The chest is one of the most usually trained muscle groups of the body. Aside from it boosts a person’s overall strength, a well defined chest signals power, toughness, and masculinity. The barbell bench press and the dumbbell bench press are two of the most known exercises for the chest. However, some people prefer doing the former while others choose to do the latter.
According to Muscle and Fitness, doing the barbell bench press needs a wide, fixed hand placement on the bar, so bringing the hands together at the top of the movement is improbable. In comparison, dumbbell bench press entails the hands to move freely. The fixed position of the hands in the former activates the upper pectoralis (pecs) and the front deltoid while the free movement of the arms in the latter allows the involvement of the lower pecs.
As per the publication, a study with 10 trained athletes was conducted to study muscle activation using EMG analysis. The variables measured were the muscle activity in the both the upper and lower pecs and the front deltoids. The athletes were tasked to do both the types of bench press bench using 75 percent of their one-repetition max (1RM) for four repetitions.
The study found that the barbell bench press activated the upper pecs and the front delts as compared to the dumbbell version. Also, the latter, engaged the lower pecs to a certain point.
Iron Master cited some comparisons between the barbell press and the dumbbell press in terms of range of motion, symmetrical development, and muscular tension.
When it comes to range of motion, the barbell press does not allow the arms to move in to their full range of motion, as the hands are locked in a single motion on the bar. This restricts the possible extension of the arms; thus, it affects the press’ total movement. In contrary, the dumbbell press allows an increased range of motion, since it requires both the hands and arms to lift the dumbbell and extend the movement. Furthermore, the latter engages more muscle groups and puts more tension from the press.
In terms of symmetrical development, the barbell press may involve hand dominance at times. As per the publication, a person may have muscle size and growth imbalance, it he performs the bench press while favoring one side. On the other hand, the dumbbell press lets each arm have its own weight to press, since each moves separately to lift the weight. Thus, the latter provides equal work and development.
With regard the tension in the muscles, lifters tend to slide their hands outward during a barbell press,.to pass on the tension to other muscle groups. This practice can adversely affect a person’s result, as the tension that is supposed to be placed on the chest muscles is reduced. Meanwhile, lifters can control the movement of their arms in a dumbbell press, which preserves the motion in front of the body and not outwards. Thus, the person will be able to maximize the tension on his chest muscles for a longer period of time, optimizing the results of the press.
As per T-Nation, dumbbells are the best and most versatile when it come’s to the body’s response to chest exercises. In addition, they are viewed as safer and have less risk of joint injuries, as compared to the barbell press. Also, the dumbbell press can remove all other movements elicited in performing the barbell press like excessive chest arch and legs driven on the ground.
Overall, while they are executed differently, dumbbell bench press and barbell bench press are both capable of boosting the mass and size of the chest. They also have separate benefits to the chest; thus, doing them both is assumed to boost overall chest development.