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EZ Curl Bar vs. Straight Bar: Which One is the Best?

  • 5 min read

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

You’re not alone if you’re hitting the gym and feeling puzzled about when to use the EZ curl bar or the straight bar. It can be when you see both bars being used for various exercises. The good news is that we’re about to break it all down and help you answer the question of which bar you should use in the gym.

While both bars can be used for different exercises like upright rows, skull crushers, and military presses, they are commonly associated with working the biceps. However, it’s worth noting that these exercises might actually target the brachialis or brachioradialis muscles more than the biceps themselves. Understanding the specific focus and benefits of each bar can help you get the most out of your workouts and achieve the results you’re aiming for.

In this article, we will dive deeper into the debate of using the EZ curl bar or a straight bar when hitting arms for massive growth. Is one really more beneficial than the other, or can you use them interchangeably?

Disclaimer: It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before engaging in any exercise program.

What is an EZ Curl Bar?

The EZ curl bar, also known as a curl bar, is a special type of barbell that stands out with its unique W-shaped grip. Its name, “EZ,” comes from the fact that the design of the bar offers a more comfortable grip, especially for beginners or those with wrist issues.

The W-shape reduces stress on the wrists and provides a neutral or semi-supinated grip, making it a great choice for individuals with limited wrist mobility or wrist pain.

Compared to straight bars, EZ curl bars are generally lighter in weight, which makes them ideal for people who don’t intend to lift extremely heavy loads. Each end of the curl bar features straight rods, known as loadable sleeves, where weight plates and barbell collars can be attached securely. This allows for customizable weight options based on individual preferences and goals.

What is a Straight Bar?

It is a no-brainer that a straight bar is a, well… straight barbell. Unlike the EZ curl bar with a W-shaped grip, this barbell is free of curves and bends. It is cylindrical with a straight shape and is usually heavier (45 pounds) than an EZ curl bar.

Like the EZ curl bar, you will also find straight rods on each end of the straight bar for loading weight plates. Opting for a straight barbell entails gripping it with a supinated hand position, leading to increased activation of the biceps.

However, it’s important to note that this grip also increases the risk of injury due to the bar’s heavier weight and the weights being positioned further away from your body. This places greater demand on your balance and stability and can also lead to wrist pain if you have issues with your wrists or have limited mobility at your wrists.

The Benefits of Using a Straight Bar

Below are the benefits of a straight bar:

1.      Better loading capacity

The longer length and improved force contribution of a straight bar often allows lifters to handle heavier weights compared to an EZ curl bar.

2.      Greater biceps brachii recruitment

During curls using a straight bar, the alignment of the wrists and elbows leads to a slightly greater activation of the biceps brachii muscle in comparison to an EZ curl bar, although the disparity is minimal.

3.      Better accessibility

In public gyms, the availability of an EZ curl bar may not be guaranteed, but you can rest assured that a standard straight bar will always be present, as it is a fundamental piece of free weight training equipment also used for exercises like the squat and deadlift. If your gym lacks an EZ curl bar, using a straight barbell as a substitute will serve you well.

The Benefits of Using an EZ Curl Bar

Below are some of the benefits of the EZ curl bar:

1.      Less strain on the forearms and wrists

The zig-zag design of the EZ curl bar provides a more neutral grip option for performing bicep curls. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with limited wrist mobility, as it enhances comfort and helps minimize the risk of injury.

2.      Engages the brachialis and brachioradialis

The hand position used in an EZ curl bar effectively targets the obscure supporting muscles of the upper arm. The brachialis, situated between the triceps and biceps, and the brachioradialis, linking the upper arm to the forearm, are engaged and strengthened. This comprehensive approach aids in developing a well-rounded and functional upper body.

3.      Less balance is needed

The EZ curl bar is usually lighter and shorter than the standard barbell. This results in the weight being positioned closer to your body, reducing the need for excessive balance. As a result, you can concentrate more effectively on engaging your biceps during the exercise without the distraction of maintaining barbell stability.

Making the Right Choice: EZ Curl Bar or Straight Bar?

Choosing the right barbell depends on your fitness goals and comfort. The EZ curl bar provides comfort for wrist pain or limited mobility, while a straight bar may be better suited for those looking to utilize heavier weights and achieve greater biceps activation. Assess your goals and comfort to decide which barbell is best for you. Overall, both will help you build your biceps and get those sleeves fitting tighter.