Barbell Curls vs EZ Bar Curls (Which is Better?)


Barbell Curls vs EZ Bar Curls

Barbell Curls and EZ Bar Curls are both popular exercises that are used to strengthen and develop the muscles in the biceps and forearms. Both (spoiler alert) are curl exercises, but they differ in the type of bar that is used and the grip position.

Barbell curls are performed with a straight barbell that is held with a supinated (underhand) grip. This exercise allows you to lift heavy weights (relative to curls), which can be beneficial for increasing overall strength and size in the biceps and forearms.

EZ bar curls, on the other hand, are performed with a specialized barbell that has angled grips. This exercise allows for a more natural wrist position, which can reduce strain on the wrists and make the exercise more comfortable to perform.

Additionally, the angled grip of the EZ bar can help to target the biceps muscles in a slightly different way than a straight barbell.

In this article, I’m going to break down how to do each exercise and then discuss whether one is better than the other for some common lifting goals.


Barbell Curls


Equipment Needed

  • Barbell

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand tall, back straight, head up, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell with both hands, palms up (supinated grip).
  • Start with the bar at arm’s length against the upper thighs.
  • Curl the bar up towards the shoulders until the forearms touch the biceps.
  • Keep upper elbows close to the side.
  • Lower the bar back to starting position using the same path.
  • Continue until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

By far the most common mistake with any curl exercise, but perhaps even more so with Barbell Curls is swinging and rocking in an attempt to lift more weight. If you need to swing the bar, use momentum or generally contort your body to move the weight, it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and use proper form.

Don’t allow the wrists to bow back when holding and curling the bar. Keep the wrist neutral by keeping the forearms engaged. This will take pressure off the wrist that could otherwise lead to Barbell Curls being very uncomfortable on the wrists.

Related –> 11 Alternatives for Barbell Curls that also Develop Strong Biceps

Benefits

Some potential benefits of performing barbell curls include:

  • Increased upper arm strength and size
  • Improved grip strength
  • Enhanced athletic performance in activities that require upper body strength

Additionally, the barbell curl is a relatively simple and convenient exercise that can be performed using a standard barbell and weight plates. This makes it a popular choice for strength training at home or in the gym.


EZ Bar Curls


Equipment Needed

  • EZ Curl Bar

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand tall*, back straight, head up, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the EZ Curl Bar with both hands, palms up (supinated grip).
  • Start with the bar at arm’s length against the upper thighs.
  • Curl the bar up towards the shoulders until the forearms touch the biceps.
  • Keep upper elbows close to the side.
  • Lower the bar back to starting position using the same path.
  • Continue until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

*Instead of standing, using a Preacher Curl Rack is a very popular variation to use with an EZ Curl Bar. For more details, check out the variations listed below.

By far the most common mistake with any curl exercise, but perhaps even more so with EZ Bar Curls is swinging and rocking in an attempt to lift more weight. If you need to swing the bar, use momentum or generally contort your body to move the weight, it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and use proper form.

Don’t allow the wrists to bow back when holding and curling the bar. Keep the wrist neutral by keeping the forearms engaged. This will take pressure off the wrist that could otherwise lead to them being very uncomfortable on the wrists.

Benefits

Some potential benefits of EZ bar curls include:

  1. Reduced strain on the wrists: The angled grip of the EZ bar allows for a more natural wrist position, which can make the exercise more comfortable to perform and reduce the risk of wrist strain or injury.
  2. Improved grip strength: The angled grip of the EZ bar can help to engage the muscles in the forearms, which can improve grip strength and overall hand function.
  3. Targeted muscle development: The angled grip of the EZ bar allows for a slightly different range of motion than a straight barbell, which can help to target the biceps muscles in a unique way and promote balanced muscle development.
  4. Increased strength and size: Like other bicep and forearm exercises, EZ bar curls can help to increase strength and size in the biceps and forearms, which can improve upper body strength and function.

Overall, EZ bar curls can be a valuable addition to any workout routine, and they offer a range of potential benefits for both beginners and experienced lifters.

Barbell Curls vs EZ Bar Curls: Which is Better?

Now, let’s do a side-by-side comparison to see which exercise is better for some common lifting goals.

Better For Size and Strength: Toss Up

Saying that one variation is better than the other for building size and strength would really be splitting hairs. Barbell Curls and EZ Bar Curls are two of the best exercise options for building biceps size and strength.

Ultimately, I believe it really comes down to personal preference. Barbell Curls can bother some lifters’ wrists and/or elbows. Some lifters don’t have access to an EZ Curl Bar. Bottom line is, whichever you have available to you or whichever exercise you prefer will be a great choice.

Better For Beginners: EZ Bar Curls

For beginners, EZ bar curls may be a better option than barbell curls. This is because EZ bar curls can place less strain on the wrists and elbows, which can be beneficial for individuals who are new to lifting.

Of course, as a beginner, it is important to start with a light weight and to focus on proper form no matter what exercise you’re attempting. As you become more comfortable with the exercise, you can gradually increase the weight to challenge yourself and continue to progress.

In general, it is a good idea for beginners to focus on learning the proper form for various exercises and to incorporate a variety of bicep and forearm exercises into their routine in order to promote balanced muscle development.

Final Thoughts

I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – Barbell Curls or EZ Bar Curls. However, the truth is, there is no reason you shouldn’t have both exercises in your strength training program.

Both are excellent exercises for developing strong biceps and forearms. Incorporating both exercises into your training program can also add variety and keep your workouts from getting stale.

So, my suggestion would be instead of trying to decide between the two exercises, figure out how you can utilize both Barbell Curls and EZ Bar Curls in your training plan.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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