Barbells, Dumbbells & Machines Explained

Barbells, Dumbbells & Machines Explained

If you’re just getting started on your muscle building journey, setting foot in the gym for the first time can be very confusing. There are so many different types of equipment to choose from and learning about the merits of each one can be daunting. That’s why in this article I’ve decided to outline the three main types of muscle building equipment (barbells, dumbbells and machines) and look at how each one helps your muscles grow.

Barbells Explained

A barbell is a long metal bar which you then add weighted plates to at either side. Barbell exercises are great for training multiple muscle groups per exercise. They’re also an excellent choice if your main goal is to build strength and muscle size, as they bring multiple muscle groups together to focus on lifting one heavy object. As a result, the strength and size gains you get with barbells are typically much better than the gains you get with dumbbell and machines.

If you decide to use a barbell as part of your muscle building routine, make sure you focus on lifting equally with both sides of your body. One mistake many people make when using barbells as part of their fitness routine is that they let the stronger side of their body compensate for the weaker side of their body. This results in the muscles in the weaker side of their body not developing properly.

Also, if you’re going to train with a barbell, make sure you have a workout partner who can spot you. Unlike dumbbells (where you can drop them on the floor if your muscles give out) and machines (where you can release the handles if your muscles give out), dropping a barbell often results in personal injury, so you need someone available to grab it if necessary.

Dumbbells Explained

A dumbbell is a small metal bar which you then add weighted plates to at either side. Dumbbell exercises are great for isolating specific muscle groups and training both sides of your body individually. This promotes more even muscle development and makes dumbbells perfect if you have a weak area of the body that you want to work on.

Dumbbells are also a brilliant choice if you’re training alone and are much safer than barbells. Unlike barbells (where a spotter is necessary), you can safely perform all dumbbell lifts without a partner and if your muscles do give out mid-exercise, you can simply drop the dumbbells on the floor.

While dumbbells do have a lot of benefits, if you want to build muscle strength and size, then you should also include some barbell and machine exercises in your routine. Since dumbbells isolate the left and right side of your body, less of your muscles work together during the exercise, so the total amount of weight you can lift is limited with dumbbells.

Machines Explained

Weightlifting machines are specially designed to perform specific exercises and work specific body parts. There are a huge range of different weightlifting machines available but they generally all have an adjustable stack of weights and an adjustable seat.

Weightlifting machines are an excellent choice if you want to learn the proper form for an exercise, as they fully guide you through the movement and don’t allow you to lift incorrectly. They’re also great for building muscle size and strength because they take balance and core stability out of the equation and allow your muscles to fully focus on lifting.

If you’re going to use weightlifting machines as part of your muscle building routine, you should also incorporate some barbell or dumbbell exercises. While weightlifting machines do a great job of building size and strength in specific muscles, they don’t bring your stabilizing muscles into play.


I hope this article has helped you learn more about how barbells, dumbbells and machines can help you on your muscle building journey. Now you know about the merits of each one, all that’s left to do is hit the gym and start using them to build up your muscles.

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