By: Clint Cox, Granville High School Strength Coach, TADSports Preformance Coach, NSCA-CSCS, USA Weightlifting, Click here to see his website
The history of dumbbell training goes back over 2,000 years and includes many trends and fads. Through all this change the dumbbell has remained one of the most vital and versatile pieces of weight lifting equipment for all aspects of strength development. When dealing with the controlled chaos that can sometimes be a part of any strength training weight room, a great set of dumbbells can help limit congestion and traffic issues.
Advantages of Strength Training with Dumbbells
1) Safety and Proper Progression of Exercise
1. When dealing with young or untrained athletes, and after developing through a proper bodyweight progression program, I like to start the athletes with dumbbells before moving to complex bar exercises. I feel dumbbells can start the process of adding an external load safely and allow the athlete to progress at a slow and steady pace.
2. Nearly all of my programs that include overhead pressing is done with dumbbells. I feel dumbbells offer a safer way for my athletes to preform the exercise. It also keeps the athletes from trying to load a bar with too much weight in order to impress their peers.
3. One of the best things about dumbbells may also be a drawback for some athletes. In general, I see much better technique when athletes are using dumbbells. You don’t hear of athletes going around bragging about how much they one arm bench press or one arm overhead squat so I tend to believe that eliminates the desire to use improper loads with dumbbells .
2) Unilateral Training and Variety of Exercises
1. One of the strong suits of dumbbell training is the ability to perform exercises while using one limb at a time. This also follows the functional aspect of strength training. I can have more athletes training at the same time by freeing up more dumbbells for use.
2. When dealing with an injured athlete many lifts can be done with the non-injured limb. This will allow an injured athlete to maintain strength in both limbs. There has been positive research that shows strength improvements to both limbs while training one because of CNS improvements during single limb lifts.
3) Larger Recruitment of Muscle Fibers
1. Dumbells exercises provide more range of movement which means more muscle fibers can be called upon to fire increasing the number of muscle fibers being used . This is an area where dumbbells have an advantage over barbell training and the limited range of motion one get with the bar. An exercise example would be the bench press. With the bar the athlete can only go so far down than the bar hits the chest. When useing Dumbbell there is an added stretch and added range of motion.
4) True Functional Strength
1. When training with High school athletes it is best to use multi-joint, ground based exercises using both general and specific exercises to develop functional strength used in athletic movements.
2. The balance and kinesthetic awareness an athlete can get by training with dumbbells is impossible to recreate by sitting at/on machines.
5) Virtually Indestructible and Maintenance Free
1. When dealing with large numbers of athletes in a rather small space I need equipment that can be used safely and quickly. Dumbells satisfy this need. Dumbbells also give athletes a wide variety of exercise to help develop them both mentally and physically. Also, with a small budget I can not afford to spend money or time fixing machines and cables. Dumbbells are maintenance free.