Best Curl Bars

Updated December 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

40 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
78 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best curl bars

With the right equipment and proper knowledge, there are a variety of workouts you can do at home. You can choose to create a balanced routine or opt to focus on specific areas and muscles. For those looking to enhance their upper-body physique, particularly the arms, a curl bar is a worthy partner in fitness.

Curl bars are mainly used to tone and strengthen the biceps, but they can also help develop the triceps, lats, and delts. They may even help improve core muscles, depending on which exercises are performed. Curl bars may be used alone or in tandem with other fitness equipment. They may be slightly bent or zig-zagged to cater to different forms and grips. Each adjustment impacts the muscles in a slightly different way.

In this guide, we explain how curl bars work, how they differ from similar items, and how you can get the most out of your curl bar workout. If you’re looking for specific product recommendations, we’ve got those, too.

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Take into consideration the weight of the bar when working out. It may not be a lot, but it counts for your reps and sets and may be suitable on its own for beginners.

Key considerations

Curl bar vs. straight bar

To perform curls, you can use a curl bar or a straight bar. Those who opt for a curl bar tend to do so because there are more possible exercises that can be performed. Significantly, curl bars help prevent common injuries associated with using straight bars. That’s because your wrists and forearms are positioned more naturally on a curl bar, thereby taking on less pressure and wear.

Some users prefer to use a straight bar because it builds up the biceps more quickly and substantially than a curl bar. A straight bar may also be easier to integrate into a squat rack or bench press.

While curl bars and straight bars aren’t mutually exclusive, they share some similarities. You might not want to invest in both, especially if you also want to buy other equipment.

Standard vs. Olympic

There are two types of curl bars: standard and Olympic. Standard curl bars have a thickness of an inch and cater to weight plates with 1-inch holes. They are ideal for beginners and casual trainers. Olympic bars are twice the size at 2 inches in diameter, and they require matching Olympic plates with 2-inch holes. Olympic bars are generally stronger, catering to those of an intermediate or advanced fitness level.

It’s important to make sure you’ve the right plates to match the bar. Upgrading to an Olympic bar means your standard plates will no longer fit. Notably, however, some plates come with a removable center piece that allows them to fit both standard and Olympic bars.

Exercises

At first glance, a curl bar may seem like a simple device with a limited number of possibilities. Those who use them frequently know they are more versatile, though. By changing the grip and placement of your hands along the bends of the bar, you can target different muscles. The speed at which you perform exercises, how long you hold, and how many reps and sets you perform also add to the variety. Some curl bars can be used in tandem with other pieces of exercise equipment, such as a weight bench or squat rack.

There are also exercises that can be performed while seated, inclined, or lunging. If you invest in a curl bar, take the time to learn as many exercises as you can to get the most from your workout.

Length

While most curl bars are around 4 feet long, some longer bars exist for those who want to attach weights. Longer bars cost more and also weigh more. We advise potential buyers to choose a curl bar appropriate for their frame and arm length. Smaller individuals may struggle with a longer bar, especially if they’re just starting out. Larger individuals may prefer a longer bar because it provides more options in terms of hand placement, especially if they’ve been working out for a while.

Plates

Curl bars don’t usually come with plates; you’ll need to acquire those separately. As it happens, plates can be rather expensive. In fact, you may spend more on a pair of plates than the curl bar itself.

Consider the monetary investment of buying plates. The more weight you need, the more costly the endeavor will be. This is especially true if you want some variety in your weights. Still, curl bars and plates tend to be highly durable pieces of equipment. Once purchased, you needn’t worry about replacing them any time soon.

Capacity

Every curl bar has a maximum weight capacity. Consider how much weight you can typically handle and to what extent you may be upping that threshold. While the limit won’t be an issue for some users, those who intensely train may want to take note of it.

The typical curl bar weight limit is between 200 and 300 pounds, but some Olympic curl bars have 400- or 500-pound capacities. Check the product literature to find out for certain.

Think about the space in which you'll be working out. Consider if there is any risk of damage to floors, ceilings, or walls, and make sure your space has quality ventilation and airflow.

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Features

Knurling

A knurl is a pattern of ridges and indentations on a curl bar that encourages a comfortable and safe grip. Any part of the bar that is smooth will be harder to hold and grip. The knurling pattern and its location may differ from bar to bar.

Grips

Some curl bars have more complicated designs than others. Bars that have more places to grip offer you a chance to engage more muscles. The simpler the design, the fewer options available. Notably, a more complex structure demands a higher price.

Sleeves

The sleeve is the portion at either end of the bar where the plates lock in. Some models, particularly Olympic bars, feature rotating sleeves. This allows the plates to rotate or revolve around the bar as you exercise. Because the plates can move naturally instead of essentially being stuck to the bar, your movements, especially during jerks, will be smoother. Revolving sleeves can help prevent injury, as they minimize momentum. Less force is produced by the sudden movement of an inert object.

Color

While there aren’t many options when it comes to color, you may have the choice between standard chrome and sleek black, depending on the manufacturer.

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Did You Know?
Curl bars are fairly easy to maintain. Simply wipe the bar with sanitizer, dry after use, and store until next time.
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Accessories
 

Hex bar: Titan Olympic Size Hex Bar
If you’re practicing and perfecting your dead lifts, you need a hex bar. We recommended this Olympic-size durable option from Titan.

Step platform: The Step Original Aerobic Platform
A step box is a versatile and useful item to incorporate into your fitness routine, regardless of your level. This Original Aerobic Step Platform can incorporate free weights and curl bars. You can also use it for core exercises and yoga.

Weight plates: XMark Fitness Olympic Plate Pair
You’ll need weights for your curl bar if you want to gain muscle. We like this Olympic-size pair of 25-pound plates from XMark Fitness. They’re easy to grip when moving and come at a decent price.

Weight bench: Flybird Adjustable Weight Bench
The weight bench is a central part of any home gym. This inexpensive, durable option from Flybird can integrate with a curl bar as well as free weights to help strengthen the upper body, lower body, and core.

If you’re unsure about your comfort level with curl bars, try one out at your local gym first. At a gym, you may be able to test both curl and straight bars of Olympic and standard sizes.

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Curl bar prices

Inexpensive: For under $50, you can find a quality curl bar of standard size. It may have a lower weight limit than others, as well as limited grips.

Mid-range: Most curl bars cost between $50 and $100 and offer a variety of grips. Bars in this price range come in both standard and Olympic size.

Expensive: For over $100, you can purchase a heavy-duty curl bar with a high weight limit. These are likely to be Olympic-size bars.

Tips

  • Stretch often. To protect your muscles and joints, stretch before and after a workout. This will reduce soreness the day after and minimize your risk of injury.
  • Know your limits. It’s important to know your limits when working out. You may work out to your threshold or just past it to “max out,” but don’t push beyond that.
  • Record your workout. Keep track of the weight, sets, and reps you do and when you do them. This information can help guide you as you analyze your progress.
  • Start small. Some curl bar exercises may be difficult to perform right away, especially if you’re a beginner. Practice movements without weights to perfect your form.
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Toning is the process of defining muscles by eliminating fat. Strengthening is about building muscle mass. Both can be done with a curl bar.

FAQ

Q. How safe are curl bars to use?

A. Like any exercises involving weights, it’s important to make sure you have the proper form. With free weights in general and curl bars in particular, you’re not on a controlled path when you exercise. As a result, your stabilizing muscles are activated, and there is a risk of injury. Once you possess proper form, however, your workout will be more effective and target more muscles.

Q. Do curl bars provide a balanced workout?

A. Curl bars exercise the upper body, so they don't inherently provide a balanced workout. However, you can use a curl bar in conjunction with exercises that target the lower body. Consider incorporating leg curls, extensions, high steps, or step-ups to your workout. Lunges are also an effective way to improve your lower-body strength, balance, and flexibility; they can be performed using free weights or a curl bar.

Q. What size curl bar is right for me?

A. While some variation exists in terms of curl bar length, most are around 4 feet long, and these work well for the majority of users. Beginners should stick to the standard size: a 1-inch diameter that fits standard, 1-inch flats. Advanced trainers may be interested in Olympic-size curl bars, which allow for more weight and offer increased durability.

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