I am a fan of the standard Olympic bar for lifting weights. Gyms wouldn’t be the same without them. Don’t get me wrong, machines are swell. But I prefer the feel of an old-fashioned barbell. The cold steel coated in nickel with a knurled finish is like a 45-pound vacation from the world. It brings out my inner caveman, grunts and all.
But there are some limits to the standard bar. Have you ever tried to isolate your arm muscles with it? Take it from me, the Olympic bar is awkward to manipulate. For one, it’s 7 feet long. That makes it somewhat tricky to move into different positions. It also weighs 45 pounds. Not much of an issue for the larger muscles on the legs or chest. However, smaller muscles such as biceps, triceps and shoulders may find that is a bit too much to start with. Especially for beginners.
Trying to curl a large bar also proves difficult. You do get full activation of the biceps, but the wrist and elbow are at an uncomfortable angle. As the weight gets heavier, the wrists and elbows may become more of an issue.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a bar that didn’t bug the joints and was simple to move around the gym? Well, there is and its name is easy to remember. The EZ curl bar may have a section all its own in your gym. They may be on a large rack with permanent weights fixed to the ends or a loadable bar like the one featured in today’s column.
EZ curl bars are made significantly smaller than the traditional bars. The bends are angled to facilitate a more comfortable grip. It puts the elbows and wrists in a more natural position. Your gym may have bars with drastic bends and/or subtle bends. There are even EZ curl bars that attach to the cable machines.
Deciding which grips to use, the inside grip or the outside grip, can be troublesome at first. If you’re new to the gym, choose the grip that is more comfortable. Generally, that is the one that lines up with your shoulders.
Most people use the EZ curl bar to do preacher curls. Those are curls performed on a slanted elbow rest, either seated or standing. It can also be used for various triceps and forearm exercises. You can even do some shoulder work with the bar. Using close and wide grips will add dimension and variety to your training.
The EZ bar isn’t just for making beach-ready biceps that bulge. If you are trying to progress your bench press or need some extra strength to command your first push-up, then accessorize your workout with today’s triceps exercise. Skull crushers get their name from the way the lifter lowers the bar just above the forehead. You can call them triceps extensions if skull crusher is too intense for you. Ether way, use a spotter and be safe.
The major form flaw with either of today’s exercises is swinging. Swinging makes the lift easier. So when the weight gets difficult, realign your frame, tighten your core and continue.
Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.