Are barbell or dumbbells better for strength and size? Are dumbbells good for weight loss and for muscle gain? Find out which one is best for mass, strength, size, and fat loss.
Dumbbells Vs Barbells (DON’T MESS THIS UP!!!) | Are Barbell or Dumbbells Better
Dumbbells versus Barbells. Are barbell or dumbbells better for gaining muscle? Are barbell or dumbbells better for burning fat? Both dumbbells and barbells have been around for a long time and both are irreplaceable pieces of equipment. But is one better than the other? Let’s compare the pros and cons starting with barbells. With a barbell you get to use both arms on one bar allowing you to lift a lot heavier of weight.
Stabilization is typically made easier with barbell exercises, so not as much effort has to be dedicated to stabilizing the bar, and more effort can be directed to lift a heavier load. Another huge advantage of a barbell is you can rest it places where you could never rest dumbbells. For example with a barbell squat you can rest the weight on your upper traps allowing you to do much more weight then a weighted dumbbell squat.
Actually, with a weighted dumbbell squat you probably would exhaust your grip strength before you came anywhere close to exhausting your leg strength. Barbells are also much more efficient for people looking to develop explosive power with exercises like clean and presses, power cleans, and deadlifts.
Barbells are also believed to help build more mass with exercises like barbell bicep curls over dumbbell bicep curls. This is probably due to the fact that you can grab more weight when using two arms with a barbell bicep curl.
So, it seems for sure that for strength and power barbells win, but what exactly do dumbbells bring to the table? Well dumbbells are far better than barbells at training your stabilizer muscles and improving your coordination. In many exercises dumbbells are better for getting more muscles or more parts of the muscle also known as muscle fibers and motor units, dumbbells are good at getting more of those involved in the movement. For example, with a dumbbell chest press you can hit parts of your chest that you couldn’t hit with a barbell because the weight load on the barbell is connected by the bar.
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Are Barbell or Dumbbells Better for Resistance?
You have a lot more resistance on horizontal abduction and adduction going on with dumbbells which again just means your recruiting certain motor units and muscle fibers that you’re not recruiting with a regular barbell press. With a barbell press you will be able to hit your triceps a lot more and a dumbbell press will incorporate biceps for stabilization and less triceps.
Are barbell or dumbbells better for strength and size? Another huge advantage of dumbbells is that you can concentrate on one side and you can work each side individually. This is especially great for beginners with lagging muscle groups or with muscle strength imbalances. For example, if your right bicep is significantly stronger than your left bicep dumbbells give you the chance to correct that strength imbalance.
There are also certain exercises that allow you to hit your muscles from a different angle that can only be done with dumbbells. For example the angle you get from a dumbbell concentration curl is gonna be pretty difficult to match with a barbell. The other big advantage of using dumbbells over a barbell is that they are a lot safer.
Are barbell or dumbbells better for chest press and let me tell you from experience it’s much safer and easier to just drop the dumbbells down to the ground rather than roll a barbell down your chest and ribs. When it comes to really heavy weight both barbells and dumbbells can lead to an injury so make sure you have a spotter…………..actually…… speaking of injuries dumbbells are usually the safer bet when you have joint problems because they allow a free range of motion than the barbell.
Allowing your joints to travel along their most natural path during open chain exercises like presses and rows. I’ve had a lot of clients that couldn’t bench because their shoulders would hurt but when we switched it to dumbbell presses they were fine. I’ve also had other clients with mobility issues that couldn’t grab a barbell behind their neck due to poor shoulder flexibility…..more specifically the rotator cuff. And even though the goal with these people is to get them to eventually have more flexibility in their shoulders it’s really good to have dumbbells available for those people with the lack of range of motion in their joints.
Even though dumbbells are very helpful for people that lack range of motion, one last major advantage of dumbbells over the barbell is that they can provide a greater range of motion for certain exercises. A greater range of motion makes the exercise more effective on the muscle being targeted. I’m going to use a dumbbell chest press versus barbell chest press as an example again.
With the barbell you can only go so low because the bar will hit your chest and you obviously won’t be able to get any lower than that. With a dumbbell chest press you can really stretch down as low as you are comfortable with. Of course if you have issues with your joints you want to be careful going to low but either way the dumbbells will typically allow a greater range of motion than a barbell. So now that you know the pros and cons of each its pretty obvious that each its own uses and benefits. One is not inherently better than the other.
The best strength and muscle building programs include a combination of both barbells and dumbbells so you can experience the benefits that both of these bring to the table. And these are two pieces of equipment that I always highly recommend you get access to for your workouts.
For fat loss barbells and dumbbells both have a very similar effect so you can tone up with both. If you have to choose between getting barbells or dumbbells it’s a pretty tough choice. A traditional barbell and the weights required would most likely cost less then a bunch of sets of dumbbells. You don’t need a lot of plates because you can combine them to achieve various different weight loads with a barbell.
With a dumbbell you do have the option of getting the adjustable ones with plates but you’ll usually find that those are very uncomfortable especially for exercises in which you have to rest the dumbbells on your legs for a chest press for example. If I absolutely had to pick, if money wasn’t an issue, and I was more concerned about working my upper body I would definitely pick dumbbells.
There is just more you can do with a variety of dumbbells for the upper body. However if I was picking between the two for the lower body it would be a no-brainer and I would have to go with the barbell. Exercises like squats and lunges would be really hard to do without a barbell because the heavy weight load would have to be supported by your hands and your grip strength.
Another thing that would influence my decision between the two would be my goal. Am I trying to bulk up and build muscle, am I trying to purely focus on aesthetics, or am I more concerned about increasing my strength and power lifting? For aesthetics if I had to pick between barbells and dumbbells I would have to go with the dumbbells. For strength and power it would be a no-brainer I would have to go with the barbell. The good news is that now you have gyms that cost roughly $20 a month and they have both barbells and dumbbells so you don’t really have to pick. I think every gym should have both. And no that Smith machine barbell does not give you the benefits that a barbell that’s not locked into a range of motion will. So make sure your gym has regular dumbbells and regular barbells available this way you can get the benefits of both.
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My passion for fitness began when I was 14 years old. I naturally fell in love with training and haven’t stopped since. At 18 years I acquired my first personal training certification from ACE after which I opened my first gym in 2011, Gravity Training Zone. I'm now in the process of opening up my third location! I love to share my knowledge through personal training, my online courses, and youtube channel now with over 100,000 subscribers! I'm always here for my customers so if you need help don't hesitate to send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org