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Dumbbell Bench Press VS Barbell Bench Press – Who Wins ?

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When it comes to working your chest the dumbbell and barbell bench press are at the core of almost every chest routine. Since they are both essential to building a great/full chest which one is actually better and if you just had to choose one to do which one should it be ? Well when it comes to the technique they are both very similar because they both engage the front delts. The biggest difference is that the barbell press engages both your chest and triceps primarily whilst the dumbbell press focuses only on the chest primarily.

The Barbell Bench Press

How To Do It

Lay down flat on a bench. Pinch your shoulder blades together, this will take tension of your shoulder blade and rotator cuffs. Ensure your elbows are closer to your ribs to put more emphasis on your triceps. The further away they are from your ribs the more emphasis it will have on the anterior (front) delt and you want to prevent this or else you risk your shoulders from getting injured. This hits the pec major, front delt and triceps.

This hits 3 major muscle groups so barbell wins this one.

bench press

Range Of Motion

Your range of motion is fairly limited in the barbell bench press. This is because you’re holding a bar that is locked in that one position, meaning that your arms can only travel so far in each direction which restricts your range of motion.

Barbell loses this one.

Muscular Imbalances

Depending on which side of your body (left or right) is more dominant and stronger that side will take over most of the resistance when it comes to doing the barbell bench press. Especially near the end of the set wear it counts the most. This will result in your dominant side being larger and more developed than your weaker side.

uneven chest

Barbell clearly loses this one.

The Dumbbell Bench Press

How To Do It

Grab a pair of dumbbells before you lie down flat onto the bench press. Retract your shoulder blades (scapula), stick your chest out and bring the dumbbells down over the lower part of your chest (your nipple line) so when you push up it fully activates the pec major while also hitting your front delt.

This only hits 2 major muscle groups so dumbbell loses this one.

dumbbell bench press

Range Of Motion

When using the dumbbells you have a much fuller range of motion because your hands and arms can move freely. This will allow your chest to be worked harder therefore you make more chest gains.

Dumbbells clearly win this one.

Muscular Imbalances

Completely different to the barbell bench press, when doing the dumbbell press you will work both sides equally because your stronger side is not there to help out when you lack the strength to push through those last reps.


This will prevent muscular imbalances so dumbbells win this one again.

So Who Wins ?

The clear winner here is the dumbbell bench press so if you had to choose one to do it would have to be it. Although, the barbell bench press is still a great exercise and should not be slept on. It is best for you to incorporate both dumbbells and barbells into your routine so then you can benefit from all the pros each one offers. If you have anymore questions about the dumbbell or barbell bench press leave a comment below.

Click Here For A Full Chest Routine Incorporating Both Barbell And Dumbbells

8 thoughts on “Dumbbell Bench Press VS Barbell Bench Press – Who Wins ?

  1. Interesting post on dumbbells vs. barbells. I would have thought that barbells are better as well. Being female, my trainer has me using dumbbells. They are a good workout as well. I think that the barbells is definitely something that the guys need more than the women. Is this true ?

    1. That’s kind of true Leah, but barbells can still benefit females. So it best to incorporate both in your routine since having a wide variation of excercises keep your routine more effective and fun.

  2. I first moved from the barbell to dumbbells and was amazed at how much weaker my right side was from my left. This is after bench pressing for well over 3 years.

    I now only use the bells to press my chest. For some reason I find the motion easier, although admittedly I can press more weight with a barbell.

    Why is this ?

    1. The reason why you can use more weight while barbell bench pressing is because the barbell press incorporates more muscle groups than the dumbbell press. For example doing bicep curls only works one muscle group which is why you will never curl more weight than say how much you can deadlift, since the dealift uses virtually every single muscle group when done correctly.

  3. Hey Andrew,

    So now I know it wasn’t just me, I always thought the muscular imbalance can be sorted with the dumbbell bench press.

    What is your advice for someone who has a clear and visible muscular imbalance? Should they stick with dumbbell bench press till some sort of balance is achieved ?

    1. Yes if you already have muscular imbalances then you should just stick to dumbbell movements, you must also make sure to use the same weight, same set and same reps for each side.

  4. Hello Andrew, how are you doing ? and it is a pleasure to know you. Loved your overall articles on your website about working out with dumbbells/barbells and being able to compare the effects of the two. I was also impressed by all the nutrition facts and the fact that you are in fact allowed to have “cheat days” from your last article.

    I often workout with weights myself and found some of your online coaching tips quite interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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