Let’s face it, everyone loves big biceps. Girls love ’em. Guys love ’em – probably because girls do. In fact, a lot of people love them so much they tend to forget the basic exercises like squats, dealifts, and pull-ups…but I digress.
While they are a ton of exercises you can do to work your biceps, one of the best is simply curling by using a curl bar (or EZ curl bar). In this guide, I’ll go over some some items such as:
- What is an EZ curl bar?
- What are the benefits of using an EZ curl bar?
- Besides curls, what are some other exercises I can do with a curl bar?
- Which is better, a straight bar or a curl bar?
So, without further adieu, let’s get started.
What is an EZ curl bar?
An ez curl bar is simply a specific type of barbell with a slightly curved or angled shaft to help reduce stress on your wrists while exercising. The angled nature of the bar along with the shorter length, changes the stress placed on your biceps when compared to dumbbell curls or straight barbell curls.
An ez curl bar also is shorter and lighter than a standard barbell. For comparison, an Olympic barbell weighs ~44 lbs (20 kg) and is ~7 foot in length. There’s no standard for curl bars but a typical one is about 4 foot in length and weighs between 15 and 20 lbs.
While they are marketed for biceps curls, the fact is that you can use them for a ton of other exercises, as I’ll detail below.
Bar Types – Fixed vs Adjustable
There are two broad types of curl bars, fixed and adjustable. A fixed curl bar has a fixed (typically) rubberized weight attached to each end of the bar. These types of bars are not adjustable in any way. As such, you’d have to buy multiple versions in order to adjust the weight.
A full curl bar set of various fixed weights – like seen on your right – is typically what you’d see in a commercial gym. A curl bar set is overkill for the vast majority of home gyms.
The other category is an adjustable EZ curl bar which, as the name implies, allows to change or adjust the weight. Most adjustable curl bars use plates and clips to hold the weight in place. Generally, these are just called “curl bars” as they are, by far, the most common.
In fact, it’s what you’d almost always see in a home or smaller gym. They are easily adjustable, reasonably-priced, and are what I’d recommend for the vast majority of people.
There is one sub-type of adjustable curl bar which is a “quick-select” version. Meaning, they use a dial or knob to allow you to quickly select the weight you want. This is similar to the dumbbells popularized by BowFlex. They’re a good (albeit expensive) option if you don’t want to mess with free weights or need to quickly change weights.
Why should I get an EZ curl bar?
First off, I don’t believe an EZ bar is a required piece of home gym equipment unlike a good set of dumbbells (adjustable or fixed), a good bench, a squat rack, and a few other items. But it is definitely a nice to have. In addition to being compact and relatively cheap, there are a few reasons you should consider buying one.
- You can do a lot more than just bicep curls with an EZ bar. In fact, I tend to like doing my curls with a straight barbell and using the EZ bar for other exercises such as triceps extensions, upright rows, overheard presses, and close-grip bench presses. The angled (and shorter) bar makes a big difference in comfort and allows me to lift heavier than I would with a normal barbell with less impact to my joints.
- An EZ curl bar works very well for curls. In fact, a 2018 study measuring biceps activation via an EMG found the EZ variant had superior activation of the biceps brachii and biceps brachioradialis over dumbbells.
So, scientifically speaking, you do get better activation with an EZ curl bar over dumbbells although there was no difference found when compared to a straight bar.
Features of a EZ curl bar
There’s really not a lot of complexity with an curl bar but here items to keep in mind:
- Knurling – look for knurling on multiple positions on the bar. Knurling helps ensure a good grip.
- Weight capacity – even if you’re not the Incredible Hulk, you want the bar to be strong. This also tends to help the durability and longevity of the bar. Most bars are pretty strong as they’re made with a steel alloy – I’d look for a weight capacity of 300 lbs or higher.
- End bar diameter – 2″ is the standard for most weight plates. If you happen to have smaller plates (1″), make sure you get the appropriate bar to fit those. Bars with a 1″ end diameter tend to be lighter and cheaper overall as they’re not as “solid” as the 2″ bars. Get whichever fits your weights and needs.
- Finish – most bars will be powder-coated or chrome; choose whichever one you like best. I prefer chrome for the durability.
- Collar – the collar is what holds the weight onto the end of the bar. Some bars include collars, some do not. Keep in mind you may need to get an extra set if you choose a bar without any included.
Q: What are the benefits of the EZ curl bar?
To summarize, there are quite a few benefits to using an EZ bar:
- Comfort – easier to hold as well as more comfortable when lifting heavy. This could also translate to fewer injuries although I haven’t seen any definitive proof of that.
- Exercise Variety – easier to perform varieties of lifts
- Maneuverability – a straight bar is long and unwieldly
It also has the benefit of better biceps activation during a curl, at least compared to a dumbbell.
Q: How do I use an EZ Curl Bar?
In short, you’d use a curl bar the same way you use a straight bar. The difference will be in your hand positioning, due to the angled nature of the bar.
Q: What are some exercises I can do with an EZ curl bar?
There are a whole host of exercises where an EZ curl bar is ideal:
- Bicep curls (duh!) and reverse bicep curls
- Lying Tricep Extensions (aka skull crushers)
- Upright rows
- Lat rows
- Close-grip or reverse bench presses
- Overheard Press
There are plenty more (creativity is key here) but I find the ones listed above easier to do with a curl bar.
Q: Which is better: a straight bar or EZ curl bar?
It depends. A straight bar is more fundamental to a home gym and would be the first one I’d recommend. It is ideal for basic exercises like squats, bench press, and deadlifts.
That said, a straight bar is longer, heavier, and much harder to move around. Also, many find straight bars more uncomfortable when performing accessory exercises like curls, upright rows, and skull crushers. If that’s the case, you’re better off using a curl bar for those exercises.
Q: What are some of the best EZ Curl Bars?
There are a lot of very good options out there as well, let’s face it, it’s not that difficult to make a curl bar. Here are 3 highly recommended options if you have Olympic Plates, from top end (X-Mark) to value option (Marcy) –
If you have smaller 1″ plates, here are 2 great options –