T Nation

DB vs BB Bench Press


I'm new on the board and wanted to know if you can get stronger doing DB presses by isolating each arm instead of using the conventional BB. I like to mix them up during a workout, using BB for flat and DB's for incline/decline, for example. I've hit a plateau for awhile now and haven't seen much gains doing DBs since working them in.


In my experience, DB bench whether it be flat, incline or decline is better for size and stabilization rather than strength. They both play their role in achieving whatever your goal be, strength or size.

For instance, I prefer Incline DB's to BB's because I'm able to isolate my chest more allowing a better stretch in the muscle. I'll switch to BB's when I'm more focused on upping my bench PR, or Ill switch them in every 3-4 weeks just to keep things interesting.


in my opinion, because of the stabalization, bb bench allows for more tricep activation.

using db, you can get a superior pec mj stretch at the bottom of the movement. more stabilization and higher range of motion means more work. that's why you can't push as much weight.

if you think your pec mj is the limiting factor in your bench strength, then do db bench to target the weak link.


I use DB's exclusively for flat and incline. I've learned to use BB's for floor presses (ends up feeling more like decline for some reason) but that's the only time I go near a BB for chest.

I've had shoulder issues going on 17 years now (see the shoulder surgery thread in Alpha) and the DB's allow me to track the path independently which seems to help with joint pain. I'm sure it affects symmetry but I don't care that much about that.

That's my official "politically correct" answer.

Here's the real no shit answer.

There's really nothing much cooler than laying back with big tall DB's on your knees and setting up for some punishment. There's no net, no getting out of it once you start. I know I'm in for it when I get my scapulas set and my back cracks. That's the good shit right there.


what i don't get is seeing guys training by themselves and doing bb bench.


i never touched a BB on chest day for my first 2 years of serious training - nothing but DBs and a few HS machines worked in at the end of the workout when i was fatigued and didn't want to risk hurting myself with tired stabilizers - and my chest is easily my best-developed bodypart.

if you're training for bodybuilding, your goal should be more based on developing the muscle, with strength a close second. If you keep working hard at it, you can definitely improve your strength with DBs, but don't make it your main concern. Just do whichever you feel gives your chest a better workout.

I think DBs give you a better stretch, better range of motion, and the best pump, thus making them overall more effective for working the pecs. But, BBs have built plenty of good physiques - so, again, do what you think works your muscles the best.


Correct me if I'm wrong but I read somewhere using DBs over time will make you lift more using BBs not that it's a major need but my goal isn't bodybuilding but to get stronger and maintain for athletic purposes. Also, I like the fact with DBs I can rotate/turn them with each rep varying the fiber muscles being hit.


Why is that? I train bench alone just about every chest workout and never had any issues. Unless I am going for a new PR or maxing out on 2 reps, I would ask for a spot. Otherwise, If you know what your doing, it should never be a problem. Get it?


How low do you bring the dumbbells?
I have some shouler issues also, I can't figure out which is better bringing my arms down until the upper arm is parallel to the floor, or bringing the weight down all the way to chest level. I get a good stretch(feeling wise) if I go all the way down but I don't know if that stretch is good or bad for the shoulder.


using DBs will help make your shoulders more stable (as they are inherently more difficult to control being separate) , thus giving you a better platform from which you can use heavier weights on BBs - so, you are correct in saying that.


I feel like the barbell is more of a "no way out" feeling. Dumbbells can be dropped or set down easily. A barbell? You'll kill yourself. If you don't move that weight... you're dead. Finished.

Granted, the odds of anyone pushing themselves that hard is slim, so...


I have had right shoulder pain with any chest pressing until I tried just stopping the bar 2 in from my chest and with DB stopping when upper arms parallel.



And if you're Alpha you don't even need a spot if for a 1RM.


you need to use the conjugated method if you are only concerned about bench strength.Unless you are competting as a powerlifter no need to focus so much time with plane bench press.To me its just an ego thing that leads into shoulder problems.


i understand that. however, at my gym, i see people pushing to failure on bb bench by themselves. then again, no one squats or deadlifts at my gym, so you can't expect much.


I dont get what the problem is getting a spotter whenever your benching? Im just saying it allows you to get that extra 1-2 reps which is never a bad thing :slight_smile:


Yea? Who cares! I'd love to be able to bench a fuckin plane!


Obviously there is going to be some difference in the weights used. You cannot simply split your BB weight in half and grab a pair of corresponding DBs. Stabilization issues will abound, as well as the actual breakdown of how much workload each muscle called into play (pecs, delts tris, and even lats) will end up doing. If you are naturally arm dominant, you may end up working with a BB for years and never see the pectoral growth you feel should correspond to the strength gains you have made. On the other hand, you may work with DBs for years, and not make as many strength gains, yet due to the nature of the arm movement involved in the motion (better stretch, arms actually squeezing together towards each other at the top of the pec contraction) still receive a good degree of growth in the area.

Still, I would say that I find it unlikely that you can stay with any exercise for a duration, provided that you are doing it correctly, with 'some' degree of intensity (the most neglected aspect of training), and not make some strength gains. Personally when I sort of stall out on an exercises (or just get a little stale with it after 4-6 weeks of having it in the same place in my rotation), I pick something else, whether it's simply switching from DBS to BB, changing angles (I sometimes do the 45 degree Inc BB Bench, other times will prop up a flat bench to about 15-30 degree and use DBs for Inclines), or even doing something else completely.



Barbell is superior if you have a spotter. I'm not saying dumbells are bad, far from it, but you sacrifice some activation due to the instability.


I get much better (chest) activation) with DBs, I attribute it to being able to go deeper with DBs. Am sure if one was pressing with a cambered bar rather than a straight bar they would be more equal.