Barbell Vs Dumbell Benchpress

I’ve got a history of shoulder problems that date back to my hockey days as a kid. I had subluxed both shoulders at various times over the course of my teenage years from 14-19. Then I had my first full blown dislocation at 20 on my right shoulder while playing FB and again last year on my left shoulder slipping on a wet rock while hiking.

Anytime I do lifts with a barbell, I feel major discomfort in my capsules. I completely avoid overhead barbell lifts because of this and also instability issues - particularly overhead squats, snatches and military presses.

My question is, should I focus on doing bench w/ dumbells or will this just limit my potential too much down the road? I’d especially like to hear how others with past shoulder injuries adapted. Thanks.

2 Board Presses…all the way…

My undrstanding is that Dumbbell Bench Presses are better for chest development than barbell - you have to use stabilizing muscles, and range of motion is greater. It’s better for shoulder joints too because they can take a more natural path up and down. The only issue is that lifting very heavy dumbbells into place without fatiguing yourself is relatively difficult compared with getting underneath a nicely positioned barbell.

If you can manage the weights, use dumbbells, you’ll get better growth.

Also, read this:

  • a Chad Waterbury article that discusses the use of low-pulley cable lifts as an “awesome” (his words!) chest builder. Check it out, or hopefully ask me in 3 more weeks - it’s what I am trying on chest day. Talk about challenge your stabilizing muscles! I tell you, it feels nothing like a regular bench press. :slight_smile:

Good luck!


I recently changed my barbell bench press form and found it instantly relieved shoulder discomfort. I had previously been lowering the weight from above my neck down to just above my nipples, but it never felt natural and I was never consistent from one workout to the next. My shoulders, especially, always felt hunched and would click throughout the motion. After reading Joe DeFranco’s description of his idea of proper form, I began lowering the weight in a strict perpendicular motion, stopping BELOW the nipple line. Even with short arms, this felt much more natural and I instantly found my groove. My shoulders felt much better and I saw an instant visual improvement.

I don’t know if this helps at all, but it certainly worked for me.