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Who has seen the poor person at the gym who throws on too much weight to a bench press barbell and almost kills themselves trying to lift it?
You need to know how your dumbbell bench translates to the barbell.
How Does Dumbbell Bench Translate to Barbell at Home
There is one major issue with barbell bench presses, and that is that it is dangerous. Your chest is a strong muscle naturally, so you’re going to be able to lift a lot in this position, this results in people loading the weights on without a spotter. When they find that they can’t finish a rep, they’re in bad shape.
They can get trapped under the bar, or worse, and it can result in very severe injury. That’s why a lot of people opt for the dumbbell bench press instead when at home. It’s safer and can be just as effective.
However, these people might find it difficult when they transition to a gym and need to know how a dumbbell bench translates with a barbell.
You might be surprised if you’ve never had to transition between a dumbbell exercise to a barbell one. But here, you can find out more about how to do it, and even see how you can get the most out of it when you add this to your workout.
It’s Not Double
One of the biggest misconceptions that beginners make when it comes to dumbbell barbell translation is that they assume they can double up on the weight with the barbell. This is wrong and is going to get you in a lot of trouble.
If you’re lifting 35 lbs with each arm as dumbbells, you can’t slap 70 lbs on your barbell and call it a day. This is especially true when reversed around. If you’re going from barbell bench presses to dumbbell ones, make sure you don’t do this.
It might seem obvious to some and not to others, but a barbell and dumbbells each work different secondary muscle groups. When benching with dumbbells, there are extra stabilizer muscles that come into play, making it more difficult to lift the weight.
Which is Better for Your Muscles
If you can lift more weight with a barbell, then you might assume that you’re better off using that over dumbbells. The higher the weight, the more shredded you’re going to get, after all.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. It all goes back to what muscle groups are being worked. When pressing with dumbbells, you’re able to get much more extension on your arms than if you were using a barbell. Combine that with the stabilizer muscles, and you’re going to see more effective results for more different individual muscles.
The little-known issue of symmetrical development also comes into play. For the two people out there that don’t know, symmetrical development refers to making sure that you’re building both sides of your body at the same rate. We all know somebody that curled way too much with one arm, leaving them with different sized biceps.
How this plays into the dumbbell/barbell argument is with hand dominance. When you’re benching a barbell, you’re often going to subconsciously be putting more of the load on to your dominant arm. With dumbbells, each arm has to work individually. This means that the dominant one can’t take over, so both can be built at the same rate.
When doing barbell benches, there is also the temptation to distribute the weight more to your arms than your chest. This can be easy to do and just requires you to slide your hands down a few inches from your proper starting position.
You have a greater range of motion with dumbbells, which makes maintaining the weight on your chest an easier job than it otherwise would be.
Why Bother With Barbell Benches
With the dumbbell bench press having so much going for it, you’re probably wondering why you should even bother with barbell benches. Well, the barbell has two distinct advantages over dumbbells that are so important that it makes it a lot of people’s bench of choice.
The first is weight. We’ve already discussed this, but you can, on average, lift more weight with a barbell than you can with dumbbells. It works less secondary muscle groups meaning that your primary muscles are doing most of the lifting.
That is the second reason. When you’re benching a barbell, there aren’t that many stabilizer muscles coming into play. Your triceps, shoulders, and chest are doing most, if not all, of the work. This means that, while you’re not targeting as many general muscles, you’re getting bigger gains on the few that you are focusing on.
Is There a Ratio to Translate the Weight
Gym enthusiasts have been wondering this for years. Is there a generalized way to compare the weight you can lift with dumbbells to how much you can lift with barbells? Not really.
You can take a rough ballpark guess, but it really is individual to each person. A 30% reduction when moving from barbell to dumbbell is a good place to start, and you can build on that as you make more transitions and realize what you can and can’t lift.
When moving the other way, you could arguably have a 30% increase. However, you’re better off just starting at the combined weight of your two dumbbells and working from there.
It’s a lot easier to move from dumbbell to barbell than it is to go the other way around, but don’t let this demotivate you from making the switch to a dumbbell. Especially, if you need to do some benches at home without a spotter.
Don’t get frustrated because you can’t lift the same weight and remember that it’s natural. If you came here looking for some magic, all-in-one formula for how a dumbbell bench translates to a barbell bench, then I’m sorry.
As convenient as that would be, it just doesn’t exist. As a rule of thumb, when you’re in doubt, just start with a lower amount than you’re capable of and work yourself back up.
You stand to lose a lot more by lifting weights that are above your limit than you do by lifting weights that are easy for you.
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