The Ultimate Showdown – Curl Bar vs Dumbbells for Bicep Gains

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If you want to build the biggest arms possible, it’s important to incorporate some direct bicep and tricep work in the form of curls and extensions.

To do this, you need to determine the best tools for the job to help you reach your goals.

The two most popular options used in the gym are EZ curl bars and dumbbells.

These two pieces of equipment allow you to do various upper body movements, but the most common are dumbbell and barbell curls.

In this guide, I’ll cover the main differences between a curl bar vs dumbbells, as well as their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s get started!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Curl Bars

Curl bars have a couple of unique advantages and disadvantages compared to a straight barbell and even dumbbells, which I’ll cover in this section.

man doing ez bar curls to limit wrist pain


Reduced Wrist Pain

The curved grip of curl bars reduce strain on the wrists, making it a great option for individuals who experience wrist pain during a basic barbell curl.

Heavier Weights

Curl bars typically allow you to use more weight compared to dumbbells as it’s a bilateral movement.

More Stable Than Longer Barbells Or Dumbbells

A shorter curl bar is easier to stabilize compared to an Olympic barbell and dumbbells. The more stable you are and the better you can brace, the more muscle fibers you’ll be able to recruit.


Reduced Range Of Motion

Compared to dumbbells, which allow you to freely move the weight, an EZ bar curl can prevent you from getting a full stretch at the bottom of the movement.

Less Versatility

The curved grip of a curl bar can prevent you from doing some exercises that dumbbells and barbells easily allow for.


While Olympic bars and dumbbells are widely available, it can sometimes be hard to find EZ curl bars in some gyms.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Dumbbells

Dumbbells provide a ton of benefits for arm training, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their problems as well.

woman doing dumbbell curls for biceps



Dumbbells allow you to use more exercise variations than barbells and EZ curl bars as well.

Allow For Isolation

The biggest benefits of a dumbbell curl or extension, compared to an EZ bar variation, is that you can isolate each arm.

One side is always going to be weaker, so allowing the lagging side to catch up to the other one is a good way to get stronger and ensure your physique is balanced.

Widely Available

Dumbbells are available in pretty much any commercial or even hotel gyms if you’re traveling.

Better Option For Home Gyms

If you’re training in a home gym, picking up some adjustable dumbbells is going to be way more practical compared to EZ curl bars that take up a ton of space.


Less Weight

Dumbbells can be hard to overload on, as each arm is working independently. That same 5 lbs you add each week to your barbell curl, is 10 lbs on dumbbell variations.

Requires More Stabilization

Some might say that being forced into “using your stabilizing muscles” is a positive. It might be for certain goals, but for hypertrophy, you want to be as stable as possible.

The more stable you are, the better you can train the targeted muscle group.

Main Differences Between A Curl Bar Vs Dumbbells

Now that we know the pros and cons of curl bars and dumbbells, here are some of the key differences between the two.

EZ Curl Bar

woman in red shirt and black shorts doing ez bar preacher curls

Grip Positions

  • Semi-Supinated – A semi-supinated grip is halfway between a neutral or palms facing up style of grip. This grip is mainly for curl bar variations.
  • Semi-Pronated – A semi-pronated grip is the opposite of the previous grip. Your palms will be facing down to allow for reverse curls and very comfortable extensions.
  • Neutral Grip – If you use something like a Super curl bar, the camber on the shaft is even deeper than a regular EZ bar. This neutral grip position is perfect for hammer curls or other extension/skull crusher variations.

Muscle Activation

An EZ barbell curl will bias the forearms and brachialis more than a fully supinated position.

This will technically make an EZ bar curl less biceps than a straight bar or a palm’s up dumbbell curl.

Elbow Position

A curl bar will allow you to keep your elbows tucked in during a biceps curl.


man doing dumbbell curls with elbows out

Grip Positions

Dumbbells allow for far more variation overall, and that includes your grip positions. Your hands are able to freely move through space, so you can do any type of curl or extension you wish.

Muscle Activation

While EZ barbell curls are more of an integrated movement that works the brachialis more with the biceps working together synergistically, dumbbells can be used to bias any musculature you choose.

Regular bicep curls, hammer curls, reverse curls, skull crushers, extensions, and other compound movements like the dumbbell bench press.

Elbow Position

Dumbbells allow for more freedom of movement, so your elbow position can vary. This is better for muscle groups such as the triceps, as fixed elbow positions can cause achy elbows over time.

Which Is Better For Your Goals?

Both EZ curl bars and dumbbells offer numerous benefits and drawbacks when it comes to bicep curls, extensions, upright rows, and other exercises.

While curl bars have the advantage when it comes to progressive overload and stability, dumbbells are far more versatile and provide a better stimulus.

Depending on your own goals and limitations, you might have to settle for one or the other.

If you just want to build the biggest biceps and triceps, dumbbells are far superior in what they allow you to train and have fewer limitations overall.

If you have a bunch of options available to you, an EZ curl bar is still going to be a useful tool.


Now I turn it over to you!

What do you find is better for your individual goals?

Let me know in the comment section below, right now!

Until next time,


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