How To: Decline Cable Pullover

The decline cable pullover is a single-joint exercise for the lats similar to the standing straight-arm pulldown. Do it early in your routine to pre-exhaust the lats or at the end of your workout to flush the target muscle.

January 1, 2014

By Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS

The Start

decline cable pullover

STEP 1: Attach a straight bar to a low pulley. You can also use a rope. Place a decline bench a few feet away from it so that your head will be near the stack.

STEP 2: Lie faceup on the decline bench, which should be set at about a 45-degree angle. Make sure your torso is fully supported from your head to your hips, with your knees bent and feet on the floor.

STEP 3: Have a partner hand you the bar attached to the cable, or you may be able to grab it as it’s lying on the floor near your head. Grasp the bar with a pronated grip and straighten your arms. You may need to move the bench slightly up or back to allow for a full range of motion.


decline cable pullover execution

STEP 1: Keeping your arms as straight as possible but not locked out, pull the cable over your face and toward your quads in an arc.

STEP 2: Pull the cable all the way to your legs, squeezing your lats as you press the bar into your quads.

STEP 3: Keeping your arms completely straight, slowly reverse direction, allowing the weight to bring your hands back over your head. Stop the motion just before the plates touch down. Repeat.

Biggest Training Errors

1. Not keeping your arms straight. If you bend your elbows during the movement, you’ll automatically recruit the triceps, immediately lessening the focus on the lats. Keep those arms straight.

2. Shortening the full range of motion. Because you’re accustomed to a short range of motion during most pullovers, you may be stopping prematurely. The decline bench allows for increased range of motion and time under tension. Whereas a pullover is usually complete when your hands reach a point above your face, with the decline bench you can take the cable all the way to your quads.

3. Losing tension. Unlike free weights, cables provide constant tension, but you have to be careful not to ignore that feature at the start. A common mistake is to allow the weights to touch down at the beginning of each rep, but that means you’re losing quality tension. To avoid this error, stop just short of the plates touching to ignite every last bit of lat fiber, resting only after your last repetition.

Best Alternative: Decline Barbell Pullover

Probably the closest counterpart is the free-weight version of the decline pullover. You still have the increased range of motion, and with free weights you’ll be forced to call upon stabilizers to help sustain the movement. Additionally, getting in and out of the exercise is easy because you can just set the bar down on the floor behind you. That’s excellent for those who train alone or for those who can’t get a decline bench near a cable stack.