’ll make better gains from using a moderate weight, higher reps, and really working through a full range of motion. Add weight to the exercise in a gradual progressive fashion, but never at the expense of sacrificing your exercise form.

Depending on your body structure and how you do the exercise you may feel it working the chest, or you may feel it working the lats, or a combination of the two. So you could include pullovers with your chest or back workouts. The main thing is that you do them consistently so you reap the results that they have to offer.

The first time you do the exercise start off with a light weight and just get used to the movement and the range of motion required. Then go up by 5 – 10 pound jumps in weight each set. By going through this process you’ll naturally find the sweet spot where you have enough weight that allows you to stimulate the muscles hard, yet still be able to perform the exercise through a deep range of motion and fully stretch out your entire rib cage, chest, and lats.

Start off with 1 – 2 warm up sets and then take a working weight that allows for 15 reps with good form. Do 2 – 3 working sets and really focus on feeling the muscles stretch and contract with each rep. Another little tip that will help add to the effectiveness is to take a deep breath before each rep and hold your air in as you lower the weight. This will give you an even deeper stretch throughout the rib cage.

You’ll get more benefit from doing pullovers at the end of your workout when your muscles are already pumped. Doing stretching exercises when you are pumped up and the muscles feel tight will aid in muscle growth because the connective tissues are already being stretched from the blood volume in the muscles, and then by doing stretching exercises at this time as well you get a double whammy effect. This really stretches the connective tissue and increases your muscle growth potential.

By doing pullovers as a staple exercise in your workout routine you are going to experience a good upper body growth spurt and also notice an improvement in your flexibility and mobility for a lot of your other exercises as well. Give it a try and don’t be surprised if you add an inch or two to your chest measurement in as little as 6 weeks.

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Critical Bench Program 2.0 & Blast Your Bench Combo Pack

benchpresscartoonI have teamed up with my good friend Lee Hayward to celebrate the fact that we have both been in business now for 10 YEARS helping guys pack on muscle mass and strength time and time again.

Truth be told, I like Lee because he walks the walk. He doesn’t just preach, he takes his own advice, he competes in bodybuilding and has built a solid reputation as a strength coach and business man.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to take advice from a fat personal trainer or a skinny muscle building expert.

I also don’t want to be all show with NO GO! When it comes to building muscle take my word for it, you have to get stronger. If you build strength and get stronger and stronger every week you’ll muscles will grow, it’s just the way it works. Plus you don’t want to be that guy that looks great, but gets thrown around and out performed in the gym do you?

Lee and I are big believers in Power-Building. Finding the balance of looking like a bodybuilder but attaining the strength of a powerlifter to match.

And that’s why we have joined forces to create the Ultimate Mass and Power Building System!

Not only do you get my New and Improved Critical Bench Program 2.0 you also get Lee’s Blast Your Bench Program Ten Year Anniversary Edition.

What’s the catch?

We’re cool guys and all, but this is our way of saying thanks for your support over the yeas and this offer is only good till Friday at midnight, June 18th, 2010.

This is the biggest sale I’ve ever run in the history of the site, so you might want to go check it out here:


Over The Weekend Lee & I ran a blog contest to give away five copies of our Mass and Power System. Thank you so much to everyone that entered, we got over 400 entries last time I checked.

Here are the winning entries!

1) Justin Realizes There’s No Magic Bullet!

Justin Stine
June 13, 2010

I will be a high school senior in the fall, and my ultimate goa
l is to win the 2011 state weightlifting championship of Florida.
This year, I have qualified for the 2010 championship, and
once I received the news, I googled the fastest way to obtain a
bigger bench press.

Fortunately, the first link that popped up was that letter that
Mike Westerdal shares with the public, advertising the Critical
Bench Program. Once I saw it was for a ten week period, I
decided to start the program the week following the state finals.

I searched for other solutions, only to realize that time was a
critical component in building a bigger bench. During the
4-5 weeks I had left to prepare, I did what I could, following the
tips and guidelines outlined in the 50 tips to gaining a bigger
bench e-book.

Even though I worked hard, ate right, and followed these
guidelines, I came in last place. Weightlifting is my life, and
I have a dedication and passion for this sport.

Wanna know why I fell short, it is because I had been committed
to a muscle building magazine, and fell victim to its false
information and biased principles and concepts. I have wasted
my time training by their false guidlines for 3 years, and went
NOWHERE. I am still hitting my head with a barbell to this day.

I began the critical bench program the Wednesday after states,
preparing for the next state final matchup. I am just completing
week 7, and I have actually gained strength with this program.

I have never seen any fast paced progress such as this. I bench
pressed 315 at states, and benching 350 pounds now! That is
unbelievable, and it is because I have found a source of reliable
information pertaining to this sport. The Critical Bench Program
shares the unvarnished truth with the public.

I am continually searching for other important information and tips
out there on the web that will help me in my goal and mission.
I am considering becoming a personal trainer, as that will expose
me to alot of information of the sport I love. I have a low income,
minimum wage job, and can barely keep up with my diet and
supps as it is.

If I am one of the chosen 5 to receive the Critical Bench 2.0 for
free, great. If not, I will buy it ASAP. I will continue to work hard,
push myself to failure on every set, and continue to educate myself
with this sport that my passion lies in. If I continue to work hard,
and follow what I’ve learned, I am sure that 365 days is enough
time to win the state finals of my senior year! Thank you for the
information that you have shared with me so far.

2) Cancer Survivor Trains For National Record!

June 13, 2010

Lee & Mike,

Building a big, strong, muscular body is so important to me and
I NEED a ‘Proven Mass and Power Building Training System’ to
help me achieve my fitness goals Right Now!

I’m a 59-year young cancer survivor. Two years ago I was diagnosed
with throat cancer. After the first surgery I was told I could not lift
heavy weights anymore because the nerve was removed that controlled
my left TRAP. It was removed because it ran through one of the lymph
nods that had cancer. Therefore no left TRAP.

After Chemo and Radiation and losing 30 LBS, I found myself back
at the gym trying to prove everybody wrong. I gained body weight,
but not the strength I wanted.

I found ‘Blast Your Bench”!

Using this program I increase my bench by 30 lbs while losing 11 lbs.
body weight. I went from 21% body fat down to 13.5%

This May I tied the NJ State record for Bench Press for my age
and weight with the WNPF.

I’m using the “Blast Your Bench” program now for my next meet
on June 27, which I hope to set the NJ record for bench press for my
age and weight. If I’m successful I will go the world meet in Nov
in Atlantic City, NJ.

I need this program to get to the next level. I would like to set the
national record for bench press for my age and weight.

Credit given where Credit is Due!!!
Thanks for all your emails and videos!

3) Beginner Gains 100 Pounds On Bench And Loses Fat!

Jonathan Lezondra
June 11, 2010

I’m 43 years old and I started “serious” weight lifting just this past
July 2009. In the past I have been lifting weights just for the heck of
it, no serious goals and my objectives were pretty superficial.

I would make a go at it then stop totally all together. This was in my
younger years. Now that I’ve gotten older and wiser, the “need” to
become more healthy was becoming apparent. Before I embarked on a
serious determination to be physically fit, I did a lot a research and the
idea of weight lifting always hovered my mind. In one of these researches,
I came across and found insights that were pretty down
to earth, real world scenarios where a common individual like me could
actually follow your advice.

I started lifting weights and at my age, I have made great progress
that has made me appreciate my body and have a positive outlook
on a healthy life. Ever since becoming a “follower” of your site, I have
learned valuable tips and advises that I have incorporated in my
workouts. From a starting bench press of just lifting the bar for
about a month, I have progressed to a lifting weight right now of about
140lbs and I can 1-rep max 150lbs. Not much for a beginner like me
who’s only been lifting for a year but I am very proud of the achievements

I have made over the past year. Its been over a year and I have not
looked back. And the benefits I am reaping right now from a slow
struggle to a maintained attitude has boosted my self confidence in
terms of how I look and how I feel. I have gotten stronger, my body
has taken shape and form that I have not imagined of ever having.

Although I am far from having a ripped form like you do Lee, I know
with a lot of hard work and enthusiasm, I would get to where I would
like to be. In one year of lifting weights, I have lost weight (around 25lbs)
and I have gained some form in my chest, biceps, triceps and shoulders.

People at work noticed this physiological change, my family noticed
the change. And every time I hear them say something is music to my ears.

Although competing is the farthest thing from my mind, my first and
foremost objective in building a strong, muscular body is to be healthy.

And then all other things follow. Thanks so much for your tips and
advises. It has made me appreciate my body more than I can ever
imagine. Weight lifting has provided me with a drive to strive for
more. Thank you so much.

4) Never Give Up On Your Dreams!

Michael Hayes
June 11, 2010

I have one reason to build a healthy, strong body. To live longer.

I was injured in Iraq in 2006 in an IED explosion. I lost my left leg
above the knee and suffered serious burns. Those injuries alone
have taken years off my life that Im fighting everyday to keep.

I’ve been going to the gym regularly now for sometime but its
starting to reach that plateau. I’ve been a subscriber of yours now
for quite awhile and have had some success following your tips.

But now is the time to take it to the next step and reach that hard,
strong body that I want. I may even be able to take this to the next
limit and start training for paralympic type sports.

My main goal in all of this is just to be as healthy as I can be for
as long as possible. Im only 24 and I refuse to let my injuries
stop me from starting a family and living a long fruitful life.

This tool well help me jumpstart and take my fitness to the
next level. Thanks for the opportunity.

5) Something In Bill’s Mind Snapped!

Bill Ramsey
June 12, 2010

I’m 45, retired military, retirement lead me down the wrong path, i
became…. well a couch potato. Upon my divorce, i looked in the
mirror and saw what i had become, something in my mind snapped,
i decided to do what i had always wanted to do, build a physique that
could compete, show the world my what I’m made of, but recently
three things have occurred my oldest son has a child and now my
youngest is going to be a father, and i have a new wife.

Fat out of shape people don’t live long, and even if they do their in
no shape to enjoy life or grandchildren. I’ve turned my life around,
i watch what i eat, i train, slowly but surely things are changing,
and i realize that it will take time and effort, both of which i have.

But i want things to go beyond mere change, i want to make an
impact, and i can only properly do that with the right tools.
I’ve watched and read allot of Lee’s posts, watched him online,
gleaned all i could from his website and that has caused a steady
upswing in the re-composition of my body. I feel that with Lee’s
program i can attain what i desire. Lee stands out among his peers
and i know he has the knowledge i need to succeed. I want to
show people that there is no age limit to good health and proper physique.