Dumbbell vs Barbell – Which is Better?

Apr 6, 2023 | 0 comments

Companies are launching more and more tools and gear to assist you to add weight to your exercises now that the benefits of strength training are getting the attention they deserve – ankle weights, monkeyfeet, and wrist weights, to mention a few. Yet none of these Instagram-worthy new gym equipment can compete with the weight room classics: barbells and dumbbells. Weight training using barbells or dumbbells can lower the risk of heart disease, enhance body composition, aid in weight loss, increase bone density, and improve mental health, among other benefits. These devices can also help you gain muscle mass, lose fat faster, and improve your athletic performance. But are there times when exercising with one type of weight is better than training with the other? Yes. The barbell is sometimes preferred over the dumbbell, and vice versa. Strength and conditioning experts compare and contrast the dumbbell vs barbell. You’ll learn about the specific training benefits of each and when you should choose one over the other.

What Are Barbells?


If you’ve ever seen a powerlifting or Olympic lifting competition, you’ve seen a barbell. Similarly, if you’ve ever seen rows of metal rods in your gym or big-box fitness business, you know what I mean. Nevertheless, just in case, here’s a definition: Barbells are long metal bars with weight plates attached at either end by sturdy clips known as collars. This piece of equipment, available in a number of weights — the most common of which are 15-, 35-, and 45-pounds — allows users to do a variety of strength exercises, including the barbell deadlift, barbell back squat, barbell clean, and barbell snatch, and jerk, to name a few. Barbells are also used in various strength sports, including CrossFit, powerlifting, weightlifting, Strongman, and others.

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Benefits of Barbells

Do you need convincing to add this new tool to your exercise arsenal? Continue reading. You’ll be convinced to incorporate barbells into your strength program when you learn about their full-body, muscle-building, and sport-specific benefits.

Allows You to Lift Heavier and Heavier Objects

Certainly, there are some gyms that have 100-pound dumbbells lying around. And if you’re really strong, you may be someone who throws them around (kudos). But, in general, barbells allow people to lift more than dumbbells. The barbell’s design makes it easy to lift a greater weight. Instead of purchasing a new set of dumbbells, simply add more weight plates to the bar.

Dumbbell vs Barbell

Strengthen Your Entire Body

The majority of the exercises you’ll do with barbells are compound exercises (think: deadlift, bench press, squat, press, etc.) that activate multiple muscle groups at the same time. These multitasking barbell movements increase functional strength, force, and power, giving you more bang for your buck at the gym.

For Sport-Specific Training

Perhaps you are a retired college player looking for a new athletic venture. Perhaps you’re looking for a healthy outlet for your competitive energy. Maybe you’re interested because you saw a lifting competition on ESPN. Despite this, if you want to participate in a sport like Olympic lifting or powerlifting, you’ll need a barbell. Trying to thrive in either of these activities without a barbell is like to trying to excel in swimming without a pool.

What Are Dumbbells?


A common piece of equipment in most gyms (yes, including apartment and hotel gyms! ), chances are you’ve seen a dumbbell if you’ve ever stepped inside a gym in your sneakers. Dumbbells are a strength-training tool consisting of a short handle wedged between two weights.

Benefits of Dumbbells

The benefits of dumbbells extend beyond the fact that they are readily available in most gyms. Learn why dumbbells are a great option for people looking to increase mobility, protect their bodies from injury, and renovate their home gym.

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Increases Your Range of Motion

Dumbbells, by design, allow people to go through more ranges and planes of action than barbells. Dumbbells are not joined in the middle by a bar, allowing for greater flexibility. The larger the range of motion across which you move a weight, the more muscle fibers are activated. The result? Post-recovery strength gains are greater. As an example, take the dumbbell vs barbell bench press. While benching with a barbell, you can lower it until it touches your chest. But, with dumbbells, a lifter can lower their elbows, past their body.

Help Correct Muscle Imbalances

Don’t hate the messenger, but you probably have one stronger leg than the other and one stronger arm than the other. Most people have a dominant foot with which they take off while walking or sprinting and a dominant arm (and hand) with which they lean when opening doors or picking things up off the ground. While some limb strength differences are acceptable, a large gap might increase your risk of overuse injury and keep you out of the gym — or, worse, make your daily tasks more difficult. Dumbbell training can help highlight these muscular imbalances and help people address them, she explains. While performing workouts like the single-leg Romanian deadlift, dumbbell vs barbell overhead press, dumbbell bench press, and dumbbell biceps curls using dumbbells, it will become clear which side is weaker. Exercising both sides using a weight and rep range that the weak side can handle will help close the strength gap.

How to Choose Between a Barbell and a Dumbbell

Do you need help determining which strength training tool is ideal for you? Here’s some advice.

Dumbbells Are Ideal for Beginners

Dumbbells Are Ideal for Beginners

Regardless of your fitness level, entering a weight room might be scary. Stepping inside the weight room’s squat cage and finding out what to do within it might be even scarier. To be clear, regardless of experience level, everyone belongs in the weight room and in the part of the room they want! But barbells must be used cautiously since it is easy to injure yourself if you are not trained in the proper form and body awareness required to lift the heavy equipment. It is recommended that beginners hire a personal trainer to show them the barbell ropes in order to prioritize safety. Alternatively, for the time being, stick to dumbbells.

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Barbells Are Ideal for Muscle Growth

Barbells Are Ideal for Muscle Growth

Since you can lift more weight with a barbell than with dumbbells, the barbell is ideal for muscle hypertrophy.


At the end of the day, neither the barbell nor the dumbbell deserves the Best Strength Training Tool medal because they both deserve gold. But, depending on your experience level, exercise goals, and space requirements, one of the tools may be preferable for you. The barbell is great for athletes and those trying to achieve significant strength gains, whereas dumbbells are better for beginners, those looking to limit their risk of injury, and those working out at home. Nonetheless, if you can access both strength tools, try to use them. While both dumbbell vs barbell has advantages, the most well-rounded program involves both.

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