Jeff from ATHLEAN-X™ answers a commonly asked question about barbells vs dumbbells vs cables when it comes to training,
If you could only use one piece of workout equipment, which would it be; barbells, dumbbells or cables? In this video, I use one exercise to show you how all three are necessary to incorporate into a complete workout to build athletic muscle.
With the lunge overhead shoulder press, I perform the exercise with a barbell, dumbbells and cables. When done with a barbell I am able to lift more weight due to the fact that the stabilizer muscles in the shoulders are not as relied upon with the fixed bar as they are with individual dumbbells. This explains why 300 pound bench pressers are unlikely to lift 150 dumbbells.
In the next variation, I perform a dumbbell exercise. This dumbbell variation of the shoulder press could fit into any all dumbbell workout but is it the best? The db’s allow for the resistance to stay more centered as opposed to the barbell. This makes it easier on the core to perform the exercise and stabilize your trunk. The barbell challenges your frontal plane stability more because of this.
Finally, the cable version of the exercise adds in additional core challenge. With the cables representing the line of resistance you have to be sure to really contract your abs if you want to perform the exercise with cables without falling over backward. Obviously this is a challenge that is not present with either the dumbbells or the barbell.
Regardless of which equipment you use for your workouts, my job as a coach is to get you workouts that work. If you can perform only barbell workouts or workouts with dumbbells, then I have to be able to produce workout programs that will do that and help you to build athletic muscle. If you prefer to workout with either cables or your own bodyweight, I have to produce those as well.