12 EZ Bar Curl Alternatives (Substitutes To Build Biceps)

EZ bar curls are an effective way to grow your biceps, but EZ curl bars can be expensive, and you might not have access to one. You might be worried that means you can’t grow big arms or that you can’t build a strong upper body.

Don’t worry because that isn’t the case, and in this guide, we'll introduce 12 of the best EZ bar curl alternatives to get all the benefits with whatever equipment you have at hand.   

EZ bar curls are a great way to grow visible biceps because they target the long head, which gives you a more prominent peak.

If you don’t have an EZ bar, then you need to find alternative exercises which target the same area of your biceps so you can improve the size and strength of your upper arms. Here are the best substitute exercises for EZ bar curls: 

1. Close Grip Pull Up 

A close grip pull up isn’t the easiest exercise because it relies on a range of muscles across your body. You’ll need a reasonable amount of strength to perform them, but they can give you some great results.

Pull ups are considered one of the most effective full-body movements, and by moving your hands close together, you focus the effort on your biceps. This gives you similar benefits to an EZ bar curl but also engages your back and shoulders like a regular pull up would. 

You need a pull up bar for this exercise, but they're cheap and easy to install at home. Start by hanging from it with your hands in an underhand grip about 1 inch apart from each other.

Pull yourself up until your chin reaches the bar. Pause for a second, and then lower yourself back down. Remember to keep the movement controlled throughout and try not to use your momentum to swing up and down. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip This is a tough exercise that isn’t great for beginners because it’s so difficult. Focus on building your strength with other alternatives first until you’re able to perform a close grip pull up.

Related Article - Best Pull Up Alternatives

Close Grip Pull Up

2. Band Concentration Curls 

Concentration curls are effective because your arm is anchored throughout the movement. This focuses the tension on your biceps and gives more significant muscle gains compared to standard bicep curls. They also help to improve your mind-muscle connection.  

You’ll only need a couple of resistance bands for this alternative, so it's great for those with home gyms who may not have any weights. Of course, you won’t get the same muscle gains as you would with an EZ bar curl, but you will improve your flexibility and endurance. 

Start by sitting down with one end of your resistance band secured underneath your foot on the floor. Hold the other end of your band and make sure it’s taut when your arm is extended.

Next, rest your elbow on the inside of your thigh and slowly curl it up towards your head. Pause at the top, and then slowly lower back down to starting position.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip The concentration curl, in all its forms, is great for building bicep peaks. The resistance band also helps with this as it keeps constant tension on your bicep.

Band Concentration Curls

3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Curls 

Single-arm dumbbell curls are a great way to target the long head of your bicep if you don't have a bar handy. You can train one arm at a time to focus your effort, and it’s a useful alternative exercise if you’re carrying an injury and just want to train one side of your body.  

You'll only need a dumbbell for this exercise, so you should be able to perform it at home or in a commercial gym. Start by standing tall with a dumbbell in one hand, letting it hang down, so it's around waist height.

Next, slowly contract your bicep and curl the dumbbell up towards your shoulder. Pause at the top, and then lower back down. Aim for 8-12 reps and increase the weight if you find you can do more. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip Since you're only training one bicep at a time, you'll have to engage your core to keep your body aligned perfectly and stable.

Read More - Adjustable Vs Fixed Dumbbells

Single-Arm Dumbbell Curls

4. Dumbbell Alternating Curls 

Alternating dumbbell curls will help to give you strength and muscle gains in a way similar to performing EZ bar curls. By alternating the movement from side to side, you'll engage your core and lower back to stabilize your body, which will help to support your entire upper body.

This is a perfect alternative exercise for beginners who don’t have access to an EZ curl bar but still want to build serious muscle mass.  

Start by standing tall with a dumbbell in each hand, hands around waist height. Slowly raise one dumbbell up towards your shoulder and pause at the top for a second. As you lower that weight down, start to contract your other bicep and curl the other dumbbell up towards your shoulder.

Keep going with both arms so that the dumbbells are rising and falling alternately. Aim for 8-12 reps on each side and increase the weight if you can comfortably do more.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip With this exercise, I like to start each set on a different side. So, if I start the first set using my right bicep, then I'll start the second set using my left. This helps eliminate any possibility for muscle imbalances.

Related Article - How Much Do Dumbbells Cost?

Dumbbell Alternating Curls

5. Wide Grip Barbell Curl

Barbell curls are a good way to engage your whole bicep and build lean muscle, but if you use a wide grip, you can target the long head just like an EZ curl bar does. Using a wide grip can also make the movement easier so that you can stack more weight on the bar. This makes it a useful strength builder for beginners to incorporate into their routine. 

You will need a barbell for this exercise and a reasonable amount of weight. Start by standing tall and holding the barbell with your hands about 2-3 inches wider than your shoulders.

Slowly contract both your biceps and curl the barbell up towards your shoulders. Pause at the top, then lower back down to the starting position. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip To maximize the benefits to your biceps, make sure you keep your upper body still and shoulders back throughout the movement.  

Read More - Barbell Vs Dumbbell Curls

Wide Grip Barbell Curl

6. Band Resisted Barbell Curl 

A band resisted barbell curl is an excellent alternative to an EZ curl because the resistance bands add tension throughout the movement. This makes the curls harder to perform and will give you greater gains. They also let you add resistance to the barbell without needing extra weights, so it can be a cheaper option for home gym owners.  

Take your resistance bands and put one end on the floor. Stand on it to create tension, and hold the other end of the band in each hand. Reach down and pick up the barbell, then slowly curl it up towards your shoulders.

Pause at the top, and the barbell back down to around waist height. You should feel the resistance from the bands and the barbell throughout the curl, and it'll give you a great pump afterward.   

Garage Gym Pro Tip If you have a power rack in your home gym, check if it comes with band pegs on the base. Many power racks come with these, so you can easily add bands to any exercise.

See Also - Power Rack Accessories

Band Resisted Barbell Curl

7. Hammer Curls 

Hammer curls are a good EZ curl substitute exercise for those without a bar because they target the same peaks of your biceps. They also help to improve your grip strength, wrist stability, and your overall endurance so you can perform compound exercises more easily.

Start with a bicep in each hand, holding them with a neutral grip and palms facing together. Next, contract your biceps and curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders. Pause at the top, and lower back down to starting position. Aim for 8-12 reps at a time, but increase the load as you gain strength.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip Mixing in some hammer curls will help you grow more well-rounded biceps and improve your upper body strength.  

Read More - Hammer Vs Bicep Curls

Hammer Curls

8. Cross Body Curl 

Cross body curls are a good alternative because they move the dumbbells across your body in a diagonal motion. This mimics the angle of an EZ curl bar to give you almost exactly the same strength and muscle gains. This variation also helps you to build strong, thick forearms and even engages your triceps.  

Start with a dumbbell in each hand using a neutral grip, so your palms are facing each other. With one arm at a time, contract your bicep and move the dumbbell up and towards the middle of your body.

Once it reaches your mid chest, pause for a second, and then lower it back down to starting position. Repeat the motion with the other dumbbell.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip The key to this exercise is keeping the movement controlled and not swinging the weights across your body. This will maximize your muscle gains and limit any risk of injury.  

Learn More - Why Are Dumbbells Called Dumbbells?

Cross Body Curl

9. Incline Dumbbell Curls 

Incline dumbbell curls are more comprehensive arm exercises that require a greater range of movement. They activate the long head of your bicep and stretch out the muscles in your upper arm to help stimulate more significant muscle growth.

Start by sitting on an incline bench set at 60 degrees, or using a chair on which you can safely lean back on. Lay back with your head resting against the bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand, keeping your arms straight.

Engage your biceps and curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulder. Pause at the top, and then slowly lower back down to starting position. Keep your feet on the floor and lower body still throughout the exercise, and focus all the effort on your biceps to maximize the benefits.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip Incline dumbbell curls are also effective at strengthening your elbow flexor muscle which will help reduce your risk of injury when performing other exercises.  

Incline Dumbbell Curls

10. Dumbbell Spider Curl 

Spider curls give you a deep curl which can lead to greater gains than performing EZ bar curls. The positioning of your body and the weight means that your biceps are under strain throughout the whole movement, which helps to improve your strength and endurance. 

Set up a bench at a 45-degree angle with your dumbbells behind it on the floor. Lie on the bench so that your chest is resting against it and reach down to pick up the dumbbells.

Keep your torso still and curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders. Squeeze your biceps at the top, and then lower back down to starting position. Aim for 12-15 reps at first, but increase as they become easier to perform.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip Dumbbell spider curls are also very effective at isolating your biceps so you can focus all your energy on one muscle group.  

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Dumbbell Spider Curl

11. Resistance Band Lying Bicep Curl 

We love this alternative because all you need is a couple of resistance bands and some space on the floor. It’s great for beginners because they aren’t as challenging as EZ bar curls, and they can really help improve your flexibility and endurance. This will make other curls and compound exercises much easier as you develop.  

Start by lying with your back on the ground, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Loop one end of a resistance band under each foot, and hold the other end in your hands, ensuring the resistance band is taut.

Then, alternating each side, contract your arm and curl the resistance band up towards you. Pause when your hand gets to shoulder height, and then lower back down to starting position. Repeat with the other side and keep going until you’ve done 14-18 reps.

This is one of the best EZ bar curl substitute exercises for beginners and can be performed at home or in the gym.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip You can also anchor your resistance band underneath a door to make sure it stays secure while you're performing this exercise.

Resistance Band Lying Bicep Curl

12. Cable Preacher Curl 

The cable preacher curl is the best preacher curl alternative and is extremely effective at giving you a bicep pump. They target the long head just like an EZ curl, and the cables mean that there is constant tension throughout the movement.

This makes them more challenging than regular curls but gives you greater benefits. You will need a cable machine to perform this exercise, so it's not practical for some people to work out at home, but most commercial gyms will have one.   

Bring the preacher curl station over to the cable machine and move the cable handle to the lowest setting, so it's basically on the floor. Sit on the preacher station and reach down to grab the bar.

Slowly curl the bar towards you until it almost touches your forehead. Pause for a moment, and then lower it back down. The cable preacher curl can be challenging, so make sure that you use a light weight until you’re used to the movement.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip You can also use an incline bench to simulate a preacher curl bench. Just adjust the bench to a 45-degree incline and place it in front of the cable machine. Stand behind the bench with your tricep on the pad.

cable preacher curl

Muscles Worked With EZ Bar Curl Substitutes 

Your biceps are made up of 2 parts: the long head and the short head. The long head is what gives you visibly larger biceps, and the EZ curl bar is specifically designed to engage it.

This is because the bar forces you to hold it in a diagonal position, forcing the long head to do all the work. The EZ bar curl substitutes on this list have all been chosen because they mimic this movement and engage the same muscle groups to give you very similar results.  

Several exercises on this list will target other areas, too, like your front deltoids around your shoulders and the smaller brachialis part of the bicep. This means you’ll improve the overall strength and functionality of your upper arm more than if you only performed EZ bar curls. 

Performing these EZ bar curl alternatives regularly will help you build noticeably bigger biceps and improve your upper body strength.  


Do You Need To Do EZ Bar Curl Alternative Exercises?

Having strong biceps will improve your overall physique and make performing other exercises easier. EZ bar curls, or alternative exercises, should form part of your regular routine so that you can develop your upper arms and improve your body’s functionality.  

There are some advantages in performing the alternatives on this list compared to a standard EZ bar curl: 

Removes The Reliance On Specific Equipment 

If you’re performing EZ bar curls, then you are very reliant on the EZ curl bar. This list of alternatives provides you with a range of options to engage the long head of your bicep so that you can work out with whatever you have at home. This makes it easier to build strong arms.  

Beginner Options 

An EZ bar curl is often performed by beginners because it’s a good way to build up your strength for other exercises. Performing these exercises can help you build up strength in the same way, and there are actually some resistance band exercises that are even better for beginners.  

Better Gains  

Ultimately, you want to keep pushing your body, and one of the best ways to do this is to mix up your workout routine. Replacing your standard EZ bar curls with 3 or 4 different exercises from this list will help you shock your body and stimulate greater muscle growth. 


Common EZ Bar Curl Questions 

Are EZ bar curls better than dumbbell curls? 

EZ bar curls are better for building bigger biceps, but they’re only really designed for one movement and can’t be used with one hand. Dumbbell curls will help to activate some of the smaller muscle groups and are effective at training one side of your body, which is useful if you’re carrying an injury.  

Generally, if you want bigger gains, you'll want to do EZ bar curls. However, if you're looking to improve your overall strength, flexibility, and endurance, then you may be better with dumbbell curls.  

Can you curl more with an EZ bar? 

You can normally curl more with an EZ bar because the angle of the bar makes it easier to lift. It puts much less strain on the wrist, which allows most people to lift slightly more.

How much does an EZ curl bar weigh? 

EZ curl bars generally weigh 14-30 pounds. The heavier the bar, the more weight it can usually carry.  

Can you bench press and squat with an EZ bar? 

Technically, yes, but it isn’t the right piece of equipment for the job. The angle of an EZ bar really only makes them suitable for bicep curls, and you're better off with a straight barbell for squats and bench presses.  


Conclusion

Having well-developed biceps helps you look good and feel strong. An EZ curl bar is an effective way to gain muscle in your upper arms, but if you don't have access to one, there are a lot of great alternatives you can try. Hopefully this guide has given you some inspiration, and you've got some new bicep exercises to try in your next workout.  

Last Updated on May 29, 2022