We want heavy barbells!! We know this is a familiar chant for the barbell lovers in the CrossFit community. I’ll be the first to admit the barbell is the one of the single greatest tools for developing strength and one of the best tools in the boxes arsenal. However what the barbell lacks the dumbbell makes up for!
Control: Training with dumbbells is a complex motor activity. Your body has to control two independent objects through a movement, rather than just a single barbell, which requires a greater degree of strength, control and coordination. By consistently using dumbbells more for movements your body will develop these skills which will then transfer over to your barbell game!
Strength Imbalances: We all have one arm that we know is stronger. If you don’t think you do, try pressing a dumbbell or kettlebell and see the difference between your two sides. I guarantee one is considerably easier than the other! Using dumbbells allows us to not only identify these imbalances but work towards eradicating them too!
Injury Prevention: Dumbbells allow us to train through larger ranges of motion, engaging more of our smaller muscle groups and adopting natural movement patterns. (Pressing a dumbbell feels considerably nicer on your shoulder than a barbell.) By training through a fuller and more natural range of motion we can bullet proof our body against injury for when we want to sling the heavy barbells around!
Scaling: If it’s too late to prevent injury then the dumbbell provides a great scaling option. Barbells can not be used one armed and require a large amount of hinging to maneuver. With dumbbells we can train a single side easily and the load can be kept a lot closer to the side of the body to prevent any huge hinges through the hips and back.
Variance: The sheer variance dumbbells can add to your training is probably the best reason to use them. If you think of an exercise I bet you can do it with a dumbbell and I bet it will be more challenging than it is with a barbell!
More and more in the competitive CrossFit scene we are seeing dumbbells being programmed. In the early days dumbbells were largely seen as relics of the globo gyms which were only useful for bicep curls and door stops. Now with Dave Castro leading the way and throwing dumbbells into Regionals (there were zero barbells this year) its high time the rest of the community realised the potential benefits of dumbbells and jumped on board!