Ask The Trainer #153 – EZ Bar vs. Straight Bar

Ask The Trainer #153 - EZ Bar vs. Straight Bar


I was wondering if it is more beneficial to train the biceps using a straight barbell, or an EZ bar? I’ve been using barbells because I always heard they were more effective, but they are a bit hard on my wrists. What would you suggest for maximum bicep development? Thanks.



Hi Joe. I will begin answering your question by acknowledging that you’re correct in assuming training your biceps with a straight barbell is superior to training them with an EZ bar. That is when we’re talking about the long and short heads of the biceps.

Straight barbells force the palms upward in a supinated position, which allows for greater stimulation of these muscles. However, I want to point out there are other parts of the biceps that contribute to overall biceps size and development. That said, I think an EZ bar does have its place in a routine that aims to achieve complete biceps development.

EZ Bar Uses

For example, I like using an EZ bar to perform standing EZ bar curls and reverse grip preacher curls. These aren’t the best exercises for the long or short heads of the biceps, but they are extremely effective for stimulating the brachialis and the brachioradialis.

This is significant because the brachialis originates under the biceps muscle. When it becomes well-developed, it actually lifts up the biceps and makes it appear taller, with more of a peak. This is especially desirable for people who are born with genetically linear (flat) biceps.  I guess you could say that well-developed brachialis muscles serve as sort of a wonder bra for your biceps!  Along with EZ bar curls and reverse grip curls, hammer curls are also very effective for brachialis development.

Building Better Forearms

The brachioradialis muscles are the biggest muscle of your forearms. These muscles originate at the top of your forearms and cross over the elbow joints, connecting at the base of the lateral heads of the triceps. Well-developed brachioradialis muscles add an impressive dimension to the arms. They help make the arms appear well-developed, even when you’re wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt or a polo shirt where the sleeves come to an end at the base of the biceps.

Hammer curls do stimulate the brachioradialis muscles. However, reverse grip EZ bar and barbell curls target these muscles the best. I personally prefer using an EZ bar for reverse grip curls because the bar is much easier to hold and a less abrasive to the hands and wrists.

EZ Bar Benefits

I agree that doing curls with a straight bar is harder on the hands and wrists. That’s why I always emphasise to my trainees not to overdo a good thing and turn it into a bad thing. I cringe when I see some of these guys in the gym doing about 20 sets of barbell curls. That’s a great way to get tendonitis, carpal tunnel, or some kind of bicep injury.

I personally use a straight bar for just 2 bicep exercises: drag curls and spider curls. I do just 1 set to failure on each exercise. That doesn’t include my warm-up sets. I typically do 1-2 warmup sets, depending on how my muscles feel.  In addition to those exercises, I’ll balance out the rest of my biceps workout by performing reverse grip preacher curls, EZ bar curls, and hammer curls in the same fashion that I execute the drag curls and spider curls. This regimen obliterates my biceps every time!

I hope that this information provides a reasonable answer to your question. I wish you all the best of success in your health and fitness endeavors!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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