Why it's on the list: Whether dumbbell or barbell presses are better for growth is an age-old weight-room debate. Luckily, you can do both! But there's little doubt that the dumbbell variation has more versatility throughout the beginning, middle, and end of a chest workout.
Some other big plusses for dumbbells: Each side's musculature must work independently, creating more balanced strength and size. Dumbbells also allow a longer range of motion, which some studies say can lead to muscle growth. Plus, you can more easily tweak your grip to create variety and a new stimulus on chest day.
Dumbbell Bench Press Variations for Chest Growth:
- Dumbbell bench press
- Neutral-grip dumbbell bench press
- Close-grip dumbbell bench press
- Single-arm dumbbell bench press
- Alternating dumbbell bench press
In your workout: At least some of the time, do flat dumbbell presses toward the start of your chest workout for heavy sets in lower rep ranges. They can also work well for high reps later in a chest workout, either flat or on an incline or decline.
Here's what not to do: A few sets of the barbell bench press, then the same sets and reps for dumbbell. The similar nature of these movements was confirmed via EMG analysis, which demonstrated no significant differences between flat-bench dumbbell and barbell presses in regard to muscle activation.