Are Barbells Better Than Dumbbells for Building Bigger Muscles

This is a very common question that is often hotly debated in the bodybuilding circles.
While some people swear by dumbbells, others prefer barbells and claim that they’re more effective.
So, the question is… Are barbells better than dumbbells?
Who is right?

are barbells better than dumbbells

The truth of the matter is there is no right or wrong answer here.
Both pieces of equipment should be used in your training.
Some exercises are better done with dumbbells and others can only be done with barbells.

For example, triceps extensions can only be done with dumbbells whereas barbell squats will need a barbell.
Choosing one over another will mean that you can’t just do some exercises and this will be limit you.

The reason there is so much debate is because of one key difference between using barbells and dumbbells.

You will use different muscles

When using a barbell, you’ll be targeting the muscles that are directly involved in the lift.
Since it’s a bar and you’re gripping it with both hands, it will be more stable and less likely to swing around.

However, when using dumbbells, there’s less stability because each hand is holding one and they’re more likely to swing around.

To prevent this from happening, the body will use other muscles to assist in stabilizing your body as you execute the moves.
So, dumbbells will not only use the muscles directly involved in the exercise but also several other muscles to stabilize the movement.

The only way to get the best of both worlds is to use both in your workout.
Now let’s look at what dumbbells and barbells really are.

A quick look at barbells

Barbells are comprised of one long bar with weighted plates on each end.
The bar may be knurled at 2 areas to provide better grip during lifting.
Barbells are used in a variety of pulling and pushing exercises.
Some examples of barbell exercises are deadlifts, barbell squats, overhead presses, etc

Since both hands are gripping the bar, it forms a ‘frame’ which is more stable and allows a person to execute the linear movement more safely.
One benefit of using barbells is that you can use heavier weight plates. When you really want to lift heavy, you absolutely need a barbell.

A quick look at dumbbells

are dumbbells better than barbells

Dumbbells are short little bars that use smaller weight plates.
Usually the bar is just long enough for you to have a comfortable grip. While you can’t lift extremely heavy with dumbbells, they have a few very important uses.

Dumbbells can be used to correct muscular imbalances.
For example, if you’re always doing bench presses with a barbell, your stronger arm may be compensating for the weaker one.
While you may be moving the weight, the effort is different on both arms.
Over time, muscle strength and symmetry will vary.

If you use dumbbells to do the same bench press exercise, most people will notice that their dominant arm is able to do more reps with a higher weight.
What they should do is lower the weight and follow what their weaker arm can handle.
It’s best to progress as fast and your non-dominant arm allows. You can only shore up your weaknesses with dumbbells.

Dumbbells are also great for isolating and targeting the smaller muscles like the biceps, triceps and forearms.
Dumbbell exercises such as concentration curls will allow you to focus on the exact muscle being used.
Your workouts will improve when there is muscle intention behind every rep.
Dumbbells can give you that focus.


To wrap things up, ensure that you have enough variety in your workouts to include exercises that use both dumbbells and barbells. Deadlifts, squats, overhead presses and other compound movements will give you immense strength and burn fat fast.

The dumbbell curls will target your muscles further and carve them out so they really ‘pop out’ and look very impressive.

You need both to achieve your fitness goals.

Have a training regimen that works all your different muscle groups. Make sure you have sufficient rest between training days because your muscles grow when they rest and not during training.

Time spent training can vary.

The goal is muscle stimulation and not muscle annihilation.

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Train enough to work the muscles and stimulate growth but don’t overtrain and injure yourself.

If you can get this right, you’ll be stronger, fitter and have muscles in all the right places.

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