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Should You Use Barbell Or Dumbbells To Build Muscle?

Do you think barbells will help you build more muscle or do you think dumbbells will do the job better? I hope this post can help you get some answers to this question.

Free weights are the best tools when you want to build strength and muscle.

You can use both a barbell and dumbbells to perform some of the best free weight exercises to build muscle.

Often, you may get the question whether one should be using a barbell or dumbbells to get the optimal results.

The short answer is that there is no one tool that is better than the other.

Each tool, whether it is barbell or dumbbells, has its own advantages and disadvantages.

In this post, let us have a look at the differences between using a barbell and dumbbells and how you can use both of them in your exercise routines to get the best results when building strength and muscle.

Advantages of a barbell over dumbbells

You will be able to lift more weight when using a barbell

It is quite clear that you will be able to lift a lot more weight when using a barbell than when using dumbbells.

So, if you are able to bench press 300 lbs with a barbell bench press, you will not be able to do the same using two 150 lbs dumbbells each in one hand.

This is because using dumbbells requires a lot more stabilizer muscles than when using a barbell.

You will be able to progress faster when using a barbell

The most important factor when it comes to building strength and muscle is progressive overload.

One way of achieving progressive overload is by lifting more and more weights over a period of time.

It is much easier to keep lifting heavier weights with a barbell than with dumbbells.

For example, with dumbbells, you have to progress lifting an additional 5 lbs with each dumbbell. And this can take a bit longer as compared to using a barbell where you can progress with a 2.5 lb place on each side.

Barbell exercises are a lot safer than dumbbell exercises

As we know, dumbbell exercises require more stabilizer muscles than barbells.

So, when you are performing heavy compound exercises such as bench press or military press especially with heavy weights, it becomes a lot easier and safer to use a barbell than dumbbells.

This is because it takes a lot of effort to bring the dumbbells into position and that introduces a risk of injury when trying to do so.

A barbell is more practical for some exercises than dumbbells

There are some exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc. that are easier to perform than when using dumbbells.

You can use dumbbells to perform exercises such as squats but usually, gyms will only have dumbbells up to 100 lbs.

So, you will get limited to the amount of weight you can lift when it comes to dumbbells.

But when you use a barbell, you have a range of weight plates that you can use to perform such exercises and progress.

Advantages of dumbbells over a barbell

Dumbbells make use of a lot more stabilizer muscles than a barbell

We know that dumbbell exercises tend to use a lot more stabilizer muscles than a barbell.

So while a barbell can help you lift more weight, it can be a drawback because you will not use as many muscles as when using dumbbells.

So, a dumbbell press will activate and use more chest muscles than a barbell bench press.

Dumbbells can be safer for beginners than a barbell

We have seen that a barbell can be safer when one is lifting heavier weights and performing compound exercises.

However, when one is a beginner, it can be a lot safer to use dumbbells.

This is because using lighter dumbbells one can practice proper form and technique. And this can help avoid injury and help lift heavier weights with proper form later on.

For example, it is far easier to start using dumbbell presses than starting out with a barbell bench press.

Dumbbells can provide a greater range of motion than a barbell

In a lot of exercises, a full range of motion is required to optimally perform the exercise and hit the muscle with maximum efficiency.

This becomes easier in a lot of exercises using dumbbells rather than a barbell. For example, exercises like bench press and the overhead press can get a greater range of motion using dumbbells rather than a barbell.

Dumbbells can help you avoid muscle imbalances

When you use a barbell for most of your exercises, there is a possibility that one side of your body does more work than the other.

This can create a problem of muscle imbalance where one side of your body grows faster than the other and make you look asymmetrical.

When you use dumbbells, you can avoid this problem because then you end up using both sides of your body during the exercises and this will work out all your muscles symmetrically.


I hope this post has helped you understand the differences when using a barbell or dumbbells to perform exercises.

To sum it up, they are tools that have their own pros and cons.

So, it would be best to use both of them during your workouts to get the best out of both of them.

There are some exercises such as the squats, deadlifts, etc. that are best performed using a barbell. And there are other exercises such as side raises, lunges, etc. that are best performed using dumbbells.

Overall, barbell based exercises are best suited for increasing strength while dumbbell based exercises are mores suited for hypertrophy based training.

If you have any questions about barbell or dumbbell training, please leave a comment below.

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