Dumbbells vs Barbells for Mass, Strength, & Fitness

Hello I’m wondering what can get me an overall better (upper body) a barbell set or a set? Dumbbells probably about 30 pounds each, barbell probably the same .

I hear barbells engage more of the muscles as a whole as oppose to dumbbells where they focus more on biceps… Any truth to this? I rather buy these than a gym membership at this point.



Pros and Cons of Barbells:


  • Best for heavy weight training
  • Can add more weight to the bar
  • Ideal if your goal is and mass


  • Fixed range of motion
  • Only way to progress is to add weight to the bar
  • Lifting heavy weights dangerously compresses the joints
  • Greater chance of injury

Pros and Cons of Dumbbell Training


  • Cheaper to purchase then barbells
  • Offers portability
  • Greater versatility of workouts


  • Difficult to add weight (unless dumbbells are adjustable)
  • Still a chance of injury


Personally, I prefer dumbbells for . Even though you may not be able to build as much strength as you would with barbells, the versatility and the total number of exercises one can perform with dumbbells makes the a much better option.

There are, however other home resistance implements you should consider:

Resistance Bands

Bands are an underrated tool. If you purchase a set with adjustable handles, you will get up to 150 lbs of resistance.

In the package that I have, there is a 50lbs, 40lbs, 30lbs, 20lbs, and 10lbs weight. If you were to combine all 5 bands , attaching them to handles you would get 150 lbs of resistance.

What’s more, are very cheap, running you $5-$15 per band, compared to a dumbbell which usually runs you a $1 per pound of weight. So if you were to purchase a 50lbs weight, then it will cost you $50.

You can grab your full set of resistance bands, as well as other products at WodFitters.com

Basic Bodyweight Training

Basic, old-school calisthenics can get you quite far in terms of improving your health, fitness, and strength levels. If done right, you can even build a decent amount of mass.

There are a number of great articles on this site which will help you:

Weight vs Stress

One thing that must be understood with any implement you choose is the idea of stress. Your body does not actually know how much weight is being lifted, but instead only feels the stress of the weight.

There are many ways of manipulating stress:

Extended Sets

Extending a set means that you go beyond the normal set/rep scheme. In a typical workout you would perform the repetitions necessary, then rest.  After the rest period you begin your next set.

For example, lets say the workout demands 10 repetitions of pushups, 3 total sets with 60 seconds of rest in between each set.

You would instead try to extend the set, by either adding another variation of the pushup, or adding a completely different exercise.

And extended set modification would then look something like this:

  • Pushups x10 reps
  • Incline  Pushups x10 reps
  • Rest 1 minute

You’ve just made your basic pushup workout harder.

So which is best? Barbells, dumbbells, , or bodyweight training? They each have their place, and with enough creativity and guidance, each can help you achieve your goals.

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About Parth

Parth Shah is the creator of ShahTraining.com which teaches people how to use mental mind tricks to conquer the world and become healthier and awesome in the process. Check out his Book Bodyweight Toughness Thanks, and enjoy the site!

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