How to Use Dumbbell to Barbell Converter?

Strength training exercises can be performed using either dumbbells or a barbell, irrespective of your experience level. Although both have their advantages, it’s often easier to lift heavier weights with the barbell. However, if you want to know how much weight you can handle on a barbell based on your dumbbell strength, then you need to know about a dumbbell to barbell converter. This conversion can be useful for anyone who wants to optimize their workout routine and achieve their fitness goals.

Why Use Dumbbell to Barbell Converter?

There are a few key reasons you may want to calculate your equivalent barbell lift based on dumbbell strength:

  • Progress overload – Adding small increments of weight over time is key for building muscle and strength. But dumbbell racks often jump by 5 lb or 10 lb increments. With a barbell, you can progress in smaller 2.5 lb or 5 lb jumps.
  • Test max strength – Working up to a true 1 rep max on barbell lifts like bench presses and squats is a rite of passage for many lifters. But it’s best to have a close estimate before testing a true max.
  • Transition to barbells – If you’ve been training with dumbbells and want to shift your program to more barbell work, you’ll need to estimate the appropriate weights to use.
  • Compare strength standards – Most strength standards and norms for lifters are based on barbell lifts. So converting your dumbbell weights helps compare your strength to fitness benchmarks.

The ability to precisely calculate your equivalent barbell load ensures you choose the most appropriate weight as you progress in your training. It can help you avoid over or undershooting as you work towards your strength goals.

How the Conversion Process Works

How the Conversion Process Works

Many factors determine your strength capabilities including muscle mass, skill, and neuromuscular coordination. But when it comes to dumbbell vs barbell lifts, the main elements are stability and bilateral deficit.

Accounting for Stability

Dumbbells require more stabilization as each limb works independently. With a barbell, your hands are fixed in place so you can focus purely on lifting the weight.

This freedom from stabilizing muscles means your barbell strength will be higher than dumbbells even though it’s the same exercise. The conversion provides around a 15% increase to account for this.

Bilateral Deficit

The bilateral deficit means that when limbs work together in a compound movement, they are stronger than each other working alone.

For example, you can likely squat more weight with a barbell than with two separate dumbbell front squats. This synergistic effect adds around another 5% increase to the conversion.

By factoring in both stability and bilateral deficit, the formula provides a reliable estimate of equivalent barbell weight from dumbbell strength.

Simple Dumbbell to Barbell Conversion

Here is a simple method to estimate your barbell strength:

  • Take the total weight of your top dumbbell sets
  • Add the two dumbbells together
  • Increase the total by 20%

For example, if you can perform dumbbell presses with 50 lb dumbbells (so 100 lb total), your approximate barbell bench press would be:

  • 100 lb (total dumbbell weight)
  • Plus 20% = 120 lb barbell

While this quick calculation won’t be exact, it provides a ballpark figure to start with when transitioning exercises or testing new maxes.

More Precise Conversion Based on Reps

For a more accurate conversion, the total percentage increase should factor in the number of reps you can perform with your top dumbbell weight.

This table provides percentage conversions based on rep range:

Reps Conversion
1-5 +25%
6-8 +20%
9-10 +15%
11-15 +10%
16+ +5%

As the rep range increases, less stability is required so the conversion percentage decreases.

To use this:

  • Note your top dumbbell weight and reps performed
  • Add dumbbells together for a total weight
  • Find the conversion percentage based on your reps
  • Apply the percentage increase to the total dumbbell weight

For example, if you can complete 3 reps with 65 lb dumbbells (130 lb total), the conversion would be:

  • 130 lb total dumbbell weight
  • 3 reps fall in the 1-5 rep range
  • So +25% = 162.5 lb estimated barbell

This formula will give you a more tailored conversion estimate based on your specific strength capabilities.

Converting Main Lifts

Converting Main Lifts

Now that you understand the main conversion principles, let’s see how they apply to specific exercises.

Bench Press

The bench press is one of the best examples of bilateral deficit. Separate dumbbell presses involve more stabilization, so you’ll be significantly stronger with a barbell.

Use the more precise conversion table and apply it to your top dumbbell bench set weight and reps. This will likely give you a 20-25% increase to estimate your barbell bench press.

For example, dumbbell pressing 65 lb dumbbells for 6 reps equals:

  • 130 lb total dumbbell weight
  • Around 6 reps so +20% = 156 lb barbell bench

Testing this estimated max will help you dial in an accurate barbell bench number.

Shoulder Press

Overhead shoulder presses also benefit from increased stability and bilateral strength with a barbell versus dumbbells.

However since the shoulders can’t generate as much force as the chest, the conversion percentage is slightly lower at around 15-20%.

As an example, if your top dumbbell shoulder press set is 50 lb dumbbells for 8 reps:

  • 100 lb total dumbbell weight
  • Around 8 reps so +15% = 115 lb barbell press

Start with your converted barbell press weight and progress from there for the best results.


The back squat involves significant bilateral coordinated effort, so you’ll see noticeable differences in barbell vs dumbbell strength.

Experienced squatters can use a 20-25% conversion, while beginners new to the movement may need 15-20% due to less coordination.

For instance, a set of 8 reps with 70 lb dumbbells (140 lb total) would equal around:

  • 140 lb dumbbells
  • 8 reps so +15% = 161 lb back squat

The front squat conversion may be slightly less as the dumbbell version better mimics the barbell movement pattern.

Bent Over Rows

Both dumbbell and barbell rows have unilateral components while also benefiting from some bilateral strength gains.

So the conversion for rows falls in the middle around 15-20% based on rep range.

Here’s an example using the more precise method:

  • 60 lb dumbbells for 10 reps = 120 lb total
  • Around 10 reps so +15% = 138 lb barbell row

As with any lift, test out your converted max and make small 5-10 lb adjustments as needed.


Deadlifts have the least difference between barbell and dumbbell strength since both are unilateral. The conversion is only around 10%.

Here’s how it looks:

  • 150 lb dumbbells for 5 reps = 300 lb total
  • 1-5 reps so +10% = 330 lb deadlift

You may find your barbell deadlift is very close to your dumbbell strength. But the conversion provides a starting point for testing maxes.

Apply Proper Form

When transitioning your big lifts to a barbell, don’t forget proper form. Lifting too heavy with poor technique can lead to injury.

Really focus on nailing down the movement pattern with lighter weights first. Record your sets and check your form.

Only increase the weight gradually as you refine the technique. Master the basics before chasing new personal records.

Sample Dumbbell to Barbell Conversions

Sample Dumbbell to Barbell Conversions

To see the conversion principles in action, here are some examples across different rep ranges:

3 Reps

  • Dumbbell bench press: 75 lb dumbbells
  • Total weight: 150 lb
  • 3 reps: +25%
  • Estimated barbell bench: 187 lb
  • Dumbbell shoulder press: 55 lb dumbbells
  • Total weight: 110 lb
  • 3 reps: +25%
  • Estimated barbell press: 137 lb

8 Reps

  • Dumbbell squat: 85 lb dumbbells
  • Total weight: 170 lb
  • 8 reps: +20%
  • Estimated barbell squat: 204 lb
  • Dumbbell bent over row: 65 lb dumbbells
  • Total weight: 130 lb
  • 8 reps: +20%
  • Estimated barbell row: 156 lb

12 Reps

  • Dumbbell bench press: 45 lb dumbbells
  • Total weight: 90 lb
  • 12 reps: +10%
  • Estimated barbell bench: 99 lb
  • Dumbbell deadlift: 135 lb dumbbells
  • Total weight: 270 lb
  • 12 reps: +10%
  • Estimated barbell deadlift: 297 lb

Use these examples as a guide for calculating your own approximate barbell weights.

Tips for Accurate Conversions

Here are some tips to keep in mind for the most accurate dumbbell to barbell conversion:

  • Film your top dumbbell sets to precisely track weight and reps.
  • Start on the conservative side with your conversion and work up.
  • The more skilled you are with barbell lifts, the higher conversions you can use.
  • Re-test your max every few weeks and adjust as needed.
  • Use smaller weight increments for barbells like 2.5 lb plates.
  • Feel free to exceed your converted barbell weight if capable.
  • Consider different conversions for squat, bench, and deadlift variations.
  • Don’t sacrifice form; leave ego at the door when testing new maxes.

Put these tips into practice for smooth strength transitions between dumbbell and barbell training.

Sample Dumbbell to Barbell Conversion Table

Here is a conversion reference table with some common dumbbell weights and corresponding barbell estimates:

Dumbbell Weight (Each) Total (2 Dumbbells) Approx Barbell Weight (+20%)
25 lb 50 lb 60 lb
30 lb 60 lb 72 lb
35 lb 70 lb 84 lb
40 lb 80 lb 96 lb
45 lb 90 lb 108 lb
50 lb 100 lb 120 lb
55 lb 110 lb 132 lb
60 lb 120 lb 144 lb
65 lb 130 lb 156 lb
70 lb 140 lb 168 lb
75 lb 150 lb 180 lb

Keep this table handy when you need a quick weight conversion estimate in the gym.

Stay Injury Free

Stay Injury Free

One final note on injury prevention. Don’t let your ego get carried away chasing new barbell PRs.

Apply the conversions to slowly work your way up, not jump max weights overnight. And remember:

  • Perfect form first before upping the weight.
  • Increase load gradually each session.
  • Know when to call it quits; don’t force extra reps.
  • Have spotters for heavy barbell lifts.
  • Use safety bars if lifting alone.
  • Listen to your body and take needed rest days.

Building strength is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient and keep Safety First when transitioning to new exercise weights or equipment.


Estimating your barbell strength from dumbbell training is simple when you understand the dumbbell to barbell converter principles. Account for stability demands and bilateral deficits to choose appropriate weights as you transition your program or set new PRs.

Remember to nail form, make gradual increases, and adjust weights as needed. Recording your gym sessions provides valuable data to refine your conversion process over time.

With the right conversion calculations, you can confidently switch between dumbbells and barbells to optimize strength gains and smash through plateaus. So put these formulas into practice to take your lifting to the next level.


Why is my barbell bench press so much lower than my dumbbell bench press?

This is completely normal. Dumbbell presses require more stabilization from smaller muscles compared to the barbell bench press. So you’ll often be significantly stronger with dumbbells. Use the appropriate conversion formula to estimate your true barbell strength.

What conversion should I use for the overhead press?

For the standing overhead press, use a slightly smaller conversion of around 15-20% compared to the bench press. Since the shoulders are smaller than the chest, the increase from dumbbells to barbell won’t be as large.

How accurate are these conversions?

The conversions provide a reasonably accurate estimate of barbell strength, but individuals will vary based on technique, physiology, and training status. Film your dumbbell sets, start conservatively, and adjust the barbell weight in small increments as needed.

Can I just double my dumbbell weight to get my barbell weight?

Simply doubling the dumbbells won’t account for the increased stability and bilateral strength gains from using a barbell. You’ll need to increase the total dumbbell weight by 15-25% depending on the lift and reps completed.

Do I need to convert for lower body exercises like squats?

Yes, you’ll see noticeable strength differences between dumbbell and barbell versions of lower body lifts like squats and lunges. Use a conversion of around 15-25% for single-leg moves and 20-25% for bilateral exercises like squats and deadlifts.

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