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Barbell VS Dumbbell! What Should You Use?

I often get asked this question by clients, “Which is better for training, barbell or dumbbell?”

When it comes to weight training, they’re both equally as good. I’ve seen many people gain amazing results for both barbell and dumbbell. You can do free weight exercises with any of these. I would say some exercises are better with barbell than dumbbells from experience and vice versa. 

One is not better than the other. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. They’re both equally as good when developing strength and effective for producing the results that you want.

Let me clarify each of their benefits.

Progressing in Strength

Barbell exercises usually allow you to lift about 20% more than what you can do with dumbbells. 2 dumbbell specifically. The reason being is that less stabilizer muscles are needed to be activated when performing the barbell exercises. As you can already lift more with the barbell, your body is being trained to control heavier loads with the same amount of muscles. The consistency with the same muscles with the heavy loads, allows your body to progress quicker in strength.

Dumbbells on the other hand will not allow you to progress as quick in strength because more muscles are being contracted. Even though, you’re lifting more and progress faster with barbell training, doesn’t mean it’s more beneficial. As I mentioned before, barbell require less stabilizer muscles means they’re neglecting certain muscles. Dumbbell exercises will provide more range of motion which will help contract all the stabilizer muscles making it just as beneficial for your physical health.

Exercise Safety

When I started weightlifting, I performed the exercises with dumbbells as they’re easier to grip and handle as you can start lighter. Conventional barbells are fixed at a weight of 45 pounds, therefore many beginners may not be able to handle that weight. I wasn’t a strong individual when starting out, I could barely lift the barbell. All the dumbbell training, strengthened the stabilizer muscles, improving overall physical strength. This type of training eventually helped me progress to the barbell.

However, when progressing to super heavy weights, I’d say the barbell is more efficient for that. As the weights are equal on each side and less range in motion required, it’s easier to lock out when performing the exercise. Therefore, it would be easier to control the bar with better form for exercises such as the bench press and military press. As for dumbbells, when you’re lifting heavier, it’s harder to stabilize them. Therefore, if you don’t stabilize properly, you may drop the dumbbell and get injured.

The Results

As I mentioned earlier, barbell training will allow you to lift heavier and also helps progress in strength quicker. Therefore, you will see the results in strength sooner than if you were to weight train with dumbbells. Unfortunately, there are times where we may have our dominate side of our body do more of the lifting, which may lead to muscle imbalances

Dumbbells on the other hand, won’t help you progress in strength as quick as it requires more muscles to be activated and contracted. However, more range of motion is required for dumbbell exercises, more muscles are contracted and both sides are more stabled creating more symmetrical muscles. Now one tricep wont be larger than the other

Overall, both training styles with the dumbbell and barbells are beneficial. It depends on what you’re training for and the results you want to produce. Let me know in the comments below which one you prefer?

Trainer Keric

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