Whether you are a rookie or a veteran in the gym, you may be confused by the purposes of the EZ curl bar and straight bar. You see people use both of them for the same exercises, so which one is best for what, and when should each be used? While both of these bars may be used for a host of different exercises such as upright rows, skull crushers, and even military press, they are more commonly used to work the biceps brachii. However, the exercises performed with the biceps brachii in mind may actually work the brachialis or brachioradialis more. Understanding the emphasis and benefits of each may help you maximize your workouts for the results you are aiming to accomplish.
EZ Curl Bar
The EZ curl bar is often found on a preacher bench or racked in a barbell stand. It looks similar to a straight bar, but it has two “V” shaped bends in the middle of it for hand placement. This bar is recommended for individuals with arthritis or other joint problems in the wrists or elbows, because it places less stress on the wrists and elbows during the execution of exercises with it. The hand placement during an EZ bar curl causes the brachioradialis to be more engaged, taking a portion of the resistance off the biceps brachii. Because the brachioradialis attachment is more distal in the arm, the center of gravity is moved. This change offers more support to the wrists and relieves some of the stress placed on them. The hand placement also allows the wrists to remain in a more neutral position throughout the exercise, thereby keeping them from bending at uncomfortable and possibly damaging angles.
A straight bar is just as it sounds… straight. There are no bends or curves, and no circles or handles. Some people use a full size Olympic bar for straight bar curls and exercises, while others use smaller straight bars that are designed for use on exercises targeting smaller muscle groups such as the biceps. Because of the full supination turn the wrists must make to grasp the bar, they are put in a compromising position. People with previous wrist or elbow injuries, or any bone or joint problems in those areas, may do more harm than good by adding resistance to their wrists while in full supination.
Which is Better?
Because the brachioradialis is engaged more with the EZ curl bar than the straight bar, you get a more complete arm workout. However, isolation is not as easy if you are focusing primarily on the biceps brachii. If you are performing a workout routine with specific exercises to target each the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis, you may want to opt for a straight bar for your biceps brachii exercise. Determining what your primary goals are, developing and following a specific workout plan, and ultimately deciding exactly what benefits you are looking to gain from the exercise, will help you make the decision whether to use an EZ curl bar or a straight bar for each exercise you perform.