Barbell Bench Vs Dumbbell Bench

What do you think of a guy who weighs 183lbs and can Dumbbell Bench Press two 100lb dumbbells for 8 reps.

Yet, when he gets under the bar to Barbell bench he can’t get 250lbs for one rep?

I have tried many things with this trainee, but to no avail. I would like some advice on what to tell this guy. He is a very hard worker and he doesn’t get it either.

Does he have a mental block? I am puzzled.

What is the ROM on both movements?

Many heavy DB’s are so big/cumbersome that the ROM is very short. Back in the day, I could DB press with the 120’s before I could bench 250 because of the huge Ivanko Rubber Dumbells.

go ask that question to the powerlifting forum.

i’d suggest more barbell work and use lighter dumbell work for restoration and recovery.

ME bench days and DE bench days will boost up the barbell numbers in no time.


I am the same way. I trained exclusively with dumbells for 2+ years. I have history of dislocated shoulders, they really love to pop out. When doing Barbell bench I used to get a scary clicking sound in my shoulder that would make me run through the “What if my shoulder pop’s out under this bar?” scenario. I found that DB bench was much easier on the shoulders, due to the freedom of the range of movement. Fast forward. After focusing on rehabbing my shoulders for the last 18 months, I have started bench pressing again. I am still much stronger with the DB’s than I am with the barbell. The only thing that I can think of is that the movement is different and allowed me to compensate with more triceps in the motion. My bench is starting to catch back up with my DB presses. So perhaps it is a matter of time and the same will start happening with your trainee.

A number of things cause this, A. I bet his form when barbell benching sucks balls, he probally has found a way with the bells where he can use his strengths with the barbell his weak points wont let him cheat. Also I have to have way more info to tell you why, 1. where does he miss, does the bar just flatten him to the bench, does he miss at lock out, does he have good speed of the chest and then just stall??
2. what kind of bar training is he doing??
3. d-bells only work on one specific weak point off the chest, so he probally does not have the tris to front delts to move the weight.
4. I bet he doesnt have the stabilizer muscles built in a way that provides a big bench. when benching d-bells you do not have to set up like you do to push big weights with a bar. you do not have to sit your elbows into your lats, or have a big enough upper back and traps to push into allowing the bar to move away from you.


My trainee has tremendous deltoids and outstanding triceps!

He gets caught in the down position just off the chest.

A couple of things might be of interest here.

First, is this person you are training specifically training for strength? If not, the concern over how much weight he’s lifting should come second to his physical development. It doesn’t necessarily take big weights to build big muscles.

Secondly, a barbell bench press is particularly compromised by having weak lats. Read Dave Tate’s article on benching. See if can get some ideas from there.

sounds to me like your trainee is using a more limited range of motion on his DB exercise than on his BB exercise. it’s very easy to tell if someone is cheating and not going down all the way on the bar where as on the DB lift you the trainer can be deceived by his ROM. drop the DB’s all together and concentrate on on BB.

Alignment and ROM is everything. The advice so far is what anyone in -the-know would say. Though, check his wrists. Sometime having the wrist too far back will cause a loss in bench strenght. His flexiblity is another. It may not be the shoulders, but maybe the intercostal muscles of the rib cage are tight. I wish I could explain a good stretch to do for this, but I might make it too wordy.

You’ll find the solution.

The Bull

Sounds like weak lats and a very slow barbell, have him get faster and learn to use his lats when he benches, not to be rude but if this dude cant bench 250 at a body weight of 180 then his triceps need a lot of work…Big Martin


He can do a Lyning Tricep Extension with 115lbs for 6 reps. His triceps are not weak.

I am not trying to sound disagreeable either, but his lats are strong as he is able to chin three sets of 8 reps with a 50lb plate.

What I am picking up is that he may his ROM may not be as great in the dum. bench as it is in the bar bench.

Thanks for the comments.

not to downplay your perception of strength but lying tricep extension with 115 for 6 reps is not very strong, that weight would correlate with a weak bench. does he close grip bench at all?

I went for a while and only trained with db’s, I was shocked at how bad my bench was when I finally got back under the bar. If you want a big bench, you need to bench. Pure and simple.

Earlier in the year, I worked up to doing 5X5 with 65 lbs. dumbbells for incline dumbbell presses. Being a small guy, these 'bells were very awkward for me to handle, so I decided to switch to incline barbell benches. The next week, I was unable to 130 lbs. for 5X5!

they dont sounds like great weights for chins or skuls.
Anyway, get him doing some benches starting from the bottom position (ie using a power rack or blocks to set initial position) this obviously takes out the strech shortening cylce. make sure to reset after each rep (ie. rack the weightd)
this brought my bench up fast after and prolonged peroid of dumbell lifts
hope this helps

I’m someone who’s better with dumbells than barbell for benching. I think it’s easier to use the elastic energy of the lowering (eccentric?) portion to get the weights moving on the concentric portion of the lift with dumbells. This might explain why he can’t get the bar off his chest…

You don’t think that doing 3 sets of 8 reps in dead hang fashion with a 50lb plate is good? This person weighs 183lbs. That is over 27% of his body weight that he is pulling up and down the chin-up bar.

Also, the Lying Tricep Extensions are done with the weight dropping behind the head. not onto the forehead. Which is much harder than the normal extension. I was not clear about this earlier.

I agree with those who have stated that in order to be a good bencher you have to bench! And he must work in the area of his greatest weakness, which is near the chest.

Thanks for all the helpful comments!