The gym offers a lot of equipment you may never have seen before you started working out. The number of accessories for the free weights alone can be overwhelming. When you're ready to move past the basics, you might consider the curl bar, which is a variation on the barbell and provides alternatives for the free-weight exercises you can do with it.
What Is a Curl Bar?
A curl bar looks similar to a barbell, but unlike the straight bar on a barbell, the curl bar is bent in several places. Sometimes called an E-Z curl bar, the curves in the curl bar allow you to hold it with a grip that is more comfortable for your joints. In "The Women's Home Workout Bible," author Brad Schoenfeld explains that the primary benefit of using a curl bar for upper body exercises is that it helps you to perform lifts by positioning your arms at a natural carrying angle. The curve of the bar and the way you place your hands and wrists when holding it reduce stress to your wrists and elbows, providing a safer, more comfortable workout.
Curl Bar Exercises
Many of the exercises you perform with a straight barbell can be performed more easily with a curl bar. You'll be able to do a lot of chest, shoulders and biceps exercises with an E-Z curl bar. Some of these include concentration curls, upright rows, barbell pullovers, barbell curls, preacher curls and spider curls. This last exercise is similar to the preacher curl and is even done on a preacher curl bench. To perform a standard preacher curl, you lean against the flat side of the bench, resting your arms on the padded, sloped side. Holding the curl bar in an underhand grip, curl the bar to your chest, then back down, extending your arms fully at the bottom of the exercise. When performing spider curls, face the opposite direction, leaning against the sloping inclined side of the bench and resting your elbows on the side you would normally lean against while you execute the curl. Done this way, the exercise offers more range of motion, and, when performed with a curl bar, less stress will be placed on your wrists and elbows.
Exercises You Shouldn't Do With a Curl Bar
Not all barbell exercises can be performed effectively with a curl bar. In his book, Brad Schoenfeld writes that the curl bar isn't an ideal alternative to a barbell for exercises in which the bar rests on your upper back, such as lunges, squats or good mornings. Good mornings are performed by placing a barbell across your shoulders while using an overhand grip on either side. You bend at the hips with your back straight until your torso is parallel with the floor before standing back up to the starting position. Schoenfeld says the irregular shape of the curl bar makes it difficult to hold it in place when performing these types of exercises, making it more of a hindrance than a help.
Advice from a Pro
Although the typical advice is to work out your back and biceps on one day, and work your chest, shoulders and triceps on another, personal trainer Matt Siaperas says that rule isn't set in stone. If you want to structure your workout to perform all your E-Z curl bar exercises on one day, working chest, shoulders and biceps together is acceptable. However, he counsels clients to change up their workout routines and exercises frequently to avoid plateaus and to keep the workouts fresh and interesting. Mixing in some curl bar exercises with regular barbell exercises can accomplish this, and it also changes the muscle groups you work together. Remember to allow a 48-hour window of recovery time before you work a muscle group again.
- Matt Siaperas, personal trainer; Hardbodies Gym; Blackfoot, Idaho
- The Women's Home Workout Bible; Brad Schoenfeld
- Shapefit: Bicep Exercises - E-Z Bar Preacher Curls
- ExRx.net: Barbell Good-Morning
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.