Dumbbell v. Barbell Bench

Posted on by BEAST Sports

This is the first article that I’ve included the video of me doing some dumbbell chest work.  Coming from a powerlifting background, flat barbell bench is where I’m comfortable.  It’s what I’m used to and what I’m good at.  But this sport isn’t about staying comfortable—it’s about doing what’s most effective and what will help yield the best results without wasting your time. From time to time, I will start my chest day with dumbbell bench as my heavy movement rather than flat.  Now I can rep 315 on flat barbell bench, but going heavier than 120’s on dumbbell bench is hard for me to do.  This is because the two exercises are different—they both have their pros and their cons. The main pro about the barbell bench press is that you are able to increase your load and go heavier on this movement.  This in turn causes greater load put on muscles.  The heavier load makes it more taxing on your muscles, allowing potentially for more growth and more muscle built.  Another aspect that I consider a pro is that the barbell bench press is such a staple in chest training that the familiarity of it is usually ingrained into the person doing it, thus decreasing the learning curve on how to bench. The con when it comes to barbell bench pressing is that because it is more of a compound movement, you use more than just your chest to press.  If training for bodybuilding, usually the front delts and triceps get fatigued faster than your chest, honestly, because you don’t get major pec contraction because of the limited range of motion with the bench. The pros with the dumbbell bench is first it allows for a bigger range of motion—you can really get that stretch in your pec as you lower the dumbbells, and because it’s not a barbell, you can go deeper.  Also as you press, you can really think about contracting with your chest and pushing through with your chest.  This also goes in line that your arms can move with a bigger range of motion instead of them being in a fixed position with the barbell, which might be easier on your shoulders. The cons that come with dumbbell benching is that you honestly won’t be able to get a “one rep max” as you would with your barbell work.  Also as you increase in strength with your dumbbells, the bigger the dumbbell, the harder it is to maneuver to the bench, get set, and start the movement without some help. I honesty like the flat bench more, only because I’m stronger at it—I have to scale the weight down and focus on my dumbbell benching because now that I’m taking on the world of bodybuilding, I have to bring my chest up and add as much size as possible by utilizing both.  Now that you’ve heard what I have to say, which method do you like better?    width= Danny Quach is a senior at the University of Georgia and he’s studying Health Promotion and Behavior.  He’s a powerlifter at heart and has done it for over six years.  He just competed in his first bodybuilding show in Summer of 2011.  For powerlifting, he holds some Georgia records.  In his first bodybuilding competition, he placed 2nd in Novice in INBF Southern States.  On his spare time he’s a part of the University of Georgia’s cheerleading co-ed squads; his favorite past-time? Throwing girls around and catching them.