Dumbbell vs barbell bench press weight comparison

Dumbbell vs barbell bench press weight comparison

In this blog post, we will discuss which muscles you can train while doing bench press and do some dumbbell vs barbell bench press weight comparison to figure out which one is best.

What is a bench press?

The bench press involves lying on a so-called “flat bench” and pushing a barbell up from your chest, shoulders, and arms – after you have lowered it beforehand. The muscle work is similar to that of a push-up, where you push a weight away from your upper body – only it’s your body weight. The bench press with dumbbells and barbells is one of the most important basic exercises in strength training because it uses many muscles and provides excellent muscle-building results. The bench press should not be missing in your training plan.

Which muscles does the bench press train?

You pull your bent arms forward. In addition, the triceps are also effectively trained: They ensure that the arms are extended. But there are many other muscles involved in the bench press. Some contribute to the movement of the arms and some provide stability in the shoulders. Because the heavy bar requires a firm grip, the forearm muscles, for example, are strongly challenged. The latissimus, erects the chest, among other things, while the trapezoid and rhombus muscles pull the shoulder blades together.

Bench press – dumbbells or barbell?

A large part of the fitness scene agrees that the bench press is an effective exercise for building the muscles. It is not only an effective exercise for building a massive chest but the most popular discipline in the gym. But there is disagreement in many places as to whether this sequence of movements should be performed with a barbell or with dumbbells. In this blog post, we get to the bottom of this debate. Provide arguments for both dumbbell vs barbell bench press weight comparison. So in the end you can decide which is the right one for you!

Strength and muscle building = both

Pressing with the barbell enables the athlete to move maximum weight. Thus exert the greatest possible stimulus on the muscles and the central nervous system. However, training with dumbbells offers the great advantage of unilateral training and enables a more pronounced range of motion, which in turn can result in higher muscle growth. Accordingly, it cannot be generalized which variant is superior to the other in terms of hypertrophy and strength development alone.

Performance in powerlifting = barbell

While this point doesn’t seem particularly surprising, it should be included for completeness. In powerlifting, the bench press with the barbell is always required in official competitions and should therefore be the focus of the training of the athletes. However, these athletes in this particular area should also use the dumbbell variants due to the advantages mentioned in the course of the blog post.

Athletic performance = both

Anyone who does not explicitly prepare for powerlifting events, but rather focuses on general physical fitness, should alternate between the two variants discussed here. If you concentrate too much on one, the immense advantages of the other fall by the wayside and leave great development potential untapped. So, to get the maximum benefit from your training, you should choose both barbells and dumbells.

Compensate for asymmetries = dumbbell

Training with the dumbbell enables the athlete to focus on each side of the body individually. This fact is especially beneficial for athletes who struggle with asymmetries or weaknesses on one side. While pressing with the barbell always uses the entire chest muscles. With dumbells you can train the right area, more strongly if there is a comparatively weak development there. The unilateral training is therefore a great advantage so that the barbell is inferior to the dumbbell in this point.

Rehabilitation training = dumbbell

Those who do weight training intensively for a long time could sooner or later run the risk of injuring their shoulders, chest, elbows, or other areas. To recover from such an unfortunate grievance and to be able to build on old achievements, patience and, above all, careful training is necessary.

Even if the barbell bench press leaves little room for maneuver, exercises with dumbbells sometimes allow very flexible angles for the shoulder, elbow, or upper arm, so that the athlete can adapt the exercise individually to his injury. While the “classic” bench press could hold up the rehabilitation process, the unilateral variations are even able to support this process and thus offer a great advantage for formerly injured athletes.

For beginners = both

While barbell training brings beginners closer to the pushing movement and is therefore also beneficial in terms of muscle and strength building, exercises such as the dumbbell bench press can prevent imbalances right from the start. In addition, this variant can help inexperienced athletes to have a better body feeling, better coordination, and more stability.

Common bench press mistakes:

For maximum training success with the barbell or dumbbells on the bench, you should perform the movement carefully. Here you will find common mistakes and tips to avoid them.

  • Incorrect angle between elbow and upper body
    When lowering the barbell or dumbbells, you should not open your elbows outward. Depending on the reach, you tend to bring your elbows inwards. Make sure to make an angle between 45 and 60 degrees. The right angle between arm and body is extremely important.
  • Lowered the equipment in the wrong place:
    Occasionally, there is uncertainty as to where you lower the barbell or dumbbell. This should not be on the neck or above the stomach, but slightly above the chest.
  • Incorrect breathing
    You should breathe in as you lower the equipment and breathe out again as you push up. Otherwise, improper breathing can cause chest pain.
  • Too fast lowering or too little lowering
    When doing the bench press, you should lower the tool on the flat bench to just under your chest. Some athletes end up 20 centimeters from their chest on the barbell bench press or perform the movement too quickly.
  • No firm stance on the floor
    Both legs should be on the floor when training on the flat bench so that you have a stable footing.
  • Cushioning the weight on the chest
    Some athletes cushion the barbell on the chest when doing the bench press. If you gain momentum for the upward movement, you relieve your chest muscles.


Although the blog post does not claim to be complete, it should still have become clear that both variants of bench pressing have their advantages. As is so often the case in life, it is advisable to find the right level in this area and to integrate the advantages of both versions into your training. If you only focus on one thing, you leave a lot of potentials behind and will probably never be able to reach your maximum. But whatever equipment to use to do your bench press try to do it carefully.