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Dumbbell Deadlift vs Barbell Deadlift (Here’s Why One is Better Than The Other)

Feb 15, 2019

dumbbell deadlift vs barbell deadliftDumbbell deadlift vs barbell deadlift… Which one is the best one to do?

I’m sure you’ve seen people doing variations of both exercises and wondered why they were doing them.

Is one better than the other?

In today’s article, we’re going to be focusing on the dumbbell deadlift vs the barbell deadlift and breaking down the information to expose the true winner.

But, before we even think about getting into deadlifts we want to make sure you are protected.

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Now, back to the data battle of the dumbbell deadlift vs barbell deadlifts…


Deadlift… The king of All Exercises

Did you know that the deadlift is often referred to as “the king of all exercises”?

Because it is an exercise that recruits the most amount of muscles in the entire body.

When the deadlift is performed correctly the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back are targeted directly, while the other muscles work as a support system.

All of the muscles come into play, and play hard, which leads to greater overall body strength.

Deadlifts are a very functional movement that give you the strength you need to perform other lifts, by supporting ancillary muscles for better squats, standing presses, rows and other standing exercises.

Not only do they improve the performance of other exercises, they will also help in your daily life with everyday activities.

Deadlifts can also contribute towards improved grip strength and make your forearms become more prominent.

This exercise is also one you can safely perform without a spotter.

If you fail on a deadlift, you just drop the bar.

However, there is another aspect to the deadlift that makes it such a popular choice for those who want to increase their core strength and work major muscle groups, and that is variety.

Two of the most popular choices for performing deadlifts are dumbbell deadlift vs barbell deadlift.

But neither one is better than the other, they both have advantages and disadvantages.


What Muscle Groups Are Targeted With The Dumbbell Deadlift vs Barbell Deadlift

what muscle groups do deadlifts workBoth types of deadlifts directly develop the muscles in the entire body.

They excel at targeting the calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, lumbar, lats, traps, biceps and core.

They even indirectly work the forearms.

The deadlift is a very effective move for building overall body mass.

Related Article: What Muscle Groups Do Deadlifts Work?


How to do a Barbell Deadlift?

how to do a barbell deadliftBarbell deadlifts are an extremely efficient exercise that requires focus and attention for them to be performed correctly.

Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart and bend your knees slightly.

Keep your back straight as you lean forward to grab the barbell.

Your hands should be placed shoulder-width apart and the bar should be grasped with an overhand grip.

With your arms relaxed, tighten your core and push your hips forward to return to standing.

Remember that correct form is required for a deadlift.

A bad form, plus the added factor of heavy weights, can lead to injury.

A rounded back and a loaded bar put you at high risk for a lower back injury.

Below: How to Perform a Barbell Deadlift Properly

Related Article: Different Types of Barbell – 9 Different Bars and the Benefits Each Have


How to do a Dumbbell Deadlift:

how to do a dumbbell deadliftThe main difference between a dumbbell deadlift and a barbell deadlift is that the weights used for a dumbbell deadlift are not held together as one unit, therefore the exercise develops your coordination as well as your muscles.

Dumbbell deadlifts put less stress on your back because you don’t have to reach over your legs to get to the weight.

Stand with your legs slightly apart and place a dumbbell on the outside of each foot.

Bend your legs and lower down until your thighs are horizontal to the floor.

Grab one dumbbell with each hand, tighten your abdomen, and straighten your back.

Then with your arms straight, press through your heels to straighten your legs and return to standing.

Pull your shoulders back at the end of the move and return the weights to the floor slowly.

When lowering the weights, make sure you keep them close to the body.

Do not swing the weights, muscles only work when they are contracted and any additional movement will decrease the stress that leads to muscle growth.

Below: How to Perform a Dumbbell Deadlift

Related Article: 5 of the Best Dumbbell Racks for your Home Gym


Which Deadlift is Best for you?

Deciding whether the dumbbell deadlift vs barbell deadlift is best for you really depends on your goals and what you want to accomplish at the end of the day.

If you do your workout at home and are trying to maintain your size and coordination, then dumbbells might be the better choice.

Dumbbell deadlifts are a fast and effective way for new lifters, and beginners, to get the training they need and for adding basic strength training in group or class settings.

Although the motion of this exercise is the same as the barbell deadlift, the placement of the dumbbells cause the stabilizers to be engaged differently.

So in addition to the muscular benefits, you gain with this exercise you also have the stabilizers working harder to keep those dumbbells still.

This deadlift variation is a great tool for assistance work and will help your grip and back; it is very effective as a conditioning exercise.

Your choice dumbbell deadlift vs barbell deadlift.

Related Article: 17 Exercises to Improve Deadlift Strength


Advantage of Dumbbells

Ability to lift differently and more effectively

dumbbell deadliftDumbbell lifts work your muscles while giving you the option of adding variety to your workout.

You can perform this exercise with the dumbbells placed in front as you would with the barbell deadlift.

Or you can place them at your sides with the handles parallel to your feet, which is known as the suitcase deadlift.

These variations allow you to shift the load and change the engagement levels of your leg and back muscles.

The suitcase deadlift moves the weight to your quadriceps and lessens the stress on your back, which is helpful if you are just learning the movement.

One of the greatest exercises to do with dumbbells is the single-leg Romanian deadlift.

For more information on how to do it, check out this article by our friends over at Prehab!


Taking less space

Dumbbells also take up a lot less space than barbells, so they are a great option for the home gym.

They don’t require any setup, you just grab your set of dumbbells and start pulling.

When traveling you might find that many hotel gyms have dumbbells but oftentimes don’t have a barbell.

But the one drawback with using dumbbells for your deadlift is that if your goal is to gain size and strength, then you need to be able to add on lots of weight, and you simply can’t do that with dumbbells.

At gyms, most dumbbells go up to 100 lbs, and the jerking motion and leaning with certain joints when trying to get them on or off the racks can put you at risk of injury.

With these large dumbbells, you will find that the grip strength and the awkwardness of the movement may be very limiting.

Once you have mastered the form with your deadlifts and start getting stronger, 200 lbs is really not enough if you want to progress.

Related Article: 6 of the Best Adjustable Dumbbells for Home Use


Advantage of Barbells

barbell deadliftOn average, most people can lift roughly 20% more with a barbell.

Compared to the combined weight of two dumbbells for the same basic exercise.

Remember you are using fewer stabilizer muscles with barbell exercises, which enables you to lift more weight.

But if you want to increase your size and add muscle mass with a more challenging workout.

Then a barbell with a heavy load simply can’t be beaten.

Progressively adding more weight is a major factor for getting bigger and stronger.

The bar’s position, and because you are picking it up from a “dead” position (which really means that it is on the floor, and not moving), gives you the opportunity to load up the bar and really work those muscles.

You can easily increase by just 5 lbs by adding a 2.5 lb plate to each side of the bar.

Related: Barbell vs Dumbbell


Barbells can be safer when you are lifting heavy weights

With the barbell, you have to generate more force and lift at a heavier level. Since you are responsible for moving that one object.

The deadlift is the foundation for power and Olympic moves like the snatch and clean.

If you want to progress to these exercises then deadlifting with a barbell is mandatory.

Barbells can be safer when you are lifting heavy weights.

You are able to get yourself into the correct position and ground your entire body before you begin your lift.

When doing the dumbbell variations, you need to hoist the dumbbells into the starting position.

This can increase the chances of something going wrong with the initial setup and lead to hurting yourself.

As briefly mentioned earlier, a drawback of the deadlift is the setup and the amount of space needed.

Whether you are working out in a commercial gym or a home gym, you will need an area of at least 7 feet by 3 feet to safely do your pulls.

Getting the plates on and off the bar while it’s on the ground can be a pain too. Especially if you are using heavier weights.


Conclusion for Dumbbell Deadlift vs Barbell Deadlift

Hopefully, now that the pros and cons have been discussed.

As with most things it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

Dumbbells deadlifts can be great for several reasons but so can barbell deadlifts.

When deciding which is better, dumbbell deadlifts vs barbell deadlifts ask yourself what you want to accomplish with the deadlift and see which variation of the deadlift is best going to help you accomplish those goals.

We hoped you enjoyed this article of dumbbell deadlifts vs barbell deadlifts.

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