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EZ Curl Bar vs Straight Barbell: A Comprehensive Comparison

Curl Bar vs Barbell

People are often divided in the classic debate of which bar is better for strength training—curl bars or Olympic-style barbells? With different types and sizes available, it can be intimidating to decide between them. Whether you're a professional powerlifter looking to build muscle mass or someone just getting into fitness, understanding all aspects of each type of equipment will help you make an informed decision on finding your perfect workout partner!

EZ Curl Bar vs Straight Barbell: Introduction

If you regularly do strength training using free weights, you’ll notice that most standard gyms have an EZ curl bar and a straight barbell. Straight barbells are most commonly called olympic bars. Both types of equipment are great for tricep extensions, bicep curls, and other upper-body exercises. However, lifters love them for different reasons, triggering the curl bar vs. barbell debate.

Deciding which is better for you between the EZ curl bar and the straight barbell depends on many factors. Both of them are solid investments for building muscle as they allow you to add weight plates incrementally to achieve progressive overload. Studies show that using a barbell is better for activating your biceps and forearms than using a dumbbell (1).

Beginners and expert trainers will find uses for the EZ curl bar and the straight barbell in their routines. You can use both for various popular exercises, so you should understand their differences to see which fits your goals.

Are you in the market for a new barbell? If so, here’s our EZ curl bar vs. straight barbell guide to help you decide which best fits your needs.

What Is an EZ Curl Bar?

The Olympic EZ curl bar is a type of barbell with a W-shaped design. It’s also known as a curl bar, and you can use it just like you do a barbell, except it takes the stress off your wrists. An EZ curl bar is also lighter and uses a more neutral grip (palms are closer to facing each other) which is great for beginners or those with wrist pain.

The EZ curl bar is great for isolation exercises targeting your biceps and forearms. It’s shorter than its counterpart coming in at around four feet compared to the seven feet of the straight bar. EZ bars also weigh less and have multiple grip options, which make them more versatile.

The Invention of the EZ Curl Bar and Its Name

The EZ curl bar was created and patented by Lewis Dymeck, a weightlifter from 1950. Dymeck was motivated to develop this invention due to the pain he experienced on his wrists when using the regular barbells for bicep curls. So he teamed up with a barbell company founder, Andy Jackson, and together, they patented what they called the Dymeck curl bar.

However, the EZ curl bar didn’t get its current name until Dymeck and Jackson sold the patent to Bob Hoffman, who changed the name to the EZ bar. EZ is an abbreviation for “easy,” as the bar has a grip that makes it easier to use.


What Is a Straight Bar?

A straight bar, just like it sounds, is a straight barbell without the bends or curves of the EZ bar. They are often referred to as olympic barbells. They’re usually heavier than the EZ bar and have stainless steel straight rod sleeves for loading weights. The straight bar promotes a supinated/underhand grip — when your palms face you — which results in better bicep activation during curls. You can use the Olympic straight barbell for squats, bench presses, and bent-over rows.

Differences Between EZ Curl Bars and Straight Bars

Visual Representation of EZ Curl Bars vs Straight Bars

As you may have noticed, the EZ curl bar and the straight barbell are very different, even though you can use them for the same exercises. Below are the three most important differences between EZ curl bars and straight bars:

Shape Difference

This has to be the main difference between these types of bars. The EZ curl bar is designed with a cambered W, allowing for a greater range of motion. This W design puts less strain on your wrists during exercises like barbell curls.

Straight bars, on the other hand, have a cylindrical shape but also have sleeves and collars at the end to hold weights. Straight bars are great for people who want to lift heavier weights.

Weight Difference

EZ curl bars usually weigh between 25-35 pounds, while the Olympic straight barbell weighs, on average, 45 pounds. There is a smaller version of the straight bar, but it still comes in at 35 pounds which is higher than the average EZ curl bar. 

Hand Position Options

The curl bar promotes the use of a angled grips or neutral grip. This grip has less impact on your wrists and leads to less strain. When using the EZ bar, your wrists are slightly bent, and you can even turn them inwards in a grip technique known as the overhand-based reverse.

The straight bar promotes the supinated grip, which has more impact on the wrists. However, the supinated grip is also known for greater biceps activation. You can use a straight barbell with a pronated (palms facing down) or overhand grip.

EZ Curl Bar Vs. Straight Bar: Pros and Cons

EZ and straight bars have many reasons for using one over the other. Your experience level comes into play here, and the type of grip you’re comfortable with will also affect which is more beneficial for you. Check out the major pros and cons of each bar below:

EZ Curl Bar Pros & Cons


Curl bars are great for beginners since they’re light. The angle of the grip with this bar puts less pressure on your elbow, wrists, and joints, making your workouts more comfortable and allowing you to move the bar through a greater range of motion since you can move your hands closer to your body than a straight bar would have you. Experienced lifters will find that they love its versatility and the vast number of ways that you can use it to build strength.

The grip of the EZ curl bar makes it better for people with mobility concerns and injuries. The close grip also keeps the weight closer to you, so you don’t need to use as much balance for movements such as biceps curls.

Curl bars are small and light, making them great for at-home workouts where you don't have too much space. The angled bar activates your forearm muscles (brachialis and brachioradialis). This is ideal for those looking to pack on mass in their upper body.


As a result of using less of a supinated grip, curl bars lose at activating the biceps when it comes to the curl bar vs. straight bar debate. This is because your biceps won’t be isolated as effectively as with the straight bar. They’re also harder to load with heavier plates, hindering muscle growth as you need more weight to trigger muscle hypertrophy. Plus, you won’t find them at every gym, which can affect your routines if you’re on the go often.

Straight Bar Pros & Cons


The biggest pro of the straight bar is that it forces you to use the supinated grip, which activates your biceps brachii, leading to bigger muscles (2). In addition, they’re heavier and easier to load with larger loads which further supports muscle hypertrophy and activation. A straight bar can also help you build your grip strength which is very useful for strength training and has carryover to exercises such as deadlifts.

Using a straight barbell for compound exercises is excellent because it doesn’t just target the biceps. You can work your entire body and have an array of movements in your workout program, including presses, squats, and deadlifts. This bar also teaches you to maintain proper form and proprioception. And since it requires more balance, it’ll activate your core more.


Straight bars offer less range of motion as they can get in the way when the bar gets too close to your torso. The balance it requires increases your risk of getting an injury during use (3). Straight bars cause more wrist discomfort and don’t support the secondary muscles of the brachioradialis and brachialis as much as curl bars.

Curl Bar Demo Photo

EZ Bar Curl vs. Straight Bar Curl: Muscles Used and Form

The EZ bar and straight barbell target similar muscles in your upper arm when using an underhand grip, but each bar has specific muscles that activate more.

Straight Bar Bicep Curl Muscles Used

Straight bar curls primarily target the short head of your biceps brachii. However, this movement's full supination activates both functions of your biceps brachii better, making your muscles grow faster. Secondary smaller muscle groups this bar activates include the brachialis, brachioradialis, long head of the biceps brachii, forearm flexors, wrist flexion muscles, deltoids, and wrist extensor muscles.

EZ Bar Bicep Curl Muscles Used

EZ bar curls also primarily target the short head of your biceps brachii. However, it offers more brachialis and brachioradialis activation, making it better for building your forearms. Secondary muscles that the EZ bar activates include the brachialis, brachioradialis, long head of the biceps brachii, forearm flexors, wrist flexion muscles, deltoids, and wrist extensor muscles. 

If you have any wrist tightness or poor mobility, you will love ez bar bicep curls because of the angled  position.

Form Differences and Tips

Hand positioning is the primary form difference between the EZ bar and the straight bar. With the straight, you must also ensure that your body is steady and upright, as there is a tendency to lean back or forward to add momentum since the load is heavier and requires more stability.

Here are some tips to follow when performing curls with either barbell:

  • Contract your muscles at the top for maximum hypertrophy
  • Lock your elbows by your side to prevent them from swinging
  • Look forward when using the straight bar to keep proper form
  • Get a full flexion and extension at the elbow joint for a full range of motion

Curl Bar Exercises

An EZ curl bar can be used for many of the same exercises as a straight bar! The most common exercises to use a curl bar for are:

  1. Preacher Curl
  2. Standing Bicep Curl
  3. Skull Crushers
  4. Standing Triceps Extensions
  5. Upright Rows

The grip is perfect to use for these movements, making the curl bar a potentially better choice than a standard barbell. Preacher curl will require the use of a preacher curl bench or adjustable bench, and skull crushers can be done on the floor or a flat bench.

People with wrist issues will not love the feeling of a straight barbell curl compared to a curl bar, that's for sure!

You can even try using a curl bar for bench press to help alleviate shoulder issues. For something like this, you'd want to find a rackable curl bar. This will make it easier to load on heavy weight safely as it fits into a standard squat rack.


EZ and straight bars are the perfect way to enhance any home gym. Whether a novice or experienced weightlifter, these versatile tools can help take your workouts up a notch — offering plenty of exercises for all levels!

Which Type of Bar Should I Use? Reasons for Using a Curl Bar Vs. Straight Bar

Whether you’re just starting out in weightlifting or already an experienced lifter, picking between the curl bar and straight bar comes down to your needs. Those with wrist sensitivities, mobility issues, or new to the sport may find comfort and success using a curl bar, making it the better option. At the same time, serious strength athletes might enjoy pushing their limits with heavier plates on a traditional Olympic straight bar.


Shop Our Best Curl Bars

  1. Bare Steel Equipment Skull Crusher Curl Bar
  2. Body-Solid OB48F Fat Curl Bar
  3. York Barbell Rubber Grip EZ Curl Bar

Shop All EZ Curl Bars

Shop Our Best Straight Bars

  1. Body-Solid OB86EXT Extreme Olympic Bar
  2. York 7' USA Olympic Power Bar
  3. Bare Steel Equipment Iron Skull Power Bar

Shop All Straight Bars


  1. Marcolin, G., Panizzolo, F. A., Petrone, N., Moro, T., Grigoletto, D., Piccolo, D., & Paoli, A. (2018). Differences in electromyographic activity of biceps brachii and brachioradialis while performing three variants of curl. PeerJ, 6, e5165.

  2. Coratella, G., Tornatore, G., Longo, S., Esposito, F., & Cè, E. (2023). Bilateral Biceps Curl Shows Distinct Biceps Brachii and Anterior Deltoid Excitation Comparing Straight vs. EZ Barbell Coupled with Arms Flexion/No-Flexion. Journal of functional morphology and kinesiology, 8(1), 13.

  3. Golshani, K., Cinque, M. E., O'Halloran, P., Softness, K., Keeling, L., & Macdonell, J. R. (2017). Upper extremity weightlifting injuries: Diagnosis and management. Journal of orthopaedics, 15(1), 24–27.

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