10 Dumbbell Pullover Alternatives: Substitutes To Do At Home

The dumbbell pullover has long been a staple exercise in many gym-goers programs; it works both your chest and back, which are two major muscle groups in your body.  

But what happens if you can’t perform this movement? Maybe you don’t have the equipment or want to keep things fresh; either way, you’ll need a dumbbell pullover alternative.  

In this article, you’ll discover the 10 best dumbbell pullover alternative exercises for your chest development and how to do them. 

If you’re struggling to perform the dumbbell pullover, fear not; there are many other dumbbell pullover alternative exercises you can achieve 

A good dumbbell pullover substitute should work your chest and back muscles effectively, promoting strength and muscle gains. The list below gives you the best substitutes around.  

1. Decline Chest Fly 

The decline chest fly is a brilliant dumbbell pullover alternative that isolates your chest muscles, especially your lower pecs.

This alternative to dumbbell pullover is easy to set up and requires minimal equipment. A set of dumbbells and a decline bench press is all you need. However, if you don’t have a bench, you can place yourself in a decline position by performing a glute bridge on the floor and holding the position until you’ve completed your set.

This exercise is fantastic for all ability levels and doesn’t require a spotterIt’s worth noting it can be tough on the shoulder joints; if you’ve got a shoulder injury, be careful during this movement and always use excellent form.

How to do it:

  • Set a bench in a decline position.  
  • Grab a set of dumbbells and lie on the bench with your head at the lowest point.  
  • Press the dumbbells vertically and keep a slight bend in your elbows.  
  • Turn your palms to face each other. 
  • Slowly open your arms, moving the weight from your shoulder joint (elbow remains fixed and doesn’t move).  
  • When you reach parallel to the floor, return to the starting position and repeat. 
decline dumbbell fly

2. Cable Crossover 

If you want a chest exercise that’ll cause a deep burn across your entire chest, then the cable crossover is the dumbbell pullover alternative for you. It provides constant tension throughout the movement, switching on every muscle fiber in the chest, promoting muscle hypertrophy.

During this substitute for dumbbell pullover, your core muscles need to work extra hard to stabilize your body. It’s suitable for most people, so long as good form is used.

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Your shoulder joint should be the only part of your body moving. Keep your elbows fixed.

Required Equipment - 7 Cable Crossover Machines For All Budgets

How to do it:

  • Set a cable machine to shoulder height and attach a single handle to each cable. 
  • Grab one handle in each hand and walk forward a few feet to create tension in the cable.  
  • Offset your stance by placing one foot slightly behind the other.  
  • Stabilize your body, keeping your shoulders square.  
  • Make a slight bend in the elbow and lock them in that position.  
  • Bring the handles together in front of you, stopping before each handle touches.  
  • Squeeze your chest.  
  • Repeat the movement.  
Cable Crossover

3. Decline Bench Press 

This popular compound exercise is one of the best dumbbell pullover alternative exercises around. It allows you to lift a substantial amount of weight to overload your chest muscles.

The decline bench press has a shorter range of motion than a regular bench press, and it doesn’t place as much stress on the shoulder joints. You'll also be able to lift heavier weight, which helps increase the stimulus on the muscle fibers.

But, even though this alternative to dumbbell pullover is brilliant, I recommend you only perform this movement with a spotter; the last thing you need is to get stuck under a fully loaded barbell.

Read More - 8 Decline Bench Press Alternatives

How to do it:

  • Load a barbell with adequate weight.  
  • Secure your feet on the decline bench.  
  • Lie back and hold the barbell with an overhand grip, shoulder-width apart.  
  • Lift the barbell off the rack and slowly lower it toward your chest.  
  • Press the barbell up and repeat.  
Decline Bench Press

4. Straight Arm Pulldown 

The straight arm pulldown is almost a like-for-like movement compared to the dumbbell pullover as it engages your lats through a vast range of motion. The main difference is you’re standing up rather than lying down on a bench.  

As you keep your arms straight, the stress from the weight is placed on your lats and scapula. This is a fantastic dumbbell pullover substitute I love to perform at the beginning of a back session as it warms my back up and helps activate my scapula.

Read Also - Pulldown Bars & Attachments

How to do it:

  • Place a straight bar and attach it to the cable.  
  • Hold the handle using an overhand grip.  
  • Step back a few feet to create tension in the cable.  
  • Lean forward to around 30-45 degrees. 
  • Slightly bend the elbow (locking it in position) and pull the bar toward your hips in an arch-like motion.  
  • Squeeze the scapula together.  
  • Reverse the movement and repeat. 
Straight Arm Pulldown

5. Incline Push-up 

Push-ups are a fantastic bodyweight compound exercise many gym-goers perform to develop their chest muscles.

However, by adjusting the angle of your push-up, you can move the focus to certain areas of the chest. Elevating your hands so you’re in an incline push-up position gives the exercise a lower chest focus, similar to the dumbbell pullover.

This dumbbell pullovers alternative is excellent for beginners as it’s much easier to perform than regular push-ups, so not only are you developing your chest muscles, but you’re increasing your strength.

Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you’re struggling, place your knees on the floor to lower the difficulty.

Learn More About: Push Ups Vs Bench Press: Which Exercise Is Better For Chest?

How to do it:

  • Kneel on the floor in front of an elevated platform.  
  • Place your hands on the platform roughly shoulder-width apart.  
  • Move your feet backwards until your body is straight. 
  • Bend at the elbow and move your chest closer to the platform.  
  • Stop just before your chest touches the platform. 
  • Push yourself back to the starting point.  
  • Repeat.  
Incline Push-Up

6. Pull-Ups 

This bodyweight compound exercise is a good dumbbell pullover alternative to develop your lats. But, unlike the dumbbell pullover, the pull up works many other muscles in your upper body, such as your rhomboids, biceps, core, and deltoids.  

It’s easy to perform, all you need is a bar to hang from, and you’re good to go. You can even purchase a pull-up bar for most door frames now, so there’s no excuse not to do them.

However, the pull-up is challenging to perform, and not everyone can do them. If you can’t perform a pull-up, don’t panic; choose another exercise from this list and build your strength.

Related Article - 10 Effective Pull Up Alternative Exercises

How to do it:

  • Hang from a pull-up bar or frame using a shoulder-width overhand grip.  
  • Draw your shoulder blades back and lift yourself until your chin is over the bar.  
  • Lower yourself in a controlled manner and repeat.  
Regular Pull-Ups

7. Straight Arm Kickback 

If you’re looking to isolate your lats, the straight arm kickback is an excellent choice of exercise. You can perform the movement with minimal equipment, making it ideal for your home gym. All you need is an incline bench press and dumbbells.  

This dumbbell pullover substitute shifts the focus onto your lats similarly to the traditional dumbbell pullover.

Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you don’t have an incline bench, you can perform this exercise in the bent-over position. This version engages more core muscles but is a brilliant workaround.  

How to do it:

  • Set your bench to 45-degrees and grab two dumbbells.  
  • Lie on your front while holding both dumbbells. 
  • Let the dumbbells hang vertically and create a slight bend in the elbow. 
  • Next, draw your shoulder blades back and lift the dumbbells to your hips (keeping your arm relatively straight).
  • Reverse the exercise and repeat.  
Straight Arm Kickback

8. Chest Dip 

The chest dip is one of my favorite chest exercises to perform. Not only does it engage your pecs, but your triceps, shoulders, lats, rhomboids, and other smaller muscles for stability. It’s similar to the tricep dip; however, you lean forward more to increase your chest activation.

Compared to the dumbbell pullover, it’s more of a challenge and maybe too difficult for beginners. If you’re struggling, try another movement or use a resistance band to assist your chest dip. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Using a resistance band isn’t only for beginners, and it can help advanced gym-goers achieve extra volume even when the muscles are fully fatigued. 

Related Article - Dips Vs Push Ups

How to do it:

  • Stand on a dipping frame or next to parallel bars. 
  • Place your hands in a neutral position on the bar.  
  • Lift your body weight and lock your arms. 
  • Lean forward slightly to emphasize the chest. 
  • Bend your arms and lower yourself until your arms are at 90-degrees.  
  • Push yourself back to the start and repeat. 
Chest Dip

9. Pec Deck Fly 

The pec deck is an old-school machine designed to isolate your pecs... and boy, does it work. It has an incredible range of motion and places tension on your chest throughout the entire movement, making it excellent for your chest development.  

One of the only downsides to this dumbbell pullover substitute is it requires a pec deck machine; luckily, most commercial gyms have them and some home gyms.  

Also Check Out - Pec Deck Fly Alternatives Without Machine

How to do it:

  • Sit on the machine with your back against the pad.  
  • Reach backwards and grab one handle, then hold the other.  
  • Bend the elbows slightly.  
  • Bring your hands together, arching from your shoulder and squeezing your chest.  
  • Open your arms and return to the starting position. 
Pec Deck Fly

10. Cable Rope Straight Pulldown 

Using a rope for the straight pulldown increases the range of motion, allowing your lats to engage more than they would with a bar handle. More engagement causes more muscle growth, making it an excellent alternative to dumbbell pullover.  

I’ve found the rope feels more natural and really lets you retract your scapula, which is the whole aim of this movement.

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Don't be afraid of going "too light," as this movement is all about the scapula retraction; focus on getting your form right before you increase the weight. You'll be surprised by how much this exercise burns when you do it right. 

How to do it:

  • Attach a rope to the cable machine. 
  • Hold the rope handle with both hands. 
  • Step away from the machine to create some tension.  
  • Tilt your body to 30-45 degrees, keeping your elbows near your ears.  
  • Pull the rope toward your hips in an arch-like motion, drawing your shoulder blades together. 
  • Reverse the movement to full extension and start again. 
Cable Rope Straight Pulldown

Benefits Of Dumbbell Pullover Substitute Exercises

The dumbbell pullover and its substitutes have many fantastic benefits, but the main ones are: 

  1. 1
    Increases Upper Body Muscle  
    Even though the pullover is often thought of as an isolation exercise, it’s essentially a compound movement as it works the chest, lats, triceps, and shoulders. By performing these alternatives to dumbbell pullover, you’ll develop a thicker chest and back.
  2. 2
    Strengthens Your Stabilizers  
    While performing the dumbbell pullover, your scapula and shoulder joints work hard to stabilize your arm movement. Throughout many of these alternatives, your stabilizers are strengthened, which not only helps prevent injury but also has a carryover effect on your other lifts. Poorly developed stabilizers are a weak link that’ll cause your lifts to plateau.
  3. 3
    Improves Flexibility  
    During the dumbbell pullover, your chest and shoulders are stretched under load, which helps to improve your flexibility in those areas. While the dumbbell pullover isn’t a substitute for stretching, it does help develop your flexibility, and it’s a nice side effect of performing the exercise.

What Muscles Do Dumbbell Pullover Alternatives Work?

  • Pectoralis Major (Pecs)
    Your pec major forms the largest part of your pectoral muscles, and by working them, you end up with a well-defined barrel-like chest.
  • Serratus Anterior
    These small muscles are located on your rib cage; they help stabilize your core and are lightly activated during the dumbbell pullover and many of the alternatives mentioned in this article. 
  • Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
    The lats are the largest muscles in the back; when they’re developed, they create a V-shape, which not only looks impressive but greatly improves your athleticism.
  • Teres Major & Posterior Deltoid (Delts)
    Both of these muscles are crucial for your shoulder stability. Fail to train these areas effectively, and you’ll not only risk injury, but your other lifts will suffer.
  • Upper Abs
    The upper abs form part of the 6-pack. During the dumbbell pullover, your upper abs are stretched and must remain engaged to create core stability. 
  • Triceps
    Throughout the dumbbell pullover and many of the other alternatives on the list above, your triceps are fired up to help you move whatever weight you’re lifting. 

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Dumbbell Pullover Alternatives FAQs

Are dumbbell pullover substitutes bad for shoulders? 

Dumbbell pullover substitutes are not bad for shoulders. If anything, lack of movement in the upper body causes more shoulder issues than performing the dumbbell pullover substitutes.  

The dumbbell pullover alternative exercises help strengthen your muscles and joints, promoting increased joint stability, strength, and functionality.  

Are dumbbell pullover alternatives good for your posture? 

As the dumbbell pullover opens your chest and engages your scapula, it helps you avoid the hunched over position plaguing modern society...thanks, desk jobs.  

The alternative dumbbell pullover exercises aren’t bad for your posture, but some are more beneficial than others. Alternatives like the pull up are fantastic as they retract your scapula and promote improved posture. 

Is dumbbell pullover a compound exercise? 

Yes, the dumbbell pullover is a compound exercise as it primarily works the chest and back muscles. But, your triceps, shoulders, and serratus (side of your rib cage) are also engaged.


If you’ve been looking to train your upper body to give you a thicker, more muscular look, then the dumbbell pullover is a fantastic exercise to add to your program.  

However, sometimes it’s not possible to perform this movement due to lack of equipment, injury, or to keep things interestingThen, the 10 best dumbbell pullover alternatives in this article are perfect for what you need.


Last Updated on March 16, 2023