Barbell or Dumbbell: Which Is The Best?

barbell or dumbbell

With US wholesale consumer fitness equipment sales of $3.77 billion in 2015 alone, it's safe to say people want to get into shape.

For some, it's a bid to improve their overall fitness. Others are chasing specific end goals, like improving core strength or losing weight based on their doctor's orders.

What if you're looking to build strength and mass?

Strength is partially achievable through calisthenics, but mass is non-negotiable. Your body has a natural mass where it's happy. Adding to that mass demands weight training. Odds are, you'll do some of that training with free weights. Even in the realm of free weights, though, opinions differ on which equipment is better.

One of the main debates: barbell or dumbbell?

It might seem like an odd question initially. Barbells and dumbbells don't look like they serve the same function. Yet, they frequently do.

Let's dig into their advantages and see which one comes out on top.

Dumbbell Advantages

Beginner's Safety

When it comes to barbell or dumbbell for beginners, dumbbells are generally safer. Dumbbells let you learn the lifting techniques with less risk.

A real risk with barbell bench presses is getting pinned under the bar. This can happen if you put too much weight on the bar. It can also happen if your muscles fatigue to the point of failure.

If your dumbbells are too heavy or you reach failure, you can always drop them to either side.

You can learn the bench press without the threat of getting pinned under the bar. If the weight is too much or your muscles fatigue to the point of failure, you can drop the weights to either side.

Range of Motion

Dumbbells give you a better range of motion during your training with some exercises. This leads to a better muscle workout overall, as more of the muscle gets resistance for longer on each rep.

Weight training with a better range of motion generates more mass and builds strength faster than the same exercise with a shorter range of motion.

Muscle/Strength Equalization

Did you ever notice how it's harder to lift things with your non-dominant hand? That's strength and muscle inequality. You use your dominant hand more, so the muscles on that side are better developed. When you're new to weight training that unequal development can continue with barbells. You'll unintentionally let your dominant arm do more of the work.

Dumbbells help you avoid this problem.

Since the dumbbells are independent, both sides of your body must do the same amount of work to get the dumbbells from point A to point Z. This ensures muscle building happens at the same rate.

You can also work your non-dominant side more to offset the initial imbalance in muscle mass.

Barbell Advantages

Safety at Higher Weights

On the question of barbells or dumbbells at higher weights, barbells are often safer.

When doing bench presses, for example, dumbbells start on the floor. You have to lift and position them before you even start the presses. It's low-risk at lower weights, but the odds of injury from a bad movement increase at higher weights.

The barbell is already in position over you. You never need to do anything outside of the bench press technique. This minimizes the chances of moving in a way that could injure you.

Using a barbell during squats means the weight gets even distribution across your spine. It's easier to misalign dumbbells. That leads to an uneven distribution of weight and increases your chances of injury.

Lift More

Dumbbells use more stabilizer muscles. This is good for improving overall muscle building and athleticism, but bad for the total weight you can lift.

Barbells reduce the number of stabilizer muscles used in any given lift. By concentrating resistance onto mover muscles, the barbell actually lets you use more weight.

Faster Muscle Gains

Barbells let you pack on mass faster.

Dumbbells get made in 5-pound increments. Barbell weights get made in 2.5-pound increments. Adding weight incrementally is the best way to add body mass. The barbell lets you add that weight 5 pounds at a time. That means you can add more often without sacrificing a lot of reps.

Moving up to the next set of dumbbells means adding 10 pounds. It's a more serious jump that will almost always cost you in reps and result in slower progress.

More Practical

Dumbbells over 100 pounds exist. However, they aren't common in gyms or home sets. Unless you plan to special order some of the heavier ones, assume 100 pounds per hand is the heaviest weight you can get.

Barbells don't have from this problem.

Their upward incrementation is mostly limited by your strength, your goals, and even the equipment at your gym. That makes them more practical once you crack that 200-pound squat or deadlift.

Barbell or Dumbbell

So which one wins? Barbell or dumbbell?

The answer to that question is that there isn't a catch-all answer to that question. It boils down to where you are at in your training and what you're looking to achieve.

For the absolute beginner, the dumbbell is probably the winner. The dumbbell adds a layer of safety while you learn the techniques. With so many weight training-related injuries per year, it's hard to put too high a priority on safety.

The dumbbell also does more to strengthen stabilizer muscles, which benefits your overall muscular health and fitness.

If you have experience with weight training and are focused on adding mass, the barbell is probably the winner. Being able to increment the weight up more often speeds up gaining mass. That barbells focus resistance onto mover muscles also hastens the mass gain.

The true winning answer to barbell or dumbbell is to use both. Use dumbbells when it's safe and to support stabilizer muscles. Pull out the barbell for heavy lifting and to add the mass faster.

The combo will give you the most overall gain in strength, mass and athleticism.

Want to weigh in on this topic? Don't be shy. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

The Ultimate Chest Workout

chest workout

Maybe you're just in the beginnings of building your workout routine. Or you're trying to surpass a recent plateau.

Whatever the case, your current chest workout just isn't netting the results you've been hoping for.

To get the chest you really want, you're going to have to train harder. Not only that, but you'll have to start training differently, too.

In this post, you'll learn how to take your chest workout to the next level as we discuss how to workout properly and other tips and tricks.

Keep reading to find out how to grow your chest muscles. With enough hard work, you might just end up like bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Chest Workout Anatomy

Before we get into how to perform an effective chest workout, let's have a brief overview of the anatomy of the major chest muscles.

The chest is comprised of two major parts. These two muscle groups are called the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor (hence the phrase 'working out your pecs').

The pectoralis major muscles extend from your collar bone and sternum to the upper arm. The main function of this group includes flexing the arm at the shoulder, rotating the arm at the shoulder, and drawing the arms toward the body.

Alternatively, the pectoralis minor muscles extend from the upper ribs to the shoulder blades. The main function of this group is to draw the shoulder blades forward and downward.

Some people believe that a chest workout can't focus solely on one group. Others, however, do think that the two muscle groups can be isolated.

While the jury might still be out on that, there's no question that the following workout techniques are guaranteed to get you the results you've been looking for.

Free Weights vs Machines

When you begin to develop your new chest workout routine, it's important to consider the differences between the use of free weights and machines.

While both can help you grow your strength and muscle size, some workouts are better suited for one or the other. Depending on the goal of your chest workout, consider switching to free weights if you've been using machines, and vice versa.

Using machines is a great way to pump out a set of quick reps. However, a machine only offers a limited range of motion. This limited range of motion certainly won't hurt your routine. But it also makes it more difficult to direct your focus to one particular area of your pectorals (more on that later).

Free weights, alternatively, offer a wide range of motion. As a result, using free weights leads to greater control over what areas of your chest you're working out, and which areas need the most attention.

Furthermore, with this increased range of motion comes the ability to work the lesser used areas of your pectoral muscles. This part of the muscle includes the areas which attach to your arms and back. If you've been using machines in your chest workout routine, you might not have been able to give these areas the work out they needed.

As a note, using barbells (rather than actual free weights) also limits your range of motion. As such, you should consider your workouts with barbells to be similar to a routine using machines. However, some exercises with a barbell can hone in on specific areas with the right techniques.

Training Tips

When it comes to weightlifting, it's not uncommon for people to slack a little bit.

No, that doesn't mean you're hard and fast reps aren't doing you any good. It's more so a matter of taking your time and focusing intently on the areas you're trying to target specifically.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "work smarter not harder"? The same logic applies to your workout routine.

Rather than quickly busting out your set of reps and calling it a day, slow down and think about what you're doing. Focus on your movements and try keeping your movement within a certain range.

This is where free weights show their true worth. Reps with free weights already put pressure on the muscle areas which aren't used often. By slowing your movements and focusing on stability rather than speed, you're finally targeting the areas of the pectoral muscles that you've likely been missing.

Additionally, try pausing for fifteen seconds between the up and down strokes of each repetition. Doing so will give your muscles a greater workout.

Training Routines

Now to move onto your actual new chest workout routine.

Some of these routines you've likely already tried. But have you performed them while considering and implementing the techniques detailed above?

If you haven't already, give it a shot. You'll be surprised to feel the burn in areas your former routine couldn't reach, no matter how hard you tried.

Try the exercises below to help build your chest muscles:

Incline Press

The incline press is a tried and true routine. Get creative and try alternating between using free weights and barbells to see what works best for you.

The incline press is a great way to target the upper chest regions. This is compared to a flat bench press which mostly targets the middle chest section.

The incline should be set at around twenty to thirty degrees to get the maximum benefit.

Machine Incline Bench Press

Now that you've already worked out the upper chest with the above routine, try moving over to a machine to finish the job.

Using a machine is a great way to pile on the weight and crank up the intensity of your workout.

The goal here is to increase the amount of tension you experience on both the upward and downward reps.

Standing Fly

This routine makes for a terrific chest workout. But be careful when choosing what type of weights to use with this exercise.

Using free weights can be problematic as the range of motion is taxing on the shoulder muscles and joints. If you're not careful, you could easily injure yourself.

If you choose to err on the side of caution, consider using a resistance band. Doing so will prevent shoulder injuries. Additionally, the resistance of the band is the greatest in the range of motion in which your pecs are the strongest.

Conclusion

There's no right way to work your chest muscles, but there are always better ways.

Consider using your own weight bench to improve the overall quality of your workout. Or try changing the number of reps and the length of your pauses.

Whatever routine you choose, take care to lift slowly and intently. With proper execution and enough time, your pecs will begin looking just like Arnold's!

Create The Best Home Gym For Your Fitness Goals

Home gym

As contract gyms get more and more expensive, an increasingly large number of people are relying on a home gym to meet their fitness goals.

A home gym can be as simple as a single treadmill to a full set of weights and exercise machines.

If you're interested in building your own home gym, here are some things you should know.

What are your goals?

First, do some soul searching.

What do you want to achieve with your gym?

For many, their main motivation for exercising is weight loss. If that is the case, you should definitely outfit your gym with at least one cardio machine, and maybe some free weights as well. You don't need a lot of equipment to attain your goals if you use what you have efficiently.

It's possible to lose a substantial amount of weight with just a treadmill, elliptical, or exercise bike.

For others, their goals are to put on muscle and substantially tone their bodies. If this is you, you will want to invest in weight training equipment that allows you to meet those goals.

A weight bench is one of the best ways to achieve a full body workout.

Some people are interested in strengthening their core, for which there are numerous benefits.

Make sure you're aware of how your body reacts to exercise before purchasing any exercise machines. If you are prone to any specific injuries, be aware of certain machines that would make those injuries worse.

For example, those with chronic joint issues may find running on a treadmill impossible. The motion of running on a treadmill, although it burns a lot of calories, can be hard on joints, especially the ankles and knees.

If you have these issues but still want to lose weight, you may be better off with a lower impact machine, such as an elliptical. You can still reach the same goals with different machines.

Be aware of your body so you don't waste money on equipment that you physically cannot use.

Know Your Space

One of the major drawbacks of creating a home gym is the lack of space.

A lot of people do not have the luxury of a large, open space in their homes.

For this reason, you must be able to use your space economically. But don't overcrowd a single room with exercise equipment. This hinders exercise for many people.

Make sure you're comfortable in your space and the equipment you do have, and you should be able to see results.

Atmosphere is Essential

A lot of people are attracted to the idea of a gym in their home because it puts them in control of the atmosphere.

Public gyms can be intimidating spaces, especially for people who are insecure about their bodies.

Traveling to the gym can also be a hassle, and many people seek to create home gyms for this very reason. They believe that having a gym in their own home will enable them to stick to a strict exercise regimen.

A home gym gives you the freedom to make the space what you want. Make your space inviting and motivating. Play music that gets you pumped. Lay out your equipment in a way that makes your gym easy to maneuver.

The right atmosphere will keep you working hard and will ensure that you see results and meet your goals.

It doesn't have to be expensive

Most people assume that exercise equipment will cost them a lot of money. This is simply not true.

There are many options for exercise equipment at varying prices. You will be able to find what you need in your price range, hands down. Don't be afraid to purchase used, either.

A lot of used equipment for sale is barely worn, mostly because people purchase gym equipment with the intention of using it, but never get around to it. Buying used can save you tons of money, and some of these machines are as good as new.

You should also be realistic about the equipment you want to purchase.

If your goal is to become a bodybuilder, then it is fine to spend a lot of money on state of the art weight training equipment.

But if you just want to gain a little bit a muscle and define your body a little more, you may not need such expensive equipment. However, don't sacrifice quality for a good price.

A great home gym will last for years.

If you're still not sure if you will get good use out of a gym in your home, buy one or two machines and see how easy it is to stick with them.

Once you get into a rhythm, you can add more machines, depending on their usefulness.

Don't let fear hold you back

Fear is the only obstacle preventing you from meeting and exceeding your goals.

At the end of the day, a home gym is an investment in yourself and an investment in your body. Only you can ensure that this investment pays off.

Ultimately, every home gym is unique, because everybody is unique. If you are set on creating a home gym, know that although it can be a pricey endeavor, it doesn't have to be.

And it can be immensely rewarding.

For many people, home gyms have a major perk that public gyms simply do not: convenience. You're probably more likely to get your daily workout in if all you have to do is walk downstairs to the basement. The convenience of a home gym can also increase the frequency of your workouts.

Essentially, home gyms make it possible to lose more weight, with less struggle.

So if you're going back and forth about home gyms, take the leap.

All you have to lose is the weight!

Have you built your own home gym? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Bench Press More Weight

How to bench press

Do you want to be the best of the best when lifting weights in the gym?

Of course you do. Not only will it improve your strength, but it will boost your biceps.

That's why we're offering the ultimate guide on how to bench press more weight.

Don't Push Yourself Too Hard

45 million US adults have a gym membership. You can guarantee many are pushing themselves harder than they need to in the gym.

Some gym-goers think they have to be screaming and shouting to build up muscle and strength.

Yet, the best way to build muscle in the gym is by gradually adding more weight and reps, whilst upping the intensity on a weight bench.

Pushing yourself too hard in the weight room will only break down your muscles. You'll feel it in your arms so much that you'll have to miss the next session so they can repair.

You may also experience extreme fatigue, which could cause your body to burn out.

Struggling to finish your final rep because the weight is too much and your arms are too weak? You might be best taking a week or two off from the gym.

It will give your muscles time to repair and you can approach the gym with a fresh mindset.

Always aim to keep one or two reps in the tank, which means stopping before your body wants to stop.

This will help your nervous system recover from the gym, and you'll experience good gains, as a result.

Try to Pull the Bar Apart

One way you can build biceps of steel is by attempting to pull the bar apart.

As you lower a bar towards you, squeeze your shoulder blades together, whilst trying to pull the bar apart.

Also, try to maintain the same tension in your shoulders as you push with force.

Want to Know How to Bench Press? Alternate Your Grip

If you want to avoid sticking points when lifting weights, try to alternate your grip width on the bar.

Switch it up with narrow, wide and normal grips. This will help improve your focus on mover and prime supporting muscles.

Bentover Rows Between Bench-Press Sets

Want to know how to bench press more weights? All it might take is some bentover rows.

Between your bench press sets, perform some bentover rows that can help build your lats.

As a result, you'll be able to move the bar with increased strength.

Train Your Triceps

It's important to view the bench press as more than a chest exercise.

It's the triceps that are responsible for doing most of the hard work when lifting the bar.

When the bar is approximately 4 to 6 inches off your chest, it's the triceps that will make or break a performance.

If you want to learn how to bench press well, you must aim to train your triceps. Any bodybuilder will tell you triceps training is essential for the bench press. Don't underestimate their importance.

The Close Grip Bench Press

To strengthen your triceps, opt for the close grip bench press, with your elbows tucked in.

When you perform the bottom of the lift, aim for your elbows to be touching your sides.

What's more, you need to keep your elbows in a straight line as you press.

To give your triceps a good workout in the weight room, perform between 4 to 8 sets.

You'll soon be lifting more weight in the gym with each passing week.

Sleep and Eat More

You most likely don't need another excuse to eat or sleep more, do you?

If you want to know how to bench press more, you will need to give your body the fuel it needs to do so. What's more, ensure it has plenty of time to recover from a workout.

If you're always hungry or sleep deprived, you're never going to be able to lift the weights you want.

To make gains and press more weight, you should aim to enjoy at least 7 to 8 hours sleep per night. You also need to fuel your body will protein and calories.

How much should you eat? Aim to consume between 5 to 6 meals per day that fill your plate with complex carbs, protein, and water.

If your diet doesn't reflect your workout in the gym, you will fail to gain.

A protein shake or an extra meal could be the one thing you need to do to see a change in your body.

The more weight you gain, the more weight you can add to the bar.

Mix Up Your Pressing Routine

Most people perform the same workout, same order and same weight each day. It's these people that will see little results on their strength and muscle mass.

Different exercises will have a big impact on your strength.

Varied workouts result in your nervous system sending different electrical signals to muscles. This will stimulate different contraction patterns in your muscle fibers.

It can cause the fibers to break down, even though the workouts were similar.

As a result, you will be able to gain both muscle and strength by slightly altering your routine.

Not sure how to bench press this way? You can switch the barbell bench for dumbbells. You can alternate the flat bench for an incline or decline.

You could even invest in an adjustable weight bench to vary your routine.

These little changes will allow you to see a big difference.

Change Your Bench Technique

The one thing stopping your progression in the gym could be your bench press technique.

Unfortunately, many people in the gym may not know how to bench press - which is dangerous.

Unless you have worked alongside a personal trainer, you may have developed a few bad habits.

These little mistakes could make a big difference to your strength.

For instance, you might need to start tucking your elbows in as you lift the bar.

You also might be placing your feet on the bench. Your legs can actually help you to lift the bar. Use them well and place them on the floor, pushing at your heels as you lift.

The best bodybuilders train smarter instead of harder. If you want to know how to bench press successfully, you'd be wise to follow all the tips above.

Do you have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!

How To Use A Weight Bench With Leg Rollers

So you know how to use an adjustable weight bench. But, what is a weight bench with leg rollers and how do you use it? You’ve seen it in the weight room but you're quite unsure how to use it. The weight bench with rollers looks like your standard bench but it has this strange attachment. You think to yourself, “What am I meant to do on that?” as you walk past and avoid it.

Ignore it no more; the weight bench with leg rollers can be your friend and an excellent addition to your workout program, as it is very versatile in offering you variations to train different parts of your body.

Weight benches with leg rollers come with an extension on one of the short width ends that have soft padded foam rollers attached to it. The purpose of these foam rollers is for you to put your legs into and secure them while performing certain exercises.

Most benches with rollers come with three rollers. The first roller sits close to the edge of the bench. The second roller sits only a few inches past the first. The third roller sits quite a few inches below the second roller.

  • First roller – Use for both leg extensions and leg curls (hamstring curls)
  • Second roller – Use for leg curls (hamstring curls)
  • Third roller - Use for leg extensions

A weight bench that comes with leg rollers can be utilized for a variety of different exercises. These exercises can target the thigh muscles, quadriceps and hamstrings as well as completing exercises that target the core abdominal area.

This article aims to improve your knowledge on how to use the weight bench with leg rollers for leg extensions, leg curls and core to train the quadriceps, hamstrings and abdominals respectively.

Instructions for using a weight bench with leg rollers for the quadriceps or knee extension exercise:​

  1. Set up the weight or resistance required for you to perform
  2. Sit facing forward at the edge of the weight bench with a 90-degree angle at both the hips and knees.
  3. Ensure your lower shins are behind the bottom roller and the top roller. Make sure you do not rest your ankles on the rollers.
  4. Extend your lower legs from the knee by applying pressure with your shins onto the roller to lift upwards
  5. Pause and hold for one second at the top of the movement
  6. Bend at your knees to slowly lower the rollers back down to the starting position
  7. That’s one repetition​!

You can make the exercise harder by adding weights or increasing the tension. Doing more repetitions or changing the tempo of the exercise by slowing down the movement on returning to the start position, putting your muscles under tension, can add a challenge.

Complete 3 sets of 8 – 12 repetition to increase muscle strength and size.

Instructions on how to use a weight bench with leg rollers for the hamstring curl exercise:

  1. Set up the weight or resistance required for you to perform
  2. Lying face down on the bench, ensure your knees are right below the edge of the bench.
  3. The back of your lower legs between your Achilles and mid calf should be placed underneath the lower roller
  4. Then raise the lever by bending your knees and applying pressure to the roller bringing it towards the back of your thighs
  5. Pause and hold for one second at the top of the movement
  6. Slowly lower your legs to the staring point
  7. That’s one repetition!

Again, you can make this exercise harder by adding weight or increasing the tension. Challenge yourself on this exercise too by slowing down the tempo of the return movement or increasing the number of repetitions you complete.

Complete 3 sets of 8 – 12 repetition to increase muscle strength and size.

Instructions on how to use a weight bench with leg rollers for the sit up exercise:

  1. Lock out the rollers or place enough resistance on that the moving parts do not move when pushed or pulled.
  2. Lie with your back on the bench with your shins placed behind the bottom roller and your thighs under the second roller to secure your position.
  3. Place your hands behind your head with an open chest
  4. Squeeze your lower abdominals and raise your upper body towards your thighs by bending at the hips until you reach 90-degrees
  5. Pause and hold for one second
  6. Slowly return to the starting position by lowering your upper body one vertebrae at a time
  7. That’s one repetition​!

Make this exercise harder by holding a weight plate across your chest throught the entire movement. Again, challenge yourself on this exercise by slowing down the tempo of the return movement placing your muscles under more tension or increasing the number of repetitions you complete.

Complete 3 sets of 8 – 12 repetition to increase muscle strength and size.

Get your muscles firing and stop the progress plateau and get the results you want with a weight bench with rollers. Stop walking past it and ignoring the benefits you could potentially obtain. Now you know what a weight bench with leg rollers is and how to use it, get into the gym and add it to your next workout to spice up your program and test your muscles in a different way.