Cable Pullover Guide

Table Of Content

It’s no secret that the standing cable pullover is a great exercise to add to any workout routine.

But for many people, the exercise can be a bit confusing. What muscles does it work? How do you do it properly? And what are the benefits?

This guide will answer all of your questions and more. You’ll learn everything you need to know about cable pullovers, from the basics of the exercise to more advanced tips and tricks. So whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned fitness enthusiast, this article is for you.

What Is A Standing Cable Pullover?

The standing cable pullover is a great type of standing exercise on the cable machine that primarily targets the muscles of the back – specifically, the lats. As well as the stabilizing muscles in the core and the upper back.

The straight standing cable pullover is often used in combination with other back exercises like pull-ups or barbell rows. Super-sets, for example, can be utilized here.

How To Do A Cable Pullover

To do standing cable pullovers, you’ll need a cable machine with a pulley system and a cable attachment.

Start by setting up the cable machine – attach a rope or a straight bar attachment (choose between straight-bar attachment and curl-bar) to a high pulley system. Both attachments work fine for this exercise.

Then, you just need to adjust the weight (for the beginning, use lighter weight) and you are ready to go.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform a cable pullover:

  • Start by standing in front of the cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart. You can place one foot slightly back for additional balance.
  • Grab the bar attachment or rope attachment with both hands, using an overhand grip – palms facing down. Slightly bend your elbows – hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly and lean forward from your hips (hinge in the hips – around 45 degrees), keeping your back straight. This is the starting position.
  • Exhale as you pull the bar or the rope down. Keep your arms relatively straight, your core tight, and your chest open. As you pull, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Try to bring your elbows behind your body until you can achieve the maximum contraction.
  • Lower the bar down to your thighs and pause for 3-5 seconds.
  • From here, return to the starting point in a controlled motion. Your arms should be locked relatively straight, with your back tight or slightly bent. This is one rep.

Standing Cable Pullover Form Tips

Additional tips for the best results of the cable pullover exercise:

  • Use its highest setting, when setting up the cable. If you use the rope for the cable pullover and you don’t have a long rope, attach two short ropes. This way, your hands can reach the side of your hips.
  • Stand approximately two or three feet away from the cable machine, when performing the exercise. The rep gets harder to complete under control the further you are away.
  • During the repetition, make sure that your spine is straight, and your shoulder blades locked and stable by using the traps and rhomboids.
  • Be sure, that your hips are locked as well during the rep – more stability.
  • During the movement, also make sure that have a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Important: Don’t use any momentum in this exercise. Lower the weight and focus on the correct form, if you need to use momentum.

Workout Tips

Because of the isolated nature of the standing cable pullover, it is recommended to perform higher reps rather than overloading.

This exercise is better suited for hypertrophy training. For example, pull-ups and weighted pull-ups are better for strength training of the lats.

For cable pullovers aim for around ten to fifteen repetitions for three to four sets – one to two minutes of rest time.

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Benefits Of Standing Cable Pullovers

The standing cable pullover is great for maximum activation of the back muscles on the side, specifically the lats. Through the specific movement during this exercise, it is possible to achieve a maximum stretch in the worked muscles.

Also, cable pullovers require core stability, compound movements, and aiding functionality.

Abs and hips are used to stabilize the movement – more functional than a sitting, assisted exercise, for example. This means we are getting crossover benefits for other compound exercises which benefit from core and hip stability.


Due to the nature of this isolation exercise, we are not building other muscles of the back, other than the lats.

In combination with other exercises like the pull-up, the cable pullover works fine, for instance using super-sets.

Cable Pullover Muscles Worked

Standing Cable Pullover muscles worked are, as mentioned, the lats (latissimus dorsi) are the main muscles worked during this isolation exercise.

Other muscles involved in this movement are the traps and rhomboids. They are working to keep the shoulder blades in place during the execution of the cable pullover.

Also, the teres major muscle is assisting the lat.

Lastly, the triceps is working to keep your arms straight and slightly bent during the movement of this exercise.

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Cable Pullover Variations

You can do cable pullovers in many ways and with different equipment.

The standing cable pullover is not the only option – you can perform this exercise with dumbbells, or even a barbell.

Every once in a while, try to switch up the variation of the cable pullover to keep your muscles stimulated in different ways. This also prevents workouts from being monotonous.

Here are some variations of the standing cable pullover:

Dumbbell Pullover

The dumbbell pullover is a great variation for cable pullovers. You can use heavier dumbbells to overload your muscles, or perform higher reps with lighter weights.

This exercise also recruits more stabilizer muscles, because of the free weight.

How To Perform The Dumbbell Pullover Exercise:

  • Position your upper back on a flat bench and make sure that your back, head, and neck are supported.
  • Hold a dumbbell in both hands above your chest, and keep balance with your feet placed on the ground.
  • From here, lower the weight behind your head, until your arms are parallel with the floor – at the most extended point, hold for three to five seconds.
  • Reverse the motion (keep your arms straight) and repeat for desired reps.

Barbell Pullover

The barbell pullover is a great exercise to overload your muscles, and achieve maximum growth.

However, this exercise puts more strain on the shoulder joint – be sure not to go too heavy on the weight.

How To Perform The Barbell Pullover Exercise:

Barbell pullovers are performed relatively the same as the dumbbell pullover – follow the steps above.

Lat Pulldowns Vs. Cable Pullovers

The cable pullover and lat pulldown are two cable exercises that train the back muscles – but they are quite different.

The main difference is that the cable pullover works mostly the lats, while the lat pulldown recruits more of the upper back muscles, such as the middle and lower traps.

Both exercises have their place in a well-rounded back workout routine. Try incorporating both exercises to get the most out of your cable workouts.

How To Perform Lat Pulldowns:

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do the lat pulldown:

Step 1: Sit down on the lat pulldown machine and adjust the knee pad so that your thighs are firmly locked in.

Step 2: Grab the bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width.

Step 3: Lean back slightly and bring the bar down to your chest until it’s at the level of your chin.

Step 4: Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar down.

Step 5: Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for desired reps.

Avoid using momentum and leaning back too much.


The cable pullover is a great isolation exercise for the lats. It’s important to use proper form to get the most out of this movement.

You can do the standing cable pullovers with different attachments like the bar and the rope. And in different variations, such as in a lying position with dumbbells or a barbell.

Be sure to switch up the variation every once in a while to keep your muscles stimulated in different ways and you will see results.

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