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Dumbbells vs Barbell Bench Press: Which is the Best for Your Goals?

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Our Summary and Answer:

 

The bench press is a popular exercise for building strength. Many athletes and bodybuilders use it to increase their overall strength in the chest muscles. While doing this over time will help you achieve your goals, it may be wise to use both types of exercises when working out to get the most benefit from your training.

 

You probably think that both dumbbells and barbells have their benefits, but which is the best for your goals? The answer to this question depends on what you want out of your workout.

 

A barbell bench press will allow you to use more weight than a dumbbell bench press. If you are looking to build muscle or improve strength, using heavier weights is vital for progress.

 

On the other hand, lighter weights may be more beneficial if you are looking to increase endurance.

 

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of using dumbbells and barbells in your training program.

 

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What is The Barbell Bench Press?

A barbell bench press is probably the most common exercise for building chest strength (pectorals). You can do this exercise with the barbell resting either on your chest (close grip) or lower on your torso (wide grip).

 

The close grip bench press is more difficult because it requires balance. If you are using momentum to move the weight, then your form will be compromised. Using a wide grip allows you to use your pectoral muscles more to move the weight.

 

The barbell bench press is performed by bringing the bar down to your chest, which you then push back up while squeezing your pectorals. Your feet should remain flat on the floor during this exercise.

 

What Is the Dumbell Bench Press?

A dumbbell bench press can be performed flat on your back or inclined to focus more on the upper chest. Inclining your body allows you to eliminate any help from other muscles, so this exercise is a better test of pure strength.

 

You can also do a decline dumbbell bench press, which puts more emphasis on the lower pectorals. Again, this is a good exercise for those people who lack thickness in their chest.

 

The dumbbell bench press involves laying on your back with a dumbbell in each hand. You then press the weight above you while keeping stable and straight, squeezing your pectorals at the top of the movement.

 

This exercise is more complex than the barbell bench press because it requires better balance and coordination. It also allows you to work with each muscle group individually, so it’s easier to determine your weak points.

 

Benefits Of the Barbell Bench Press

Now that you know what the barbell bench press is, let’s go over some of its benefits.

 

#1 - Greater Weight Capacity

This is probably the most significant advantage of using a barbell bench press. Because you can lay on your back, it gives you the ability to use more weight than dumbbells. The heavier weight will come in handy if your goal is building muscle or improving strength.

 

#2 - More Ways to Change the Resistance

There are more ways to change the resistance because you can use a barbell for flat, incline, and decline bench presses. This allows you to target muscles from different angles and get a fuller range of motion. This is especially helpful if your goal is to build muscle or improve strength.

 

#3 - Easier to Form Proper Form

If you want to maximize your workouts and minimize the risk of injury, then having a barbell bench press makes it easier. This is because the bar helps keep your body in line as opposed to balancing dumbbells on your chest or stomach. This is important because if your form isn’t proper, it will be easy to injure yourself.

 

#4 - One of the three core exercises

The barbell bench press is one of the three core exercises that you should do during any workout (the other two are squats and deadlifts). If your goal is to build an aesthetically pleasing body, then these three lifts should be the foundation of your training program.

 

#5 - A Powerlifting Exercise

Although there are more beneficial exercises for building muscle, the barbell bench press is a popular powerlifting exercise. If your goal is to become stronger in general or join a powerlifting competition, this exercise will help you accomplish your goal.

 

#5 - Better for Improving Chest Strength

If your goal is to improve your chest strength, then the barbell bench press will be one of the best exercises for achieving this. It’s easier to work with heavier weight without using momentum because you are lying on your back. The dumbbell bench press may help you achieve a greater range of motion, but heavyweights are harder to control.

 

Whichever exercise you choose, always remember proper form is the most crucial thing to avoid injury and perform a full range of motion.

 

Benefits Of the Dumbbell Bench Press

Now that you know some of the benefits of using a barbell bench press, let’s look at how dumbbells compare.

 

#1 - Allows for Greater Range of Motion

As I mentioned earlier, using dumbbells for pressing exercises allows for more range of motion. This is because you can balance them on your chest or stomach, depending on what variation of the bench press you are doing (incline, flat, decline).

 

#2 - Better for Correcting Imbalances

If you have an imbalance between one side of your body and the other, using dumbbells is better. This is because you can’t use momentum to help you move the weight, so your weaker side will have to do more work. In addition, this will allow you to correct any muscle imbalances that may cause injury or problems with other exercises.

 

#3 - You Have to Work Each Muscle Group Individually Truly

Using dumbbells requires you to make sure that your form is correct. If you cannot keep the weights stable while pressing them up, you will get injured. This can be especially dangerous if you have a history of osteoporosis or other bone problems. Another thing to consider is balance. 

 

If you have difficulty keeping your core steady or standing on one leg while holding the other straight, then the dumbbell bench press will provide more of a challenge.

 

#4 - Allows For More Comfort

If you are practicing perfect form, then the dumbbell bench press will be more comfortable. This is because you are lying on your back instead of balancing the bar’s weight, which can put stress on muscles and bones. However, if your goal is to build muscle or improve strength, using a free-weight is always better.

 

#5 - Can Help Develop a Stronger Grip

If your goal is to build a stronger grip, then you can use dumbbells for bench pressing. This is because almost all the weight will be in one hand. This makes it more difficult and forces your hands and forearms to work harder than they do when using a barbell. If you have a history of wrist injuries, the dumbbell bench press may be more comfortable.

 

#6 - Allows For a More Natural Movement

The dumbbell bench press more closely mimics the natural movement of pressing objects. This is because it feels more like you are pushing an object away from your body rather than having something resting on your chest, which may cause stress to your shoulders.

 

Drawbacks of the Barbell Bench Press

Although the barbell bench press is a tremendous strength-training exercise, it isn’t without its drawbacks.

 

#1 - Put More Strain on Your Wrists

Although using a barbell creates more of an imbalance on the muscle groups worked, it puts more strain on your wrists. This is especially true if you can’t keep your core tight and steady while pressing the weight up. If you have wrist problems, then this will be even more of an issue.

 

#2 - More Likely to Cause Injuries

If you don’t have a spotter, it is possible to injure yourself using free weights. This is because the weight can fall on you or your arms if you lose control of it. If you train alone, then always make sure to use a bench with safety arms. Also, if you have a history of shoulder injuries, the barbell bench press may not be for you.

 

#3 - Can Cause Overextension in Your Shoulders

If your form is off, then using a barbell will allow you to lift more weight which can cause problems with your shoulders. Also, if you have shoulder issues or a history of them, this exercise may stress your joints too much stress. Also, if you have a weak or injured rotator cuff, then the barbell bench press is not for you.

 

#4 - Harder to Spot Muscle Imbalances

If one muscle group is lagging another, it will become harder to correct the problem when using a barbell. This is because the difference in weight will be even more significant, which can cause more strain on your muscles and joints. In addition, if you have not assessed your current physical abilities, this can lead to problems with other exercises.

 

#5 - Can Be Less Safe

As previously mentioned, if you are training alone, it is possible to injure yourself. If your form isn’t correct or you lose control of the weight, there will be no one to help you. Free weights also offer more opportunities for injury than machines do because they lack safety features.

 

#6 - Can Cause More Damage to Your Spine

If you have a weak core or your form isn’t correct, this exercise can cause more stress on your back and spine. This is especially true for those who already have spinal problems such as herniated discs or osteoporosis. If you fall into this group, free weights should always be used with a spotter to help you avoid injury.

 

#7 - Can Cause Issues with Your Rotator Cuff

If you have an injured rotator cuff, then the barbell bench press is not for you. This is because it can cause further damage to your joints if performed incorrectly. If you are unsure of whether you should be using free weights, always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise.

 

#8 - Requires More Energy

The barbell bench press requires more energy than the dumbbell version will. This is because you need to stabilize each arm and core muscles firing much harder when using a barbell.

 

If you have a weak or injured midsection, then this may not be for you. However, the dumbbell bench press can be a great alternative because you aren’t limited to just one weight, and you won’t have to worry about balancing as much.

 

Drawbacks of Dumbell Bench Press

Although the dumbbell bench press has a lot of benefits, it isn’t without its own set of drawbacks either.

 

#1 - Less Overall Strength

Even though you aren’t limited to how much weight you can use with dumbbells, the average strength of your muscles won’t be as significant. This is because free weights don’t allow for as much stabilization and imbalance is common when using dumbbells.

 

#2 - Can Cause Injuries

When the proper form is not used with this exercise, then injuries can occur. This isn’t as much of an issue with a barbell, but it will be harder to prevent injuries if you have a weak midsection. If you have back or shoulder problems, then this may not be ideal for your fitness goals.

 

#3 - More Strain on The Joints

Although you don’t have to balance using dumbbells, they can cause more strain on your wrists, elbows, and shoulders. If you are training alone, this is even worse because no one will be there to help you if something goes wrong.

 

#4 - Harder To Measure Your Strength

This may not be a problem for the average person but is something to keep in mind. When you use a barbell, the weight is usually displayed, so you know exactly how much you are lifting. This is not possible with dumbbells which can make these workouts harder to track.

 

#5 - Can Be Harder to Learn

The dumbbell bench press is generally more challenging to learn than the barbell version. This is because you need to have a certain level of core strength before performing this exercise correctly. It may be wiser to choose the other option if you start until your midsection develops more strength and endurance.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it harder to bench dumbbells or bar?

It’s harder to bench a bar because the weight is more spread out. With a dumbbell, you must lift one arm at a time, so it’s considered more accessible. Also, you are more prone to injuries with a barbell.

 

Should I use dumbbells or barbells?

Both can be effective; it’s up to you which you want. But if you’re looking for everyday and quick use, dumbbells are easier because you don’t need a spotter, and you can do it yourself. Whereas barbells need a spotter, and you need a proper form to lift heavyweights.

 

How many reps with dumbbells?

It depends on the person. If you’re new to the dumbbell bench press, then start with lighter weight and more reps. Then, as you get used to it, try increasing the amount of weight and reps.

 

Final Verdict: Barbell Bench Press vs Dumbell Bench Press

Dumbbell Bench Press is the go-to where you are doing it alone, or there isn’t access to a spotter. Many variations can be done with the dumbbell bench press, which makes this exercise beneficial for anyone at any fitness level.

 

You will also have more stabilization involved while using free weights, allowing form, strength, and stabilization to increase faster.

 

The barbell bench press is best for those wanting an upper body and shoulder/ triceps workout and /or have a spotter. Although it can be done alone, dumbbells are better because you don’t need a spotter, and the weight is easier to lift.

 

The barbell bench press also allows you to lift more weight, making this exercise better for training while alone. But if your goal is overall fitness while using free weights, the dumbbell bench press is the way to go.

 

We hope this article has helped you decide which type of bench press is best for your personal fitness goals. Remember that both exercises should be used together because they offer different benefits and contribute towards overall strength.

 

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