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As a rule, training your body in the modern world generally takes place in a gym, where you have access to dumbbells, barbells, and machine exercises.
Yet, one question remains: Which is better, barbells or dumbbells?
You are in luck since we will explain the differences and advantages of barbells and dumbbells in this article to help you plan your perfect workout.
Before we answer this question, you’ll want to learn the pros and cons of both. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better idea of which one is better.
A key part of weight training is to use different equipment, angles, and grips. The reason for this is that even a slight change in grip or angle in a given exercise can change the specifics of that exercise.
Using different equipment/angles/grips, tension will shift to other muscles/zones of the worked muscles. With a flat bench press, for example, you will primarily engage your mid and lower chest and also engage your triceps and shoulders.
With an inclined bench press, however, more strain is placed on the upper chest and shoulders. Based on this information, both barbells and dumbbells are appropriate, as there really is no “better” choice.
The key is to use every item for its specific function in the context of your goal.
Barbell: The Pros
Barbells are one of the most effective ways to stimulate the musculature, regardless of whether we’re talking about training during our fat loss phase or training for muscle growth.
1. You can lift heavier weights with barbells
You can generally lift heavier weights with barbells since there is a fixed point between the working limbs. Barbell exercises might also be more effective because they are more stabilized, allowing your body to activate more of your fast-twitch muscle fibers.
It is quite likely that if you are bench pressing 80 kilograms for repetitions with a barbell, you will not be able to press 40 kilograms on each hand with a dumbbell as easily.
This is why many people focus on doing barbells before any other exercise. If your goal is to make serious gains, then use barbells before machines, dumbbells, or cable.
2. Achieving Training Principles More Easily
There is a fundamental principle to consider when it comes to muscular development. This is known as progressive overload, meaning you should gradually increase the demand on the muscles as you progress (i.e., increasing the weight, reps, sets, etc.).
The greater stability that barbells provide enables you to lift heavier weights, so you are able to increase your workload more easily than with dumbbells.
Combined, these two advantages allow for increased working volume overall, so barbells are an excellent tool during periods of muscle growth.
3. Great For Chest And Legs
Barbell training will quickly and efficiently build up your legs and chest, which is why they are used for squats and bench pressing by professional athletes around the world, as well as bodybuilders and regular people looking to add mass.
The bottom line is if you want to build up your legs or chest, then you should be using barbell exercises such as squats, lunges, the bench press, and incline bench press to name a few. Remember, the bench press is the king of chest exercises and squats are the king of leg exercises, so make sure to do them with a barbell.
4. Explosive Training
Sure, there is a certain level of explosiveness you can train with when using dumbbells, but not quite the same with barbells.
When you want to train with serious intensity and explode during workouts, then barbells are necessary, especially for exercises such as the deadlift, snatch, clean, and jerk.
If you train with great intensity with dumbbells, as well as barbells, you will know exactly what we’re talking about.
We’re not saying that dumbbells are useless because we still think you can train with a lot of intensity, but we also believe barbells are better for high-intensity workouts.
You can go heavy with barbells. They are great for leg workouts and chest workouts. The bottom line is you should train with barbells.
Dumbbells: The Pros
While barbells have a lot to offer when it comes to muscular growth, you shouldn’t disregard dumbbells entirely.
The following are the main benefits of dumbbells:
1. Strengthening weak muscle groups
As dumbbells make you use both sides of your body simultaneously, they can be good when you want to strengthen your weaker side.
You simply can’t allow your stronger side to overtake your weaker side, which then causes an asymmetry in the stimulus.
2. Activation of the muscle units
The activation of muscle fiber units (muscle units) is key to lifting heavy weights.With barbells, movements are typically confined to a narrow range of motion, whereas dumbbells offer a greater range of movement.
So, even on fundamental exercises like the bench press, there is a greater level of muscle activation.
3. Great For Beginners
Dumbbells tend to be better for newbies or those with little workout experience. This is because you are forced to stabilize the weight of the dumbbells you’re holding. This actually improves the coordination of your hands and more fibers are activated. If you don’t have a lot of training experience and you want to ensure one side of your body (such as the arms) is equally strong, then you’ll want to train with dumbbells.
With a barbell, you can easily injure yourself, especially if you’re tempted to load up the bar with a bunch of weight. What happens when you go as heavy as possible when you use a barbell, you struggle to get it back to the starting position.
If you can’t lift a loaded barbell off of your chest or squat it back up, then you could end up seriously injuring yourself. With dumbbells, you just drop them. When you can’t lift them to complete your rep, then simply let them go to the ground. It’s as simple as that and you reduce the chances of injuring yourself by a lot.
5. Correct Imbalances
Newbies and even experienced lifters alike will sometimes realize they have strength imbalances. For example, if you get under a barbell and you start bench pressing it, you might notice your right arm or left arm gets to the starting point before the other.
This is an example of having a strength imbalance. The easiest way to correct this would be to start training with dumbbells. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking dumbbell training is useless for accomplishing this. However, it is the best way, so make sure you use dumbbells when you need to fix imbalances.
Those are only a few of the many benefits of using dumbbells. As for how often you should train with them, this depends. Figure out what your goals are and then create a schedule incorporating dumbbells.
Barbell vs Dumbbell: The Cons Of Each
Barbells and dumbbells offer an array of benefits. There are a few cons associated with both too. Below are the cons of each.
One con is you usually need a spot for certain exercises, such as the barbell shoulder press or the barbell bench press. If you go heavy with barbell training, then you’ll definitely need a spot. Another potential con is you really have to load more weight on the bar if you want to make meaningful progress, but this isn’t necessarily the case with everyone.
The main con of dumbbells is that most of the exercises are considered isolation exercises. It is quite difficult to target multiple muscles with dumbbells, but this isn’t always a bad thing, especially if your main goal is to target mainly one muscle. Other than that, there really aren’t any other major cons associated with dumbbells.
Barbell vs Dumbbell: Which Is Better
The truth is that none is better than the other, but what you should focus on is the advantages that they both offer. When you want to lift the heaviest weight possible and target progressive overload, use barbells.
Dumbbells can be used as a good tool for bringing up your weaker side and focusing on the stability of your joints as opposed to strength.
Once you determine this, then you can decide which one to use the most. You can’t go wrong with either, which is why we believe they are both good. After all, they both offer an array of benefits and whether one is better than the other will be determined by what your fitness goals are.
We’d love to know your favorite dumbbell or barbell exercise! Please leave a comment below!