Barbell vs Dumbbell Presses. Less Triceps, More Chest/Delt?

So I’m wondering, which one (barbell or dumbbell) recruits more of the chest for bench, and more of the delts for overhead press, than the triceps? As in which one uses less tricep recruitment in the movement?

There is nothing inherent about implement choice that results with more recruitment of one thing versus the other. The technique that you employ with the implements is what makes the determining factor.

I can use a barbell and recruit my chest more on bench than I do with dumbbells, or vise versa.

There is no dichotomy; train with all of the implements, just not all at once.


Hmm that’s very true, you’re right. What if you use perfect form/technique in both then?

Whatever perfect form means, you can use it with both and STILL create different effects depending on your emphasis.

Again, don’t sweat the implement, sweat the technique. If you have a good mind muscle connection and some coordination, you can achieve your goal regardless of the implement.

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Ok got it. When you lift the weight (in heavy sets for example 5x5), in bench or overhead press, are you lifting it as fast as you can, explosively? I used to do them really slow to work on my form, but I recently realized that it was fucking my form even more because since I was doing them slow, my stabilizers (tricep included) gave out way earlier than my actual chest/shoulder in pressing movements. So now, my shoulders and chest are underdeveloped and my triceps are somewhat significantly disproportionally larger.

Well… Why not just do accessories for your chest/delt? Dumbbell flyes and overhead presses(I consider them a main lift but whatever) are just some examples of it.

Yeah I do that now too, dumbbell flyes and lateral/front raises

Basically this. Just take your time with it and it’ll work itself out eventually. I don’t know much about you but I dare to say you’ve much to learn(don’t we all?). It takes time. Pay your dues.

Personally, I can use a lot more tricep on barbell bench pressing because I can try to ‘pull the bar apart’. It’s a cue that just won’t work with dumbbells.

But mostly, I’m with what’s been said above.

A great example for this are parallel bar dips. If you try to stay upright and use a narrower grip, there’s tons of triceps. But if you use a lot of forward lean and use a wider grip, it might arguable use more chest than barbell bench pressing.

Unless I am injured, I never intentionally slow down the speed of a movement. I don’t necessarily let momentum carry me, but I don’t artificially slow it down.

A good way to take the triceps out of the lift is to pre fatigue the target muscle group before the compound lift. An example of this is to do 3 or 4 sets of cable crossovers before doing BB or DB Bench Press. Also for shoulders you could do 3 or 4 sets of lateral raises before doing Military Press.
This is how a lot of older lifters train as it also helps prevent injury.

The barbell should let you use a bit more triceps because it allows you to apply some lateral forces to it, whereas dumbbells don’t. Even though said forces aren’t directed upwards against gravity, they still help with elbow extension and thus also help the pecs adduct the upper arms.

I agree with Angus. If I do some cross-overs, or flies for chest during my warm ups, or before barbell bench pressing, I feel my pecs working a lot more, when I bench press the barbell.

Now, I don’t really think about “pre-exhausting” the muscle. I think of it more like a specific warm-up, almost like a pep-talk for my pecs. “O.K. chest, we’re about to bench, so wake up!”

Also, lots of guys like slight incline or slight decline bench pressing, with barbells or dumbbells to hit more chest.

Bar Speed, my opinion;
Don’t slow down on “big” exercises like bench presses or overhead press. As you said, don’t distort your Technique. Pausing at the bottom is useful though.

For isolation moves, like flies and rear delt raises, pause, or go slow on negatives, or whatever. Use Form to keep tension on your muscles.

Lastly, having big triceps, and being tricep dominant in your pressing doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Lots of strong guys train for that specifically.