ez bar curl alternatives
Exercise Alternative

12 EZ Bar Curl Alternatives That Actually Work

The EZ Bar Curl is a popular biceps exercise that provides an awesome peak biceps contraction. But not everyone has access to an EZ curl bar. In this article, I’m about to lay out a dozen fantastic EZ burl curl alternative exercises, many of which can be done at home with minimal equipment.

Experiment with these 12 curl variations to discover which ones work best for you. 

1. Close Grip Pull Up

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Hang from a pull up bar with palms facing in an underhand grip and only about an inch apart.
  2. Pull up to bring your chin over the bar.
  3. Hold for a second then lower to a full hang.

Equipment used 

Pull Up bar

Muscles worked

Biceps

Tips 

Tightly squeeze the biceps in the top position. Do not allow your body to swing. Get a full range of motion.

2. Close Grip Reverse Lat Pulldown

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Sit on a lat pulldown machine and grab the bar with a reverse grip and your hands touching.
  2. Lift your chest up to the bar as you pull down to bring the bar to your upper chest. 
  3. Reverse and repeat.

Equipment used 

Lat pulldown machine

Muscles worked

Biceps

Tips 

Do not allow your upper body to drift back as you pull the bar down. Contract the biceps fully into the bottom position. 

3. Band Concentration Curls

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Sit on a bench with a resistance band under your right foot. Hold the end of the band with your right hand, looping it so that the band is taut when your arms is fully extended.
  2. In the start position, rest your right elbow against your right thigh.
  3. Curl your arm to full contraction.
  4. Lower and repeat.
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Equipment used 

Resistance exercise band

Muscles worked

Biceps

Tips 

Focus on a slow, deliberate bicep contraction. Do all reps on one side before repeating on the other side. 

4. Alternate Double Cable Curl

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Position yourself in front of a dual cable pulley machine and place the pulley to the lowest setting. 
  2. Grab the handles and hold them at your sides. 
  3. Keeping your elbows in at the side, curl the left cable up to your shoulder. Squeeze tight, lower and then repeat on the other arm.

Equipment used 

Dual cable curl pulley machine

Muscles worked

Biceps

Tips 

Stand about three feet back from the machine so that you are leaning back slightly as you perform the exercise. 

5. Bar Spider Curl

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Place blocks under an incline bench to raise it by six inches from the floor. Now place a barbell on the floor at the top of the bench.
  2. Lie face down on the bench and reach over the top of the bench to grab the bar. You arms will now be hanging over the top of the bar.
  3. Curl the bar up to your shoulder level.
  4. Lower and repeat.

Equipment used 

Bench, blocks, barbell

Muscles worked

Biceps

Tips 

Use a relatively light weight and focus on the quality of the contraction and keeping constant tension on the target muscle. 

6. Floor Dumbbell Curls

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and and pair of dumbbells in your hands at your sides, resting on the floor.
  2. Curl your left hand up to shoulder level and contract tightly in the top position.
  3. Lower and repeat with the right hand.

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Muscles worked

Biceps

Tips 

Keep your lower back down on the floor to ensure that there is no hip or back involvement in the movement. The floor curl is a stricter version than the traditional barbell curl that prevents backswing.

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7. Wide Grip Curl

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Grab a straight bar with a grip that is about six inches wider than on a standard barbell curl. 
  2. Slowly curl the bar up to your shoulders and squeeze tight, holding for a couple of seconds.
  3. Lower under control and repeat.

Equipment used 

Standard barbell

Muscles worked

Biceps

Tips 

Make sure that your elbows are kept at your sides to keep the focus on the target muscle. 

8. Smith Machine Drag Curl

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Load the appropriate weight on a Smith machine and set the bar at your hip level.
  2. Now pull the bar up your body, allowing your elbows to move behind your torso. The bar should drag itself up your shirt.
  3. Lower and repeat.

Equipment used 

Smith machine

Muscles worked

Biceps

Tips 

Do not allow the bar to move forward from your body. This strict movement will not allow even a bit of momentum so you may have to lower the weight. 

9. Arm Blaster Curls

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Put an arm blaster machine on, with the strap around your neck and the metal arm rest behind your elbows. Hold a barbell in your hands.
  2. Curl the bar up t the top position.
  3. Reverse the movement under control.

Equipment used 

Arm blaster, barbell

Muscles worked

Biceps

Tips 

Lower your normal weight and focus on the quality of movement. If you are not familiar with an arm blaster, this is a training device that was very popular in the 70s and 80s. It s intended to make the curl stricter by preventing swinging. It transforms the standard curl into a standing preacher curl variation. 

10. Chair Alternative Preacher Curls

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Stand behind a sturdy chair with a solid padded back with a dumbbell in your right hand.
  2. Lean over the chair and place your right arm over it so that the elbow is anchored over the top of it and the palms facing forward. Lower your arm about three quarters of the way down.
  3. Pull the arm back to full muscle contraction.
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Equipment used 

Chair, dumbbell

Muscles worked

Bicep

Tips 

Do not take your arm all the way down as this will place too much stress on your biceps tendon. 

11. Preacher Hammer Curl

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Get on a preacher curl bench with a pair of dumbbells in your hands.
  2. Lean over the bench and put your hands in a neutral grip position with your palms facing each other.
  3. Curl both arms together to the top position. 
  4. Lower and repeat.

Equipment used 

Dumbbells, preacher bench

Muscles worked

Biceps

Tips 

Be sure to lower the dumbbells under control rather than just letting them drop when doing hammer preacher curls.

12. Eccentric Curls

Step-by-step how-to 

  1.  Hold a standard barbell in your hands with your hands a little wider than hip width.
  2. Perform a regular curl with a normal speed, taking 1-2 seconds to get the bar up.
  3. Lower the bar very slowing, taking 4-5 seconds through the eccentric motion.

Equipment used 

Barbell

Muscles worked

Biceps

Tips 

Use a lighter weight than normal and focus on a very slow, controlled negative movement. 

Final Thoughts

EZ curls provide a great alternative to regular barbell curls.  The dozen EZ curl exercise alternatives provided here have given you plenty of ammunition to allow you to get your guns locked and loaded. I recommend experimenting with them to discover which ones work best for you.

Then create a 3-4 exercise biceps routine and hit your upper arms twice per week with rep ranges between 6-15 reps. Keep at it consistently and you will be rewarded with bigger, more peaked biceps. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you do cheat curls?

Cheat curls are a variation of the standard barbell biceps curl that allows you to overload the biceps by using a heavier weight than you could normally do with a strict form. It involves a slight hip thrust to allow you to get the bar past the sticking point. The rest of the movement should be strict with a slow negative contraction. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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