Straight Arm Lat Pulldown vs Dumbbell Pullover

Straight Arm Lat Pulldown vs Dumbbell Pullovers

When it comes to building a strong and defined back, there are countless exercises to choose from. Two popular options for targeting the lats are Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns and Dumbbell Pullovers. Both exercises are effective in their own ways, but which one is better?

In this article, I will compare and contrast these two exercises, examining their respective benefits and how to properly perform each one along with coaching tips.

Whether you’re a seasoned lifter or a beginner looking to expand your exercise repertoire, read on to find out which exercise is the best fit for your back workout.

Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns

Equipment Needed

  • Lat Pulldown Machine (or similar cable pulley machine)


  • Resistance Band and a high anchor point (like a pull-up bar)

Muscles Worked

  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Teres Major
  • Triceps Brachii

How To

  • Hook a long straight bar attachment to a Lat Pulldown Machine
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip
  • Stand tall, brace the core and place a slight bend in the elbow.
  • Now, keeping the arms straight, pull the bar down to the thighs.
  • Slowly return the bar back to the starting position and repeat.

Coaching Points

Keep a slight bend in the elbow, do not completely lock out the arm as this puts unnecessary strain on the joint.

Stay vertical. It may be tempting to lean forward in order to move more weight, but then you’re compromising the movement intention. Stay vertical and pull through with the lats.

Don’t have access to a cable machine? Here are some of my favorite Straight Arm Lat Pulldown alternatives.

Benefits of Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns

Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns are an effective exercise for targeting the latissimus dorsi, which is the large muscle of the back that gives the body its “V” shape. Other benefits of Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns include:

  • Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns offer a variation from traditional pulldowns and rows, providing diversity to your workout routine.
  • The exercise is easy to learn and can be performed with relatively lighter weights, making it a good option for beginners.

Dumbbell Pullovers

Dumbbell Pullovers

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbell
  • Bench

Muscles Worked

  • Serratus Anterior
  • Chest (Pectoralis Major)
  • Triceps Brachii (focus on the long head)
  • Latissimus Dorsi

How To

  • Lay on a bench with the top of your head all the way to the edge of the bench.
  • Make a diamond shape with your hands and place them on the inside of one of the heads of the dumbbell.
  • Press the dumbbell to arm’s length straight up over the chest.
  • Now, reach the dumbbell overhead (allow some bend in the elbow) until your hands are about even with the height of the bench.
  • Finally, pull the dumbbell back to the starting position.

Coaching Points

This exercise will give a deep stretch to the chest and triceps on the lift’s eccentric (lowering) phase. Stay slow and controlled and focus on the stretch followed by the strong contraction as you raise the dumbbell back to the start.

Benefits of Dumbbell Pullovers

Dumbbell Pullovers are a versatile exercise that primarily targets the chest and lats. Benefits include:

  • Dumbbell pullovers work not only the lats, but also the chest, shoulders, and triceps, making it a great compound exercise that hits multiple muscle groups at once.
  • Pullovers can be performed with various types of equipment other than dumbbells. A barbell, curl bar or a single weight plate can also be used, allowing for customization based on equipment availability.

Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns vs Dumbbell Pullovers: Which is Better?

Now, let’s look at these two exercises side-by-side and discuss if one is better than the other for some common lifting goals.

Better For Strength and Muscle Mass: Dumbbell Pullovers

Dumbbell Pullovers are generally considered better for building strength and muscle mass compared to Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns. This is because Dumbbell Pullovers engage more muscle groups, including the chest, lats, triceps, and serratus anterior, whereas Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns mainly target the lats.

Additionally, Dumbbell Pullovers allow for a greater range of motion and can be performed with heavier weights, which can further increase muscle mass and strength.

Having said that, it is relatively close between the two exercises. I would still recommend incorporating both exercises within your overall programming to add new stimulus and keep your workout from getting stale.

For more similar exercises to keep your workouts fresh, check out these additional Dumbbell Pullover alternatives.

Better For Beginners: Toss Up

When working with beginners, I like to keep exercises safe, easy to learn and simple to execute. I believe both Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns and Dumbbell Pullovers check all three boxes.

Just make sure to always start light and focus on learning proper technique. Once your technique is sound you can start gradually increasing in weight as your strength allows.

Final Thoughts

I just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better, Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns or Dumbbell Pullovers. The truth is, assuming you have the necessary equipment, there is no reason you can’t have both movements in your strength program.

Both are excellent exercises for hammering the lats. And, by utilizing both in your workouts, you can keep your workouts varied and fresh.

So, instead of trying to decide if one is better than the other, I suggest figuring out how you can incorporate both Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns and Dumbbell Pullovers in your training.

Share This

Similar Posts