Dumbbells vs. Barbells: The Debate

You walk into a gym and there’s squat racks, barbells, a dumbbell rack, kettlebells, cable machines, a Smith Machine, and then two other floors you haven’t even looked at yet – there’s a near overwhelming amount of ways to move a weight from Point A to Point B, so let’s figure out which ones are best – today’s talk is on Barbells v Dumbbells. 

Photo from onnit

Barbells are the tool of choice if your goal is developing strength. In just about all barbell lifts, you’ll have two hands on the bar, locking it into a fixed position, and allowing both arms or both legs to work in unison, resulting in heavier loading than you could handle with two dumbbells. You’ll call on larger muscle groups to do the brunt of the work without having to worry as much about stabilization, which often incorporates smaller muscle groups.

On the other hand, dumbbells allow for a much greater range of motion than barbell movements. This leads to the argument that dumbbells are preferable when your goal is increasing muscular size and hypertrophy. Also, the dumbbell in each hand approach prevents imbalances from taking over, leading to more muscular balance from side to side.

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