The pullover and press is an exercise used back in the day before there were weight benches available. In order to do a floor press – old school version of the bench press – without a spotter, you had to pull the weight off the floor yourself.
Today this movement is performed on a weight bench. The distance the bar travels in the pullover position, when on the floor, is far shorter than what can be achieved on a bench.
This is an exercise designed to allow you to lift a heavy weight and not intended to stretch the ribcage or lats. Far too many injuries occur from overstretching in this exercise with far too heavy a weight. If you are trying to expand your ribcage, dumbbell pullovers lying across a bench are designed for it. I prefer the floor version, as it is safer and you do not need a spotter to hand you the weight.
The pullover and press is a combination of two antagonistic exercises: the pullover phase is first because the traditional version requires you to lift it off the floor, followed by a close-grip bench press.
Start with the barbell overhead on the floor, with your elbows bent to alleviate stress and handle more weight. Your grip should be close and your elbows should point toward the ceiling.
Without changing the elbow angle, pull the barbell off the floor and to the chest in a circular manner. Your elbows will touch the floor preventing the bar from touching your chest if you are lying on the floor.
Once you have pulled the weight to your chest, you are basically in the start position of a floor press or a close-grip bench press.
Press the bar to lockout position, lower it again to the chest, and then reverse the circular manner in which you brought the bar to the chest and lower the barbell back down to the floor.
This exercise will build your lats, chest, shoulders, and triceps. However, it is best known as a triceps builder. The bent-arm pullover and the close-grip bench press both heavily involve the triceps but in opposite ways.
The pullover is a pulling exercise using the lats and rear delts while the press is a pushing exercise that uses antagonistic muscles – the chest and front delts. Alternating between a push and pull exercise allows the triceps to be worked in a unique way that no other exercise can do.