If you've ever noticed those strange looking barbells in the gym that look crooked and oddly shaped, then you may have understandably wondered what they are. What you're looking at here is an E-Z bar, which is a slight variation on the regular barbell. Let's examine what it's for and why you should consider using itů
Problems With Barbells
The barbell is a pretty straightforward piece of equipment being essentially just a straight piece of metal as it is. This is fine for performing bench presses as you only need to place your hands underneath the bar, but if you want to use the bar for curls it can create something of an awkward angle to get your hands around and to grip.
The main problem with curling a regular barbell is that it forces your wrists into awkward positions unless you bring your arms in very close to your body. At the same time the strange angle means that it won't just be your biceps working on the movement so much as your forearms.
Introducing the E-Z Bar
The E-Z bar, also known as the E-Z curl bar, was inventor by Lewis G. Dymeck to help address these issues. The bar uses a slightly bent shape that resembles a 'W' though only ever so slightly. This slightly different profile however is enough to let the wrists take on a more neutral and less supinated position. This can help to prevent injury while also isolating the biceps slightly more in the movement. The added ease of movement means you may be able to perform more repetitions.
That said though, there is also a drawback to using the E-Z bar, which is that it prevents you from completing 100% contraction with the biceps. As such it is up to you which bar you want to use for curls or whether you want to use a combination. For those with weak wrists however, it presents a helpful solution.
The third option is to avoid barbell curls altogether and to instead use dumbbells. This will also help to improve symmetry for each bicep.
Other Types of Barbells
Regular barbells and E-Z curl bars are not the only types of barbell to choose from however. There are actually a myriad of different shapes and sizes for barbells and each will slightly alter the angle of the force and thus train different muscles.
One of the other popular types of barbell is the triceps bar. This is a barbell that has a 'cage' like structure in the middle with two shorter bars to hold on to inside. This allows you to curl with your palms facing inwards in what is known as a 'hammer curl'. This allows even less contraction while placing even less strain on the wrists. The main use for the tricep bar however is for overhead tricep extensions, hence its name.
Another popular barbell variation is the 'thick handled barbell'. This is exactly as it sounds and presents thicker handles that are harder for the weightlifter to get their hands around. This in turn trains the grip and works the forearms more during the movement.
Finally, the trap bar is a barbell with a diamond shape in the middle presenting two diagonal handles to be held from above. This makes it particularly easy to pull the bar straight up as in an upward row, shrug or even a deadlift. By bringing the centre of gravity closer to the user this helps to reduce strain on the spine.
Try them all and decide which is right for you and for each exercise!