When you think of how to gain muscle in your chest most people resort to the typical bench press with a barbell. Let’s take a look at why doing your chest exercises with dumbbells or machines can provide a good alternative way to grow those pectoral muscles.
Should You Use Barbell Or Dumbbells
You can still achieve great chest workouts with the barbell so don’t think I’m completely giving barbell the cold shoulder. A chest workout routine can be done with either and still be equally effective but these are some of the things Ive noticed that make dumbbells work better for myself.
When doing barbell bench press you will notice you lift more in terms of actual numbers compared to dumbbells, ever wonder why? This is because your front delts (shoulders) are helping out your chest.
If shoulders are doing most or even some of the work on chest day then the chest isn’t being worked to its full potential which means your chest is probably thinking “to hell with growing, delts have my back”. If your chest doesn’t have a reason to get stronger then of course it’s not going to.
By using dumbbells I feel my chest gets worked much more with even half the weight of what I was using on barbell bench press. Numbers only matter for the ego focus on working that muscle!
How Do I Know If I Should Change To Using Dumbbells?
The saying don’t fix what isn’t broken applies here more than ever, so if you’re seeing results with barbell bench press then stay with it. However if you’re at a major plateau with your chest then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein
There is no clear path to pick but there are little things that can help you pick dumbbells over chest. If using barbells causes you pain or discomfort (which is not uncommon with people who have bad wrists or shoulders) then look to using dumbbells which will give you a little more free range of motion to work with.
Another good reason is that if you want to lift heavier than what you think you can press but still want to try and don’t have a spotter around in the gym.
Some people get better results with dumbbells so don’t be afraid to just try it out for a few chest workouts to see.
The Pros Of Using Dumbbells
Another great perk of doing your chest workouts with dumbbells is that you don’t have your wrists in a locked motion that the bar would keep your hands in. If you needed to turn the dumbbells slightly then you could and still continue on.
This was great for me, someone who broke both of his wrists in high school. A small adjustment could make it more comfortable for my wrists and allow me to continue on.
Another great perk is that dumbbells allow you to go as heavy as you would like without the need for a spot. By that I mean if you go to heavy on barbell then you could get stuck under the bar, with dumbbells you just let them go beside you.
Are Chest Workout Machines Worth Using?
These can have varying results and hard to pinpoint because there are so many different types out there.
The good thing about them is you don’t have to rack and de-rack the weight, you just move them pin to the weight scale you want.
The bad thing is that you have extremely limited motion because well the machines is built to only go certain ways.
Chest machines are great for beginners but for anyone lifting over a year would have better results with barbell or dumbbells in my opinion.
One exception here is the flye machine, it work great for doing chest flyes.
Why You Should Use All Of These
Yes I said it, using all of these is a good option (no not at the same time) and let me explain why.
Your body gets use to doing the same exercise over and over while learning to better adapt to it.
This means less muscle growth overall. A good way to prevent this is change up your workouts often in which you can change the way you do your exercises.
For example doing barbell chest press every week for 3 months your chest has gotten use to it most likely by this point. Swap over and do chest press with dumbbells for a month or two then go back to barbells or machines, the goal is to keep your body confused.
To wrap this post up, find what works for you. These are all details I found out through trial and error over my time in the gym. Like I’ve mentioned what works for me could be completely opposite for you.
Image Credits: Jale Ibrak