What’s going on everyone? It’s Ben here and I’m going to go over which exercises is the best exercise for beginner and intermediate lifters to do if they want to build a well-developed chest. I know that many of you are going to assume that if you want to work on your chest, it is best that you start your journey with the barbell bench press. I am here to say that I do not believe that the
Barbell Bench Press is not the most optimal for hypertrophy when it comes to beginners to
intermediates. In this article I will go over the Pros and cons to the Barbell Bench Press and why in my humble opinion it is the Dumbbell Bench press variant that possesses substantial more benefits when compared to the prior. Now let's get into it.
BARBELL BENCH PRESS: The bench press, or chest press, is an upper-body weight training
exercise in which the trainee presses a weight upwards while lying on a weight training bench. The
exercise uses the pectoralis major, the anterior deltoids, and the triceps, among other stabilizing
LOAD CAPACITY: The barbell bench press has a greater capacity for load than it's dumbbell counter part. To not get into the weeds, I'll just say that even though contraction and extension of the muscles are important, but I would say that progressive overload is very important for muscle growth. The barbell gets the win over the Dumbbells in this category.
FORCED TECHNIQUE IN ORDER TO GET GOOD: In order to perform the big three lifts at a safe and high level, the majority of lifters need to have good technique. In order to perform the barbell bench press correctly you must learn how to get tight under the bar, drive your upper back into the pad, maintain contact with your butt on the bench, retract your scapula and use leg drive by having good contact with your feet and the floor. The ability to retract your scapula high skill that has a lot of positive overflow regarding a lot of movements that you will do in the gym.
THE NEED TO HAVE ADVANCED TECHNIQUE TO AVOID INJURY AT HEAVIER LOADS: Remember the ability to retract your scapula having a lot positive overflow? One of those positives are injury prevention. If you have poor scapula retraction while you are under the bar you run the risk of injuring your shoulder. This is one of the bigger negatives that the barbell has when compared to dumbbells.
LESS MUSCLE ACTIVATION COMPARED TO DUMBBELL PRESS: In an article posted on t-nation by: Contreras, B (2010, Feb 2010). Inside the Muscles: Best Chest & Tricep exercises. A study was conducted in order to test and compare the mean and peak muscle activation for the most common chest and tricep exercises (click the hyperlink for the full article). In the article the dumbbell press blew the barbell out of the water in regards to peak muscle activation. But this is countered by the barbell having the greater load capacity. This in my opinion is a small loss.
DUMBBELL PRESS: The dumbbell press allows you to specifically target chest muscles, giving you greater strength and definition. Because you have to balance the dumbbells individually, it also contributes to strong core development, as well as stabilizer muscle activation.
NATURAL RANGE OF MOTION: The dumbbells are less restrictive in the range of motion when compared to the barbell. When you have someone that is just working on their pressing skills it is best limit the chance for injury within reason. The dumbbells will allow the trainee to naturally find the position that they are most powerful pressing from; reducing the chance for injury.
GREATER MUSCLE ACTIVATION WHEN COMPARED TO BARBELL PRESS: This is proven in the above mentioned article, in which the hyperlink is provided. I believe that the higher muscle activation is contributed to the fact that when you start reaching medium to heavier weight your body naturally stabilizes more; it’s more of a lower skilled movement at the higher weights in contrast to the barbell. The barbell has shown to have less muscle activation comparably as well as pushing the higher weight will require more skill. In order to gain muscle with less risk of injury is definitely the dumbbells greatest win.
LIMITED ABILITY FOR LOAD: This is the only true negative to dumbbell press. In most gyms dumbbells only go but so high. Of course as with any exercise, you are able to make the exercise more challenging using different dumbbell press variations, negatives, pauses, etc. But the ability for progressive overload on the dumbbell press has a ceiling. This is the biggest loss.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Both presses have their advantages and disadvantages, but if I had to pick one to give to a beginner client that just wants to be a recreational lifter and just wants to gain muscle and look good; I would start with Dumbbell press in order for them to get comfortable the movement and to achieve some strength and hypertrophy with the least risk for injury. If I was training an intermediate I would use both interchangeably so that my trainee can get those high level skills like scapula retraction and leg drive. In regards to beginners and intermediates as well as bodybuilders my final verdict is that the dumbbell press is king!! Thank you for reading. If you have comments or questions please feel free to state them in the comment sections. Until then continue to strive for more, peace.