Oh boy, the dumbbell vs barbell bench press debate has been raging for a long time now and shows no signs of going away anytime soon. Online forums on every single serious fitness platform like BodyBuilding.com or MuscleandFitness.com sport heated threats on the topic.
SEE ALSO: How to Improve Bench Press Max
At the end of the day this is what everything boils down to: dumbbell bench presses recruit more muscle and are preferred by people who have rotator cuff issues or who experience pain from barbell presses (typically as a result of bad form). After that it’s all just a matter of personal preference but the best resistance training routines are going to have a bit of both!
SEE ALSO: List of Muscles Used in Bench Press
The Benefits of Dumbbell Bench Presses
There’s lots of reasons to use dumbbells but here are the top three that you’ll most often hear from experienced body builders.
- Your central nervous system has to recruit more muscles to steady your hands/wrist which means more electric stimulation of muscle tissue.
- No need for a spotter. If they’re too heavy or something doesn’t feel right you can simply drop them.
- Your weaker arm/side has to fend for itself because your stronger arm/side can’t pick up any slack.
The one drawback for using dumbbells, especially with heavier weights for strength/hypertrophy, is that if you set them down wrong you’re going to injure yourself (or possibly someone working out close-by. With barbells you just move it back a couple inches and set it down.
The Benefits of Barbell Bench Presses
Okay, let’s take a look at the three primary reasons men and women adore the barbell bench press during their workout routines:
- Technically (really complex biomechanics involved here), with a spotter you can put up more weight using an Olympic barbell.
- In the very beginning it’s easier to go into a barbell press than a dumbbell press if you have no spotter or someone to hand them to you with your arms already up.
- The other thing is that dumbbell weights in most mainstream gyms only go up so high. However, there’s always more than enough weight plates around.
If your form is perfect and you still experience shoulder pain from barbell bench presses, then dumbbells are a good option. But, if not, then there’s really no other way to get to the really big numbers. That’s what it comes down to as well. But, keep in mind that for hypertrophy (outside hardcore strength training) there are tons and tons of ways to target the chest outside flat barbell or dumbbell presses.