How to choose a curl bar

Going along with the idea that* everything’s better on a stick *(e.g., meat, ice cream), I’m looking to pick up and put down heavy objects on a stick. I already have a long, straight stick, but at six or seven feet it’s somewhat unwieldy. (On preview, that’s a really funny sentence that made my inner jr. high schooler laugh.) I’d like to get something that’s a lot shorter and more manageable, (snicker) particularly as Mrs. Devil uses the stick too (hehehe) and at the same time, and passing it back and forth is a bit much.

But holy cow there are a lot of choices!

[li]Solid bars;[/li][li]Hollow bars;[/li][li]Bars that look like giant metal suppositories (:eek:);[/li][li]Bars withclips;[/li][li]Bars that make me want to eat a doughnut; and[/li][li]Lots of bars that look like some ‘roid-raging maniac let loose on a paperclip.[/li][/ul]

What’s the difference and do those differences matter to the casual user?

We’re picking up/putting down heavy objects only for basic fitness. There’re no particular goals or spectacular program and we’re not planning on putting* very *heavy objects on the sticks—we’re merely complementing our cardio routine (an hour of daily cardio; an hour of heavy objects every other day). Though there will be variations over time, for the moment all we’re doing are basic things like squats, presses (shoulder, bench, starched shirts), curls (duh), rows, and the like. Maybe in a couple years we’ll be He-Man and -Woman and want something more exotic or specialized, but for now our main focus is on sticking with it—making getting to the weight-on-a-stick exercises easier will be good for that.

The spring clips look much more convenient than screwing collars on and off, but are they safe? Do we really care about the various shapes? Is there one that’s more versatile? Oh, speaking of doughnuts, the holes in the heavy objects are 1” in diameter—I assume there are standardized sizes, but thought to mention it just in case.



I put this in GQ thinking that there would be straightforward answers to this (e.g., use a suppository bar to build pictorial muscles; the more oblique the angle the more work it takes, etc.). If it’s more personal preferences, please move it to IMHO, the Pit, or wherever is most appropriate.

There are a lot of choices probably because no one of them is The Best. I work out but at a gym so I haven’t bought any of my own equipment.

One consideration for curls is the wrist position. I do not have an authoritative answer to this, but besides just raising the arms, the biceps also rotate the forearms (bend your elbow, hold your biceps with the opposite hand, and you can feel what’s going on as you rotate the forearm). Rotating the forearms so that palms are straight up gives the maximum contraction to the biceps. Some people say that is the optimal position for curls because it engages the most muscle fibers, but others might say exactly the opposite, to make the muscle work harder in a weaker position. Still others might say that the best position is thumbs up.

I think a conventional curl bar (I don’t know the tradeoffs between solid and hollow) with clips is a good choice. Get something that is not so specialized that you can’t use it for other exercises.


Er… what’s a “conventional” curl bar? One that’s a bit wavy but not enpretzeled? Something like this?

I’m having trouble finding the difference between Olympic and standard. I get that the grippy-bit of the bar is 2" on the Olympic, but that’s about it. I’ve also seen that Olympic is supposed to be longer and stronger, but that doesn’t seem applicable to curl bars. Are Olympic bars 2" their entire length or just the grippy-bit? If the weight plates I have all have 1" diameter doughnut holes, does that mean I need to stay away from Olympic bars or do thee bars have 1" ends?

Or is it just a crapshoot and it depends on individual companies’ definitions?

I think the idea is to pick one that allows you to vary the angle of hands to forearm. As long as it allows you to do that it doesn’t really matter much which you choose.

Cool – so I can stop overthinking it.

Any idea of the 1" / 2" difference?

An Olympic bar takes plates with a 2" hole in them. But the grip area on the Olympic bar is not 2", it is only a little thicker than a standard bar. If your current set has 1" holes, you will not be able to use an Olympic bar.

You did not ask for this, but I will say it. For general fitness, I would drop the bicep curls (or at least use them less). Do pull-ups (+ Chin-ups) and Bent-over Barbell rows. You can do the curls if you enjoy them, but compound movements work more muscle and will usually have better carryover to real-world activities.

First off, I would go with one of the wavy ones - it lets you do your curls, etc with your hands in more than one position.

Expanding upon the 1" vs 2" (only at the ends where the weight goes) - Standard vs Olympic. This determines which weight “plates” you buy. If you have any significant amount of weight plates in one or the other size, get the bar that matches. If you have no weights at all I would get olympic size weights because it is easier to get larger weights in olympic size and larger straight barbells for doing heavier squats, bench presses, etc are more often olympic (2") sized.

I haven’t had any problem with the spring clips, and I doubt you would as long as you don’t want to use your weights like those shake-weight things you see on TV.

note, the zigzag wavy bars came into being because some people (usually women), their rest position for arms is bent a little outwards. the wave puts less stress on their elbows.

length of the bar affects torque, which influences the stabilizing muscles.

spring clips are fine.

if this is an effort to save money on instead of going to a gym, i say get dumbells instead. you can do way more exercises with dumbells than a bar and weights.

As a general rule weight builds mass and the bars and such build the muscle.

Have you ever notice how bodybuilders “make a muscle,” with a bicep and get a “peak” to it. Like a mountain?

This comes from using free weights and varying the grip and the motion. It’s very difficult to get this with a machine.

This is why there is no “Best” for a curling bar. You want to select one that is a good grip for you and gives you as MUCH RANGE of motion as possible. Once you build your bicep up to as big as you want it, you then want to use the curling bar to vary the motion AS you lift.

This will give the mass you built a definiton. It’s kind of like molding the muscle into the shape you want, like you’d do with clay

I’m not sure you can change the shape of a muscle by changing the grip or the motion; the shape is determined by genetics, and weightlifting will only change the size.

To answer the OP, I like the standard wavy bars like you linked to in your second post, and like The Man in Black said, match the diameter of the bar to the diameter of the hole in the plates you have.

OTOH, different angles of curls do hit different sets of fibers maximally and minimally. The only way to get all the fibers is to hit at the exercise from multiple angles. Of course those that are involved with the curl no matter which angle is used will get the most exercise volume and therefore the most hypertrophy. Still, for the little that I do curls, I’d go with angling for comfort - even a few sometimes triggers a little tendonitis for me if the angle is off.