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Barbell curl vs EZ bar curl: Which is best for muscle growth?

Our in-depth EZ bar vs barbell discussion will help you select the right bar for your curls.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 12th June 2021
An EZ bar vs straight bar comparison

Having a good knowledge of the biceps brachii helps you to understand which exercises are the most effective for building muscle. However, when two exercises are virtually identical (or so it seems), such as the easy bar curl and BB curls, it can be difficult to know which movement is the best.

Our barbell curl vs EZ bar curl showdown seeks to clear up the confusion and explain the main differences between these two popular exercises. You'll also learn which is superior for muscle growth and strength development.

Let's see how good the various barbell exercises for your biceps really are compared to EZ curls!

EZ bar vs straight bar: The key differences

  1. The EZ bar puts less pressure on your wrists and forearms.
  2. The straight bar is better for activating your biceps because it puts your forearms in full supination.
  3. You can typically lift a bit heavier on barbell curls.
  4. EZ bar curls work the brachialis and brachioradialis more than the straight bar version.
  5. Straight bars have a higher starting weight than EZ bars.

EZ curl bar vs straight bar: Muscle activation and growth

A barbell curl vs ez bar curl comparison

Barbell curls place your biceps into full supination, which is both a blessing and a curse.

A fully supinated grip is a good thing in that it enables your biceps to maximally supinate and contract, which likely makes the barbell version superior from a muscle growth standpoint.

But it's also a negative because using such an extreme grip can cause wrist discomfort for many lifters.

That's where the EZ bar curl comes in.

This exercise has you curl with a semi-supinated grip. Although this hand positioning reduces your bicep activation a bit and incorporates more of your brachialis and brachioradialis instead, it also puts less strain on your wrists.

So if you can do barbell curls pain-free, then stick with them. However, if the unnatural, fully supinated hand position causes you discomfort, then you can still get similar results (especially over the long term) with the EZ curl.

Related: Dumbbell curls vs barbell curls

EZ curl bar vs straight bar: Strength development

A man demonstrating the differences between an EZ curl and a straight bar curl

Since the standard curl places your biceps in their optimal force-producing position, you can naturally lift heavier weights with a straight bar than with an EZ bar.

However, if you stubbornly use a straight bar despite it hurting your wrists, then you'll actually limit your strength gains over the long term by injuring yourself.

You can't completely prevent injuries from occurring. But by lifting with the correct technique and always controlling the weight, you can definitely minimize their chance of happening.

Do you need to do both exercises?

A man comparing an EZ curl bar and a straight bar

You should choose either straight bar curls or EZ bar curls. Since both movements are incredibly similar, there's no advantage to doing what is essentially the same exercise twice.

On the other hand, if you simply enjoy having variety in your training regime, then you can do both exercises, but on different days of the week. This may also enable you to do barbell curls without running into wrist trouble since you'll be tempering the harsh hand position with more joint-friendly EZ bar curls as well.

It's also beneficial to split your training volume over the week in general. For example, you'll be able to lift more total weight if you perform 5 sets twice a week than if you do 10 sets in one session.

Read More: Barbell curl vs cable curl

Barbell curl vs EZ bar curl: The verdict

If you want to maximize your bicep growth, go with the straight bar when performing curls.

If you have wrist issues and can't use the straight without it causing pain, go for the EZ bar instead, it's an excellent barbell curl replacement.

Although barbells are better at maximizing bicep muscle activation, your results over the long term are unlikely to differ much, irrespective of what bar you use. If anything, the EZ curl is better for overall arm development because it works the brachialis and the brachioradialis more than the barbell version does.

Liam Brown
Liam Brown has been coaching clients as a personal trainer for more than 12 years. Raised by his athlete mother and physiotherapist father, he understands the critical importance of learning the proper technique for both avoiding injury and building muscle.
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