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Last Update  On November 15, 2011
The EZ-Curl Bar Still Kills The Straight Bar For Arm Training

by Rusi
Many people believe that the straight bar is best for biceps development because due to the position of the palms (facing ceiling) there is more biceps involvement during the exercise. In other words the straight bar allows for a full biceps contraction which can only occur with the wrist fully supinated. So in theory it's all correct. However there is one problem - many people will experience wrist, elbow or even shoulder pain because the straight bar places a lot of pressure on the arm joints. When you use a straight bar the body has to accommodate to the bar. This can be a problem since many will be lacking the required flexibility and will end up doing the exercise with pain.
This happens with straight bar pull-ups and chin-ups too - they can be rather mean to the elbows. As I've explained in this article on back training the solution are the gymnastic rings since they allow the body to find a peaceful position. When it comes arm training this is achieved to some point by the EZ-Curl bar.
The EZ-curl bar was invented a long time ago in order to reduce elbow and wrists stress. However like I've already said many coaches consider the EZ-curl bar ineffective for “complete” biceps work because the grip position brings into play other elbow flexors such as the brachialis. Mark Rippetoe is one the popular coaches who has criticized the EZ-curl bar for the very same reason in his book Starting Strength 2nd edition.
I actually don't see what the problem is. In fact there are more arm muscles working when using the EZ-curl bar. All of those muscles will add meat to your arms. They should not be treated as biceps slaves. On top of that the biceps still has a lot of work to do and rotating the forearm a few degrees won't take your pythons out of the movement. Try EZ-bar curls when your biceps is hurt and tell me there is no biceps involvement. I would  say that at least 5 out of 10 people will experience some kind of discomfort with the straight bar. The EZ-bar curl is the solution.

"Ok. Bro but my wrists hurt even when I use the EZ-curl bar. Am I stuck with towel and hammer curls?"

No. Just get some dumbbells they will fix all of that. The dumbbells will allow your joints to find a position where you will be able to execute a pretty biceps dominated curl and you won't be stucked with the hammer or towel curl. Barbells are great for lower body and back work - squats, deadlifts, rows, shrugs...etc but when it comes to upper body and isolation exercises dumbbells and cables are hard to beat. Almost everything done with dumbbell will be easier on the joint - bench press, overhead press, curls and so on.

"Ok. Bro. What about triceps exercises? Is the EZ-curl bar still king?"

Yes. Actually the EZ-curl bar is even better for triceps work than it is for biceps because the triceps involvement is not so dependent on hand position. Of course rotating the grip will hit the triceps in a different way but I have found for myself and a lot of people that overhand grip or knuckles facing you is the best grip for lying triceps extensions a.k.a skullbreakers.

If you use the straight bar for triceps extensions there will be a lot less elbow and wrist stress compared to the olympic bar biceps curl but since most of the isolation triceps exercises place a lot of stress on the tendons you may still feel some discomfort. I would rather be safe than sorry.

Use the EZ-curl bar. It's popular training tool for a good reason.

"Ok. Bro You mentioned that many isolation triceps exercises place a lot of stress on the elbow. Do you have any elbow friendly triceps exercises?"

Yes. Check this article:
Elbow Friendly Triceps Exercises
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