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July 15, 2021 1 Comment
The EZ Bar (aka Curl Bar, aka EZ Curl Bar) is a special kind of barbell that can help improve your strength and hypertrophy goals. While it is mostly used for curls and tricep extensions, it can be also used for a range of exercises to target your entire body. We are here to show you how. In this article, you are going to learn the best exercises that you can do with an EZ bar and we are going to give you step-by-step instruction on how to perform these movements effectively, as well as what exact muscles are being worked. If you have an EZ bar or have access to one, you are going to love this.
An EZ bar is a short variation of a barbell with an angled, undulating handle.
EZ bars come in different sizes (both in length and diameter) and the angles of the handles vary among manufacturers and sellers. There are no set size and weight standards for EZ bars (as they are not used in any official sport capacity).
Generally speaking, there are two main types of EZ curl bars - Standard and Olympic. Standard EZ curl bars have 1 inch diameter sleeves and Olympic EZ curl bars have 2 inch diameter sleeves (just like an Olympic barbell, so it can be loaded with Olympic weight plates, which are the same plates that you find in gyms).
Since Olympic EZ bars are the most common (and best), and can handle the most weight, let’s discuss sizes for those...
EZ Bar Sizes:
Total Length: 4-4.5 feet
Handle: ~31.5 inches in length, 28-30mm in diameter
Sleeve (aka Collars): 7-10.5 inch in length, 2 inches in diameter
Weight: Average is around 22lbs, but they range from 15-30lbs
Any good EZ curl bar will have knurling on the handle at various points where you should hold it for better grip AND smoothly rotating sleeves (which reduces torque created by the plates and stress on your wrist and elbows). Standard EZ bars will not have a rotating sleeve as the sleeve is just the handle separated by a stopper.
We recommend that you buy an Olympic EZ bar, especially if you already have an Olympic barbell and 2” plates. The only time it makes sense to get a standard EZ bar is if you own a range of 1” plates.
Note: Some EZ bars have fixed weights. These are the ones you will see at gyms. However, for home gyms, adjustable EZ bars are, of course, ideal.
Related: EZ Bar Weight & Size Chart from Top Sellers
Olympic EZ bars can generally hold up to 300lbs without bending, whereas a standard EZ bar, which is considerably lighter in weight, can hold around 100-200lbs.
As such, for most exercises that you'd do with an EZ bar, weight load is not an issue.
EZ stands for “easy” and it is named that because it is easier on the wrists and it's shorter nature is better for certain exercises (like curls, tricep extensions, upright rows, pullovers) than a barbell.
The name can include “curl” (EZ curl bar) and this is because it is most often used for curls...even though it is very common to use it for exercises like rows and tricep extensions as well.
Just because its called an EZ bar doesn’t mean the exercises are easy! EZ bar exercises like the ones we have for you below can be very challenging when using an appropriate weight load.
The main function of the EZ bar is to provide users with different wrist positions. The angled handle allows for a more neutral, semi-supinated grip, which is much more comfortable and safer on the wrists than a straight barbell.
This is exactly why the EZ bar was created. A gentleman by the name of Lewis G. Dymeck invented the EZ curl bar back in the late 1940s as he injured his wrists and using a straight bar was too painful afterward.
Not only does the EZ bar allow those with wrist issues a safer option, it can help people prevent any wrist injury or pain associated with straight barbells in the first place.
Overall, the EZ bar puts your wrists in the strongest and safest position possible.
One thing is for sure, an EZ bar is effective at keeping your wrists safe as it puts them in a more natural position than a straight bar. As for effectiveness of the muscle activation, EZ bars generally provide similar muscle activation as straight bars for their intended exercises (like curls, extensions, rows).
In regards to curls, specifically, people make claim that while EZ bars are safer for the wrists than straight bars, they are less effective than straight barbells for muscle activation because they somewhat limit range of motion. You can get a greater range of motion in your biceps when your hands are fully supinated (as one of the bicep's function is supination of the forearm).
That said, studies like this one from PeerJ show muscle activation between straight barbell curls and EZ bar curls are relatively equal. Essentially, the choice between the two is subjective and an EZ curl bar makes sense simply for comfort reasons.
Is a curl bar better than dumbbells?
The aforementioned study also compared the overall muscle activation of the biceps brachii and brachialis with dumbbell curls and EZ bar curls and the results proved the EZ bar to be more effective of the two.
Related: 12 Best Dumbbell Biceps Exercises
Besides wrist comfort, the EZ bar provides other benefits as well...
Size: For certain exercises, especially upper body exercises, EZ bars are much more practical than a 7ft barbell. Think about doing pullovers or overhead extensions with a 7ft barbell. It’s possible, but it just doesn’t make as much sense. EZ bars are also much better when working out in a confined space.
Targeted: The angled bar provides more variety to your exercises, allowing you to hone in on specific muscles for both size and strength. Changing angles/hand positioning can completely change the way your muscles are stressed. It is an important training variable. This is why experienced lifters love using EZ bars to target certain muscle groups.
Versatile: EZ bars can be used in pretty much any capacity. Besides the common EZ bar exercises like curls and extensions, you can use them for bent over rows, chest presses, squats, stiff-leg deadlifts, and the list goes on. Moreover, for beginners, it’s a lot easier to learn how to do these exercises with a EZ bar than it is with a 7 foot Olympic bar. If all you had was an EZ bar, you could still get in a fantastically effective workout, no matter what fitness level you are, as you are about to see with the best EZ bar exercises below.
Finally, EZ bars are generally more affordable than other barbells AND they are considerably more affordable than a range of fixed dumbbells. So, if you're interested in buying one make sure to check out our post that covers the Best Curl Bars on the market.
You can pretty much do any exercise with an EZ bar that you can with an Olympic barbell. However, certain exercises are much better with an Olympic barbell than an EZ bar and vice versa.
For example, you can do squats, deadlifts, bench press with an EZ bar, but they are better done with a 7 foot straight barbell.
Let’s look at each one of these exercises to explain why....
Can you do squats with EZ curl bar?
You can do squats with an EZ bar but an Olympic bar is better for the following reasons:
Can I do deadlifts with EZ bar?
You can do deadlifts with an EZ bar, but an Olympic bar is better for the following reasons:
Can you use EZ curl bar for bench press?
You can do bench press with an EZ bar, but an Olympic bar is better for the following reasons:
The only exception where using an EZ bar for the above exercises is understandable is if you are a beginner, as the shorter bar can be easier to stabilize and you won’t be using heavy loads anyways, AND if that’s the only bar you have.
What about other big compound exercises like hip thrusts and bent over rows?
Can you do bent over rows with EZ bar?
Absolutely, the bent over row is actually one of the exercises where an EZ bar can be ideal as it is more comfortable on the wrists and it really doesn’t take anything away from the lift with exception to how much weight you can row, albeit most people are not rowing more than 250lbs so its a non-issue.
Can you use an EZ curl bar for hip thrusts?
The hip thrust is an exercise where an EZ bar can make perfect sense and is totally acceptable and even ideal. For example, if you are at the gym, moving around barbells to do your hip thrusts can be a hassle. An EZ bar is much easier and accessible. Plus, you can load it up with 45lbs just like you would an Olympic barbell so its easy to get under. The only downfall is that the angled bar can be uncomfortable as the point of contact is more spread out with a straight bar. That said, wrapping a yoga mat around it or placing that as a padding between you and the bar will solve the problem.
Overall, we could compare the EZ bar with a straight barbell for all barbell exercises, but to keep things simple, generally speaking, big lifts are best done with a barbell and smaller accessory exercises can be better with an EZ bar. So, rather than comparing all the different exercises, let’s just go over what exercises are most effective with an EZ bar.
The exercises a little further below are not only the best EZ bar exercises, they are best when done with an EZ bar. So, while you can do those other big compound exercises, these are the ones you want to do with an EZ bar even if you have access to a straight 7 foot barbell and dumbbells.
Before we get into the best EZ bar exercises (sorry for the delay), let’s quickly run through the different grip positions with an EZ bar, so you know exactly what grip to use and you can see how to alter the exercises to come.
There are three main hand placements on the bar - close, medium, and wide.
Here is what each of those hand placements look like using a bicep curl as an example...
There are two types of grips - underhand and overhand.
Underhand is palms up (supination) - as seen in pics above.
Overhand is palms down (pronation) - as seen in this pic:
So, here are the various ways you can hold the EZ bar for the exercises below:
For those who are inexperienced, all this grip talk may seem unimportant. But actually, each of these types of grips will alter how the exercise targets and stresses your muscles and joints. The same thing applies to different arm positions and body positions.
With each exercise below, we will make note of the different grips as well as other important variables and we will let you know how they affect the exercise in terms of targeted muscles.
Have a look at this picture. It depicts the right and wrong position of your wrist.
Your wrist should never be bent up or down, it should be straight so that your forearms are aligned with your hands. If your wrists are bending like this, you need to use a lighter weight and keep on improving your grip/forearm strength. Bending your wrists like this can lead to injury.
The exercises we have for you below, which we are finally about to get into, will target your upper body.
We will not be including any lower body exercises as generally the best EZ bar exercises are for the upper body.
After we go through all of the exercises, we will provide you with a killer EZ bar upper body workout.
Without further ado, let’s begin...
Let’s start with the most obvious, biceps!
The EZ curl bar was invented for the bicep curl, hence the name. So, we surely need to highlight this exercise. It is the most common exercise people do with EZ bars, and for good reason...
As you’ve surely gathered by now, the EZ bar bicep curl is great because it takes stress off the wrists (as well as the elbows) thanks to the semi-supinated, slightly neutral grip. If you have poor wrist mobility, this becomes even more apparent. And if you want to avoid issues like tennis elbow (which straight bar curls are known for causing), this is worth getting just a tiny bit less muscle activation in the long run.
Another thing that is great about the EZ bar bicep curl is that because you are in a more natural position, you will be able to curl a little heavier of a load than with a straight bar. This really counters any slight loss of bicep brachii activation from not having your hands fully supinated.
As for targeted muscles, the EZ bar bicep curl targets your biceps brachii and brachialis like any curl. But, because your hands are in a more neutral position, it adds a bit more activation to the brachialis (similar to a hammer curl) than a fully supinated curl.
Now, with EZ bar bicep curls, you have the different variations of grips we mentioned just above. Let’s quickly see how each grip affects the targeted muscles:
Studies also show that you can get more activation of the bicep brachii with faster full range of motion reps and more activation for the brachialis with slower curls.
Tips for performing EZ bar bicep curls:
Just as a heads up, we won’t be spending as much time on the other exercises as we just did for the EZ bar's “bread and butter’ exercise. But, we will cover the important points to know for each of the exercises that follow.
The spider curl is very similar to a dumbbell concentration curl. It isolates your biceps brachii and brachialis amazingly and allows for a full range of motion and constant tension.
With an EZ bar, a form of a concentration curl is possible, but because you are using a bar, you will be limited in how far you can lower the weight (which is not the case with a dumbbell). So, the spider curl is like the concentration curl of EZ bars.
How to do the EZ Bar Spider Curl:
Note: The close grip variation puts a little more activation on the long head whereas the medium grip is more evenly spread out.
Drag curls are a great exercise to add to your arsenal. It does a great job of honing in on the biceps as it takes the shoulders (as well as your forearm) out of the equation a bit.
You are going to feel an amazing contraction in your biceps with this one. We won’t be surprised if you like this exercise more than a standard EZ bar bicep curl.
How to do the EZ Bar Drag Curl:
The French Press is just a fancy name for an overhead tricep extension. This is one of the best tricep exercises you can do, let alone EZ bar tricep exercises.
Because your arms are up overhead, you will get a stretch in the long head of your tricep (the only head of the tricep that acts on the shoulder). With that, this exercise emphasizes the long head (albeit its great for all three heads). You are going to get both great stretching tension and contraction tension in the triceps with this one.
Also, as you are doing this from a standing position rather than seated (which is also good), the exercise is more difficult, as it involves a greater scapula, core, and hip stability. This is an added bonus.
How to do the EZ Bar Overhead Tricep Extension:
Related: French Press Exercise Guide & Variations
The Skull Crusher, aka lying tricep extension, is also said to be one of the best tricep exercises there is. It’s also one of the hardest since it puts all the weight on your arms and shoulders.
What’s more, this is an exercise that people will always choose to do with an EZ bar if they have access to one. Performing this exercise with an EZ bar using a close grip puts your arms in the perfect position to activate the triceps to the highest degree.
As for how the Skull Crusher targets your triceps, all three heads will be activated beautifully. However, it does emphasize the lateral head and long head more. And, like the overhead extension, the medial head kicks in strongly as your elbows start to lock out.
Note: You can do this exercise from a decline and incline position as well. With incline, your long head kicks in more and with decline, you place even more emphasis on the lateral head.
Additionally, because of the position of this extension, you will be greatly strengthening the stabilizers in your elbows and shoulders.
How to do the EZ Bar Skull Crusher:
Note: There is a variation to this flat bench lying tricep extension, where you can bring the bar behind your head more (which will naturally cause you to move your elbows back). This will give you a stretch in your long head (and lats) and thus activate the long head.
Imagine if the close grip bench press and the lying tricep extension had a baby. It would be the JM Press. This is a fantastic exercise to build strength in your triceps. It will directly translate to a more powerful bench press.
The EZ bar JM press is going to target all three heads of your triceps effectively. As it is a compound movement, it is also going to hit your delts (especially the front delts) and your pecs (especially the inner area and upper head).
How to do the EZ Bar JM Press:
Note: Because of the dynamics of this movement, you are going to have to actively flex your wrists a bit as you lower the bar to keep them straight, and then punch your hands toward the ceiling as you press it up.
Start light with this exercise. Only go heavier once you’ve master the mechanics of the movement.
Fun fact about the JM press: It was created by an American powerlifter named John Mark Blakley, hence the "JM". Blakley held many world records and could bench 700lbs raw. He attributes his incredible bench press ability to his triceps strength which he claims to have got doing the JM press.
We could have showed you the standard overhand-grip overhead press, but we thought we’d show you something a little different and actually more suitable for the EZ bar. Due to the shape of the bar, it’s easier to do a reverse grip overhead press with an EZ bar than it is with a straight bar.
This exercise is cool because it teaches you to keep your elbows tucked on the overhead press, which can lead to improvements in your standard military press.
It’s also a lot easier on the shoulder joint, so if you have shoulder issues, then the reverse press is a good alternative.
Like the standard overhead press, this variation works your delts, triceps, serratus anterior and upper chest. However, because you are using a reverse grip, you shift some more tension to the upper chest, front delts and even your biceps and lats.
It’s actually a pretty difficult exercise, so it helps build that brute strength, but start light at first.
One thing to be aware of is that there is a risk of dropping the bar on your head as if it were to slip out, it will come toward you rather than away from you like an overhand grip would. So, again, start light and see how this exercise feels.
How to do EZ Bar Reverse-Grip Overhead Press:
This isn’t just a cool sounding exercise, it is a very effective and difficult one. It is a great exercise for the shoulders and upper back. It works all your delts, especially the lateral and front delts due to the incline pressing motion, and it hits your rear delts and upper back isometrically as you need to fight gravity to maintain scapular retraction and to hold the bar in this somewhat horizontal position when pressing.
Give this one a try and you will see just how great it is at smashing the delts and traps.
How to do the EZ Bar Anti Gravity Press:
Note: This is more of a fast exercise as it would be very difficult to move slowly. So you can press straight out and pull it back down in the same path of motion in a quicker manner than you would normally do a press. It’s not super quick, but quicker.
This is a front raise with added rotation at the top. It makes the exercise a little more dynamic and fun and it helps to carve out definition in your delts.
It is definitely significantly more difficult to do than a standard front raise as not only are you adding rotation at the top so you need to stabilize more and control the weight, but also it requires you to essentially pause at the top position, which is the hardest position of an incline raise.
How to do the EZ Bar Front Raise with Twist:
This is a difficult exercise, so start light. If you feel any joint pain, stop the exercise and just stick with regular front raises (without the twist) using the same grip position.
The upright row is a great exercise for the lateral and anterior delts and the upper traps. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Some people say it is bad for the shoulder joint. However, if using a wider grip, your shoulder joints will not be compromised at all (so long as they are healthy to begin with). The close grip is what can put a little pressure on the shoulder joint.
How to do the EZ Bar Upright Row:
While a close grip bench press with a normal barbell is better because you can go heavier, taking it from the bench rack, most people don’t do heavy close grip bench press anyway, so the EZ bar works just as well.
The close grip bench press is great for tricep and upper chest development. It also does well to carve out your inner chest. Moreover, it takes pressure of the delts and shoulder joint a little as you keep your elbows tucked.
How to do the EZ bar Close Grip Bench Press:
We categorized this in the chest section as most people do this during a chest workout, but it is equally a back exercise as it targets the lats. It’s essentially an upper chest and lat exercise, which makes it perfect if you do upper body workouts or chest-back supersets.
Note: The long head of your triceps will also be worked to a degree.
How to do the EZ Bar Pullover:
If you’ve been training in any capacity then you know this exercise. It is the classic bent over row with a reverse grip.
The bent over row is one of the best compound back exercises. It targets nearly all of your back muscles (lats, traps, rhomboids, spinal erectors) and your biceps.
With the reverse grip, you will target your biceps and lats more than an overhand grip which hits your traps more. Anyway, you can do bent over rows with both grips, we are just showing you the reverse grip here.
How to do the EZ Bar Reverse-Grip Bent over Row:
It’s not often you see people using an EZ bar for core exercises, but why not! If it works, it works!
This exercise is just a sit up with a shoulder press added in. The EZ bar increases resistance on your core and it allows you to get some more shoulder work in at the same time.
How to do the EZ Bar Shoulder Press Sit Up:
The landmine twist is a great transverse plane exercise. It works your entire core and builds incredible core stability. However, it most emphasizes your obliques, transverse abdominis and spinal erectors (pretty much all the deep muscles of the core), as you will need to protect the spine as you twist.
Overall, this is the type of exercise most people’s core workouts are missing. The transverse plane is super important.
How to do the EZ Bar Landmine Twist:
Related: 11 Best Barbell Landmine Exercises
Whether you are in a confined space or all you have is an EZ bar and you want to get a killer upper body workout in, give this a go!
Rest around 30-60 seconds between sets and exercises.
Be sure to do a dynamic bodyweight warm up before you do this workout to avoid injury and to ensure your muscles and joints are primed and ready to go!
Below are the best option for EZ bars on Amazon.
**The products below are affiliate ads where we may make a small commission if you purchase, at no additional cost to you**
Note: For Olympic barbells, we don’t recommend Amazon, we would recommend companies like Rogue, Titan or American Barbell. However, for EZ bars, Amazon actually has some great options.
Here are our top picks:
February 03, 2023
Thanks for the helpful page and tips on how to use ez bar and the workouts I’m 60 this year and looking to build the upper half of body cheers
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June 08, 2023
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