Barbells vs Dumbbells: Which Is Better?
Barbells and dumbbells are both excellent choices for a workout. They are both ideal for strength training, as the heavyweight helps build lean muscle and burn fat.
Have you ever wondered which is better, barbells vs dumbbells?
Well, we will tell you everything you need to know about this topic, so let’s dive in.
Barbells vs dumbbells: what is the difference?
A barbell is a long metal rod fitted with heavy discs of various sizes, which is used in weightlifting to work the upper body. Standard barbells weigh between 35 and 55 pounds, and you use them for lifts such as bench presses, overhead presses, squats and deadlifts. Lengthwise, barbells typically measure between 4 feet to 8 feet.
Barbells are secured with collars, to prevent the heavy discs from slipping off or flinging the barbell away during exercise.
At Sporteq, we sell a barbell squat pad which offers excellent neck support when you use your barbell. The barbell protective pad provides protection for your shoulders and hip bones, which increases comfort during squats. It fits all standard and Olympic bars (approximately 25-30 mm diameter).
Dumbbells are smaller than barbells, as they fit in your hands. They weigh as little as 2 pounds (0.9kg) and go up to over 100 pounds (45 kg). They allow the user to focus on one arm or leg at a time.
At Sporteq, we also sell rubber-encased hex dumbbells which are solid, durable, and created with extra grip for comfortability.
Our hex dumbbells are available in the following sizes:
What are the benefits of dumbbells?
When you challenge your muscles with dumbbells, you force your blood to pump stronger, boosting oxygen and nutrient flow in your body.
Enhanced resiliency and strength of muscle tissue
Using dumbbells requires great stabilisation, so they activate more muscle fibres. This results in better muscle growth.
Ease of movement
When you use a barbell, your arms are locked in one position; whereas, with dumbbells, you can get a greater range of motion and get a bigger stretch through the chest. This also makes it easier for your wrists and joints.
Dumbbells are one of the safest exercise equipment because you can simply put them down and move on when you are finished. So, the probability of injury greatly decreases.
Eliminates strength imbalances
If you have overworked one group of muscles and you find yourself with mismatched biceps, you can use dumbbells to do extra work on your weaker areas, to help you regain balance.
Read our blog post on hex dumbbells to learn more about the benefits of using dumbbells.
What are the benefits of barbells?
Allows you to lift heavier
Barbells are designed to help you lift heavier and heavier because they let you add additional weight plates to the bar.
Works lots of muscles
The use of barbells trains many different muscles that make up the upper body, back and torso. Not only this but doing bodyweight squats with a barbell targets muscles including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals and calves.
Stimulates bone growth
Barbell workouts prevent bone density loss, which is essential for preventing osteoporosis. They also help keep up your balance and coordination.
Can dumbbells replace barbells?
Dumbbells can be an effective substitute for barbells for most exercises. But, they each have advantages over each other.
A barbell lets you lift more weight than dumbbells do, so it is best for heavy compound lifts. However, a barbell will keep you in a fixed position throughout the exercise.
Dumbbells are best if you want to target specific muscle groups.
You must not do lateral raises or kickbacks with a barbell, as this would put immense strain on your muscles or seriously injure someone who walks past. You can only do these kinds of exercises with dumbbells.
Speak to a gym instructor if you want to learn the types of exercises you can do with dumbbells or a barbell, or read some of our tips below.
Do dumbbells make your arm bigger?
Yes, it is possible to increase the size of your arm muscles if you consistently work out with dumbbells.
There are dumbbell exercises that tone your arms, as they work all the muscles in your arms.
One of the best dumbbell exercises is the waiter’s curl, which emphasises your bicep. To do this, rest the flat side of a dumbbell on top of your hands, not gripping the end, and keeping your wrists bent toward the backs of your forearms. Raise the dumbbell by pressing through the inner palm.
Do barbells build more muscle than dumbbells?
As we have discussed already, both dumbbells and barbells are amazing for boosting muscle growth. For muscles to grow, they must undergo mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage. Both barbells and dumbbells activate many muscles and therefore strengthen the body and build endurance.
Interestingly, research has shown that dumbbells consistently elicited higher pectoralis (chest) major activation than the barbell bench press. Another research study found that using dumbbells allowed for more activation of the anterior deltoid (in your shoulder) when compared to barbells during both the seated and standing press.
This tells us that using dumbbells is optimal for activating major muscles and unilateral training.
Barbells vs dumbbells: which is better to use for the chest?
Bench pressing with dumbbells or barbells is fantastic for training the chest.
The barbell bench press allows you to focus almost solely on your pecs, rather than anything else, making it perfect for pushing your chest to the absolute limit. Additionally, barbell bench presses are more beginner-friendly than dumbbell bench presses, as it is easier to adjust the weights on a barbell road than it is to lift up dumbbells to your starting position.
In contrast, dumbbell bench pressing is better for hypertrophy, correcting muscular imbalances and preventing injury. There is less risk of injury compared to barbell bench pressing, as you are less likely to go too wide on dumbbell press, which places less strain on the shoulders.
What exercises can I do with a barbell?
There are so many exercises that you can do with a barbell, but here are some of our favourites:
- Lie flat on a bench and set your hands just outside of shoulder width.
- Set your shoulder blades by pinching them together and driving them into the bench.
- Take a deep breath and ask someone to help you with the lift-off, to maintain tightness through your upper back.
- Make sure your upper back remains tight.
- Inhale and allow the bar to descend slowly by unlocking the elbows.
- Lower the bar in a straight line to the base of the sternum (breastbone) and touch the chest.
- Push the bar back up, by driving your feet into the floor and extending your elbows.
- Stand behind the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your chest lifted and your back straight. Bend forward and grip the barbell. Keep one palm facing up and the other facing down, or both hands facing down in an overhand grip.
- As you grip the bar, press your feet flat into the floor and sink your hips back.
- Keeping a flat back, push your hips forward into a standing position. Finish standing with your legs straight, shoulders back, and knees almost locked out, holding the bar with straight arms at slightly lower than hip height.
- Return to the starting position by keeping your back straight, pushing your hips back, bending your knees, and squatting down until the bar is on the floor.
What exercises can I do with dumbbells?
There are so many exercises that you can do with dumbbells, but here are some of our favourites:
Bend your arm, bringing the dumbbell next to your chest so your upper arm is parallel to the floor, and then straighten your arm behind you, using your forearm. Return slowly to the start position and repeat.
Palms-up wrist curls
Sit straight up in a chair or on a bench, with your knees at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Hold the dumbbells with your palms up. Rest your forearms on your thighs and let your hands hover just beyond the edge of your knees. Relax your hands so the dumbbells fall slightly below the top of your knees. Slowly curl the weights upward, then return to the starting position.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and keep your back straight. Step forward with your right foot and bend your knee, until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Allow your back heel to lift, without letting the knee touch the floor.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and put your foot on a bench. Lean into the heel and push off it to step up. Keep your chest tall and alternate steps with each leg.
There you have it. You should now feel more confident about the ‘barbells vs dumbbells’ debate.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the question ‘which is better, barbells or dumbbells? Ideally, use a combination of both dumbbells and a barbell to maximise your strength and build your stamina.
Find out more about Sporteq by visiting our website here.