curl bar exercises
Fitness

15 EZ Curl Bar Exercises You Have To Try

Your typical gym is likely to include a variety of different bars and the selection can be overwhelming at first, but if you’re looking to build bigger arms then the curl bar should be one of your priorities.

Rather than a standard straight barbell, a curl bar (also known as an E-Z bar) is in a zig-zag shape and allowing for a more comfortable grip, and certainly, a more joint-friendly grip as your hands and wrists are in more natural positions when holding the bar. The exercises you perform with the bar target your biceps and triceps.

So, here are 15 exercises and curl bar workouts you can perform that will help you in building muscle and grip strength.

1. Standard Bicep Curl

Why it’s a Great Exercise

The classic move to perform with a curl bar, your biceps are doing the work here and will feel the burn. Your hands and wrists are in a more natural grip position with this curl bar bicep curl, meaning less chance of pain or injury.

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Stand with your knees slightly bent holding the curl bar with an underhand grip, your hands in line with your shoulders.
  • Squeeze your biceps and curl at the elbow to bring the bar up to your chest.
  • Lower the bar back to the starting position and repeat.
  • 12-15 reps.

Training Tip

You don’t want an angled grip; keep your wrists strong and straight throughout the movement.

2. Preacher Curl

Why it’s a Great Exercise

This might be one of the most effective EZ-bar curl exercises you can do as your brachioradialis muscle (the main muscle in your bicep) is being optimally worked because of the position of the preacher bench pad. A proper preacher curl will lead to faster muscle growth than other types of curls, particularly the standard curl.

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar
  • Preacher bench

How to Do it

  • Set the platform so that it sits under your armpits when you lean over it. Hold the bar with a standard palms-up grip and your arms extended down. It should also be a standard-width grip.
  • With your back straight, curl the bar up toward your upper chest to get your hands at shoulder height.
  • Lower the bar back down to the starting position and repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Training Tip

Keep your upper arms pinned to the preacher bench during the entire exercise to ensure your biceps are doing all the work.

3. Overhead Triceps Extension

Why it’s a Great Exercise

This isn’t your standard curl. While most curl bar exercises target your biceps, this one exclusively blasts your triceps and requires a lot of force to lift the bar overhead.

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Stand up straight holding a bar behind your head with an overhand grip, and also a close grip. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Straighten your arms to raise the bar over your head until your arms are extended but not locked out.
  • Bend at the elbows to lower the bar back down behind your head and repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Training Tip

Keep your back straight and your core engaged. Don’t lean your body with the movement of the bar, your arms are doing everything here.

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4. Reverse Grip Curl

Why it’s a Great Exercise

These reverse curls reach muscles that traditional curls can’t, more specifically those found in your forearm.

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Stand and hold the curl bar with an overhand grip, your hands in line with your shoulders and the bar across your waist. 
  • Using just your forearms, bend your arms and lift the bar upward, getting it as close to vertical as you can manage.
  • Hold in this top position for a couple of seconds and then lower the bar back down under control. Repeat.
  • Reps: 12-15.

Training Tip

Keep your elbows pinned to the sides of your body throughout the exercise.

5. Close Grip Bench Press

Why it’s a Great Exercise

Not only are your triceps getting a big workout here, but you’ll also be targeting your chest to an extent as well.

Equipment Used

  • Bench
  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Lay on your back on a flat bench holding the curl bar with a close overhand grip. Your hands should be narrower than your shoulders, but not quite touching. Your arms will be bent as you hold the bar across your chest, but keep your elbows close to your body.
  • Push the bar up by extending your arms until they are straight but not locked out.
  • Lower the bar back down to your chest into the starting position and repeat.
  • 10-12 reps.

Training Tip

Keep the movement slow and controlled. With a narrow grip, it’s easier for the bar to lose balance, so focus on your stability.

6. Close Grip Curl

Why it’s a Great Exercise

The close grip means you need to work harder to control the bar, so your biceps are put under more strain.

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Stand holding the bar with an underhand grip and your hands close together.
  • Squeeze your biceps and curl the bar up to your chest and hold.
  • Lower the bar back down under control and repeat.
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps.

Training Tip

Keep your elbows pinned to the sides of your body.

7. Upright Row

Why it’s a Great Exercise

Your shoulders are getting involved here, as well as your triceps. It’s an easy move to master and has the potential for huge improvements in strength.

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Hold the bar at your waist with an overhand grip, hands aligned with your shoulders, and a slight bend in your knees.
  • Bend your elbows and, keeping the bar close to your body, lift it up to your chin.
  • Hold for a moment, then lower the bar back down and repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Training Tip

When you raise the bar, make sure your elbows flare up higher than your shoulders, ideally up to your ears.

8. Push Press

Why it’s a Great Exercise

This is another shoulder-torcher and is a compound move that really works your upper body, meaning it’s also effective for burning calories.

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Stand with the bar resting across your shoulders and upper chest, holding it with the grip of your choice (overhand is the more commonly used one).
  • Keeping your knees slightly bent, extend your arms to push the bar up and above your head.
  • Lower the bar back to your shoulders, then repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.
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Training Tip

Keep your wrists and forearms strong, making sure they don’t bend during the range of motion.

9. Drop Set Curls

Why it’s a Great Exercise

This is a brutal workout but one that will help your muscle endurance in huge ways. It can also help your cardiovascular fitness.

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Load the bar with the maximum amount of weight you can lift for roughly six reps. Assume the position for standard curls with an underhand grip.
  • Perform the curls until failure. Then, remove a weight plate from either side of the bar and perform reps again until failure.
  • Repeat this process until all the weight plates have been removed.

Training Tip

Take breaks between each set but try not to pause too long in between reps. 

10. Bent Over Row

Why it’s a Great Exercise

This is one of the best exercises for building strength in your posterior chain, more specifically your lats. This is a classic move that works even better with a curl bar.

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Stand with your feet in line with your hips before you hinge at the waist to take hold of the bar, with a slight bend in your knees.
  • With an overhand grip, drive your feet into the floor to pick up the bar and bring it to just below your knees. Your arms should be extended.
  • Pull the bar into your midsection by sending your elbows backward. Lower the bar back down to just below your knees and repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Training Tip

When rowing the bar upward, don’t let your elbows flare out too wide and pin your shoulder blades together.

11. Deadlift Into Bicep Curl

Why it’s a Great Exercise

The deadlift is one of the most comprehensive exercises out there, and adding a bicep curl on the end means your upper arms are getting involved too. This one will get your heart rate up.

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Hold the bar with an underhand grip and sit your hips back, bend at the knees and keep your back straight.
  • Drive up and move your hips back in line with your shoulders as you bring the bar to your waist.
  • Now, keep your elbows tight to your body and curl the bar up to your chest by bending at the elbows. 
  • Lower the bar back down to your waist, then back to the floor and repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Training Tip: 

Remember that you need to curl the bar at the top of the movement, so don’t load it with too much weight.

12. Skull Crushers

Why it’s a Great Exercise

Your triceps are moving the load almost entirely on their own in this movement, meaning they’ll feel a real burn.

Equipment Used

  • Bench
  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Lay flat on a bench and hold the bar above you with straight arms and a narrow overhand grip.
  • Bend at the elbows to lower the bar down toward your face, stopping just above it.
  • Straighten the arms to return to the starting position and repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Training Tip

Keep your elbows in line with your body when you lower the bar, don’t let them flare out.

13. 21s

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar

Why it’s a Great Exercise

By isolating different movements, you’re targeting different areas of your biceps for longer periods of time.

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How to Do it

  • Hold the bar with an underhand grip and curl it upward but only to the midpoint, so your forearms are parallel to the floor.
  • Lower the bar back down and repeat this range of motion for 7 reps.
  • One the 8th rep, curl the bar up to your chest, but when lowering it down, stop at the midway point where your forearms are parallel to the floor again. From here, lift the bar up to your chest, and lower back down to the midway point for 7 reps.
  • Then, lower the bar down fully and perform 7 full bicep curls, from the bottom point to the top at your chest.
  • That’s one set. Perform 3 sets, resting between each.

Training Tip: 

Don’t allow your torso to lean forward and backward with the curls.

14. Incline Front Raise

Equipment Used

  • Bench
  • Curl bar

Why it’s a Great Exercise

The support of the bench means you can target your lats and traps here with a decent amount of weight.

How to Do it

  • Set an adjustable bench to an inclined angle of roughly 45 degrees. Lay on it chest-first, so that your feet just touch the ground and your upper torso is above the top of the bench.
  • Hold the bar below you, with arms extended and an overhand grip. 
  • Keeping your arms extended, lift the bar up so that it comes in line with your shoulders.
  • Lower the bar back to the starting position and repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Training Tip:

Don’t let your back arch – keep it straight throughout.

15. Romanian Deadlift

Why it’s a Great Exercise

It’s the only exercise on this list that targets your lower body, and these deadlifts are excellent for your posterior chain, hamstrings, and glutes.

Equipment Used

  • Curl bar

How to Do it

  • Hold the bar at your waist with an overhand grip.
  • With a slight bend in your knees, slowly lower the bar by hinging forward at the hips, keeping your back straight.
  • Once you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings, which is usually once the bar passes your knees, drive your hips forward to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps.

Training Tip

Don’t try to lower the bar too far. Once you feel the stretch in your hamstrings, rise back up.

Conclusion

Though many people think it’s just for your biceps, the curl bar is a versatile piece of kit that can be used to target many different muscle groups. Its unique shape means it’s a little easier on the hands and wrists, as well, though this does mean it’s not quite suitable for exercises like squats and the traditional deadlift.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a curl bar for the overhead press?

Yes, as shown above. The push press is another way of saying overhead press, so the process is the same.

Is a curl bar better than a straight bar?

They both have their advantages and disadvantages, so it depends on what your goals are. The curl bar allows your hands and wrists to grip it in a more natural way, which takes the strain off certain joints. However, its shape rules out certain exercises that are possible with a straight barbell.

How do you build muscle with a curl bar?

The same way you would with a barbell or dumbbells; with progressive overload. This means gradually increasing the amount of weight you’re lifting over time as your body adapts.

George Gigney

George is a Level 3 Personal Trainer and qualified Behavior Change Specialist. He has been training clients for several years and writing for over a decade, focusing on sport, wellbeing, and fitness.

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