Aside from fancy (and in some cases, useful) machines, and actual benches, there are two basic pieces of equipment a person lifting weights needs: a barbell and dumbbells. True, you could have either or, but, it’s better to have both.
Comparing dumbbells and the barbell, there are very few exercises which you can’t really substitute one for the other. In some exercises such as the dead lift, dumbbells may be used, but in my opinion they are never going to replace the barbell – but dumbbells are so much more flexible for other lifts.
Here are several reasons why I believe dumbbells should be used in anybody’s training regime, regardless of whether training for strength or muscle:
- Dumbbells are safer: If you are working out alone, you maybe don’t have anybody to spot you. This makes exercises such as the bench press potentially hazardous. But, if you use dumbbells to perform your bench pressing, you have zero risk of becoming pinned, as can easily happen with a barbell.
- Single handed movements: To my knowledge, there is not a single lift you can perform single-handedly with a barbell, beyond the ‘stupid lift’. Dumbbells however, allow you to train specific parts of the body which need it. For instance, if you have one bicep bigger than the other, you can simply train that side a bit extra to bring it up to par. You can’t do this with a barbell.
- Dumbbells allow for a greater range of motion: In some exercises, the bar can actually restrict the range of motion. The bench press is an example of this. It’s a fact that using dumbbells can actually allow you to use a deeper range of motion, whereas a barbell would hit the chest, preventing further downward movement.
- Dumbbells allow for a more natural range of motion: Whilst a single bar is certainly more co-ordinated and stable than two dumbbells, many trainees find out that they are being forced into an unnatural and uncomfortable lifting position. If adequate adjustments can’t be made, this can lead to progressive injuries. It’s not uncommon to learn of bodybuilders who can’t use a barbell for bench pressing anymore due to incredible pain, but can bench just fine using dumbbells.
So, there you have it. Dumbbells really aren’t for dummies, after all.