For the home trainer, swapping a barbell for a set of dumbbell weights for certain exercises can help you avoid some of the potential injuries that can occur when lifting heavy weights.
Such a swap should result in no detrimental affect on the effectiveness of your training.
Ever found yourself stuck at the bottom point of a barbell bench press or squat, (and you haven’t got someone spotting you?
Come on admit it, we all have at some point.
Hopefully, this situation results in nothing more than a complete embarrassment but it could easily be a potentially dangerous position to find yourself in.
This is perhaps truest when it comes to the bench press especially if you’re using collars (as hopefully you are!) and so can’t dip the bar to one side, letting the plates slide off.
If this does happen to you then hopefully another gym user will quickly rush to your rescue and save your brief embarrassment and pain. But even a wait of several seconds could be time enough to cause a strain, laying you off the gym for several weeks.
Most decent gyms do have rack squats with safety bars and/or power racks and I highly recommend you use these when squatting at all times.
If you train at home then heavy bench pressing and squatting is something you should only attempt with a power rack and please, please ensure you’ve set the safety bars to the correct height – test with an unloaded bar before loading plates.
Even with a power rack, if you get stuck at the bottom point of a squat/press and have to drop the bar, you’re gonna have to unload the plates before you can re-rack and then reload.
So If you are a home trainer without a squat/power rack or train in a gym with limited equipment/potential spotters and want to minimize risks whilst squatting/pressing, then a viable solution is to swap the barbell for dumbbells weights.
Substituting the barbell with dumbbells for certain exercises means that should you find yourself stuck at any point whilst squatting/pressing then it’s simply a case of dropping the weights.
Yes there’ll be an all mighty bang and heads will turn (or your house will shake if you train at home) but the chances of injury are far smaller.
The dumbbell squat makes a fantastic alternative to the barbell squat whilst maintaining most of the main benefits. The main drawback is that it can become awkward to use dumbbells when doing heavy squats press (< 5 reps).
Also, with the squat, depth is limited as the dumbbells can touch the floor (unless you have exceptionally short arms!). It is possible to overcome this problem if you can lay you hands on a thick piece (2+ inches) of wood to use as a platform to stand on.
Despite these minor disadvantages, dumbbell squats are a much safer alternative to barbell squats, depending on your training environment.
Likewise, the Dumbbell Bench Press offers you a more ‘manageable’ way out should you find yourself stuck at the low point of the press, without a dumbbell rack. You will need to be mindful of how you actually drop the dumbbells, but it’s still something you can mange unassisted.
Another plus for using dumbbell weights is the psychological boost having a ‘safety net’ can have on your training.
When squatting/benching without a spotter/safety bars, you know that you must leave enough in the tank to allow you to safely re-rack the bar.
This isn’t the case with dumbbells.
Knowing that you have the option of simply dropping the dumbbells allows you, if desired, to squeeze out that extra rep (or two).
Now I’m not saying that you should never use a barbell for squats/bench press, as I always say, you should regularly rotate the exercise and equipment you use.
However, for those days that you train at home or don’t have access to a spotter, then swapping a barbell for a set of dumbbells is a good safety choice with no detriment to your training efforts.