Photo Courtesy: Richard Foster/Lynda Sanchez
When most people step into a gym, they go straight for the barbell because they want to display some awesome feats of strength. You might actually be better picking up a pair of dumbbells as they can offer you a few things a barbell can’t match. Let’s look at some of the benefits and you can decide for yourself what to use, but just remember they’re both great tools and you don’t need to stick to one or the other.
1. A bigger ROM
Do you ever feel like a barbell sometimes gets in your way? The bench press is a perfect example to use because when you bring the barbell down you can’t go any deeper than chest level unless you want to be squashed. The same kind of thing applies to overhead press and bent over rows. Dumbbells are different because you can always go a lot deeper and the bigger range of movement will help you grow bigger muscles, so maybe the barbell isn’t king after all.
2. Quicker sessions
Even if you love going to the gym on a regular basis, you don’t want to spend hours in there every time you train. That is what usually ends up happening when you use a barbell because every time you want to change the weight on the bar, it takes forever. When you use dumbbells you throw the old pair back on the rack and pick up another pair so you’re ready to go again within 10 seconds. Test it out the next time you train and you might decide you prefer to spend less time messing around.
3. No spotter required
Have you ever been trapped under a barbell while doing bench press? You need to roll the bar onto your waist so you can try to lift yourself up. It’s even worse when you get trapped under the bar while doing a squat because you’ll be shifting some serious weight. That won’t happen when you use dumbbells because you can drop them safely to the side. Some gyms might frown on this but at the end of the day, at least you’ll be able to walk away without any injuries.
4. Improve your grip
Your grip will never improve if you squat with a barbell because it rests on the top of your back. Try doing dumbbell squats and you will find your grip nearly gives out before you finish your set. This isn’t a bad thing because over time, you’ll build a superior grip which will come in handy for other exercises. Even though you won’t be able to lift as much using dumbbells, it doesn’t matter because if you perform unilateral exercises, you don’t need as much weight to get the desired results.
5. Stabilizer muscles
When you lift a long bar above your head you don’t need to stabilize it very much. It can only go up and down, which is sometimes a good thing because you can lift more weight. The only bad thing about it is that you don’t work any of your stabilizer muscles. Lift a dumbbell over your head and it’s different because it’s more than just lifting it up and down. You need to keep it from falling to either side of you and this will work your stabilizer muscles much harder.
Start using them more often
If you’re lucky, your gym will have a large set of dumbbells that range from light to very heavy. Unfortunately, you won’t get to use them very often if you don’t have access to them. Now that you know how beneficial they can be, you should throw a few dumbbell exercises into your routine straight away.
Annie Thickie is a part of the team at Cheshire Fitness Zone, a company that provides occupational therapy services in Connecticut, USA. She likes to keep herself updated with the latest happenings in the world of sports and shares her opinions via blogging.