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How to do EZ bar cable curls with the proper form

Find out how this wrist-friendly curl variation builds better biceps.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 10th August 2021
Man performing an EZ bar cable curl

When new lifters walk into the weight room for the first time, the iconic biceps brachii is usually high on their list of muscles to train. The trouble is that barbells can often cause wrist pain because they force your hands into a fully supinated position.

Regular standing bicep cable curls can solve this problem to an extent because the pulley system helps your connective tissue to stabilize some of the weight. However, using a standard bar still forces your wrists into an unnatural position.

This is where the EZ bar cable curl comes in.

This joint-friendly bicep exercise keeps your wrists in a semi-pronated position that primarily prevents them from becoming strained. However, there are still some common mistakes that people make when performing EZ cable curls and the free-weight EZ bar curl that stunt their strength and muscle growth progress.

EZ bar cable curl exercise details

  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii
  • Secondary Muscles: Brachialis, brachioradialis, forearm flexors
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: Cable machine, EZ bar attachment

How to do EZ bar cable curls correctly

A man performing an EZ cable curl for his biceps
  1. Connect an EZ bar attachment to the lower pulley of a cable machine by hooking it onto the carabiner clip.
  2. Grab the bar with a medium underhand grip and take a small step away from the machine.
  3. With the bar resting on your thighs, curl it toward your shoulders by flexing your biceps.
  4. Keep curling until your forearms touch your biceps.
  5. Lower the weight back down under control until the bar is once again touching your thighs.
  6. Repeat for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.

EZ bar cable curl mistakes

Cable E Z bar curls are a simple exercise that's easy on the joints thanks to the semi-pronated grips that the bar naturally offers. However, if you make any of these three mistakes, then you might be sabotaging your progress (at best) or causing yourself harm (at worst).

Using extreme grip widths

Man showing different grips for EZ bar cable curls

While it's true that using various grip widths can emphasize certain parts of a muscle, you can't completely isolate one section of your biceps.

If anything, using extreme grip widths will lead to less muscle growth because such grips make you weaker, which is to say they make your biceps less capable of producing force because the biceps are unable to fully contract when your hands are touching or positioned too far apart.

Therefore, in order to generate maximum muscle hypertrophy, you want to stick with the medium grip that I specified in the tutorial. This way, you'll keep your joints safe will ensuring that your biceps get a full range of motion (ROM).

You can also see our full cable bicep workout if you're looking for a complete routine to follow at the gym.

Ego lifting

A man swinging the weight up during cable EZ curls

Ego lifting often leads to injuries (especially in the lower back) when taken to the extreme. But the practice is doubly bad because it also robs the target muscle of tension and thus muscle growth.

The biceps are obviously the prime mover when you perform the cable EZ bar curl. So anytime that you bring other body parts, like your hips, knees, or back, into the equation, you're also taking tension off your biceps and potentially limiting your muscle development.

But what about controlled cheating?

Some lifters believe that moderate cheating can help you to overload the target muscle. And while this might be true for the eccentric part of the rep, you still want to get your biceps used to doing the concentric portion of the rep by themselves so that they gain true strength—not just muscle size.

Positioning the pulley too high

A man doing some cable EZ bar curls

If you're using an adjustable cable column for your EZ bar cable curls, then make sure to slide it to the very bottom position. This will permit your biceps a full ROM.

Yes, full ROM training means lifting less weight. But giving your muscles a proper stretch during curls is crucial for maximizing muscle hypertrophy.

Plus, if anything, lifting slightly lighter weights with the proper form will also spare your joints from unnecessary strain.

This is also true when you do spider curls with an EZ bar because the exercise trains the biceps in a very short (and thus weak) muscle position.

EZ bar cable curl alternatives

Man showing alternatives to EZ cable curls

Performing your EZ curls cable style really gets the blood pumping in your biceps because the cable pulley system provides constant tension, whereas free weights don't.

Still, there are some fantastic alternatives to cable EZ bar curls (also called the w bar cable curl) that can produce equally impressive results in bicep size and strength when performed consistently and, of course, in conjunction with a good diet and sufficient recovery.

Performing preacher curl with cables, for example, provides a stronger peak contraction than doing them standing. This is because when your arm is supported on the preacher pad, you're forced to lift all the weight with your biceps because you can't use your other muscles to cheat the bar up.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have incline cable curls. This exercise emphasizes the long (outer) head of the biceps by stretching your arms when they're behind your body. You can perform this movement more conveniently with dumbbells. But by using cables, you get tension at every point of the repetition, which in turn provides more time under tension, which is a non-negotiable prerequisite for producing muscle growth.

Doing drag curls with an EZ bar is another viable option if you want to work the outer muscle fibers of your biceps without putting too much pressure on your wrists.

Read More: Abs back and biceps workout

Conclusion: How effective are cable EZ bar curls?

The EZ bar cable curl is an underutilized exercise by the majority of lifters. This may be because not all gyms have the appropriate cable attachment, but it may also be down to ignorance. Either way, there are some undeniable benefits of performing cable EZ bar curls.

First off, the exercise is easier on your wrist joints because the semi-pronated grips keep your hands in a more natural position.

Second, the cable variation provides more consistent resistance than the free weight version because your biceps have to support the weight the second that you lift it off the stack.

Overall, stick to sets of 8-15 reps when performing the EZ bar cable curl for your biceps. This way, you'll get enough training volume to stimulate muscle growth, but you won't be lifting so heavy that you get tempted to cheat the weight up.

References

  1. Control of Muscle Tension | Boundless Anatomy and Physiology. (2021). Lumen Learning. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ap/chapter/control-of-muscle-tension/
  2. Marri, K., & Swaminathan, R. (2016). Analysis of concentric and eccentric contractions in biceps brachii muscles using surface electromyography signals and multifractal analysis. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine, 230(9), 829–839. https://doi.org/10.1177/0954411916654198
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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