Dumbbell vs barbell

The Ultimate Showdown – Dumbbell vs Barbell

Hello people, my name is Mike, and I’m here today to write a bit about rivalries. The world of sports revolves around rivalries, and that is a fact. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Packers vs. Bears, Yankees vs. Red Sox, and the list goes on.

However, in a world of gyms and heavy lifting, there is one matter which deserves to be solved once and for all. What’s better to use – a dumbbell or a barbell?

Though it's hard to answer, I will do my best to solve this dispute once and for all. Here are my pros and cons for each of these.

What do They have in Common?

Dumbbell vs barbell

The basics of both of those are the same. You have a pole with weights attached, and you lift those, it is simple as that. By defying gravity, your muscles are tightening, and you gain strength. The difference is that with the dumbbell, you have one weight in each hand, while with the barbell, you are holding one longer bar with both hands.

As for the exercises, some of them are better suited for dumbbells, while there are others where barbell shines. Still, these differences are minor, and I can say that generally, any exercise done with one can be performed with the other. 


Dumbbell vs barbell

Here are the advantages of dumbbells over barbells.

1. With the dumbbell, your muscles will be better balanced

Although this sounds a bit awkward, the real situation with the barbell is that your stronger arm will “take over” more of the weight. This is done unknowingly and happens almost to everyone.

The result is that your dominant arm will progress more, while the other will be left behind. The dumbbells prevent this situation. Each hand lifts the same weight, which results in equally developed muscles.

In case that you have noticed this situation, it is highly advised to switch to dumbbells so that mistake can be rectified.

2. Dumbbells are safer to use

Because of the way the dumbbells are made, there is less chance for you to get injured while lifting. There is no bar which goes above your throat, and no matter what comedies say, dropping a barbell on your chest or throat can cause severe injuries and potentially fatal outcome. 

With dumbbells, your hands are at the side of your body, and in case that you drop them, they will hit the floor instead of you. Another thing is that with the barbell you should have a spotter in most of the cases, but finding one is not that easy as it sounds.

To explain this situation better, imagine that you are doing squats with a dumbbell. You are balanced, and the exercise can be done properly. With the barbell, the body is sometimes in misbalance, which can lead to falling, and to fall with weight is not a pleasant thing to happen.

3. With the dumbbells, you can move more naturally

This might seem a bit far-fetched, but the truth is that with the barbell you are locked in the same move during the whole rep series. This is not usually bad, because it activates the same group of muscles every time, therefore boosting the results.

But, in case that you are a beginner, the lack of experience may cause injuries, simply because you are forced to make moves which are not so pleasant. The dumbbells have the advantage here because you can move each hand individually, in the most natural way as possible.

4. Dumbells are ideal for isolation exercises, where you want to target a specific muscle

Due to their maneuverability and smaller size in general, dumbells allow for a better and more precise movement of the body while exercising. The most evident example of this fact is the biceps curl.

You can hit the biceps very good with standard curls, using a barbell, but when you position your arms to have resistance from the negative side (putting them on a specially designed bench for example) will force your biceps to work significantly harder. Furthermore, twisting your hands during biceps curls can target the inner side of the biceps, improving it from an entirely different perspective. 


Dumbbell vs barbell

A long bar with weights on both ends, barbells are equally popular as dumbells. Let’s see what their advantages are.

1. Barbells offer better progress

The primary goal why people are going to the gym is to improve and effectively increase the strength and muscle size by progressively increasing the weight which they are lifting. With dumbbells, you can make moves to five pounds on each dumbbell, which means that you can progress by ten.

With barbells, you can add the same 2.5-pound weights, but since you have only two sides to add weight, that is five pounds. Although this seems too small, remember that small steps are better than huge leaps. There is less probability of injuring yourself in this way. 

2. Barbells are safer on heavier weights

Because of nature of both of those weights, I have concluded that barbell is somewhat safer for a bench press than a dumbbell. On smaller weights, dumbbells are safer, but once you get on higher loads, it is doubtful that you will have the strength to control the weight properly.

On the other hand, when you position yourself under the bar and start ripping, you can feel each lift, and whether you can do one more. Also, the lift with the barbell ends in upper position, while with the dumbbells you end in lower, putting your hands to pressure even more.

3. Barbell makes you lift more

Although at first sight seems unlikely, people can lift the certain weight with a barbell, while lifting the same weight with dumbbells (half of it in each hand) is nearly impossible.

This happens because of the position of the hands while doing reps with the barbell. Your hands are fixed to two points, which are connected and reliable, so there is no need for additional stability muscles to be active. That small amount of energy is also important because you can go series with less effort.

4. Barbels are better for compound, strength building exercises

Using barbels usually requires you to lift them off the floor, or to raise them over your head, or push them from a bench. In almost every scenario, the barbell will force you to activate more muscles to perform the exercise, and thus expend more energy. Compound movements that include multiple muscle groups and several joints in the body like deadlifts, squats, and snatches will make your body work hard, building your muscles and burning a lot of energy.

The Conclusion

Dumbbell vs barbell

To summarize, each of these two have their number of advantages and disadvantages. If I had to declare a winner, I would say that this decision depends on your current level. Combining both barbells and dumbbells is a great way to exercise, but in case you are a beginner, I suggest that you put an accent to barbells, and later, when you get to higher weights, you can utilize dumbells more for finer details.

So, these are my reasons. Which is your favorite, and would you agree or disagree with me? Feel free to share your experience in the comment section below.

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About the Author Mike R.Bowen

I am Mike R.Bowen, founder of Fitness On The Weekend dot Com and my aim is to help busy people find time for fitness. We will give you actionable advice on how you can keep fit and healthy even on those busy days!

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