One might look at programs that I design and notice that maybe 1-2 exercises stick out in comparison to the others. Compound muscle group exercises are mainly done throughout the whole program primarily with our feet on the ground (with the exception of Pull Ups, Inverted Rows, and 1-Arm Cable rows). However, during one of our phases during the off-season program, we will do Pullovers.
The Pullover gets a bad rap amongst strength and conditioning coaches because many would view it as a bodybuilding exercise. Another reason why it wouldn’t be popular is because in the book Super Squats: How to Gain 30 Pounds of Muscle in 6 Weeks, the author, Randall Strossen, refers to the Pullover as an exercise to “expand the ribcage”. I know many would disregard this and think that expanding the ribcage is impossible. Bone doesn’t lengthen. However, Strossen wouldn’t just put the exercise in the program just for fun. There are benefits of the exercise and if it will help give the appearance of an expanded rib cage- so be it.
In the book Return of the Kettlebell: Explosive Kettlebell Training for Explosive Muscle Gains by Pavel Tsatsouline, the Kettlebell Straight-Arm Pullover is shown and recommended as a way to increase shoulder mobility. In this example, the exercise is shown to help increase mobility to improve the lockout position for double kettlebell push presses and jerks.
While watching many athletes over the years perform overhead presses, I must admit that not all of them had good technique. There were many times when the barbell or dumbbells may have been in front of the athletes’ head rather than in line with the ears, especially at the finish position. Many times they may have looked like high incline presses. There is a need for the ability to finish any overhead work properly.
When it comes to increasing shoulder mobility; many times we focus just on thoracic rotation. Many athletes may need thoracic extension as well as thoracic rotation. Thoracic Kyphosis can be quite common in athletes, especially those who have been performing more bench pressing than pulling exercises and/or may sit all day at work hunched over a computer. The pullover is a good exercise to help address this by stretching the Lats which are really strong internal rotators of the shoulder.
So, if we can do an exercise that will help us increase shoulder mobility and extensibility in the Lat, while also helping us keep our shoulders in their proper position while locking out weights overhead, I am all for it.