8 Benefits of Dumbbells For Any Fitness Level
When you’re looking to design your strength training routine, you have a lot of options. Where should you start? You could jump on a machine, load up a barbell, or work with cables or resistance bands.
Or, you could start at the rack full of dumbbells.
The benefits of both rubber-coated dumbbells and neoprene dumbbells make them a must in any strength training plan, but some gym-goers overlook their value. As you gain more experience testing out different exercises to do with dumbbells, you may start thinking that the advantages of dumbbells mainly apply to beginners. That’s not the case. The health benefits of using dumbbells apply to beginners and experienced gym-goers alike. So let’s show some love to the dumbbell rack and go over some benefits of doing dumbbell exercises for any fitness level.
#1 Increased Stabilization
What’s the main difference between a barbell vs dumbbell? They both allow for pushing, pulling, and overhead exercises with varied weight options depending on the exercise and your goals.
But one major difference is that the bar of the barbell keeps those weights separated at a fixed distance. You can’t bend the bar, so you can’t force the weights closer together or pull them further apart.1 And that keeps them stable—this means you don’t have to.
Dumbbells, on the other hand, put the free in free weights, requiring you to engage more muscles just to keep them stable. So, while you’re activating many of the same muscles whether you do a bench press with a bar or with dumbbells, the dumbbells will require you to engage secondary muscles to ensure that the weights remain in safe, proper alignment. This can give you even more of a full-body workout.
#2 Increased Range of Motion
The other benefit of not having the weights connected to a bar or a machine is that you have more freedom of movement. This can be useful in several ways:2
More movement can mean more accurate muscle targeting. For instance, you can add a level of adduction into a movement like the bench press, which would not be possible using a bar.
The freedom of movement can also allow for less stressful body movements. By being able to shift the weights into more advantageous positions, you can ensure your body isn’t forced into postures that could cause injury.
The ability to hold a dumbbell in each hand opens up exercise possibilities that aren’t possible using other equipment—side lateral raises, renegade rows, walking lunges, and more can become part of your regular strength training routine using dumbbells.
- Dumbbells allow you to modify and continue to incorporate exercises that you may have otherwise lost the ability to do. Since the path of movement is set with a weightlifting barbell, certain injuries or general pain may make some exercises impossible. Dumbbells may allow you to alter the exercise in a way that doesn’t cause you pain.
#3 Increased Muscle Activation
When you have increased stabilization and increased range of motion, you’ll enjoy increased muscle activation as an added bonus.
Put simply, dynamic dumbbell exercises usually engage a broader range of muscles to keep you balanced while performing an exercise, which provides a secondary benefit worth celebrating. There are many effective full-body workouts that incorporate dumbbells, most of which would be impossible with a barbell.
#4 The Opportunity to Identify and Address Muscle Imbalances
Wouldn’t it be great if we were all perfectly symmetrical with no differences between the two sides of our body? Maybe it would, but bodies don’t work that way. Even the ambidextrous tend to favor one side over the other depending on the activity. That favoritism in movement can, for most of us, lead to muscle and strength imbalances.
Dumbbell workouts help solve this issue in two ways:
Identification – Most of us don’t have one arm that’s double the size of the other. If we did, it would be easy to spot imbalances. But most muscle imbalances are more subtle than that and if you’re doing an exercise with both sides of your body at the same time (as you would with any barbell exercise) you may not notice your dominant side taking over. You will, however, notice when you’re using dumbbells. If your arm is shakier or more quickly exhausted than the other, you’ll know you have a muscle imbalance.
Correction – Minor muscle imbalances are natural and usually harmless. But you should still strive to be as even as possible. So, when you identify a muscle imbalance, there are a few ways that dumbbells can help you address the issue:3
Working one side at a time will be a help in itself. By not allowing your stronger side to dominate the exercise, your weaker side will be targeted more effectively and you’ll start seeing the benefits.
- Working one side at a time will be a help in itself. By not allowing your stronger side to dominate the exercise, your weaker side will be targeted more effectively and you’ll start seeing the benefits.
You can increase the work you do on your weak side. This could mean adding reps or increasing the weight on that side to stimulate more growth.
- You can increase the work you do on your weak side. This could mean adding reps or increasing the weight on that side to stimulate more growth.
Simply starting an exercise with your weak side may help the imbalance. We tend to favor our stronger side without even realizing it, so by deliberately shifting your focus you can reap benefits you didn’t even know you were missing out on.
- Recognizing a weakness may also help you recognize an injury or some other underlying reason which you can address separately from your training.
#5 Enhanced Safety
One of the great benefits of a barbell is that you can use heavier weight than what is often possible with dumbbells. This can help create overload and stimulate muscle growth.
But for beginners, athletes in recovery, or the overly ambitious, it can also be scary and even potentially unsafe. If you’re performing an exercise with poor form while using weight, you put yourself at a high risk of injury. Dumbbells allow you to perfect your form under lighter weight, which allows you to train safely.
And even for those with a good deal of experience, dumbbells may still be the safer option. If you’re working out alone (without a spotter), it’s much easier to bail on a dumbbell exercise safely than it is when you’re using a barbell. This isn’t to say that barbells can’t also be used safely, but dumbbells make safe lifting a little bit easier.
#6 Overload Options
We just mentioned that overload is easier with a barbell because you can add more weight—that’s not the whole story, though. While adding more weight is easier with a bar, and more weight can mean more overload, that isn’t your only option. Some examples of overload options that are easier to achieve with dumbbells include:
Drop sets – These are sets where you rep to failure at one weight, then immediately drop to a lighter weight to continue repping. Drop sets are easy to achieve with a dumbbell rack, but nearly impossible if you’re trying to adjust the weight plate on a bar.
- Circuit training – This is where you combine numerous exercises and complete them back-to-back in a circuit. Unless you go to a gym with a lot of open machines, benches, and bars at your disposal, you’ll be relying on dumbbell circuits, since these free weights are usually stocked in abundance.
#7 Strength Curves
Dumbbells (and barbells) provide a different method of resistance training than exercise with bands or cables. This means that the most difficult point in the exercise is different. For dumbbells and barbells, the peak resistance tends to be in the middle of a movement. With bands and cables, resistance maxes out at the end of a movement.
The natural strength curve of a dumbbell exercise allows you to lift heavier weights by only performing a limited portion of the movement, which can benefit your routine depending on your fitness goals.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for someone setting up their own home gym, dumbbells offer a level of convenience that is hard to match. Most home gyms aren’t equipped with rows of machines. Even setting up a bar (and the weights to load it up with) could be difficult depending on space and financial limitations.
This is where dumbbells come in handy. Even just a small dumbbell rack allows you to set up an effective gym space in your home or garage. The convenience of being able to access dumbbells at home is a major asset in creating consistent lifting habits.
Stock Up on Dumbbells (and More) at Tru Grit
With so many convincing benefits, dumbbells are clearly a must-have in your fitness routine, whether you’re a novice lifting a few days a week or a dedicated lifter trying to target specific movement patterns, muscle groups, and strength goals. If you’re looking to add dumbbells to your home gym, look no further than Tru Grit.
Whether you want individual dumbbells, full sets, racks, or benches, we have the equipment you need to make (or remake) your home gym. Our dumbbells range from 2.5 to 95 pounds, making it easy to stock up on the right type of equipment. Step up your training routine with Tru Grit dumbbells.
Men's Journal. 7 Reasons Dumbbells Are Better Than Barbells. https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/7-reasons-dumbbells-are-better-barbells/
Muscle and Fitness. THE 7 ADVANTAGES OF DUMBBELL TRAINING. https://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/workout-tips/7-advantages-dumbbell-training/
Lift Learn Grow. 5 Ways To Correct A Muscle Imbalance. https://www.liftlearngrow.com/blog-page/fix-muscle-imbalances/