Dumbbell vs. Barbell Bench Press: Select the Proper Higher-Physique Builder

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Ahh, the legendary bench press. It holds a particular place in lots of lifters’ hearts. The draw of a muscular chest, rounded shoulders, and bulging triceps is what makes many fall in love with benching, both with a barbell or a pair of dumbbells.

Whether or not you’re an athlete or simply need to look good, bench urgent is the go-to urgent train to slap on higher physique measurement and power.  

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The barbell bench press is an integral member of the powerlifting large three, together with the again squat and deadlift. The traditional bench is even related to its personal day the week. Who hasn’t needed to do the barbell bench press on a Monday solely to discover a dozen different health club members with the identical thought?

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Thankfully, it’s half-brother — the dumbbell bench press — is an identical motion, but it surely’s much more forgiving on the joints and you could work more durable general to stabilize the weights. Right here we’ll dive deep into each workout routines so you may select when to carry out every in response to your objectives. Let’s get able to bench press, somehow.

Dumbbell Bench Press and Barbell Bench Press

Dumbbell and Barbell Bench Press Variations

The important thing variations to the bare eye appear obvious — it’s the gear, both one barbell or two dumbbells are used. However the press setup and different slight variations must also be observed between these two unbelievable urgent variations.

Muscle Recruitment

Each workout routines recruit the pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulder), and triceps to various levels relying on the variation used. The barbell locks your joints into a selected vary of movement each time. As a result of it’s one related unit, the barbell’s stability lets you press extra weight than dumbbells, which require every arm to work independently.

man in gym lying on bench lifting heavy dumbbells
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The urgent path with the dumbbells usually varies barely with every rep and requires extra upper-body stabilizers as a result of the vary of movement (ROM) isn’t fastened — the weights are likely to sway in all instructions greater than a barbell. This implies your rotator cuff and shoulder stabilizers are turned on extra to guard your shoulder joint.


Except you could have specialised gear, there isn’t a approach to unrack and re-rack dumbbells like with the barbell bench press. Getting the dumbbells in place for the press requires effort and sound method to keep away from damage, and the identical when you could have completed your press. Getting the dumbbells into the beginning place can develop into much more difficult as your working weights get heavier.

With a barbell, it’s a comparatively easy matter of unracking the bar from the bench helps and changing it on the finish of the set. The method is an identical whatever the weight on the bar.


A barbell lets you press utilizing both a typical overhand grip, a false (thumbless) grip, and even an underhand grip. Every of those have their very own advantages — the underhand grip recruits extra of your shoulders and biceps for added stability, whereas the false grip will help to cut back shoulder joint pressure. (1) Nevertheless, the barbell doesn’t supply any freedom of motion at your wrists in the course of the motion. When you grip the bar, you’re locked into that place till the set ends.

Dumbbells enable far more number of wrist motion, which might cut back pressure in your elbows and shoulder joints. One key distinction is that dumbbells assist you to press with a impartial (palms dealing with) grip. Not solely does that put your shoulders and arms within the strongest leverage place, but it surely stresses the shoulder joint much less as a result of it’s neither internally nor externally rotated.

Dumbbell and Barbell Bench Press Similarities

Each flat bench press variations are horizontal presses, the place you lie in your again, press the burden up, and decrease it down. In that vein, there are a number of similarities regardless of the gear and setup variations. Right here’s how you understand the workout routines are completely different branches of the identical tree.

Coaching The Identical Muscle mass

As a result of they’re each horizontal urgent actions, together with your physique in the identical place relative to the burden, each the dumbbell press and and barbell bench press interact the chest as the first working physique half.

Each workout routines are accomplished with help out of your triceps and shoulders (significantly the anterior, or entrance, head of the muscle), whereas your higher again, core, and even your legs contribute to total-body stability.

Higher Physique Urgent Energy and Energy

The barbell bench press is the urgent variation the place you’ll be capable to use extra general weight, which lends itself to constructing severe higher urgent energy and power. It’s not unusual for an skilled lifter to barbell bench press 300 or extra kilos.

person in gym performing bench press
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Whereas the dumbbell bench press doesn’t enable for as a lot whole load — utilizing a pair of 100-pound dumbbells, or 200 whole kilos, could be an achievement for health club veterans— the train nonetheless creates an amazing strength-building stimulus. Each workout routines contain horizontal adduction (bringing your arms collectively towards your centerline), and each can construct muscle, power, and energy within the chest and triceps.

Key Approach Variations

The dumbbell bench press and the barbell bench press have particular method variations influencing the outcomes delivered. Right here’s a better take a look at precisely what makes them completely different.  

Urgent Path

With the dumbbell bench press, you’re coordinating the weights as you press every dumbbell individually. This may tackle muscular imbalances between your left and proper sides, whereas the barbell requires you to push as a single unit with each palms. This modifications the urgent path and vary of movement in a number of methods.

The dumbbells can transfer in a definite arc and permit for extra arm adduction — you may deliver your arms shut to one another within the high place, which can’t be finished with a barbell.

man in gym pressing dumbbells during chest exercise
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The barbell’s vary of movement is extra fastened as a result of your hand stays in place and the barbell stops at chest-level. The dumbbells aren’t blocked by your chest within the backside place, which might enable for just a little extra vary of movement and a extra intensive stretch on the chest and shoulders.

Higher Physique Place

It’s common with the barbell bench press to see a major decrease again arch and a puffed-out chest to shorten the vary of movement. This acts as a sort of counterbalance and may particularly occur when utilizing heavier weight.

That is tough to do with the dumbbell bench press, and this place isn’t as obligatory as a result of there isn’t a want to satisfy your chest with the dumbbells. When you do nonetheless want to make use of your decrease physique to brace in the course of the dumbbell bench press, your torso stays principally flat on the bench.

Dumbbells are additionally comparatively tougher to stabilize all through the train, that means every rep shall be very barely completely different from the subsequent as a result of your shoulder stabilizers shall be working more durable than with the barbell motion.  

Grip Choices

The barbell locks your palms into two fundamental sorts of grip: overhand or underhand (which might each be finished with dumbbells). The barbell bench press lets you fluctuate the width of your grip to alter the emphasis on the muscle tissue skilled. Urgent together with your palms nearer will prioritize your triceps, whereas a wider grip will emphasize your chest and shoulders.

Essentially the most vital distinction between the standard barbell and dumbbells is the power to press with a impartial grip which stresses the wrists, elbows, and shoulder joints much less, making it a more sensible choice if discomfort or poor joint mobility is a matter.  

Find out how to Dumbbell Bench Press

Sit on a flat bench with a dumbbell on every knee. Lie again and lift your knees to drive the dumbbells again in direction of your shoulders whereas urgent the dumbbells up right into a locked out place above your chest.

Slowly decrease the weights, protecting your elbows angled out at roughly 45-degrees. Within the backside place, when your elbows are almost degree together with your torso or once you’ve reached a snug stretch, push the dumbbells again up.

Type Tip: Due to the doubtless elevated vary of movement when utilizing dumbbells, some lifters tend to suppose “extra is best.” However once you drop your elbows below-level together with your torso, your shoulders develop into extra externally rotated which places them in a extra susceptible place. Maintain your elbows roughly even together with your torso within the backside place to cut back the chance of joint pressure.


  • Lifting every dumbbell individually will help strengthen developmental imbalances between arms.
  • The dumbbell bench press helps you to practice with a excessive depth utilizing a comparatively decrease weight, which might enhance higher physique measurement and power with out put on and tear from heavy loading.
  • It provides your wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints a break from the barbell due to the power to make use of a impartial grip.  

Dumbbell Bench Press Variations

The dumbbell affords higher freedom of motion, permitting you to coach the dumbbell bench press from various angles and positions for higher general muscle improvement.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Ground Press

This single-arm ground press will practice your core and shoulder stabilizers extra because of the offset load that will get uncared for throughout bilateral (two-arm) urgent.

It’s additionally a shoulder-saver as a result of it eliminates the decrease vary of movement, which is the place the shoulder is externally rotated and issues like shoulder impingement can occur.

Dumbbell Squeeze Press

Relating to constructing power and muscle, pressure is king. (2) The squeeze press cranks up muscle pressure to the subsequent degree. You carry out this like a daily dumbbell bench press, however you press the hex dumbbells collectively (just like the highest of a dumbbell flye) all through the whole repetition.

This additional pressure offered by the fixed contraction means you’ll want to make use of a lighter weight than a typical dumbbell bench press, however this variation will fireplace up your chest like few different workout routines.

How To Barbell Bench Press

Lie down on a flat bench, barely arch your decrease again, and plant your ft on the ground. Pull your shoulder blades collectively and grip the bar with at a snug and highly effective width, outdoors of your shoulders. For added management, squeeze your palms arduous to flex your arms and gripping muscle tissue.

Unrack the barbell and take into consideration pulling it towards your physique to the touch close to your sternum or the bottom of your chest. Press the bar up, protecting your higher again tight and your shoulder blades pulled collectively.

Type Tip: Many lifters suppose the barbell bench press is simply an “higher physique” train, however this couldn’t be farther from the reality. Creating pressure together with your decrease physique — pushing your ft again and down which flexes your calves, hamstrings, and glutes — is a counterbalance that builds total-body stability and helps you press extra weight safely.


  • The barbell bench press recruits a variety of higher physique muscle tissue together with the chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps, and lats, which helps to construct extra higher physique measurement and power.
  • In comparison with the dumbbell bench press, you may probably load the bench press up with a really heavy weight. 
  • It has direct carryover for powerlifters as a result of it’s one of many three lifts judged in a contest.

Barbell Bench Press Variations

There are a number of efficient barbell bench press variations, however the two under will significantly assist construct lockout power in your triceps, which has an enormous carryover to your barbell bench press efficiency.

Shut Grip Bench Press

A close-grip bench press is similar in each respect as the usual bench press, however you set your palms roughly shoulder-width aside. This modifications your leverage and shifts the load extra to your triceps and fewer to your chest.

As a result of the arm place focuses extra on the triceps, it takes some stress off the shoulder joints however locations barely extra stress on the elbow joints. It’s a fragile balancing act, and it’s best to fluctuate your grip width to keep away from overuse accidents.

Barbell Ground Press

Much like the dumbbell ground press however just a little more durable to initially arrange, the barbell ground press lets use extra weight than the dumbbell variation. It’s a shoulder-saver and focuses extra on the triceps than the chest due to the lowered vary of movement.

One of the vital benefits of the barbell ground press is that it takes the decrease physique out of it to focus solely on strict higher physique urgent energy. When you don’t have entry to an adjustable squat rack with a low setting to put the bar, then discovering a spotter to assist get the bar into place is critical.

When to Program the Dumbbell or Barbell Bench Press

Many lifters carry out the barbell bench press and its variations as a result of that’s what they’ve at all times finished. However don’t low cost the dumbbell bench press, as each can be utilized to enhance your higher physique power and measurement.

Aggressive Powerlifting

The barbell bench press is without doubt one of the powerlifting “large three,” together with the barbell squat and deadlift, so it ought to at all times take precedence in each aggressive powerlifter’s program.

Nevertheless, urgent with a barbell on a regular basis might give rise to overuse accidents as a result of exaggerating power imbalances and cumulative put on and tear in your joints from being locked into the identical vary of movement. Often utilizing the dumbbell bench press and its variations as “accent workout routines” will give your joints a break and cut back imbalances between arms.

Basic Energy

Both bench press variation could be efficient for non-competitive lifters excited about constructing power. With its elevated stability and glued ROM, the barbell bench press lets you raise heavier weights than the dumbbell bench press. And dumbbells in most gyms solely go so excessive and develop into awkward to get into place; the barbell bench press ought to type most of your power work.

Use the dumbbell bench press to strengthen imbalances between sides and as a break for the barbell when your joints start to bark at you. However each bench variations will ship power good points; it’s a matter of private choice.  

Constructing Muscle

When constructing slabs of higher physique muscle is your objective, each bench press variations can work hand in hand. Bilateral lifts just like the barbell bench press assist you to raise heavier whole weight, which can profit a muscle-building program as a result of heavy masses are one approach to obtain muscle-building pressure.

The dumbbells, being lighter individually, are higher for greater rep coaching which might additionally ship an elevated muscle-building stimulus.

Lifters With Lengthy Arms

Lifters with comparatively lengthy arms can have an extended vary of movement on the subject of urgent in contrast these with shorter arms. Typically talking, these with shorter arms can raise extra weight as a result of shorter levers creating a positive urgent place.

Lifters with lengthy arms can use both variation, however ought to think about how their joints really feel on any given day when selecting which to carry out. To keep away from aggravating joints, go for the dumbbell bench press.

Let’s Get Prepared To Press

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all to find out which bench press variation it’s best to use. Some lifters really feel no discomfort and may effectively press with solely a barbell to their coronary heart’s content material. For different lifters, the barbells make their joints offended and never well worth the bother. The selection between the 2 typically comes right down to consolation, private choice, and objective. But when ache and discomfort are usually not a problem, each needs to be utilized in a complete plan to enhance your higher physique measurement, power, and flexing time.


  1. Lehman G. J. (2005). The affect of grip width and forearm pronation/supination on upper-body myoelectric exercise in the course of the flat bench press. Journal of power and conditioning analysis19(3), 587–591. https://doi.org/10.1519/R-15024.1
  2. Burd, Nicholas & Andrews, Richard & West, Daniel & Little, Jonathan & Cochran, Andrew & Hector, Amy & Cashaback, Joshua & Gibala, Martin & Potvin, James & Baker, Steven & Phillips, Stuart. (2011). Muscle time below pressure throughout resistance train stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional artificial responses in males. The Journal of physiology. 590. 351-62. 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200.

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