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The commercial gym offers many ways to build bigger arms; you’ve got your standard barbells and dumbbells, cable machines, selectorized machines—the list goes on!

Your home gym, on the other hand, may not have such luxuries. Luckily, all you really need is one of the best curl bars, and you’ll unlock a plethora of exercises and curl bar workouts for your upper body, including the biceps, triceps, and forearms.

Kate Meier, NASM-CPT, USAW-L1, CF-L1, and GGR Head of Content, shares nine of the best exercises for building muscle and strength in the arms, as well as a sample curl bar workout that’ll have you dishing out two tickets to “the gun show” before long! Check it out below!

RELATED: X-Mark Chisel Bearing EZ-Curl Bar Review

What’s a Curl Bar? 

woman-doing-ez-bar-reverse-curl

The curl bar, also referred to as the “EZ curl bar,” is a piece of equipment designed for upper body exercises like biceps curls, curl variations, and triceps extensions.

Its cambered shape—which undulates to produce a W-shape—allows for a semi-underhand grip on the bar, alleviating stress on the wrist joint and helping reduce the overall risk of injury.

Curl Bar Vs Standard Bar Vs Olympic Bar

“EZ curl bars tend to be lighter than other bar types,” says Kate Meier, NASM-CPT, USAW-L1, CF-L1, “which, combined with the reduced stress on the wrist joint, makes it ideal for beginners and those catering to wrist issues.”

woman-on-bench-doing-ez-bar-skullcrusher

EZ curl bars also feature a larger range of motion than your standard straight bar or Olympic bar, allowing you to perform more work per rep than other barbell types.

“The lighter weight of the EZ curl bar is its biggest downside,” says Kate. “For lifters looking to lift heavy weights, they’ll need to use a standard bar or Olympic bar.”

RELATED: Best Olympic Barbell

Straight barbells and Olympic barbells also get an edge regarding exercise diversity. For example, biceps curls may be performed using any barbell type, but movements like the deadlift, squat, clean, and snatch all will need a straight or Olympic barbell to succeed.

So, while EZ curl bars have many benefits, especially when it comes to arm exercises, they’re not your one-stop shop for all weightlifting exercises.

Why You Should Be Using a Curl Bar

According to a 2018 study in PeerJ1, the curl bar offers increased muscle activation in the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles, while the straight bar offers slightly superior activation in the biceps brachii.

Because both barbells were shown to be effective at targeting the bicep muscle, the study concluded that choosing between the two could come down to “subjective comfort related to the [hand grip] position.”

man-doing-ez-bar-preacher-curl

“The semi-supinated grip that the EZ-curl bar enables is crucial for isolating and activating your biceps during barbell curls,” says Kate Meier, NASM-CPT, USAW-L1, CF-L1. “If you’re really looking to maximize the effect of isolation exercises, like the preacher curl, for example, the EZ curl bar is your best bet.”

Best Curl Bar Exercises

Biceps curls, triceps extensions, and more; here are the best EZ curl bar exercises to add to your curl bar workouts!

Standing Bicep Curl (EZ-Bar Curl)

Why we love it: You can’t program an upper-body workout without fundamentals like the standard standing bicep curl. This staple isolates the biceps muscles, encouraging strength gains and muscle growth.

How to do it: 

  1. Load your curl bar to the desired weight and hold it in front of your body with your feet shoulder-width apart, back straight, core tight, knees slightly bent, and neck neutral.
  2. Curl the bar toward your chest, keeping your elbows pinned to your torso.
  3. Squeeze your biceps at the peak position, then lower the bar slowly and return to the starting position.

RELATED: Long Head Biceps Exercises

EZ Bar Curl

EZ-Bar Preacher Curl 

Why we love it: “The goal of the biceps curl is to use only the biceps brachii and elbow flexion to move the weight through the range of motion,” says Kate Meier, CPT, USAW-L1, CF-L1, and GGR Head of Content. “Using a preacher bench to hold the upper arm stationary eliminates the ability to cheat or compensate, leaving the activation exactly where it’s supposed to be.”

How to do it: 

  1. Adjust the preacher bench to your height and specifications, then have a seat.
  2. Position yourself so that the preacher pad is essentially stuffed into your armpit and your elbows are stabilized against the bench. Hold your curl bar against the pad with your arms fully extended.
  3. Curl the bar toward your shoulders, keeping your upper arms and elbows against the pad.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower back down.

RELATED: AbMat Preacher Pad

EZ-bar-preacher-curl

EZ-Bar Reverse Curl 

Why we love it: Swapping that semi-supinated grip for an overhand grip provides activation to adjacent muscle groups like the anterior deltoids, according to a 2023 study in Sports (Basel)2, so it’s useful to switch to the pronated reverse grip occasionally.

How to do it: 

  1. Set up as you would for the standard curl, but grip the bar with an overhand grip instead.
  2. Curl the bar to your upper chest, squeezing your biceps at the top, then lower the bar back down with control.
EZ-bar-reverse-curl

EZ-Bar Spider Curl

Why we love it: “The spider curl features unique body positioning that places your shoulders in flexion as you perform the rep,” says Kate. “This makes it incredible for honing in on the short head of the biceps brachii. It’s a very effective movement.”

How to do it: 

  1. Set up an adjustable weight bench so it creates between a 30- and 60-degree angle.
  2. Grab your curl bar and push your chest and torso into the backrest with your arms hanging straight down.
  3. Curl the bar toward your chest, then slowly lower it back down.

RELATED: Best Weight Bench

EZ-bar-spider-curl

EZ-Bar Skullcrusher

Why we love it: A skullcrusher workout can help isolate and build the triceps muscle while stabilizing the shoulder joint against the weight bench. Just don’t let the curl bar slip, or you’ll find out firsthand how it got its name!

How to do it: 

  1. Lie on a flat bench with a curl bar held above your chest and your elbows locked out.
  2. Bend your elbows so that the bar is lowered towards your forehead.
  3. Press the bar back into its original position.
EZ-bar-skullcrusher

EZ-Bar Overhead Tricep Extension

Why we love it: According to a 2023 study published in the European Journal of Sport Science3, “triceps brachii muscle hypertrophy was substantially greater” when “training [was] performed in the overhead than neutral arm position.”

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a curl bar held overhead.
  2. Keeping your upper arms and elbows stationary, slowly bend your elbows and let the curl bar lower behind your head. Keep a flat back, tight core, and eyes fixed forward.
  3. From the bottom of the movement, push the bar back overhead and fully extend your elbows.
EZ-bar-overhead-triceps-extension

EZ-Bar Underhand Bent-Over Row

Why we love it: “Bent-over rows are one of the best exercises for your lats, traps, and other back muscles,” says Kate, “but performing it with an underhand grip and a curl bar increases the activation in the biceps, making it a great biceps exercise.”

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a curl bar held in front of your body.
  2. Hinge forward from the hips, bringing your chest down until your torso is nearly parallel with the floor. Slightly bend your knees and maintain a flat back.
  3. Starting with your arms fully extended, row the bar into your sternum, keeping your elbows close to your body. Flex your biceps and lats at the top of the movement.
  4. Release the contraction and return to the starting position.
EZ-bar-underhand-bent-over-row

EZ-Bar Upright Row

Why we love it: The narrow grip used during upright rows helps target your deltoids, trapezius, and rhomboids, but your biceps will reap some reward, too, since it’s a pulling movement.

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a curl bar held in front of the body with a narrow overhand grip.
  2. Pull the bar towards your chin, letting your elbows rise at your sides.
  3. Squeeze your shoulders and traps, then slowly bring the bar back down.
EZ-bar-upright-row

EZ-Bar Front Raise

Why we love it: Front raises are considered an isolation exercise for the anterior deltoids, but the pulling movement will provide some ancillary activation in the biceps, too. It’s a great finisher exercise for this reason.

How to do it: 

  1. Hold a curl bar in front of your body with a pronated grip.
  2. Keeping your arms fully extended, lift the bar outward and upward until it is chest height.
  3. Squeeze your shoulders, then release and slowly bring the bar back down.

Curl Bar Workout 

“Strength training generally involves heavier weights, so the EZ curl bar is not ideal for that type of training,” says Kate Meier, CPT, USAW-L1, CF-L1. “For that reason, our curl bar workout will be best for someone who’s looking for hypertrophy, like bodybuilding competitors, or muscular endurance, like all-purpose athletes and CrossFitters.”

RELATED: Bodybuilding Workouts

ExerciseSetsReps
Standing Bicep Curl3 to 68 to 12
Overhead Tricep Extension3 to 68 to 12
Preacher Curl3 to 68 to 12
Skullcrusher3 to 68 to 12
Upright Row3 to 68 to 12
Front Raise3 to 68 to 12

Curl Bar Workouts: Final Thoughts 

There are many methods you can use to build bigger, stronger arms, but the EZ curl bar is one of the best. EZ curl bars offer:

  • Increased muscle activation of the biceps muscle group
  • Enhanced versatility due to its unique shape
  • Improved comfort for beginner-friendly applications
  • Reduced risk of injury due to less wrist strain

With one EZ curl bar and a few of the best weight plates, you have access to a wide variety of arm exercises that’ll help you achieve the dream of building pythons that would put Arnie to shame.

Give Kate’s curl bar workout a try during your next arm session!

Curl Bar Workouts: FAQs

Is the curl bar or straight bar better? 

A study in PeerJ1 shows that the curl bar offers superior activation of various arm muscles, but there’s more to the matter than just electromyographic (EMG) activation—a measurement of muscle response in relation to the nerve’s stimulation—in the biceps.

Straight bars are more ideal for lifting heavy, so that’ll be the better pick if, say, maxing out your bench press is on the agenda for the day.

Overall, both have their applications, making both useful.

Is the curl bar effective?

Absolutely. The cambered shape allows for greater muscle activation in the biceps and triceps compared to the standard straight bar, making it great for use in hypertrophy workouts.

What muscles does a curl bar build?

Exercises like biceps curls, triceps extension, rows, and raises performed with an EZ curl bar should your target upper-body muscles, including the biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis, triceps brachii, deltoids, trapezius, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, and your core, to some degree, since many of the exercises are performed from a standing position.

References

1. Marcolin G, Panizzolo FA, Petrone N, et al. Differences in electromyographic activity of biceps brachii and brachioradialis while performing three variants of curl. PeerJ. 2018;6:e5165. Published 2018 Jul 13. doi:10.7717/peerj.5165

2. Coratella G, Tornatore G, Longo S, et al. Biceps Brachii and Brachioradialis Excitation in Biceps Curl Exercise: Different Handgrips, Different Synergy. Sports (Basel). 2023;11(3):64. Published 2023 Mar 9. doi:10.3390/sports11030064

3. Maeo S, Wu Y, Huang M, et al. Triceps brachii hypertrophy is substantially greater after elbow extension training performed in the overhead versus neutral arm position. Eur J Sport Sci. 2023;23(7):1240-1250. doi:10.1080/17461391.2022.2100279

Further reading

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