The ideal bench press to dumbbell press ratio is likely to vary from person-to-person.
However, that’s not to say there isn’t a specific standard that we should all aim for.
In effect, you can determine if one of your lifts is weak or strong when you compare it to the other.
So, I’d like to reveal the average lifter’s bench press to dumbbell press ratio.
Plus, I’ll also discuss why you may fall outside the traditional pressing standards.
Bench Press to Dumbbell Press Ratio
The ideal bench press to dumbbell press ratio for the average lifter is 1:0.8. Therefore, your dumbbell press should be approximately 80% of your barbell bench press. However, many lifters find that if they subtract the weight of the barbell and divide by two this should give them a fairly accurate bench press to dumbbell press ratio, e.g. 245lbs (bench press) – 45lbs (bar weight) / 2 = 100lbs dumbbells compared to 245lbs bench press.
1. The Average Lifter’s Bench Press to Dumbbell Press Ratio
As I’ve mentioned, the likelihood is that the bench press to dumbbell press ratio will be different for many of us.
In truth, both movements aren’t really comparable, even though they officially work the same muscles.
There’s actually more differences between the two exercises than you would think.
So, I’ll discuss these further in a moment.
With that being said, there is a general standard when comparing dumbbell chest press to the barbell bench press.
And this can help you to determine whether you potentially have any weaknesses or muscle imbalances.
Most average lifters tend to have bench press to dumbbell press ratio of 1:0.8.
Therefore, you could say that you should be dumbbell pressing approximately 80% of your bench press.
So, as an example, if you can bench press 200lbs then you should be able to perform the same number of reps with 160lbs in total dumbbell weight, i.e. 2 x 80lbs dumbbells.
However, something that is quite interesting is that for most of us if you subtract the weight of the barbell and then divide by two you should get the approximate single dumbbell weight you should be using.
So, looking at the 200lbs bench press once more, this would give us a weight of 155lbs once you’ve subtracted the 45lb barbell.
Then when we divide by two we get 77.5lbs, which is fairly close to the 80lbs I mentioned just now.
You can use whichever method you want to calculate your ideal ratio, but these standards are fairly accurate in most cases.
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2. The Main Differences Between Bench Press and Dumbbell Press
I know that many gym-goers feel that they should be able to simply lift the same weight, whether with barbells or dumbbells.
However, once they attempt this with dumbbells they find it to be a real struggle.
Okay granted, both exercises mainly focus on the pecs, while also working the shoulders and triceps too.
But, in truth, this is where the similarities end, and there are more differences between the two exercises than you’d think
The main reason you can barbell bench press more than you can dumbbell chest press is due to stability.
By this I mean that the barbell is fixed, so you require far less stability to complete the lift.
This in turn means that you’re able to exert more force when completing the movement.
However, the pure fact that you have to hold a dumbbell in each hand means that you’ll require far more stability at the shoulder and shoulder girdle.
But, this actually helps to strengthen your stabilizer muscles.
Furthermore, dumbbell press offers a greater range of motion.
If you think about it, your chest stops you from lowering the bar any further when you barbell bench press.
However, there are no such issues with the dumbbell press.
Something else to consider is that dumbbells offer you the opportunity to change hand positions.
And this is extremely important for anyone who suffers from joint issues, especially the shoulders.
In fact, many people find that they’re either restricted in their movement or they feel pain in the shoulders whenever they bench press.
The dumbbell chest press offers a suitable alternative that won’t place as much stress on the shoulders.
In fact, rather than holding the dumbbells with the standard barbell grip (palms facing forward) you could actually turn your hands in slightly.
I much prefer to dumbbell press with my grip at a 45 degree angle.
Then again, you could even go with a neutral grip so that your palms are facing each other.
Both the 45 degree and neutral grip will allow you to keep your elbows closer to your side, while relieving a great deal of pressure off your shoulders.
Finally, the dumbbell press allows you to go heavy without the need for a spotter.
If you fail you simply drop the dumbbells to your sides, not an option you have with the barbell.
3. Is Your Bench Press to Dumbbell Press Ratio Significantly Different?
If you’re not hitting the standard bench press to dumbbell press ratio it may be time to look a little closer at your training.
Okay, I’ve mentioned that we are all different from each other, so you wouldn’t expect everyone to have the exact same ratio.
However, you would still expect it to be fairly close.
So, if your ratio is completely different, this would firstly point to you doing one exercise much more than the other.
Basically, the exercise you perform more often is the one that you’re stronger at.
This is why it’s not unheard-of for someone to dumbbell chest press more than they can bench press.
I often think that many people look at exercises in the gym as “either/or”.
In other words, when comparing two exercises you’re simply looking for the “best” one to perform.
However, I’ve always liked to hit each muscle group 2-3 times a week, from a variety of angles, and with various exercises.
This way I don’t become overly reliant on one exercise, which can lead to you adapting to the movement and eventually plateauing.
Plus, the fact that I’m hitting the muscle group from a number of different angles can do more to stimulate growth.
So, if you find a huge difference in your bench press to dumbbell press ratio, you’re probably using one exercise much more than the other.
Then again, something else to consider is that if you perform both exercises in the same workout, the first exercise is always going to be the stronger one.
Barbell Bench Press vs. Dumbbell Bench Press – Which One Builds More Muscle?
So, as you can see, the ideal bench press to dumbbell press ratio is 1:0.8.
In other words, your dumbbell press should be approximately 80% of your bench press.
This is mainly due to the fact that the fixed bar during bench press offers more stability.
With that being said, you do have the opportunity to change your grip with dumbbells, which can relieve a great deal of stress on the shoulder joint.
If you find that your bench press to dumbbell press ratio varies significantly from these figures, it’s likely that you’re performing one exercise much more than the other.
Are you looking to take your bench press to levels you’ve never thought possible? If so, Lee Hayward has created a specialization program, which he claims could see your bench press increase by up to 51lbs in just 3 weeks. Interested? Then check out my Blast Your Bench Review.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.