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Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell: Battle Royale

Apr 07, 2019

You really want to know: deadlifts with dumbbells vs barbell — which should I be doing?

There is no question more reasonable than this, as both hold value and purpose.

Deadlifting, in general, is a very beneficial movement to perform.

Yet, you don’t want to be deadlifting without a weight belt.

If you decide to invest in a belt, the Dark Iron Fitness genuine leather weightlifting belt is top notch! Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell - Dark Iron Fitness Weightlifting Belt

It definitely helps to always be ready at any moment to strap up a belt and lift heavy weights.

Especially for deadlifts, as you can start doing some really high volume and mass.

A belt is great for conventional and sumo deadlifts with a barbell to dumbbell deadlifts in potentially the 100s of pounds.

Either way, you’re here reading this article because you want to know which is better, right?

Of course, that comes down to preference — somewhat.

However, there are cases to be had for both dumbbells and barbells being superior to one another.

We will be breaking down the pros and cons for each in regards to deadlifts, and you will have to infer for yourself which you would crown superior.

Good luck, as you may end up liking both equally.

Now, let the deadlift battle begin!

Related: Are Dumbbell Deadlifts Worth Doing?


Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell — Round 1

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell

Which Deadlift is Easier to Learn?

This is a question that most beginners will have when considering deadlifts as a part of their fitness routines.

Finding out which version of an exercise is easiest to learn makes that exercise more approachable and welcoming for beginners.

However, being the easier type of deadlift, wouldn’t necessarily make it inferior to other variations.

Sometimes the most simple things in life can be the most effective — especially when no prior experience or knowledge is had.

Experimenting with all sorts of deadlift types, routines, rep ranges, weights, and sets will allow you to suss out the technical level between all of these things.

For some, it may be deadlifting with a barbell, while others will think it is deadlifting with dumbbells.

In my opinion, learning and starting with dumbbells is much easier.


Verdict: Dumbbell Deadlift

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell - Dumbbell Deadlift

Why is the dumbbell deadlift the easier option?

Well, in my opinion, the dumbbell deadlift is a simpler style to master, form-wise.

Also, since dumbbells have a wide variety of weight range, there are smaller increments to increase and decrease by, and quickly.

Doing stiff-legged dumbbell deadlifts, single-leg dumbbell deadlifts and Romanian dumbbell deadlifts are all quite straightforward and easy to learn.

Sure, boosting up the weight may take some time, but mastering dumbbell form is a lot easier than with a barbell.

Form — which is one of, if not the most important thing — dictates how well you perform the deadlift and learn the exercises.

The generally lighter weight, more compact weight distribution and so forth make dumbbells the ideal way to learn deadlift form and learn it fast.

For round one, I have to sway my personal verdict towards dumbbells as the winner for the deadlift that is easier to learn.

Now, on to round two, in order to see which is more versatile.

Related: How to Perform Dumbbell Deadlifts


Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell — Round 2

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell

Which Deadlift Has More Versatility?

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell - Single Leg Dumbbell DeadliftThere is no question that I recommend you do both dumbbell and barbell deadlifts, as variety is always important.

However, when it comes to versatility between the two, which is better?

Which produces more gains, in more ways at a more optimal rate?

Well, that is the question and something important to dissect, for if a workout doesn’t have any versatility — in all aspects — then it isn’t very strong.

Can the deadlift be done in the gym, at home, at the park, in public?

Would it be easy to rotate with workout partners between sets?

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell - Romanian Deadlift

Can you perform different variations of the deadlift using only a barbell or dumbbells?

Is variable resistance possible without only adding weights?

These all play a particularly important role, especially for those trying to decide between the two, because your situation can dictate what you can and cannot do.

In my opinion, though, round two goes to…


Verdict: Tie

It’s a tieWhy?

Well, both dumbbell deadlifts and barbell deadlifts have equal versatility in various aspects.

The truth is, this will all depend on a very specific personal level, as both perform great from a versatility standpoint.

Sure, maybe they aren’t both completely versatile in the exact same ways, but they both check a lot of boxes that make them both eligible as versatile choices.

Let’s break down a few of the ways dumbbells and barbells can be versatile for deadlifts.

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell — Dumbbells:

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell - Dumbbells

  • Portable — able to be used almost anywhere in the gym, in your home, or outside. They can be brought to anyone’s home, gym, training center, etc. with no problems.
  • Several weight increments — this is important, as working up to heavier dumbbell deadlifts is beneficial to progress and growth. At the gym, you can go down the entire dumbbell rack and keep moving up weights. Or, if you have adjustable dumbbells, you can do the same thing.
  • Less strain — for those lifters out there who may have injuries or are inexperienced, you will be put under far less strain and bodily stress doing deadlifts with dumbbells.
  • One leg variations — dumbbells allow for more experimentation, such as one leg deadlifts, because they are easier to manipulate compared to a barbell.
  • Safety — due to dumbbell deadlifts being easier to learn and maintain proper form, they tend to be much safer to perform.
  • Supersets — since dumbbells are handheld weights, you can switch into another dumbbell exercise almost instantly after deadlifting. Dumbbells squats, curls, overhead press, hammer curls, tricep kickbacks, etc.

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell — Barbell:

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell - Barbell

  • Heavier lifts — a barbell, obviously, provides the groundwork for adding more weight and lifting heavier in general. There’s only so much you can lift using the dumbbell platform, whereas barbells are more versatile in providing heavier lifts.
  • Addable resistance — unlike dumbbells, barbell deadlifts are compatible with adding interesting types of resistance that aren’t just weight plates. You can use resistance bands attached to the end of the barbell, chains added to each side, even bumper plates for training purposes to give you a decent deadlift position without having to use working weight.
  • Evenly distributed weight — since the weight is held by one solid barbell, the distribution of the weight is even and you aren’t unilaterally performing the movement. This means, since dumbbells are in each hand, you have to stabilize the weight more as you deadlift (not a bad thing), whereas a barbell is more contained within the movement.
  • Various stances — there’s an argument for dumbbell deadlifts having various stances as well, but in conjunction with the barbell’s other benefits (such as heavier lifts), doing sumo stance, conventional stance, stiff-legged and Romanian works extremely well.
  • Various grips — you can use close-grip, wide-grip, overhand, underhand, mixed-grip and this isn’t even including how you can change it up with thick bar grips, lifting straps, etc. The grip options are so expansive with a barbell.
  • Faster gains — due to lifting heavier weights and being able to tweak the way you deadlift, while using those heavier weights, you will most likely see more progress doing barbell deadlift. The downside is that form and proper lifting technique may be harder to master. Once you figure out your form, your gains and progressive overload of the weights will skyrocket!

Related: Can Deadlifts Help Lower Back Pain?



Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell — Round 3

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell — Which Produces More Results?

When it comes down to it, results are the most important part of doing deadlifts, right?

Well, some would make that claim, yes.

So, for round three, we will be discussing this as one of the key factors in deciding which is better: deadlifts with dumbbells vs barbell.

Taking into account ease of use, versatility and essentially your access to dumbbells and barbells is how you can personally decide which can produce more results for you.

If you are only ever around dumbbells, obviously you won’t see a barbell as a highly results-driven tool.

From afar you may see others’ results and hear the good and the bad, but if you never get to use a barbell (or dumbbells) then you can’t truly appreciate the benefits nor results.

Though dumbbell deadlifts tend to be easier to do, learn and perform anywhere, they still aren’t the best for results — in my opinion.

Learning to do barbell deadlifts and working to get better and better will produce some of the best deadlift results.

So, with that in mind, barbell deadlifts can truly produce better results than dumbbell deadlifts.


Verdict: Barbell Deadlift

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell - Barbell DeadliftA standard barbell alone weighs roughly 45 pounds.

Deadlifting just the bar is similar to dumbbell deadlifting 20 pounds in each hand (kind of).

Then, when you begin adding weight plates, resistance bands, etc. your potential gains increase substantially.

Whenever you are lifting more weight, higher volume sets, and reps and have the ability to build better strength gains, your overall results will be better.

It’s as simple as that — the all-around features of the barbell make it more conducive to creating results.

But, that doesn’t mean producing more results is always better.

If using a barbell hurts your back or you can’t seem to get the form right, you shouldn’t force yourself to use it just because it can potentially provide better results in the future.

For those of you looking to protect your back and sustain proper form, get a Dark Iron Fitness weightlifting belt.

Just know, if you can master the barbell, your progress will be evident and results will be noticeable.

Related: How to Do the Barbell Deadlift



Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell — Final Round

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell — Choose Your Weapon

Picking between dumbbells and a barbell is all up to what feels comfortable to you and is available for you to use.

Test them both to figure out what works better.

Keep in mind all of the factors listed above to help facilitate your decision.

But, also keep in mind that whatever feels more comfortable from the get-go will usually be better for your body.

If you find yourself overthinking, straining, feeling pain or experiencing problems while lifting, maybe that style of deadlift isn’t for you.

Related: Trap Bar Deadlift vs Squat – Which One Is Better?


You Choose Dumbbell Deadlifts

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell - Dumbbell Deadlift

If you’ve chosen dumbbell deadlifts, it can be for several reasons.

You most likely prefer:

  • Less of a learning curve
  • A portable weight
  • Comfortable deadlifting positions
  • Easier transitions during supersets
  • A safer way to learn and perform deadlifts

You’ve made a fine choice, a fine choice, indeed!

Dumbbells are an awesome tool and can give you some great deadlifting experience.

Congratulations on figuring out why dumbbell deadlifts work for you.


You Choose Barbell Deadlifts

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell - Barbell Deadlift

If you’ve chosen barbell deadlifts, you most likely are already familiar with deadlifting.

There’s a good chance that you prefer:

  • Progressively overloading the barbell
  • Trying different deadlift techniques (stances, grips, resistance)
  • Intend to lift extremely heavy
  • Have an interest in powerlifting or competition
  • Are looking to see strength and muscle gains faster

Barbell deadlifts are an awesome choice!

There’s a reason they are basically the tried and true standard for deadlifts.

Congrats on picking a well tested and popular variants of the deadlift movement!


You Choose Both Dumbbell and Barbell for Deadlifts

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell - Barbell and Dumbbell Deadlift

Now we’re talking.

This is the type of person I want to encourage you to be!

You are willing to learn and practice with both dumbbell and barbell for deadlifts.

The reason you are the overall winner is because you aren’t limiting yourself.

Sure, some people have medical or physical issues and disabilities that prevent them from using one or the other, but if you don’t, then why not utilize both?

Plus, if you get a Dark Iron Fitness weightlifting belt or suede lifting straps then you’ll be able to easily deadlift either way.

Deadlifts with Dumbbells vs Barbell - Dark Iron Fitness Lifting Straps

Someone willing to choose both dumbbells and barbells is someone who:

  • Likes to keep the body guessing for optimal results
  • Is willing to see the good and bad in both types of deadlifts, but wants to experience both versions of the “good.”
  • Takes their lifting seriously and has no problem learning two deadlift techniques
  • Enjoys working their muscles in all types of ways, both in compound movements and more targeted isolation.
  • Knows that all variations of an exercise can benefit you, no matter if one version is more popular than the other.
  • Already has experience deadlifting primarily with dumbbells or barbell and is looking to implement the other into their solid routine to make it an even stronger routine.

What an amazing choice to choose both!

Now, take those dumbbells and your barbell and go build your own workout routine!

I wish you luck in your deadlifting endeavors and hope you receive the results you are looking for.

Stay strong in the gym and always strive for variety!

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