I always used DB’s when doing bench press, mainly for safety reasons. And I thought that they offered a more “complete” workout, since you’re using more stabilizer muscles.
Then last week, all the DB benches were taken, so I just used a BB bench instead, and it worked me out a lot more than I expected. Maybe I was using too much “arms” with the DB’s, and not enough chest, simply due to the motion of the weights.
I think for curls, I prefer dumbbells as you can move your hand freely into a comfortable position.
For BP, barbells, it feels more psychologically satisfying, and you don’t have to worry about carrying the bells around. I don’t believe barbells are unsafe, I just don’t put the safety clip on, so I can slide off the plates if I’m stuck.
Barbells. They make you feel like a man no matter the excercise. Sure they may not be as focused as dumbbells but they seem to require more strength to move the same amount of weight. Squatting/benching/curling with dumbbells is for girls. Except for hammer curls, dumbbells come into their own there.
I prefer kettlebell excercises to dumbbells for the most part, and use a barbell for everything else.
I use a combination of both. For heavy squats, bench, and deadlifts, I always use barbells. Barbells are easier for a spotter as well. Mixing it up with dumbells helps to keep your body guessing. Use both is my recommendation.
The reason you can lift more with a bar than with dumbells is because the bar is making things easier for you. It’s also why you can usually lift more with machines. Lifting more by switching how you lift doesn’t mean that you’re stronger. Similarly, switching to dumbells and lifting less doesn’t mean you’re suddenly weaker because you lift less.
The better question is can you get stronger with barbells versus dumbells. Like others, I tend to have a preference for dumbells for bench and shoulder presses and barbells for squats and deadlifts (and pretty much any movement that incorporates a squat or deadlift), but do I really get stronger by using dumbells versus barbells? I don’t know. It seems like there are probably 20 other things I would need to change before the question of dumbells versus barbells becomes significant for me. Probably also for most people who aren’t professional athletes.
More often, the reason I do bench presses with dumbells is because my work gym only has a combined smith machine/power rack thing and some benches instead a full free weight area. And I f’in hate it when people are there doing bench presses on it when I could use it for squats.
I’ll echo capaldij and expand - it also depends on your goals.
Strength goals: Barbell movements are king and dumbbells should be used as accessory tools on an as-needed basis.
Improved athletic performance: Again, barbell movements should dominate with some dumbbell movements to “build armor.”
Aesthetics: A pretty even combination of both. Barbell movements to build a strength base and then dumbbell movements to isolate and focus on time under tension.
It pretty much comes down to this: a novice would benefit most from using barbell movements PROPERLY to build a strength base and then branching out to isolate muscles using dumbbells as weaknesses begin to limit progression or as aesthetics become the primary goal.
DB for all the presses (flat, incline, and shoulders) because a) I lift by myself so it’s not really a choice, and b) it utilizes more muscles for stabilization. I actually squat in a smith machine, because again, no spot. And BB for DL because you don’t need a spot. All that said, if I’m lifting with someone- BB for everything. Just a preference of mine.
To be fair, it’s not a pure Smith machine. We used to have one of those Smith ones that locks you in to a glide path thing. They replaced it with the kind that let’s you move around more. Might be called a Jones machine.