When you first start a workout program, there are questions that need to be answered. What type of split are you going to do? What days and times are you going to go to the gym? Are you going to work out solo or with a partner? And what type of equipment are you going to use?
With regard to the last question, dumbbells and cables are popular centerpieces in training protocols around the globe. This begs the question, which one is better for faster gains? The answer lies below.
Muscles grow when they have to work hard and move a load. They have no idea where that load is coming from or what it is. If you look at it that way, anything from your body weight to dumbbells to cables will help you to build muscle.
This means that both media can yield fast results provided your muscles endure a high enough stimulus to promote hypertrophy. Oh – if you’re brand new to the fitness arena, hypertrophy is a fancy word that describes building muscle.
Focus your eyeballs on the word “load.” This is also known as resistance. In order to make fast and sizeable gains, you must use a heavy enough resistance. That being said, dumbbells tend to have a wider and heavier range of weight. They start as light as 1 lb and go all the way up to the 150-lb plus category.
With a selection like this, you’ll be sure to make progress when you dig deep and hoist some iron.
Cables are similar in that they have a plenitude of resistance levels to choose from. Weight plates are stacked on top of each other and you choose what you want by way of a pin inserted at various points in the stack.
You may be asking, what does this have to do with getting faster gains? Well, it shows that you can get fast gains by both means because there is ample weight to go around.
Dumbbells are free weights, so they tend to recruit more muscle fibers. A free weight is something that is “free” to move in any direction without being bound by a cable, cord, rope, or band. This gives you the ability to do multiple exercises in a single set by simply changing direction.
The same can’t be said about cables. Sure, you have a little wiggle room, but you’re still married to a fixed range of motion. That means that dumbbells might be your best bet. Not to mention that they cause you to recruit more stabilizing muscles.
Take chest presses, for example. When you’re pushing and lowering dumbbells, your chest is the focus muscle, but you’re also recruiting your triceps and shoulders to keep the weights steady. If you were to do a standing chest press with cables, the degree of this recruitment wouldn’t be as high.
Whether you use dumbbells or cables, you still run the risk of having shoddy form. Sloppy form with dumbbells and good form with cables will get you faster gains with cables, and vice versa.
However, it’s harder to maintain good form doing heavy cable exercises then it is doing heavy dumbbell drills. If you take the chest press example into consideration, you need to compensate for the resistance by leaning down more. This can cause you to round your back and it can also pull your shoulders too far backwards and open you up for injury.
When all’s said and done, you can get fast gains with cables and dumbbells. But the way you use either one is more important than the actual tool. In the overall picture, because of their ease of use and mobility, dumbbells do have a slight edge. In either case, always make sure to use proper form and don’t lift more than you’re capable of.