The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

THBT Dumbbells are, on balance, better than Barbells for lifting weights.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/25/2016 Category: Health
Updated: 2 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 322 times Debate No: 94102
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (14)
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In the last couple of months I've become more and more involved in lifting weights at the gym. While it's incredibly enjoyable, I found myself somewhat torn between using dumbbells or barbells for a majority of the routines I do. After a month of mainly utilizing one or the other I've come to the conclusion that dumbbells are generally better than barbells for lifting weights. I'd like to see if I've come to the right conclusion on this and thus am instigating this debate.

Full Topic

This house believes that dumbbells are, on balance, better than barbells for lifting weights.

Key Terms

On balance
- Generally-speaking; or, with both good and bad considered.
Dumbbell - A short bar with a weight at each end, used typically in pairs.
Barbell - A long metal bar to which disks of varying weights are attached at each end.
Better - Of a more excellent or effective type or quality; More appropriate, advantageous, or well advised.


As Pro, I must show that Dumbbells are, on balance, better than Barbells for lifting weights.

As Con, my opponent must show that Barbells are, on balance, better than Dumbbells for lifting weights.

Rebuttals and Full Engagement are to be expected from both sides.


1. No forfeits - a forfeit warrants a conduct point loss
2. Citations must be provided in the text of the debate
3. R1 is for acceptance only; No new arguments in the final round
4. No trolling
5. No "kritiks" of the topic (challenging assumptions in the resolution)
6. My opponent accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add definitions
7. The BOP is evenly shared; both debaters should affirm the desirability of their positions
8. Violation of any of these rules, or of any of the R1 set-up, merits a loss

Let us begin...


you are terible
Debate Round No. 1


It's unfortunate that my opponent has already broken Rule #3 and chose to do so in such a poor manner. Regardless, I shall present my arguments as I originally planned and only ask that the judges consider my opponent's rule violation when the time comes.


I. Space restrictions

The very first argument I wish to present comes from a local gym manager that I've become good friends with over the past few months. While discussing the pros and cons of barbells he raised an interesting point that I never considered - space constraints. It's no secret that any business owner would want to capitalize on the building-space available to their business for maximum efficiency. The same goes for any gym owner and after hearing the numbers he cited I firmly believe an argument can be made against barbells considering they take up far more floor-space than dumbbells. Check out this excerpt from a study he brought to my attention:

"In a lecture at a Sanford Power and Strength Conference, coach Troy Anderson broke down the square footage of a barbell versus some of the non-barbell equipment. He examined the dimensions of the equipment, providing a buffer zone for safe movement and taking into account drills that require the most amount of space (ex. lunges). He found some interesting numbers. According to Coach Anderson’s calculations non-barbell related equipment (dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags) requires approximately 24 square feet of floor space versus 42 square feet for the barbell training area. Almost double the space required to perform the same amount of training! This also means you are going to pay double in space for the same type of training." [1]

So I ask both my opponent and the audience, is this a wise business move? Would it not be wiser to utilize gym equipment that takes up only half the space of barbells? This shows that dumbbells are better than barbells for weight lifting because they take up less space required for the same work-outs and would allow gym owners to nearly double their floor space.

II. Cost efficiency

Another argument tailored to the business-side of this debate would be the cost of purchasing either a barbell set or a dumbbell set. Looking at a popular strength equipment distributor’s site (sears) a 160-pound barbell set with bumpers and what is considered a very basic set-up is $499.00. Add in the base squat stands and you are up to $775.00. How much does a dumbbell set cost? The most expensive one is $109.93 and that even includes a support rack! [2]

Thus, we can see that not only do barbells take up more floor-space, but they also cost over triple the price of dumbbells. This is just another example of why dumbbells are better than barbells, especially for gym owners or even beginners looking to purchase some equipment for home-use.

III. Range of Motion

When pressing a barbell, your hands are locked in a single position on the bar and you press up. This motion does not allow your arms to move in their full range of motion, which limits the potential extension of your arms and impact of your press.

Pressing with dumbbells requires both your hands and your arms to lift the dumbbell and allows you to extend more, which increases your range of motion. This allows more muscles to move and be placed under more tension from the press, increasing the muscular benefit from your workout. [3]

IV. Symmetrical Development

One of the problems of pressing a single bar is that sometimes hand dominance comes into play. If you bench press while favoring one side, you could end up with size and growth imbalance in your muscles.

Since each arm gets its own system to press, each arm moves independently to lift the weight. This allows each side to do equal work and develop equally. [3]

I will continue this argument later on...

V. Muscular Tension

During a barbell press, it can be tempting to slide your hands outward to distribute the muscular tension to other muscle groups outside of the chest. This in turn decreases the tension placed on the chest muscles, which can negatively impact your results.

Since dumbbell presses allow for a greater range of motion in your press, you have more control over the motion of your arms and can keep your movement more in front of your body instead of outwards. This will allow you to keep more concentrated tension on your chest muscles for a longer period of time, maximizing your results. [4]

VI. Better for Beginners

This really ties into point #4 where I discuss the benefits of dumbbells for symmetrical development. As a beginner in lifting weights our muscles are at their weakest point. Muscle-building is all about breaking down our muscles and allowing them to rebuild, and for beginners, it's difficult to understand or even know if you're favoring one side of your body or the other. Dumbbells allow beginners to develop their new muscle growth on an even ground. To really drive this point home, just take a look at what *could* happen should a beginner not realize that they are favoring one side over the other:

In this first image we can see that this man favors his right side, as his right bicep and forearm is noticeably larger than his left-side.

Here we see a man with a larger pectoral muscle on his right side than on his left, this is, without a doubt, the result of him using a bench press rather than a dumbbell press for his chest workouts.

This final image really drives this point home. In this one, the entire right side of this man is larger than his left side.

In all three images, this imbalance could have easily been avoided had they utilized dumbbells rather than barbells when they first started weight lifting.

VII. Safer

When it comes to certain types of leg exercises, it’s often much easier and safer to have dumbbells in your hand rather than a barbell on your back, especially as a beginner. This is primarily true in the case of single leg exercises like split squats and lunges where balance is often the biggest issue. So, in those cases, some people may be better off using dumbbells instead of a barbell, especially early on when you’re first learning how to perform these exercises properly. In addition to this, dumbbells are usually always safer when you don’t have a spotter (and don’t know your limits). For example, if you get stuck bench pressing with dumbbells, you can just drop them to your sides without any problem at all. If you get stuck bench pressing with a barbell, you’re in trouble. [5] [6]

Sure, you could just ask someone nearby to spot you (unless you train at home by yourself) or just do a better job of knowing when
you’re going to reach failure, but in general, dumbbell exercises have an advantage in a no-spotter situation.

In conclusion

I have presented seven arguments in support of dumbbells when compared to barbells for weight lifting. I firmly believe each of these arguments uphold my burden in proving that dumbbells are better than barbells for weight lifting. I now return the floor to my opponent and look forward to a challenging response.

Thank you.

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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by fire_wings 2 months ago
I wanna do a debate with ya.
Posted by ThinkBig 2 months ago
If you wanna challenge me the subject, I would accept.
Posted by Blade-of-Truth 2 months ago
I hope not, but you're most likely correct. I'll have to restrict who can accept my challenges in the future, and was hoping the set-up and rules would dissuade trolls from accepting.
Posted by ThinkBig 2 months ago
My guess is con will forfeit the rest of the debate. Hopefully it won't be in limbo with the forfeit glitch.
Posted by Blade-of-Truth 2 months ago
Oh shoot, I didn't even notice that - I just assumed he accepted. Damnit... what a waste!
Posted by ThinkBig 2 months ago
Looks like it. Judging by his first round "you are terible [sic]"
This is his first debate. I expect that he will forfeit the rest of the rounds.
Posted by Blade-of-Truth 2 months ago
I did forget to set that limit though... we'll see how this turns out. I'll be submitting my round tomorrow afternoon.
Posted by Blade-of-Truth 2 months ago
Is he a troll?
Posted by ThinkBig 2 months ago
So sad to see that your debate was hijacked by a troll. This is why I always set a minimum ELO score and a 15 debate limit.
Posted by Blade-of-Truth 2 months ago
@Grassypunk, yes - that's generally how people do it.
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