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Dumbbell Press vs. Barbell Press - Which is Best for Bench Presses?

In developing an effective chest workout routine, pressing exercises are essential towards building mass and strength in the pectoral muscles, improving your athleticism, and attaining overall physical fitness. The addition of the bench press as a primary part of your upper body workout allows you to take advantage of the benefits that a compound movement offers: effective work out of multiple muscle groups at once and the quicker release of testosterone in your system for quicker recovery, fat burn and muscle growth. When planning your upper body routine, keep compound exercises like the bench press at the beginning of your workout and then move on to more isolated workouts such as curls, raises, and crossovers for further muscle exhaustion.

Choosing to make the bench press a key component of your routine is one step, choosing your form and method for doing bench presses is another. Barbell bench presses are one of the most traditional and popular choices for chest workouts. Comprised of a straight metal bar with plates added to the ends, a barbell is what most people think of when it comes to bench presses. Dumbbells are another popular option for press exercises and are used in sets during bench presses, typically with equal weight on each side. A sturdy, flat bench is used with either the barbell or the dumbbells to support your weight while allowing you to keep your feet flat on the floor.

Should I choose barbell or dumbbells for bench presses?

There are three components of a bench press that can drastically impact your results: range of motion, symmetrical effort, and muscular tension. Below are some comparisons of barbell presses and dumbbell presses when it comes to these factors.

Range of motion

Barbell press: When pressing a barbell, your hands are locked in a single position on the bar and you press up. This motion does not allow your arms to move in their full range of motion, which limits the potential extension of your arms and impact of your press.
Dumbbell press: Pressing with dumbbells requires both your hands and your arms to lift the dumbbell and allows you to extend more, which increases your range of motion. This allows more muscles to move and be placed under more tension from the press, increasing the muscular benefit from your workout.

Symmetrical Development

Barbell press: One of the problems of pressing a single bar is that sometimes, hand dominance comes into play. If you bench press while favoring one side, you could end up with size and growth imbalance in your muscles.
Dumbbell press: Since each arm gets its own system to press, each arm moves independently to lift the weight. This allows each side to do equal work and develop equally.

Muscular Tension

Barbell press: During a barbell press, it can be tempting to slide your hands outward to distribute the muscular tension to other muscle groups outside of the chest. This in turn decreases the tension placed on the chest muscles, which can negatively impact your results.
Dumbbell press: Since dumbbell presses allow for a greater range of motion in your press, you have more control over the motion of your arms and can keep your movement more in front of your body instead of outwards. This will allow you to keep more concentrated tension on your chest muscles for a longer period of time, maximizing your results.

The most important thing you should remember with any exercise is that consistency is key, as well as knowing the basics of a compound movement. Variety is a close second in importance. Nearly every lifter will start off on the bench with a bare barbell and will rapidly (or slowly) work your way up to more and more plates. Eventually though, your workout will plateau, become stale, and even inefficient - that's where dumbbells will come to your rescue. Dumbbells help you increase your range of motion, time under tension, and help you exaggerate the squeezing motion in chest. Without the help of a lifting partner, dumbbells are you best friend for helping you get over a plateau and squeeze out those extra gains.

If dumbbells have more benefits, what dumbbell system should I get for my home gym?

Most commercial gyms have rows upon rows of dumbbells available to use for bench presses. In the typical home gym setup, space is limited and valuable, so having a quality set of dumbbells that works and fits in your space is crucial. Adjustable dumbbells are an excellent choice due to their ability to expand in their weight without needing multiple sets. When searching for the best adjustable dumbbells for your home, make sure that the set you choose is durable, easy to adjust, and securely locks the weight plates in place to eliminate rattling or safety concerns.

For the best in adjustable and safe weight lifting equipment, Ironmaster has been the top choice for home gym equipment for decades. Shop our line of adjustable dumbbells to achieve the best in your bench press workouts.

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