Converting Dumbbell Bench to Barbell Bench

How to convert your dumbbell bench press weight to barbell bench press weight.

If you can lift X amount of weight with the dumbbell bench press, how do you convert that number into how much weight you can lift with a barbell bench press?

Or vice versa, how can you figure out your dumbbell bench weight based on how much weight you can lift with a barbell bench press?

That’s what we’re going to discuss in this blog post…



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Just the other day one of my YouTube subscribers asked me:

“Is there a rule of thumb for converting dumbbell press weight to bench press weight? I have no idea where to start with benching because all I ever do is dumbbell presses, and I’m guessing it’s not as simple as just adding the 2 together and shifting to barbell form.”

Unfortunately, there is no cut and dried answer or mathematical formula that you can plug your numbers into and get an exact conversion calculation for dumbbell vs. barbell bench press.

But generally speaking you will be able to lift more total weight with a barbell than you can with dumbbell’s. The reason for this is that when you are pressing dumbbells you have to balance and stabilize 2 weights. And when you are pressing a barbell you only have to balance and stabilize 1 weight.

Now the exact increase in poundage will vary from person to person. And in some rare cases certain people may actually be stronger with dumbbells than they are with a barbell, but this is the exception and not the rule.

This is how the bench press strength curve goes for most people:
– Dumbbell Bench Press (weakest)
– Barbell Bench Press (stronger)
– Machine Bench Press (strongest)

When you are using a bench press machine such as a smith machine, hammer strength machine, etc. the machine is balancing the weights for you and all you have to do is exert 100% pressing effort. So you’ll generally be stronger again with machine lifts compared to free weight lifts.

About The Author

leehayward

Lee Hayward is a competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online helping people build muscle, lose bodyfat, and get in shape since 1999. Lee was selected as one of the Top Fitness Trainers Online through YouTube's Next Trainer Program and his work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes.

9 Comments

  • Great article Lee i agree with you also on the strength curve.When i could bench around 330 on the flat bench i could dumbbell bench the 115’s for about 5 reps. And i always could do more on the smith machine because it stabilizes the weight for you. That is why i will always believe in free weights awesome article thanks

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  • Brandon,

    Thanks for sharing your feedback, much appreciated.

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  • Gene Hart

    Reply Reply

    I just got a cold, should i skip workout or power thru?

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  • Danny

    Reply Reply

    I’m one of those weird people where I can dumbbell press with big weight, but when it comes to bench press I have to use a much lighter weight. I think it’s two things, I find it harder to balance, and one side is stronger so I can’t push the barbell up evenly.
    Any tips, I don’t like to bench press for this reason, not worried about other people but it is embarrassing when I can lift a weight with dumbbells but I have to massively reduce the weight with the bench press.

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  • Brad

    Reply Reply

    Dumbbell press will be less then barbell!! But as far as smith machine!! Will be less then barbell!! I’m a 560 raw bench at 220 and couldn’t do 450 smith!! A 425 incline press barbell and could do more then 385 smith

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  • I am much stronger with bench press barbell ,than I am with Dumbbells
    If your rule of thumb is right , it’s probably I have poor form with my Dumb bells !

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  • Lee I have been trying your methods for lifting weights.
    I will be 63 March 22, 2017. 2 questions.

    1. what is the proper way to grip the barbell for bench pressing?

    2. My interest level is very slow. I can not seem to keep to a routine.
    I change very often. To be 63 I am in pretty good shape. I go to the gym
    at least 4 times a week. How do I keep my attention span on one regular routine.

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    • I have a blog post that covers proper bench press grip position at: http://leehayward.com/blog/bench-press-suicide-grip

      As for sticking to your workout routine, it’s ok to change things up from time to time, but you really should follow a structured program for best results. To help you with this I’d recommend that you sign up to the Total Fitness Bodybuilding Inner Circle Coaching Club at: http://www.totalfitnessbodybuilding.com as a member you’ll get brand new workout programs every single month. These workouts build on the progress that you’ve made from the previous month’s program so that you can train in a progressive manner over the long term.

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  • Thanks for the article. It is so true that there is no exact formula, but you nailed it with the strength curve for the majority of people. I have heard of people having a better dumbbell bench that a barbell bench, but I have yet to see it in person.

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