Barbell vs dumbbell bench press weight comparison

Barbell Vs Dumbbell Bench Press Weight Comparison For Men And Women At Different Training Levels

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Are you looking for a detailed comparison between barbell vs dumbbell bench press weight? Then this post may just be for you!

Generally speaking, the average male can barbell bench press 1.22 times (22%) more weight compared to their dumbbell bench press, and vice versa. In contrast, the average female can barbell bench press 1.28 times (28%) more weight compared to their dumbbell bench press, and vice versa.

My research narrows down the weight ratio between the barbell and the dumbbell press.

For me, this data was important because I needed to know how much weight I should lift as I transitioned from barbell pressing at the gym, to dumbbell pressing at home.

You may be undergoing a similar transition or even the opposite.

You may also be in the process of varying your program to include the barbell/dumbbell press, respectively.

Regardless of your reason, it’s a good idea to get a reliable estimate for how much you should be bench pressing as you transition between barbells and dumbbells. This will minimize the risk of injury and increase your training efficacy.

So let’s press on (get it?) and get straight to it!

How I switched between dumbbell and barbell press.

Can You Bench More Weight With A Barbell Or Dumbbell?

Generally speaking, the average person can bench press around 25% more weight using a barbell compared to dumbbells. However, the exact weight difference will be influenced by other factors including training level, training history, gender, and ability to press with good form.

Dumbbell Bench to Barbell Bench Conversion
You can hear Lee’s views on the matter here.

Thus, it’s easy to conclude that the majority of people can barbell press more weight compared to the dumbbell press (it’s consensus in the weight training community).

But it’s more difficult to conclude exactly how much more weight you should lift on the barbell press vs dumbbell press.

That being said, I will try to give you a precise figure based on real numbers (see next).

Barbell Vs Dumbbell Bench Press Weight Comparison

For the average person, the dumbbell press is between 20% to 30% harder than the barbell press. The perceived difference in difficulty is influenced by training level, gender, and body weight. Advanced males often find it easier to transition their barbell pressing weight to the dumbbell press.

Barbell vs dumbbell weight difference comparison in men and women.

Here’s how much weight you should barbell press compared to a dumbbell press (based on your gender and training level):

Training LevelMale Barbell Vs Dumbbell Bench Press Weight DifferenceFemale Barbell Vs Dumbbell Bench Press Weight Difference
Beginner:32-37%33-47%
Novice:24-26%26-30%
Intermediate:13-19%17-18%
Advanced:6-14%8-12%
Average:22%28%
Source: 3,045,000 user-generated barbell and dumbbell bench press lifts from the Strength Level Database.

The above findings were generated by calculating the percentage difference between 3,045,00 user-generated barbell and dumbbell chest press data from the Strength Level database.

You can see that the average conversion ratio is 0.22 for men and 0.28 for women (22% and 28% respectively).

The weight difference variability is mainly due to differences in training level and body weight.

For example, advanced lifters see smaller variability in barbell vs dumbbell bench press weight, compared to beginners (e.g. 6-14% in advanced lifters vs 32-37% in beginner lifters). And heavier people often see even small variability compared to lighter people (e.g. 32% in light male beginners vs 37% in heavy male beginners).

Supporting Evidence: Don’t Just Take My Word!

Barbell and dumbbell weight difference comparison results from Reddit poll and 2011 study.

In accordance with my findings, this Reddit dumbbell vs barbell bench press weight comparison poll suggests a weight difference ratio of 0.28 to 0.45 (i.e. 28% to 45%).

But this poll doesn’t account for differences in training level, gender, and body weight, unlike my research.

“Regarding the bench press: the dumbbell load was 17% less than that of the barbell”

Saeterbakken et Al. 2011.

Furthermore, this 2011 study found that resistance-trained males bench pressed 17% less weight with dumbbells compared to a barbell.

But again, this study did not account for variability in training level, gender, or body weight.

However, both findings are in line with my research.

Barbell Vs Dumbbell Bench Press Weight Conversion Calculator

A barbell converts to a dumbbell bench press by multiplying the barbell weight by a factor of 0.78 in males and 0.72 in females. In contrast, a dumbbell converts to a barbell bench press by multiplying the weight of both dumbbells combined by 1.22 in males and 1.28 in females.

You can find the weight conversion equations below. They allow you to calculate an estimated weight difference between your barbell vs dumbbell bench press

Here are the bench press weight conversion calculators:

Male barbell-dumbbell bench press conversion calculator.
  • Male barbell to dumbbell bench press weight conversion calulation.

[barbell bench press weight including bar] x [0.78] = [bench press weight for both dumbbells combined]

  • Male dumbbell to barbell bench press weight conversion calulation.

[bench press weight for both dumbbells combined] x [1.22] =[barbell bench press weight including bar]

Female barbell-dumbbell bench press conversion calculator.
  • Female barbell to dumbbell bench press weight conversion calulation.

[barbell bench press weight including bar] x [0.72] = [bench press weight for both dumbbells combined]

  • Female dumbbell to barbell bench press weight conversion calulation.

[bench press weight for both dumbbells combined] x [1.28] = [barbell bench press weight including bar]

Note: these are average calculations are for beginners to advanced lifters.

To make a conversion that’s specific to your training level, you can refer to the percentages in the table given at the beginning of the post (“Barbell Vs Dumbbell Bench Press Weight Comparison”).

Barbell To Dumbbell Bench Press Weight Conversions

Here are barbell to dumbbell chest press weight conversions to show you how much less weight you should be able to dumbbell bench compared to the barbell bench:

Male Barbell Bench Press Weight (lb/kg)Male Dumbbell Weight Conversion (lb/kg)Female Barbell Bench Press Weight (lb/kg)Female Dumbbell Weight Conversion (lb/kg)
10lb / 5kg8lb / 4kg10lb / 5kg7lb / 4kg
20lb / 10kg16lb / 8kg20lb / 10kg14lb / 7kg
30lb / 15kg23lb / 12kg30lb / 15kg22lb / 11kg
40lb / 20kg31lb / 16kg40lb / 20kg29lb / 14kg
50lb / 25kg39lb / 20kg50lb / 25kg36lb / 18kg
60lb / 30kg47lb / 23kg60lb / 30kg43lb / 22kg
70lb / 35kg55lb / 27kg70lb / 35kg50lb / 25kg
80lb / 40kg62lb / 31kg80lb / 40kg58lb / 29kg
90lb / 45kg70lb / 35kg90lb / 45kg65lb / 32kg
100lb / 50kg78lb / 39kg100lb / 50kg72lb / 36kg
110lb / 55kg86lb / 43kg110lb / 55kg79lb / 40kg
120lb / 60kg94lb / 47kg120lb / 60kg86lb / 43kg
130lb / 65kg101lb / 51kg130lb / 65kg94lb / 47kg
140lb / 70kg109lb / 55kg140lb / 70kg101lb / 50kg
150lb / 75kg117lb / 59kg150lb / 75kg108lb / 54kg
160lb / 80kg125lb / 62kg160lb / 80kg115lb / 58kg
170lb / 85kg133lb / 66kg170lb / 85kg122lb / 61kg
180lb / 90kg140lb / 70kg180lb / 90kg130lb / 65kg
190lb / 95kg148lb / 74kg190lb / 95kg137lb / 68kg
200lb / 100kg156lb / 78kg200lb / 100kg144lb / 72kg
210lb / 105kg164lb / 82kg210lb / 105kg151lb / 76kg
220lb / 110kg172lb / 86kg220lb / 110kg158lb / 79kg
230lb / 115kg179lb / 90kg230lb / 115kg166lb / 83kg
240lb / 120kg187lb / 94kg240lb / 120kg173lb / 86kg
250lb / 125kg195lb / 98kg250lb / 125kg180lb / 90kg
260lb / 130kg203lb / 101kg260lb / 130kg187lb / 94kg
270lb / 135kg211lb / 105kg270lb / 135kg194lb / 97kg
280lb / 140kg218lb / 109kg280lb / 140kg202lb / 101kg
290lb / 145kg226lb / 113kg290lb / 145kg209lb / 104kg
300lb / 150kg234lb / 117kg300lb / 150kg216lb / 108kg
Dumbbell weights are for both dumbbells combined. Barbell weights include the weight of the bar.

If you’re interested, you can go to my other post to see what lb/kg dumbbell bench press is considered impressive for your training level for males (females subtract 35%)

Dumbell To Barbell Bench Press Weight Conversions

Here are dumbbell to barbell chest press weight conversions to show you how much more weight you should be able to barbell bench compared to the dumbbell bench:

Male Dumbbell Bench Press Weight (lb/kg)Male Barbell Weight Conversion (lb/kg)Female Dumbbell Bench Press Weight (lb/kg)Female Barbell Weight Conversion (lb/kg)
10lb / 5kg12lb / 6kg10lb / 5kg13lb / 6kg
20lb / 10kg24lb / 12kg20lb / 10kg26lb / 13kg
30lb / 15kg37lb / 18kg30lb / 15kg38lb / 19kg
40lb / 20kg49lb / 24kg40lb / 20kg51lb / 26kg
50lb / 25kg61lb / 31kg50lb / 25kg64lb / 32kg
60lb / 30kg73lb / 37kg60lb / 30kg77lb / 38kg
70lb / 35kg85lb / 43kg70lb / 35kg90lb / 45kg
80lb / 40kg98lb / 49kg80lb / 40kg102lb / 51kg
90lb / 45kg110lb / 55kg90lb / 45kg115b / 58kg
100lb / 50kg122lb / 61kg100lb / 50kg128lb / 64kg
110lb / 55kg134lb / 67kg110lb / 55kg141lb / 70kg
120lb / 60kg146lb / 73kg120lb / 60kg154lb / 77kg
130lb / 65kg159lb / 79kg130lb / 65kg166lb / 83kg
140lb / 70kg171lb / 85kg140lb / 70kg179lb / 90kg
150lb / 75kg183lb / 92kg150lb / 75kg192lb / 96kg
160lb / 80kg195lb / 98kg160lb / 80kg205lb / 102kg
170lb / 85kg207lb / 104kg170lb / 85kg218lb / 109kg
180lb / 90kg220lb / 110kg180lb / 90kg230lb / 115kg
190lb / 95kg232lb / 116kg190lb / 95kg243lb / 122kg
200lb / 100kg244lb / 122kg200lb / 100kg256lb / 128kg
210lb / 105kg256lb / 128kg210lb / 105kg269lb / 134kg
220lb / 110kg268lb / 134kg220lb / 110kg282lb / 141kg
230lb / 115kg281lb / 140kg230lb / 115kg294lb / 147kg
240lb / 120kg293lb / 146kg240lb / 120kg307lb / 154kg
250lb / 125kg305lb / 153kg250lb / 125kg320lb / 160kg
260lb / 130kg317lb / 159kg260lb / 130kg333lb / 166kg
270lb / 135kg329lb / 165kg270lb / 135kg346lb / 173kg
280lb / 140kg342lb / 171kg280lb / 140kg358lb / 179kg
290lb / 145kg354lb / 177kg290lb / 145kg371lb / 186kg
300lb / 150kg366lb / 183kg300lb / 150kg384lb / 192kg
Dumbbell weights are for both dumbbells combined. Barbell weights include the weight of the bar.


If you’re interested, you can go to my other post to see what lb/kg incline dumbbell press is considered respectable for your training level for males (females subtract 35%)

Factors Affecting Barbell Vs Dumbbell Bench Press Conversion Accuracy

My research reveals an estimated weight conversion between the barbell and dumbbell chest press.

And I stress the word “estimated”.

Because in reality, many variables will affect the final conversion:

  • Training level positively impacts your conversion ratio. The longer you’ve been practicing the the bench press, the closer your barbell and dumbbell weight ratio will be. In other words, you’re dumbbell pressing weight will be closer to your barbell pressing weight.
  • Previous training history positively impacts bench pressing. If you’ve practiced the both bench press variations in the past, then your barbell and dumbbell weight ratio will also be closer. Examples include de-trained lifters or those recovering from injury.
  • Bad form and technique negatively impact your performance. Performing the barbell or dumbbell press with bad technique will skew your numbers in a negative manner.
  • Training specificity postively impacts pressing ability. Those who have trained specifically in one bench press variation (barbell or dumbbell) will naturally be able to lift more weight on that specific pressing variation.

Therefore the above data are just rough estimates based on user-generated data. So don’t be surprised if your real values deviate by up to 10 pounds (5 kilograms), or even more.

Why It’s Common To Bench Less With Dumbbells Than Barbells?

There are two common reasons why people can chest press less weight with dumbbells compared to barbells. Firstly, the dumbbell bench press requires more energy to set up. Secondly, it also requires more stabilizer muscle activity during the lift. This makes the dumbbell press harder to perform.

Why is the dumbbell press harder than barbell?

If you think about it:

Setting up a dumbbell press requires you to lift the dumbbells directly off the floor (or thighs). In comparison, the barbell press is racked from the start.

Additionally, the dumbbell press is a unilateral movement, requiring both arms to lift two weights independently. In contrast, the barbell press is bilateral, using both arms to lift a single weight (making it easier for the stronger arm to facilitate the weaker arm).

Both reasons mean that the dumbbell press requires more stabilizing muscle activity and more energy to perform overall.

This means most people can bench press more weight with a barbell vs dumbbells.

“There are exceptions to the rule. There can be instances where people can lift more weight on the dumbbell chest press compared to the barbell chest press”

Lee Hayward, Bodybuilding Coach

Why Do Some People Bench Press More With Dumbbells?

Two reasons explain why some people bench press more with dumbbells than a barbell. Firstly, some people may be barbell pressing with bad form or not considering the weight of the bar. Secondly, some people may be cheating on the dumbbell press or they may have longer dumbbell training history.

Here are the reasons explained in more detail:

  1. Barbell pressing with bad form and not considering the weight of the bar. If you’re not applying correct lifting form on the barbell press, chances are you may be suffering from shoulder pain and joint discomfort which negatively impacts your performance. Additionally, some poeple forget that the standard Olympic barbell bar alone weighs 45lbs (20kg).
  1. Dumbbell pressing with bad form and longer training history. Many beginners only apply a partial range of motion on the dumbbell chest press (i.e. not allowing the dumbbells to reach chest level on the downward phase). This is cheating and allows them to lift more weight. Others may have also generally been training with dumbbells more than barbells.

Both reasons could explain why your bench press more weight with dumbbells vs a barbell.

Can You Increase Your Bench Press With Dumbbells?

It is recommended to use dumbbells to increase overall barbell bench press performance. The unilateral nature of dumbbell pressing corrects pectoral, deltoid, bicep, and tricep muscle imbalances, and provides a greater range of motion. This helps to increase overall barbell pressing strength.

Again, if you think about it:

Since dumbbells work both chest/arms independently, it means the weaker side cannot be facilitated by the stronger side. This helps to correct muscle imbalances that negatively affect your overall pressing strength.

Similarly, the dumbbell chest press allows both arms to move freely up, down, AND laterally (unlike with a barbell). This means you can bring the dumbbells together on the upward motion, increasing pectoral activation.

Both factors can translate into greater pectoral activation and a stronger barbell press.

If you’re interested, you can also check out my other article to find out how to make the dumbbell bench press harder and more effective.

How To Increase Your Bench Press With Dumbbells

There are multiple ways to increase a barbell bench press using dumbbells. Firstly, it is recommended to start with a low dumbbell weight and progressively overload. Secondly, a full range of motion should be applied. Thirdly, pressing with dumbbells after barbells will maximize pectoral fatigue.

Here are the 3 ways to increase your barbell bench press with dumbbells (in detail):

  1. Start with a low dumbbell weight and progressively overload. The heavier your dumbbell press, the stronger your barbell press will be. But the dumbbell press can be difficult for beginners. I suggest starting with a low weight that you can press 8-12 reps with, and add 2.5/5lb per dumbbell every 1-2 weeks (making sure you’re able to maintain form).
  1. Apply a full range of motion on the up and down phases. This can be done by allowing the dumbbells to fully touch your chest at the end of the downward phase. You can also bring the dumbbells together at the op of the upward phase (like a dumbbell press-fly hybrid). This will maximise pectoral activation and strength gains.
  1. Finish chest workouts with a dumbbell press. Since most people barbell press more weight, it makes sense to start your chest days with the more energy intensive barbell bench press. Then finish with 1-3 sets of a dumbbell press to really fatigue the pectorals and hit the stabilizers. This way, you get the most from your chest day.

Generally speaking, I like to prioritize barbell chest work at the gym, and supplement that with dumbbell chest workouts at home.

But if you’re lucky enough to have both a barbell and dumbbell set up at home, you can work your chest with a combination approach.

Dumbbell And Bench Recommendation.

You’ll need a good set of dumbbells and a sturdy bench to apply the above 3 principles at home. The good news is that you can buy a good setup without having to break the bank.

I use and recommend the Powerblock Elites (you can see the full specs here).

Each dumbbell starts at 2.5lbs and goes up to 90lbs (with the add-on kits). This is enough weight to take most beginners to the intermediate-advanced stages of a bench press.

But best of all, they are one of the few dumbbells on the market to feature small 2.5lb/5lb increments which are ideal for smooth progressive overload and increasing your bench press strength.

Each dumbbell replaces up to 28 pairs of dumbbell weights.

I use the Powerblocks with the Flybird adjustable bench (you can see the full reviews here).

This is sturdy to 700lbs and can also be folded after your workouts. It also offers great value for the price.

Both bits of kit allows you to affordably train the chest (and entire body) at home without taking up a lot of space.

If you’re interested, you can also check out my other article to find out how and when to increase dumbbell weight to maximize your chest gains.

Conclusion

I’ve compared and explained the differences in barbell vs dumbbell bench press weight.

Most people can bench press around 25% more weight when using a barbell compared to a barbell.

However, the exact difference will vary depending on your training level, gender, body weight, and training history.

If you’re looking to increase your barbell bench press, you can follow the tips I shared on how to increase your bench press with dumbbells!

How does YOUR barbell press compare to your dumbbell press?

Let me know in the comments!

You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition I used to go from skinny to ripped!

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,

Kal

(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)

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