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Dumbbell Bench Press or Barbell Bench Press: Which Is Better?

Updated on February 6, 2018
pixabay/public domain
pixabay/public domain

In this barbell bench-press vs dumbbell bench-press article, we will discuss how to do each exercise and the pros and cons of each. This will give you a better idea of which one you should do. With that said, continue to read on to learn more about these two exercises.

The Barbell Bench Press

When it comes to barbell bench-press vs dumbbell bench-press, a lot of people think barbell is the better of the two. After all, it is commonly referred to as being the king of all chest exercises. Let's dive into how it's done, the pros of doing it and the cons.

1. How's It Done- The way the barbell bench press is done is simple, with the first step being to lie down on the bench, after you have loaded the barbell. Place your pinkie fingers on the ring/markers and then lift the bar off the rack and start lower it towards your chest. Lightly touch your chest before returning the barbell to the starting point for one rep. Make sure your back is kept flat against the bench throughout the entire movement.

2. Pros- There are so many benefits of doing the bench press, with one of them being stability. The bench press provides you with the utmost stability because you don't run the risk that is associated with dumbbells, which is lowering one of them faster than the other. This could lead to injury and imbalance.

Another benefit of doing the barbell bench press is that it is great for mass building. You have probably heard that the barbell bench press is great for this and the reason why is because it's considered to be a power movement that targets multiple muscles. The stronger you get on the bench press, the more mass you will gain.

Finally, you can go very heavy, far heavier than you can with dumbbells. As long as there are heavy plates in the area, you are only limited to what you can actually lift. If your goal is to gain some serious mass and serious strength, this exercise can definitely help you reach your goals, but make sure it is done properly.

3. Cons- Safety is probably the major con of doing the barbell bench press. We all want to do this exercise with heavy weight, but we shouldn't do it if we cannot maintain proper form. Not only that, but if you don't have someone to spot you, then you probably don't want to go as heavy as possible because if you end up not being able to get the bar back up, then you could be in for some serious trouble. Other than that, there really are no other major cons or drawbacks of doing the exercise.


pixabay, public domain
pixabay, public domain

When people put up barbell bench-press vs dumbbell bench-press, many think dumbbells are the better option. They may be right. With that said, let's talk about the pros, cons and how to do the exercise.

1. How To Do It- Lie down on the bench and keep the dumbbells just outside your shoulders and bend your elbows at 90 degrees and make sure your palms are in the down position. Extend your elbows as you press the dumbbells upwards and stop when the dumbbells are an inch or two from one another. Then you will return them to the starting point for one rep. Just like with the barbell bench press, you want to make sure you keep your back flat on the bench as you do the movement and if you can't do this, the chances are you're lifting too heavy.

2. The Pros- Dumbbells allow you to really isolate your muscles, and your chest is no exception. If you want to target mainly your chest, then dumbbells are the way to go. Sure, other muscles are being incorporate during the movement, but not as much as they are when you perform the barbell bench press.

Dumbbells are thought to be better at getting ripped than gaining mass, which is why many people focus on doing dumbbell presses when their main focus is on getting ripped. If you want to get cut fast, then focus on doing dumbbell presses, but use light weight and try to do high reps.

Finally, dumbbells are quite an easy and safe exercise to do. You don't need a spot, even if you are training heavy. We recommend still using a spotter, but the good news is if you decide to still go heavy without using one, then you should still be able to get the weight back on the ground. With the barbell bench press, you are putting yourself at a greater risk of injury when you train heavy without using a spot.

3. The Cons- They tend to go up to a certain weight. With a barbell, you can load up multiple 45 pound plates to lift as heavy as you can lift, but this isn't the case with dumbbells. Many gyms and fitness centers have dumbbells, but they only go up to a certain weight, so once you are able to do those weights with no problems, then you can't really go heavier. This may or may not be a major con for you.

Which Is Better

As for which exercise is better, it depends on what your goals are. The truth is you can't go wrong with doing either exercise, but as a general rule of thumb, if your goal is to gain mass and strength fast, then you should focus more on the barbell bench press. Otherwise you should focus on doing dumbbell presses, but ultimately the choice is up to you. Weigh the above pros and cons of each exercise before deciding which one you should do.


When it comes to the barbell bench-press vs dumbbell bench-press, it's up to you to decide which one you should do. You could even incorporate both into your chest workouts or alternate between the two every few weeks. The choice is completely up to you.


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