When To Use Dumbbells And Barbells For Optimum Results

Dumbbells vs Barbells

Using dumbbells or barbells will depend on the type of exercise you’re doing

As you go about your workout program, there’s going to come a time when you might wonder whether you would be best served using a set of dumbbells or whether a barbell is a better bet.

Which type of equipment is going to offer better results?  As you are about to see, it’s not a black and white answer.

You really need to consider your own unique situation along with some key factors when making this decision.

Let’s go over what you should know.

The Strength Factor

The first factor to think about is the strength one.  When it comes to developing sheer muscle strength, you’ll typically find you’re best served by lifting a barbell.

This is because when lifting a barbell, you’ll have to worry less about stabilising the weight and therefore will have more focus and drive to push the weight upwards.

This in turn means greater strength gains will be seen. So for instance, if you want to become as powerful as possible while doing the chest press, opt for a barbell chest press over a dumbbell chest press.

The Muscular Imbalance Factor

Next, you’ll also want to take into account the muscle imbalance factor. This is where dumbbells tend to shine.

When using a barbell, it’s impossible to say whether one arm may be doing slightly more work than another.

Since the weight is loaded on the bar and both sides go up, unless a very clear strength imbalance is noted, it’ll seem both arms are of equal strength.

Instead, when each arm is responsible for its own weight entirely, you can now notice when one is even slightly stronger than the other.

Plus, if you do find that you have a strength imbalance, dumbbells will allow you to correct this by doing more volume for that weaker side until it’s caught up with the stronger side.

The Core Development Factor

Dumbbell Curls

Dumbbell curls provided targeted bicep movement for strength or muscle gains

The next thing to take into consideration is the level of core activation you’ll get with each exercise. This does tend to be a bit of a toss up.

Generally, you’ll see greater core activation when doing compound lifts using the heaviest weight possible. So this then lends to utilising dumbbells.

However, when using dumbbells, your core muscles will be called upon for stabilisation purposes.

Meaning, you now need to keep your body stable as both weights move up and down together, which leads to core muscle contraction.

This in turn can lead to greater strength gains.

So all in all, you will see improvements in core strength using either piece of equipment.

As the strength difference is usually not all that significant, dumbbells may come out slightly ahead.

The Exercise Selection Factor

Finally, the last thing to consider is the exercise selection factor.

While you can do almost all the same exercises with a set of dumbbells as you can a barbell, you cannot do all the same exercises with a barbell as you would with dumbbells.

Dumbbells allow for moves such as chest fly’s, reverse fly’s, and lateral raises, so you’ll really have no choice but to use a dumbbell for these moves. They simply allow for slightly more versatility in your workout program.

So as you can see, there is no right or wrong answer here as to which you should use. Think about your primary goals and preferences and then make your decision from there.

All in all, the best well-rounded program will utilise both pieces of equipment, having you go back between them for the most optimal progress possible.