Are Dumbbells Or Barbells Better?

As is with almost every exercise in the gym, people will always have their favorites. Usually this comes down to what they connect best with, what exercises they can actually ‘feel working’, or exercises that they can easily add weight to i.e. are strongest at. But when it comes to using barbells or dumbbells, which equipment is actually better? Here’s our take…

Gaining Strength

Free weights in general are a fantastic equipment choice for those looking to gain strength. When it comes to barbells vs dumbbells though…there’s a clear winner. The same reason powerlifters use barbells exclusively in their meets (competitions), is the same reason barbells take the win in this particular area. Barbells enable you to progressively overload more effectively (add weight over time) and are typically better for your heavy lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press etc. Having more balance over a weighted bar is the reason you can control it better and therefore add more weight over time.

Building Muscle

Again, both barbells and dumbbells are fantastic for muscle building, but in terms of better body balance dumbbells are a clear winner here. Because you can work each muscle independently and have to work harder to actually balance the dumbbells (which brings in more stabilising muscle groups), you’re getting a much better bang for your buck out fo dumbbells. Dumbbells work fantastic in muscle building rep ranges and work excellent as muscular endurance work too. You’ll also find that with dumbbells you have a bigger range of motion of exercises. Take bench press for example, with a barbell you’re limited by the movement once it reaches your chest…but with dumbbells being at your side you can actually get a bigger better stretch.


By fitness we mean circuit style training or endurance work. Both pieces of equipment can be massively helpful with this. With barbell you can use multiple muscle groups in one movement with exercises such as clean and press, front squat to overhead press etc. which in turn will burn huge calories. Dumbbells will allow you to do the same though, although once again you can work one muscle group at a time/one side at a time. You’ll find that dumbbells are also easier to hold at your side on hold or swing type movements. No clear winner here, use both!


  • If you’re trying to get stronger, opt for more barbell work
  • If you want to build muscle faster, try dumbbells more often
  • If you want something closer to machines, try barbells as their better balanced than dumbbell work
  • If you have imbalances on certain muscle groups, try adding in more dumbbell work to hit muscles independently
  • Use a mixture of ALL equipment if you want the perfectly balanced routine

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