Which curl bars are best?
Curling is one of the most popular weightlifting exercises for toning the arms and building bigger biceps. While users can perform curling with dumbbells and certain machines, many prefer curl bars because they reduce the chance of cheating through poor form but are still free weights.
When choosing a curl bar, there are many things to consider, including the type of plates it accepts, the finish and how heavy the knurling is. You’ll also need to pay attention to the stated capacity of any model you are considering. Perhaps the most important thing, though, is what kind of curl bar you want. Many people prefer slightly angled models like the XMark Olympic Lumberjack EZ Curl Bar because they provide a natural hand position and reduce strain on the elbows. That said, both straight bars and hammer curl bars offer some of their own benefits that may make them a more suitable choice for some.
What to know before you buy a curl bar
Types of curl bars
There are three types of curl bars: straight bars, EZ curl bars and hammer curl bars.
- Straight bars are the least ergonomic for performing curls but offer better bicep activation since you are forced to keep your hands in an entirely supine position. They are also better for certain other exercises like overhead shoulder presses and squats.
- EZ curl bars keep your hands in a semi-supinated position, which incorporates the brachioradialis muscle to a greater extent but keeps your forearms and elbows in a more comfortable and safe position to reduce the chances of injury.
- Hammer curl bars, also referred to as tricep bars, keep your hands in a neutral, vertical position. This grip helps you better target the long head of the bicep, while the more supine hand positions on other types of bars place more emphasis on the short head.
Curl bars may be labeled as standard or Olympic, which refers to what size plate they hold. Standard curl bars hold standard weight plates, which have a 1-inch hole in the center. Olympic curl bars hold Olympic plates, which have a 2-inch hole in the center. Most gyms use Olympic bars because they tend to be stronger. However, some home users may prefer standard bars because they are usually more affordable.
What to look for in a quality curl bar
Not all curl bars can hold the same amount of weight. Some only support up to 50 pounds, while others can accommodate up to 300 pounds or more. It is critical not to exceed the stated limitations of any curl bar you purchase. Otherwise, you risk not only breaking the bar but injuring yourself too.
Curl bars come in several finishes, with the most basic option being bare steel. These tend to have the most aggressive grip since nothing is coating the knurling, but they are prone to rust. Chrome-plated finishes are popular because they are durable and highly resistant to corrosion. Black zinc and manganese phosphate are also popular because they are more resistant to rusting than bare steel, and some find they offer a better feel in hand than chrome.
When comparing the grips of various curl bars, there are two factors: the knurling and the angle. The more aggressive the knurling, the better grip a bar will offer, especially in sweaty hands. However, the downside to very aggressive knurling is that it can be very rough on the skin. This can be mitigated with the use of lifting gloves, though.
The angle of the grips affects a bar’s ergonomics and what part of the muscle on which it places the most emphasis.
The sleeve on an Olympic curl bar is where you place the weight plates. Models with rotating sleeves allow the plates to revolve around the bar as you curl upwards and release downwards. This can minimize momentum and make the entire action feel smoother, which may help reduce the chances of injury.
Collars are used to hold the weight plates in place on a curl bar. Standard curl bars usually have a spinlock collar that you screw into place. Many people don’t like these because they are time-consuming and often loosen up in the middle of an exercise. Olympic curls bars may use spring collars or some form of locking collars. Both are convenient because they are easy to apply and remove quickly, and they rarely ever loosen up during an exercise. It is important to note that not all curl bars include collars, so make sure to read the product details carefully if you don’t want to wind up having to purchase them separately.
How much you can expect to spend on a curl bar
The most affordable curl bars cost $25-$50. If looking for a commercial gym-quality curl bar, expect to spend $60-$125.
Curl bar FAQ
Can I perform other exercises with a curl bar?
A. While the ergonomics of a curl bar lend themselves to performing curls, there is no reason you can’t perform other exercises with them. Other common exercises performed with curl bars include shoulder presses, French presses, skull crushers and shrugs.
How much does a curl bar weigh?
A. Most standard curl bars weigh 10-20 pounds. Olympic curl bars usually weigh between 15-30 pounds.
What are the best curl bars to buy?
Top curl bar
What you need to know: Designed with serious lifters in mind, the lumberjack has an impressive 400-pound weight capacity and a durable black manganese phosphate coating.
What you’ll love: Its rotating sleeves have self-lubricating brass alloy bushings, so they won’t require any maintenance. Also, the knurling isn’t overly aggressive to be easy on the hands yet still provides a secure grip.
What you should consider: Some may prefer a curl bar with deeper angles on the grips.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top curl bar for the money
What you need to know: The versatile model has a modified shape that allows it to take the place of both an EZ curl bar and a hammer curl bar.
What you’ll love: It has a high weight capacity for the price and a medium diamond knurling similar to the bars you find in most gyms.
What you should consider: The collars can be challenging to secure tightly in place.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: The OB47B is strong enough for hardcore lifters, but it also commands a high price tag in line with its quality.
What you’ll love: It’s available with a black oxide or chrome finish, both of which resist chipping and corrosion well. Plus, most users will find the grips with just the right angle to relieve pressure on their elbows.
What you should consider: The knurling is overly aggressive and can be rough on bare hands.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.