A curl bar -- often referred to as the EZ Curl Bar -- is a common piece of gym equipment that resembles an elongated "W." Usually about 4 feet long and weighing between 25 and 30 pounds, it's designed to take the strain off your wrists while doing certain weight-bearing exercises such as, well, curls.
The angles in the bar also allow wrist positions that accommodate the bending of the elbow. Intended for two-handed exercises, the curl bar can be interchanged with regular barbells for most exercises including a lot of presses. The real test of whether a curl bar is right for a given exercise is how it feels to your wrists.
The curl bar is best for exercises that target smaller muscle groups such as triceps and biceps that are usually worked with lighter weights than bigger muscles such as the pectoralis major. However, curl bars can be quite useful in a number of chest exercises as detailed below.
Curl Bar Pullover
Hold the curl bar over your chest with a slight bend in your elbows. Begin lowering the bar behind you, extending your arms behind your head as far as your shoulders will allow. Take care not to strain your shoulder muscles. As you lower your arms behind you, allow them to drop to a level lower than your head. It's best to first test this exercise with a weight that won't challenge you too much, lest you lose control of the bar.
Close Grip Chest Press
Lie back on a flat bench. Grasp the bar at approximately shoulder width and lift, holding the bar directly over you with your arms straight. If the curl bar doesn’t fit a rack, you’ll need a spotter to assist you. Breath in and lower the bar slowly until you can feel it touch the center of your chest. Unlike a normal bench press, you’ll keep your elbows tucked close to your torso. After a pause, bring the bar back to starting position.
Bodyweight Pec Flyes
Place two equally loaded curl bars on the floor parallel to each other. They must be able to roll. Get into a push-up position hovering length-wise over the bars with your arms fully extended and your body rigid and straight. Grasp the bars at the incline toward the ends. This is the starting position.
With a slow and deliberate motion, roll the bars outward as if you’re doing a pec fly in this supine -- or forward lying -- position. When you’ve moved the bars to the maximum width possible for you, pull them back together. Inhale on the outward movement and exhale on the inward movement.
Working the Chest Muscles
When you're concentrating on building up your chest, remember that in both appearance and function, chest muscles are at their best when well-supported by the upper back muscles. That means you should compliment your chest workouts with latissimus dorsi exercises , which will keep your posture upright and prevent shoulders from rounding.
Chest workouts can make chest muscles -- particular the pectoralis minor -- tight so be sure to compliment your lifting with chest muscles stretches to avoid pain. Be sure to allow enough time between chest workouts for you muscles to recover because that's where the real progress is made. Usually leave at least 48 hours between muscle groups worked -- aiming to work out the chest with curl bar and other methods two to three times per week.