For those of you that undertake resistance training, more specifically free weights as opposed to machine weights, you probably would have noticed a selection of bars on which to add your resistance and complete your chosen exercises. The two main types of bars available are bent bar (known as EZ bars) and straight bar, barbells. Both, in theory, share several similarities and allow you to utilise them to complete a variety of exercises, covering all the major target muscles. Both bar types also come in an array of lengths, so their ability to be applied to almost any exercise further increases.
Without trying to state the obvious, the only real physical difference between these two bars is their shape. Before moving on to discover a little bit more about how the shape of these bars ultimately affects their usage let me ask you a question or two; how many of you when selecting a bar simply select the one that is closest and most available to you? And do you know when selecting an EZ bar over a barbell would be more beneficial to your training and vice versa?
If you’re unsure about the latter then keep reading – next time you hit the free weights, your decision to pick up a particular bar will be based on knowledge.
Before moving onto the function of each bar let us firstly consider their shapes. As previously mentioned, the barbell is a relatively straight forward piece of kit; consisting of a straight bar in a variety of lengths and diameters. Conversely, the EZ bar is a bent barbell, with bends at points in the bar where you are likely to place your hands. This allows for your hands to achieve an angled positioned against the bar, rather than your traditional grip hold where they are maintained flat. So why does this really matter when it comes to you and your training?
Although in theory, either bar could be utilised for the majority of exercises, the EZ bar was specifically developed with personal comfort and injury prevention in mind for numerous exercises, namely the biceps curl and triceps press. This is because the integrated angles of the bar and its ability to allow your hands to be placed at varying angles, ultimately reduces the stress placed through the wrist and elbow joints during these particular exercises.
Your forearm is allowed to adopt a more natural position, therefore reducing any pain response or injury potential. If you’ve ever tried to complete a set of preacher bicep curls with a barbell, then you will instantly appreciate the benefits of an EZ bar.
So if the EZ bar is advantageous for biceps and triceps exercises, what can the barbell be utilised for? The answer is; everything else. Such exercises might include shoulder press, chest press, bent over row, squats and lunges to name but a few. Although the EZ bar has its uses, it also becomes awkward and unusable in certain situations, for example when attempting to place it on a weights rack. This is when the barbell comes into play.
In summary, the two common bars available to you, those being the EZ bar and barbell, both have their own purpose and benefits within your training regimes. The EZ bar will offer additional comfort during biceps and triceps exercises, whilst the barbell becomes more convenient for almost every other exercise that requires a bar.
The reasons for selection are based purely around comfort and injury prevention. There is no evidence to suggest one bar will produce greater mass or strength gains than another. At the end of the day, it really falls down to personal preference. At least next time you’re in the free weights section at the gym you can make an informed decision and be satisfied with your reasons why.