When it comes to building a home gym, one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is choosing the right equipment for your goals.
Two of the most popular options for those looking to build muscle and strength, are the EZ bar and a traditional Olympic barbell.
In this guide, I’ll compare the main differences between the two, how to decide what’s right for your goals, and more!
Let’s get started!
Table Of Contents
- 1 Comparison Of The EZ Bar and A Traditional Straight Bar
- 2 Personal Goals & Preferences
- 3 EZ Bar Curls Vs Straight Bar Curls
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
- 5 Conclusion
Comparison Of The EZ Bar and A Traditional Straight Bar
In this section, I’ll go over the main features of both an EZ Curl bar and a straight bar, so you have a general overview of each.
What Is An EZ Curl Bar?
An EZ curl bar, also known as a curl bar, is a specialty barbell designed with a bent shaft.
These bent cambered angles allow for a more comfortable and ergonomic grip, which makes it a popular choice for exercises that target the biceps and triceps.
This curved grip can help alleviate strain on the wrists and elbows, making the EZ bar a good choice for those who suffer from joint pain or injuries.
Related: To learn more about the EZ bar, including its unique design and the exercises it's best used for, check out this in-depth guide on what is an EZ bar?
What Is A Straight Bar?
A straight bar, which can refer to either an Olympic or Standard Barbell, is literally what it sounds like. A straight barbell without any fancy cambers.
Straight bars are commonly used for big compound movements – such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and more.
They are best used for those that want to lift the heaviest weights possible. Straight bars tend to have a much higher weight capacity and longer sleeve lengths than curl bars.
Which Bar Is More Versatile?
In terms of versatility, a traditional straight barbell is the clear winner.
While the EZ bar is great for targeting certain muscle groups, it’s limited in the number of exercises you can perform with it.
On the other hand, an Olympic barbell can be used for a wide variety of exercises with much higher loading capacities than most curl bars.
Which Bar Is More Comfortable & Ergonomic?
In terms of comfort and ergonomics, the EZ bar is the better choice.
The angled grips can be more comfortable to hold and can help reduce strain on your wrists, forearms, and elbows.
If you’re just looking to lift heavy weights and don’t have issues doing basic barbell curls with a straight barbell, a traditional bar is the way to go.
Personal Goals & Preferences
In this section, I’ll help you determine which bar to choose for your individual coals and preferences.
Why Your Goals Matter
Your personal fitness goals and preferences should be taken into consideration when choosing between an EZ bar and a barbell.
For example, if you’re looking to target specific muscle groups such as the biceps and triceps, the EZ bar may be a better choice for you due to its angled grips that are designed for these types of exercises.
Likewise, for those without any issues performing bicep curls and extensions with a straight bar, the overall variety wins out, I think.
Who Should Get An EZ Curl Bar?
If you plan on doing an EZ bar curl variation or even just extensions in your training, a basic EZ curl bar is definitely recommended.
Who Should Stick With A Straight Bar?
If you’re just focused on getting as strong as possible with some basic assistance movements thrown in, you probably can get away with just an Olympic bar.
Of course, it’s definitely worth mentioning something that’s super obvious.
You don’t have to settle for just one or the other.
While a high quality Olympic bar might be worth the investment for long term use, you can absolutely get away with a budget curl bar.
There aren’t really any major performance benefits from getting a more high quality EZ curl bar, so you can spend less than $100 and get a lot of value out of it while training arms.
EZ Bar Curls Vs Straight Bar Curls
This is where the biggest differences between these two bars come into play.
What you actually get out of each curl variation, and what you might be missing out on if you can only choose one or the other.
I’ll compare the pros and cons of each, so you can decide what is right for you!
EZ Bar Curls Pros & Cons
More Comfortable Position For Wrists & Forearms
This is by far the most important reason why choosing an EZ bar curl is highly recommended. If you’ve ever curled with a straight barbell, it’s not always comfortable. This is largely going to depend on your structure, which you can’t change.
I absolutely notice a difference doing an EZ bar curl over a regular straight bar curl, and I know many others do as well.
Larger Range Of Motion
In general, a greater range of motion is a good thing, as long as you don’t have to compromise your joints or other muscle groups to achieve this.
EZ curl bars naturally allow you to curl and perform extensions in a way that increases the range of motion you can use.
Trains The Biceps As Well As The Brachialis
The brachialis is another muscle located in the upper arm between the biceps and triceps. The hand position during an EZ bar curl is halfway between fully supinated (palms facing up) and a neutral grip used for hammer curls.
This brings the forearms, brachialis, and the brachioradialis into play much more than a straight barbell curl. So if you want to build bigger forearms as well as the supporting muscular in your arms, EZ bar bicep curls are a solid option.
More Stability From Shorter Bar
The longer your barbell is, the more stability is required from you. Sure, if you’re using a rackable curl bar, this isn’t really a positive anymore, but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in this case.
Most regular curl bars are shorter, so they’re much easier to balance when training. The more stability you have during a movement, the better you can train the target muscle.
Hand Position Shifts Some Emphasis From The Biceps
As I mentioned earlier, the grip used with EZ bar curls is halfway between a supinated and neutral grip position. This will allow you to bias more of the forearms and brachialis away from the biceps.
This doesn’t mean it’s NO biceps, it’s just more of an integrated movement than a straight bar bicep curl.
Regular Curl Bars Can’t Be Racked
Loading and unloading a curl bar on the ground or balanced on a bench is a pain in the ass.
If you plan on doing heavy skull crushers and extensions, you also have to waste some energy getting the barbell into position.
If you invest in a more expensive rackable curl bar, though, this point is moot.
Yet Another Barbell To Invest In
If you don’t have a ton of space in your home gym, having to find storage for yet another piece of equipment can be hard.
Loadable Sleeve Length Might Limit Loading Potential
EZ bars have a lower weight capacity than Olympic bars, as you might imagine. However, even more pressing than that is the shorter sleeves that curl bars have.
It might be hard to load a curl bar enough for certain movements, such as heavy skull crushers and extensions, so make sure you find the appropriate bar for your strength level.
Training close to or to failure is important for muscle growth, so increasing the weight to allow progressive overload to continually occur, is crucial.
Straight Bar Curls Pros & Cons
Heavy Weight Capacity & Longer Rackable Sleeve Length
The biggest benefit of using a straight bar for bicep curls, is being able to load it with as much weight as you can possibly handle.
Even with a basic beater bar that can only hold up to 500-700lbs, you never have to worry about an Olympic bar running out of room for plates.
This is even more true while doing a straight barbell curl or other arm exercises.
Allows You To Emphasize The Biceps More
While you might not have that ergonomic bend in a straight bar to keep your wrists happy, you can actually emphasize the biceps much more with a supinated grip.
The biceps get the best engagement while curling with that underhand grip, which is exactly what happens while doing a straight bar curl.
Easily Rackable Compared To Cheaper Curl Bars
Like I mentioned before, having to load and unload an EZ curl bar on your gym floor or balanced on a bench is a huge inconvenience.
Even the cheapest straight bars are going to be rackable and make setting up for different exercises much easier as well.
Don’t Have To Invest In Another Bar Just For Curls
Another huge benefit is being able to get a single barbell that can do it all. It’s no secret that Olympic bars provide the greatest variety of pretty much any piece of gym equipment.
If you don’t have the space for a specialty curl bar, you can get by doing straight bar curls just fine.
Barbell curls are a great movement and get the job done just fine.
Shifts Emphasis Away From The Brachialis & Forearms
While this might not be a big deal for some, you do actually get less forearm and brachialis engagement with a supinated grip like you use during barbell curls.
So if you want to do a more integrated movement that trains them together along with the biceps, you can just use an EZ curl bar. Otherwise, you’ll have to do another variation with a neutral grip like hammer curls to bias them.
Less Stability While Training Arms
Longer barbells require more balance than shorter ones. Doing barbell curls is going to force you to stabilize the bar much more than EZ bar curls.
The more you’re forced to stabilize with other muscles, the harder it will be to train your target muscle group to failure.
Can Be Uncomfortable
This is the biggest reason why I personally can’t do a straight bar curl. It’s just not comfortable, and I can feel the torque on my elbow with just an empty bar.
I know I’m not the only person that this happens to, and it’s the main reason why an EZ curl bar was invented in the first place.
Range Of Motion Tends To Be Shorter
Straight bar curls have a shorter range of motion that you have to consider while performing them. The easiest way to get around this is to lean forward slightly so your arms can get a deeper stretch at the bottom of the movement.
However, if you want to be more stable and stand more upright, EZ bar curls are a better option overall.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now I turn it over to you!
Which bar do you plan on using more for curls, extensions, and similar upper body movements?
Let me know in the comment section below, right now!
Until next time,