Does It Matter if You Use Dumbbells or Barbells for Deadlifts?

Find the right deadlift for you.
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Think about the difference between skiing and snowboarding. You are responsible for attaching your feet to either two skis or one snowboard. Balance and ability are unique for both. The same is true with barbells versus dumbbells. The decision of whether to use dumbbells or a barbell for deadlifts comes down to your strength level and your goals.

How to Deadlift

    According to The CrossFit Journal, the general position for a deadlift includes the feet under hips and a symmetrical grip with properly positioned hands to avoid interference with the legs as the lift is performed. From the starting position, your shoulders should be slightly ahead of the bar and knees should be bent. The lift is typically performed from the floor to hips, maintaining a flat upper back and arched lower-back posture, with the force coming primarily from the hamstrings and the glutes.

Who Can Deadlift

    Anyone can perform this exercise, which strengthens and works the hamstrings, gluteal muscles, lower back (secondarily) and core, and helps develop grip strength. This basic move helps teach proper posture and is the basis for many other strength exercises. Any person, whether a novice exerciser or elite athlete, can perform and benefit from the deadlift.

Deadlifting with a Barbell

    Consistent with the Olympic deadlift, the barbell allows you to generate more force and lift at a significantly heavier level, because you are only responsible for moving one object. The deadlift is the basis for other power and Olympic moves such as the snatch and clean. If your goal is to progress to these exercises, deadlifting with a barbell is essential. If your goal is to increase strength, deadlifting with a barbell allows you to lift heavier than dumbbells. If you are new to exercise, however, a traditional 45-pound barbell may be too heavy, which makes deadlifting with dumbbells a better option.

    Deadlifting with a barbell can increase strength.

Using Dumbbells for Deadlifts

    For the novice exerciser or one who doesn't have access to barbells, dumbbell deadlifts are a great alternative. Dumbbell deadlifts will challenge your balance and encourage equal force production bilaterally. In general, you may lift less weight than with a barbell, but often a lower overall weight feels more challenging than a heavier barbell weight. This is because it takes more balance and grip strength to perform a deadlift with two dumbbells. Variety is key with exercise. Regardless of your goals, training deadlifts with barbells will offer a change up for the traditional barbell deadlift.

    Dumbbells for deadlifts will challenge your balance.


    The deadlift is a very specific move that is highly beneficial for strength building, posture development and core strength. The move can also be easily performed very wrong. Contact a fitness professional to check your form and ensure that you are performing this exercise correctly.

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