If you’ve spent any time in a commercial gym, you’ll inevitably have run across weird, malformed pieces of metal that other people seem to think are normal pieces of equipment like a pull up bar or power stands. This ranges from a host of different grips for cable exercises (strange triangles, V’s of knotted rope, knurled bars only a foot long) and barbells that seem to have been run over by strange tractors, their forms all bent and warped. What are all these bizarre devices, and should you investigate them further, learn how to use them? One in particular gets a lot of usage, and that’s the EZ Curl Bar, the warped and twisted barbell. You’ll see people doing bicep curls with them all day long. Should you?

The EZ Curl bar is meant to be used as an alternative to the barbell for the express purpose of doing curls. As such, the section where you would normally grip is twisted so that your hand need not turn outwards so much. Instead of raising the bar with your palms facing the ceiling, your palms rise at a 45 degree angle. Does this make for a stronger curl, does this stress your bicep more? The answer is quite clearly: no.

Think about how curls work. Your biceps distal end attaches to your ulna. Your ulna is the longer of your two arm bones, and lies beneath your radius. Your bicep is responsible for the movement in which your hand is turned palm up; when this happens, your bicep pulls on the ulna, and rotates your forearm. Therefore, the more the palm is rotated up, the more your bicep is activated. Palm facing straight toward the ceiling activates the most bicep, and doing a curl with your palm thus rotated is the most challenging form.

Therefore using the EZ Curl bar robs you of the benefits of doing a proper curl. While it might feel more comfortable or technical or whatever reason you might wish to give for using the bar, the truth is that it robs the exercise of its full benefit. Try this if you don’t believe me: clench your hand into a fist, and tense up your bicep. Now, hold your fist palm down, and then slowly rotate it palm up, with your other hand pressed to your clenched bicep. Notice how your bicep gets shorter and rounder as you rotate your fist up? No coincidence.

Does this mean the EZ Curl bar is useless? Not quite. You can use the EZ Curl Bar in the lying triceps extension, wherein you lie flat on your back on a bench, loaded bar held directly up with straight arms, and then carefully bed the elbows so as to lower the bar toward you face, lowering it past your head and level with the bench, before raising it to straight arm once more. Since the triceps muscles involved are not affected by the rotation of your hand, the use of the EZ Curl Bar makes sense in this case, and is more comfortable.