Biceps curls help build the front of your upper arms, and a variety of weight and weight-machine options exist to help you target this area. If you prefer free weights, choose between a traditional straight barbell or the zigzag-style EZ bar, which is available from a variety of manufacturers. Both allow you to lift the same amount of weight, but the hand positioning on the EZ bar might suit your wrists better. Always consult your doctor before starting this or any exercise regimen.
Difference Between Bars
Straight barbells are staples in commercial and home gyms. These are longer than EZ bars, which typically fall about 4 to 5 feet long. Standard barbells usually are 5 to 6 feet long, while Olympic barbells are 7 feet long. The shorter EZ bar helps you understand where the center is so you know the best place to grip; it can be difficult to find the proper position with longer bars, but it's essential to ensure both arms are lifting weight equally.
Barbell Hand Position
When using a straight barbell, your wrists have only one way to sit: straight. Biceps curls typically require an underhand grip, which means your palms are facing up. Your wrists should be in line with your elbows -- about shoulder-width apart -- as you bend your elbows to bring the bar up toward your chest. With a high number of repetitions, this straight wrist position can cause your wrists to become uncomfortable.
EZ Bar Hand Position
The EZ bar does something a straight barbell can't do: it lets you hold your wrists at a slight angle to help prevent wrist pain while working out. The bar has zigzags on each side so you can turn your hands in different directions, depending on your chosen exercise. For biceps curls, grab the outermost angles that allow your hands to face each other slightly; they won't be completely parallel to each other, but the palms will turn in just a bit. Your hands should still be shoulder-width apart, which usually correlates to the outer bends in the bar.
Changing Hand Positions
With both types of bar, moving your hands in or out changes the area of the biceps you work the most. Moving your hands closer together -- at least 4 inches apart -- focuses the curl on the inner area of your biceps, also called the short head of the muscle. Depending on how close you move your hands, you might be able to hold onto the inner bend of the EZ curl bar, but you might be holding the straight part of the bar. This can also happen when you widen your grip -- it's likely a wide grip will be outside the bends in the bar and require you to hold the straight section of the bar. Widening the stance using either bar works the outer, or long, head of the biceps.
- Lee Hayward's Total Fitness Body Building: A Beginners Guide to Gym Equipment and Workout Accessories
- Muscle Mag Fitness: Barbell Curls
- Muscular Development: Back to Basics -- Building Biceps Mass with Barbell Curls
- Lee Hayward's Total Fitness Body Building: Top 5 Bicep Exercises for the Best Bicep Workout
- ExRx.net: Barbell Curl