The EZ bar curl is a way to make this classic bicep exercise more comfortable. Find out exercise alternatives that offer a similar effect.
Some people experience wrist discomfort during regular curls with a straight bar. The EZ bar curl can help you reduce this discomfort.
Both types of bicep curls will help you work out upper arm muscles like your biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis.
Whether you don’t enjoy EZ bar curls, you want to use different equipment, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these EZ bar curl substitutes can offer you similar results.
1. Hammer curls
To do this first exercise you either need a tricep bar or one-handed weights like dumbbells. As an example, take the following steps to do a hammer curl with dumbbells:
- Stand up straight with your arms hanging beside you. Each hand holds a dumbbell with a neutral grip which means with your hand palms facing each other in starting position.
- Lower the dumbbells back into starting position in a controlled motion.
Doing hammer curls instead of EZ bar curls or regular curls with other equipment has two main points.
First of all, the neutral grip is generally even more comfortable on your wrists than the sideways grip from the EZ curl bar or the straight grip from a barbell.
Secondly, by changing your grip, hammer curls are an alternative with a slightly different upper arm muscle focus than EZ bar curls.
Hammer curls work your brachialis muscle more. This upper-arm muscle helps your arms achieve more power and look bigger. Additionally, the brachioradialis, mainly a forearm muscle, has to work harder during hammer curls too.
That being said, hammer curls will also still work your bicep muscles a good amount.
2. Cable curls
Cable machines are a metal construction where a cable is attached to weights. You can hold one end of this cable to do exercises like bicep curls.
To make these exercises more comfortable and effective there are a variety of cable machine attachments.
Some of these like the EZ curl bar attachment, tricep pushdown handle, and potentially the double rope handle, can be used to do cable curls with a similar wrist angle as regular EZ bar curls.
Take the following steps to do a regular standing cable curl with a double rope handle:
- Set the cable machine low to the ground, attach a double rope handle, and select your desired weight.
- Hold the double rope handle with your hand palms facing up somewhat. Step back to have enough space. Put one leg forward and one leg back to brace yourself against the weight. Keep your arm with the grip in one line with the tension of the cable.
- Slowly fold your arms at the elbows as far as you comfortably can. Keep your upper arm in the same position throughout the exercise.
- Lower your arms back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.
The benefit of cable curls with certain attachments as an EZ curl bar alternative is that it allows you to do bicep curls with your wrists in a relatively comfortable position.
Additionally, some people like the more constant tension of the cable machine more than doing bicep curls with free weights like the EZ curl bar.
The main downside of this option is that you have even more strict equipment requirements. Not many people have a cable machine lying around in their garage.
Most people have heard of the popular pull-up exercise. Chin-ups are a variation of these where you hold the bar differently to focus more on certain muscles.
Even if you don’t have a suited bar yet, something like a doorway pull-up bar is relatively inexpensive.
That aside, take the following steps to do a chin-up:
- Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing backward.
- Pull your body up slowly until your shoulders are the height of the bar.
- Lower your body again into starting position in a controlled motion.
Chin-ups are an EZ bar curl alternative with more of a compound focus. On top of your biceps, this exercise will also help you train a variety of upper back muscles.
The compound focus of this EZ bar curl alternative can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on your training goals.
One downside is that if regular bicep curls are uncomfortable for your wrists, chin-ups will likely be uncomfortable too.
There are certain pull-up bars that allow you to do the exercise with a neutral grip but these can be a bit pricier.
4. Reverse curls
Reverse curls can be done with an EZ curl bar or other biceps workout equipment. As an example, take the following steps to do reverse curls with dumbbells:
- Stand up straight with your arms hanging beside you. Hold a barbell with your hands at about shoulder width with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms facing backward in starting position.
- Lower the barbell back into starting position in a controlled motion.
No matter what equipment you choose, reverse curls tend to be easier on your wrists than regular curls with a straight bar.
One potential upside or downside of this different grip is that you focus even more on your brachialis and brachioradialis muscles than hammer curls.
You still get a lot of bicep engagement but less so than EZ bar curls and other more standard bicep curl variations.
5. Preacher curls
The equipment requirements for this next EZ bar curl alternative are a bit more strict.
On top of the regular resistance requirements, you also want a slanted surface. There are specific preacher curl benches but you could use an incline bench too.
That being said, take the following steps to do a dumbbell preacher curl on the dedicated bench:
- Take a seat behind the preacher bench with the back of your upper arm resting on the slanted surface. Each of your hands holds a dumbbell with your hand palms facing upward in starting position.
- Lower the dumbbells back into starting position in a controlled motion.
Because you are seated and your upper arms rest on the preacher bench, it becomes easier to isolate your bicep muscles compared to standing bicep curl variations.
One downside of this substitute is that do need a preacher bench to do the exercise.
If you still want the wrist comfort from EZ bar curls you can simply do preacher curls with an EZ bar or do dumbbell curls with your wrists in a turned position.
6. Concentration curls
For concentration curls, you need something sturdy to sit on at about knee height and some form of resistance. Once you have these, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Sit on the object with your upper legs at about a 90-degree angle with the dumbbell right next to the foot of the arm you want to work out.
- Put the lower back of your upper arm of the dumbbell side on the inside of your leg on the same side. Hold the dumbbell but keep your arm slightly less than stretched.
- Slowly fold your arm with the dumbbell at the elbow as far as comfortable. Keep your upper arm in the same position throughout the exercise.
- Lower the dumbbell back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions on the other side.
Concentration curls are great to do instead of standing EZ bar curls in the sense that you make your biceps work harder by avoiding momentum and using the rest of your body.
Additionally, this is a relatively at-home-friendly exercise.
To make concentration curls more comfortable on your wrist you can shift the angle of your wrist.
One potential downside of concentration curls is that you have to train one arm at a time. This does take a bit more time compared to training both of your arms at the same time with an EZ curl bar.
7. Zottman curls
Take the following steps to do a Zottman curl:
- At the top of the movement twist your hands 180 degrees inward so that your hand palms face forward.
- Lower the dumbbells until your arms are stretched in a controlled motion.
- If you want to do another repetition twist the dumbbells back into starting position.
Zottman curls basically combine the upward movement of a regular bicep curl with the downward movement of a reverse curl.
This makes it a more all-around EZ bar curl alternative in terms of what upper arm muscles get worked in what ratios.
One potential downside is that you still get the wrist angle of the regular bicep curl at the bottom of the motion. Some people will find this too uncomfortable.