1

votes

Are barbells superior to dumbells?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 20, 2012 at 5:05 PM

And if so, why?

I ask, because I've read that they are (without explanation) and all I have at home is dumbells. I don't really have space for more (without annoying other people).

How important is the difference?

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on January 22, 2012
at 01:44 PM

You're talking about squats, but the OP asked dumbbells in general; he didn't even mention squats.

E242ecf1fecbac866894059f5304b4c6

(318)

on January 21, 2012
at 06:16 PM

um...not unless you place a giant dumbbell on the base of your neck and hold it there, it's not really the same at all

74c1777d7d39b053ca64c065dcdb0072

(713)

on January 21, 2012
at 02:19 PM

That would work. To be perfectly frank, my only preference for dumbbells is in chest work for extended range of motion.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on January 21, 2012
at 11:24 AM

There's the same spinal loading with DBs as with BB. In fact, there's likely more with DBs since you have to balance the weights in more axes.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on January 21, 2012
at 11:22 AM

You could buy weighted wrist straps and use those as incremental weights.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on January 21, 2012
at 11:19 AM

Pretty exhaustive and correct answer. Rippetoe himself says that dumbbell bench press is better than barbell due to reasons you mentioned. Also, with dumbbells one can have larger ROM which is also good.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 20, 2012
at 08:06 PM

Not controversial to me. If I was looking to make a generalisation, that's the one I'd go with. Big rocks are superior to both of course, superseded only by a butchered animal carcass.

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6 Answers

8
246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21430)

on January 20, 2012
at 05:21 PM

Depends on your goals.

There is a tradeoff, a barbell allows you to apply force with two arms at once and therefore you can lift more weight...

Whereas dumbbells will create the need to balance and apply force from a single arm at once, recruiting more stabilizing muscles.

Your best bet is to use both... but if I was simply lifting to be strong without having to compete in a sport that required a barbell (such as olympic lifting or powerlifting) then I would probably go with dumbbells.

IF you are in one of those sports, then yes, a barbell is superior to dumbbells.

Otherwise, it doesn't really matter. In fact, I would argue that because of the stabilizer recruitment that dumbbells would be actually superior to a barbell... but this comment would probably be a bit controversial.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 20, 2012
at 08:06 PM

Not controversial to me. If I was looking to make a generalisation, that's the one I'd go with. Big rocks are superior to both of course, superseded only by a butchered animal carcass.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on January 21, 2012
at 11:19 AM

Pretty exhaustive and correct answer. Rippetoe himself says that dumbbell bench press is better than barbell due to reasons you mentioned. Also, with dumbbells one can have larger ROM which is also good.

5
74c1777d7d39b053ca64c065dcdb0072

on January 20, 2012
at 05:33 PM

There are several other issues with dumbbells for home use that others have not mentioned. Progression is much more difficult unless you buy fractional plates(an increase of 5 lbs for each dumbbells is enormous) Also, you will progress rapidly past your heaviest dumbbells for any leg workouts.

Edit: If I was outfitting a garage(basement) gym, I would use a barbell. Barbells are much cheaper and even the heaviest power blocks will be too light for leg work after 6 months of training by a novice lifter.

74c1777d7d39b053ca64c065dcdb0072

(713)

on January 21, 2012
at 02:19 PM

That would work. To be perfectly frank, my only preference for dumbbells is in chest work for extended range of motion.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on January 21, 2012
at 11:22 AM

You could buy weighted wrist straps and use those as incremental weights.

4
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on January 20, 2012
at 05:56 PM

I prefer that dumbbells allow for proper mechanics and ROM....for instance DB bench allows the arms to approximate each other towards end range where barbells do not. DB are safer at home in the sense that if you fatigue and cant finish you can drop them without being stuck under the bar. I'm not saying barbells are useless, but for home exercise and overall utility I would start with DB every time.

1
5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on January 20, 2012
at 05:47 PM

As explained by others here, it depends on your goals. Due to your space limitations, I assume you're not going out for bodybuilding contests, and are just going for general health and strength. In that case, you want to look at dumbells. Gives you more flexibility, and the ability to work specifically on a weak side for evenness on your body.

However, down side as mentioned is that you will need a lot of space if you want to have a selection to work with. If you want to have some sort of progression, you might want to look at one of the adjustable sets if you have the extra cash. In my situation, I don't really have room for a decent barbell setup, but I do want some sort of progression, so I went with an Ironmaster quick lock system with up to 75lb's per arm. I'm nowhere near 75lb's per arm yet, but I'm further along than when I started, and I like the flexibility. Not cheap though. Your mileage may vary.

1
E242ecf1fecbac866894059f5304b4c6

(318)

on January 20, 2012
at 05:21 PM

They have different applications. The primary disadvantage to dumbbell only use is the lack of spinal loading, and the poor choice of lower body exercises you are limited to

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on January 21, 2012
at 11:24 AM

There's the same spinal loading with DBs as with BB. In fact, there's likely more with DBs since you have to balance the weights in more axes.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on January 22, 2012
at 01:44 PM

You're talking about squats, but the OP asked dumbbells in general; he didn't even mention squats.

E242ecf1fecbac866894059f5304b4c6

(318)

on January 21, 2012
at 06:16 PM

um...not unless you place a giant dumbbell on the base of your neck and hold it there, it's not really the same at all

0
6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on January 20, 2012
at 09:40 PM

it's not the tools you use, it is your intensity that matters. That being said, you will be able to add more load to barbells, unless you have some super heavy dumbells.

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