The 7 Advantages Of Dumbbell Training

Strength training with dumbbells is often overlooked and ditched in favor of its relative, the barbell, but that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore dumbbell training to promote muscle growth!

The 7 Advantages Of Dumbbell Training

Yes, barbell exercises like the barbell bench press, barbell bicep curl, or decline bench will allow you to utilize more weight than a dumbbell workout, but you would be foolish to not have dumbbell workouts as part of your training program!

In fact, there are many advantages to dumbbell training, some of which don’t even apply to barbells or other strength training equipment.

Barbells focus on compound movements and a specific movement pattern whereas dumbbell workouts allow more flexibility to motivate movement specific muscle groups with different movement patterns.

picture of dumbbell with spindles.

There are numerous health and fitness benefits you will enjoy by incorporating dumbbell exercises into your strength training regimen.

Using dumbbells can be very beneficial and a great way to reach parts of your body that other exercises can’t get to.

Dumbbells can also make numerous exercises more challenging when adding them to other exercises (usually lighter dumbbells) and make your strength training more rewarding. 

Dumbbells play a crucial role in joint isolation exercises such as chest flies, shoulder raises, or biceps curls and allows you to really target those areas that you want to focus on and develop.

Adjustable dumbbells are also a great option if you are space constrained and don’t have room for a full dumbbell rack.

In this article we are going to give you seven different advantages of training with dumbbells, so you can build muscle and burn fat.

But, before we dive into these great advantages of dumbbell exercises, let’s review how muscle growth occurs, to begin with.

How Does Muscle Growth Occur?

Man getting ready to lift dumbbells

When you expose your muscles to stress they experience microscopic damage which when it comes to muscle growth, is a good thing.

When the body realizes it has muscle damage, for example, after a dumbbell workout, in response to this, the injured cells release inflammatory molecules called cytokines that activate the immune system to repair the injury.

This is when muscle building occurs, and the greater the damage to the muscle tissue, the more your body will need to repair itself and, therefore, build bigger muscles.

However, we cannot do the same activity or workout all of the time because your body gets used to the stress, and the stress no longer tears the muscle tissue.

For example, everyday activities will promote muscle growth initially but will not continue to build muscle once your body gets used to the activity due to the activity no longer creating enough stress to stimulate new muscle growth.

Man doing bicep curls

To build new muscle you must expose your muscles to a high degree of tension, especially while the muscle is lengthening (eccentric contraction), and the muscle growth process is known as hypertrophy.

Our muscle tissues need to be exposed to higher workloads than they are used to, and that is how strength training occurs and muscles grow.

On the opposite extreme, if you don’t continuously expose your muscles to some resistance they will shrink, which is a process known as muscular atrophy.

However, muscles rely on more than just activity to grow, with the two main contributors being proper nutrition hormones and rest.

Your body would never be able to repair damaged muscle fibers without proper nutrition and protein is the main contributor to muscle repair and growth.

Protein provides the building blocks for new tissue in the form of amino acids which help repair and maintain muscle tissue.

The repair process mainly occurs when we’re resting, especially at night while sleeping, so make sure you are getting enough rest at night!

Next, let’s dig into the benefits of dumbbell training.

Dumbbells on dumbbell rack

Improved Stabilization And Muscle Activation

Exercising with dumbbells greatly improves your stabilization as well as activating muscles all over the body.

Recently, a study compared the EMG levels of the chest, triceps, and biceps when exercising with a barbell bench press, and a dumbbell bench press.

Although the two exercises were similar in the activity level of the chest and triceps, the activity of the biceps was a lot higher with the dumbbells.

In fact, significantly more, so if you are looking for a good bicep workout then dumbbells are the way to go.

Man in mirror with dumbbells

Why is this, you ask? Well, it’s due to the muscle activation required to perform dumbbell exercises. When you use dumbbells for strength training you need to engage your muscles to stay stabilized during the move.

This in turn is working out more muscles and more areas of the body than if you were to perform the same exercise with a barbell.

When you use a barbell, the bar acts as a stabilizer and you don’t need to physically engage your muscles as much as you do when using dumbbells – because you are holding the weight separately on either side.

Because the weights aren’t connected you need to stabilize the body on both sides thus improving your stabilization and activating the muscles on both sides.

Woman holding dumbbell in left hand

Helps To Identify And Eliminate Imbalances In Strength

We all have a ‘good’ side and a ‘bad’ side. Sometimes one arm is stronger or one leg is more flexible than the other – whatever it is, we all experience it.

During dumbbell workouts, you are forced to work out both sides of your body. So, even if one side is weaker, you still have to work both sides out equally as hard as you have two dumbbells of equal weight to contend with.

This is going to help you identify your weaknesses and any imbalances in your strength, which will allow you to target and focus on those specific muscles to become more balanced. 

Doing dumbbell exercises is one of the best ways to work against imbalances and helps you to improve and equalize either side of your body and get you in great shape in no time!

Man working out with dumbbells

Safer – Especially When It Comes To Training Alone

When it comes to working out, it is always safer to have a gym buddy – but sometimes that isn’t possible. And what are you to do when you need to work out but have no one to spot for you?

That is one of the great benefits of using dumbbells – you don’t need anyone to help you! 

Using dumbbells is one of the best pieces of equipment that you can use in the gym. If you ever find yourself needing to drop the weight, that is exactly what you can do!

Simply drop the two dumbbells and move on with your routine. This is different from exercises such as heavy squatting or bench presses because with those you really can’t just “drop the weight” and often you need a spotter.

If you didn’t have a spotter and you missed the move you could end up injured!

The 7 Advantages Of Dumbbell Training

Allows You To Intensify Your Workout Routine

This is another benefit that proves that dumbbells are also better for working out as a solo trainer. You can use much heavier weights while still being safe, something you can’t do with a barbell.

The great thing about dumbbells is how easy it is to drop the equipment, pause, and then repeat the exercise. You don’t need anyone to help you reset the bar on the rack, because there is no bar! 

You can partake in high-intensity training with heavier dumbbells, by yourself, and you won’t be putting yourself or anyone else in danger the way you could be with other exercises.

And remember, assuming you have dumbbells at home, the best dumbbell exercises don’t even require a gym membership!

This gives doing dumbbell exercises exclusivities that the barbell simply doesn’t have.

Man at dumbbell rack

Increased Range Of Motion

One of the great things about training with dumbbells is that you can increase your range of motion. This is a very effective way of overloading your muscles to build strength.

When it comes to bench pressing, rowing, or other upper body exercises, there is only so much you can do with a barbell.

However, try attacking your shoulder muscles, incline bench, or calf raises with a dumbbell exercise and see how you feel!

Dumbbell workouts give you many opportunities and variations that will help you to improve and increase your range of motion, which in turn is going to help build strength and muscle mass.

More Freedom Of Movement

Woman working out with dumbbells

Using a dumbbell to exercise gives you the freedom of moving parts of your body that are restricted when you use other fitness equipment, such as a barbell.

When using a barbell you are restricted to a set range of motion and your arms and shoulders are fixed in place. With dumbbell exercises, you can move more freely and so target more areas of the body due to different altercations. 

This is especially useful if you have an injury that is limiting the positions you can be in. Instead, you can simply alter your position or replace the exercise with one that doesn’t affect your injured area. 

Using dumbbells is a great way to target specific muscles and work out exactly the areas of the body that you want.

Improved Awareness About Injury Prevention

Man doing curls with dumbbells

Statistically, a lot of accidents that occur in the gym happen near the dumbbell rack. This isn’t because of the dumbbells necessarily but rather the people and the lack of focus – which you could say for anything. 

Using dumbbells means that you could identify and improve a whole array of problems and issues that in turn will mean the chance of injury decreases.

With a more natural range of motion as well as more freedom in movement, fewer injuries will occur in the long term – meaning that using dumbbells in your exercise routine is a must!

It can be easy and tempting to skip the dumbbells and go straight to the barbell, however, as we’ve learned, dumbbells are safer and will activate more muscles – meaning better results for you, faster.

Safety Is Key!

Woman doing dumbbell squats

Many people incorrectly assume that since a dumbbell is usually less weight and easier to handle than a barbell they can just approach it in a casual manner.

However, this is not the case!

Remember, even the lightest of weights picked up with the wrong form can create significant injury.

Best Practices For Dumbbell Work

Pick your dumbbells up with your legs, not your back.

If you do not follow this rule you can get injured even when lifting a set of five pound weights.

Ensure you are always using the proper form and incorporating the proper posture. You need to make sure you are doing your research to understand if you should keep your legs straight or if you should have your knees bent.

Man doing one arm curl with dumbbell

Should you have your feet should width apart or close to one another? These are all very important questions you need to have answers to before working with any type of free weights.

Although dumbbells are great for teaching proper form, they can also be harmful if you aren’t utilizing the correct form.

Start slow! Don’t be tempted to grab the heaviest weights you see until you are very comfortable with the exercise.

No one is watching to see if you grab the lighter weights or the heavier dumbbells to do your weight training. And if they are, so what!

Know your limits and start with lightweight dumbbells then gradually work yourself up to heavier ones.  

Lastly, make sure you have a secure grip on the dumbbell before attempting any exercise. Utilize workout gloves or chalk on your hands if you tend to get very sweaty during workouts.

Woman doing dumbbell shoulder presses

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, after reading this article, you understand the importance of incorporating dumbbell training into your workouts to ensure you are targeting those hard to reach muscle groups and promote maximum strength gains.

If you have been on the fence about using dumbbells, or you don’t enjoy using them when you do, hopefully, we have helped you see that they really cannot be ignored due to the many benefits of using them to exercise. 

We hope this article has been insightful and inspired you to pick up the dumbbells the next time you are at the gym – remember these benefits and watch your body change and fitness improve right before your very eyes!

Last Updated on November 20, 2022 by TJ Daniels, Certified Personal Trainer

TJ Daniels, Certified Personal Trainer
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