As the scene of weightlifting shifts over the years, periodically questions will arise about what is better between two options. Dumbbells versus barbells is a common area of discussion. Is it better to utilize one over the other and if so, why?
Let’s break it down!
Benefits of Barbells
- Heavier Weight – With a barbell you will be able to handle more weight. While you can replicate movements using dumbbells, your body works in conjunction more efficiently and can handle greater weight on barbell movements. Moving more weight typically leads to stronger muscles. You can always add more plates on the barbell versus dumbbells typically end at 120 or 150 pounds depending on the gym.
- Needed for Big 3 – The staples of a powerful body are built by doing deadlifts, squats, and bench presses. The amount of effort and energy required by these exercises when using a barbell is immense. The overall affect it has on the growth of your body is not even close to comparable to using dumbbells for the same exercises.
- More Fixed Range – Typically a barbell travels on a more fixed plane of movement in conjunction with your body because it is held at two points (your hands) versus a dumbbell’s single point.
Benefits of Dumbbells
- Better Balance – Due to being supported by a single arm, using a pair of dumbbells requires more balance as well as assistance from auxiliary muscles during each exercise.
- Less Joint Pressure – Dumbbells allow a more free range of motion than a fixed barbell which prevents as much compression compared to heavy barbell lifting.
- Better Balance – Sometimes one side of the body can become stronger and compensate for the weaker side with a barbell. With dumbbells you can more easily determine any weak points.
- More Adaptable – Dumbbell training allows for modified ranges of motion that can more easily translate to other activities such as athletic endeavors. Barbell exercises are rather fixed motions that don’t translate well to other activities other than from the general sense of increasing strength.
So Which is Better?
Neither option alone is as good as both together. Barbells will allow you to use heavier weight and should be a staple with exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and the bench press. However from an athletic aspect as well as muscular balance, dumbbells should be incorporated into a routine as well. This will ensure you get the best of both worlds.
If I had to only use one it would be dumbbells every time. They are much more versatile and you have more options for exercises that what you can do with a barbell. But hopefully I will never have to make that choice!