Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Valuable, Versatile EZ-Curl Bar - Bill Starr (2000)

 Originally Published in the July 2000 Issue of Musclemag International  

Look at those puny dumbbells . . .
Conclusive proof that Hepburn's methods don't work. 

I am of the opinion from years of observation that life is a double-edged sword. For every advantage there is a disadvantage, not always in complete equal proportiong but always to some degree. This is not a complaint by any means, because I believe balance is necessary in all facets of out existence. Moreover, balance makes life interesting. 

One of the pluses of being regarded as an authority on training is that I am afforded extra courtesy and respect in a gym. The flip side is that I'm open game for everyone with a question. 

So it was when I visited my friend Nick Frasca at his gym, The IronClub, in Yuba City, California.    

Note: Nick Horton did an interview with Nick Frasca and it's here:

Nick Horton: 

Nick (Frasca. Name confusion supreme! I don't know which Nick to blame but I'm guessin' they're both innocent of this mishap's creation.) was one of my athletes at the University of Hawaii. He was an outstanding wrestler and won the State Olympic Lifting title. He was also a student of strength training.

The IronClub is a throwback kind of facility, a mom and pop operation where the customer still gets personal attention and care from the owners. Nick's wife, Julie, is the mom in the equation and she adds to the atmosphere with her sweet disposition and stunning beauty. 

This is the type of gym many of us began training in, but which now has almost completely vanished. The owner actually came out on the floor and spotted, or gave some timely advice, or encouraged those who trained to try to make some genuine progress. 

In most facilities it's all about numbers. The idea is to get in and out of the gym as quickly as possible. 

Whether they had a decent workout or not is moot, immaterial. What counts is numbers, for numbers translate to money and that is what most owners care about. 

Nick's gym is different. A person does not just walk in the door and join. He must first go through a course in which he is taught not only how to do a variety of exercises correctly, but he is also instructed on the principles behind the program and also how to put together a functional routine to fit his specific needs. The new member takes a month to finish the course. Then he can venture out on his own and concentrate on strength training, bodybuilding or a general fitness routine. 

The only other club that I know of that operates in a similar way is Mike Graham's gym near Austin, Texas. 

Note: Joe Vitale and Matthew Dixon took a trip down to Lockhart, Texas, and filmed their experience inside of Old Texas Barbell Company, courtesy of Mike Graham -- 


It (Nick Frasca's IronClub)  is a rather novel concept because it goes against the grain of how a gym should be run if it is to be successful. In fact, it is not only proving to be most beneficial from the educational standpoint, but it is also surprising skeptics by generating financial rewards. Nick and Julie started out in a small facility and have already expanded with plans for adding on even more. People appreciate the attention and concern. They like to get value for a dollar in today's marketplace.

I didn't go to Yuba City for any reason related to physical culture. I went strictly to party. In addition to the attraction of Nick and Julie, Don Herrold (the Hulk) was also in town. Don was perhaps my strongest athlete at UH and also one of the most unusual characters I ever came across. The trip was a great opportunity to relive some of our exploits, both real and imagined. 

Nick had been selling my book and promoting it as part of his initiation course, so I arrived with a reputation. I really don't mind answering questions, just as long as they reside in the neighborhood of common sense.

I was still doing my warmups when Pat approached me carrying a shiny, new EZ-curl bar, the type that is adapted for Olympic plates. Chuckling, he asked, "Why in the world did Nick buy this? I mean, wouldn't the money be better spent in getting another Olympic bar rather than this toy?" 

"Well, the EZ-curl bar isn't a toy," I objected. 

"Yeah, maybe not, but you can only do one exercise on it - curl." 

"That's not true either," I said,j putting down my twisting stick. "You can do lots of exercises with the EZ-curl bar. It is particularly useful because it alleviates a great deal of the stress from the wrists, elbows and shoulders. Just because it apprears to be a simple piece of equipment doesn't necessarily mean it isn't useful. I happen to believe it to be an extremely beneficial addition to any gym.

"Well, even so, I can't see how anyone can benefit from using it if he's working out for pure strength." 

"I can show you a number of ways to use it. All my athletes use the EZ-curl in their programs. Remember, you don't have to do every exercise with huge weights. The auxiliary movements that you do in high reps require lighter plates.

"One of the best features of the EZ-curl bar is its weight. The one hou have there with the Olympic collars weighs about 16 to 18 pounds. Those made for standard plates weight less, usually from 12 to 15 pounds. This light weight makes it ideal for rank beginners and women because many cannot handle the Olympic bar or even some of the set barbells." 

Pat studied the bar more closely, and I could tell I had aroused his curiosity and interest. "What's the deal with the cambered middle?" he asked.

"That feature is why the EZ-curl bar is so valuable and versatile. It lets the lifter grip the bar firmly and at the same time it alleviates much of the stress from his wrists, elbows and shoulders. The cambered feature also allows a fuller range of movement on some exercises than you  can get with a straight bar." 

"Who came up with it? The original idea I mean." 

"That's a good question. I don't know. More than likely a number of people had the idea in different parts of the country, for its practicality is quite logical. 

Note: I went to Joe Roark's IronHistory website to answer that good question -   

"Well, Andy (Jackson) owned the rights to the EZ curl bar which a man named (Lewis) Dymeck thought up. He sold the rights to Hoffman (York).He informed Boho that he owned the patent. Hoffman offered him payment for the rights. Andy told me he would have had to sell a lot of curl bars to get that much, so he sold to York."
 - Carl Linich 

"I have Andy's drawing of the curling bar and it is labeled DYMECK CURLING BAR and there is also a Patent number listed and dated 1951.So it was Patented. Also noted on the back is the date that he sold the Patent to York, June 12, 1964."
 - Reuben Weaver

Patent Filed June 11, 1948      

There's an excellent article on this good question here: 

Continuing with the article . . . 

I saw versions of the EZ-curl bar in home gyms and YMCA weight rooms during the 50s, long before they could be purchased from equipment companies. Eventually the commercial value of the EZ-curl bar became obvious, so York Barbell, Dan Lurie, Peary Rader and Joe Weider all began selling them through their respective publications. They sold lots of them because they're inexpensive, light, don't take up too much space, and you can do a great many exercises with them. In many gyms the EZ-curl bar is the most sought-after piece of equipment in the entire facility.

"I'm still not clear on being able to do lots of exercises with that little curved bar . . .

"Love to. One of the main reasons I came to California was to enlighten the youth of Yuma City," I added sarcastically. 

My gibe brought a frown, be he said nothing.

"Better yet, I'm going to have you do some of the exercises. That way you'll be able to feel the difference between doing them on the EZ-curl bar and using a straight bar. Let's start with the most obvious exercise, the curl. Put 20 pounds on each side and do a set of standing curls." 

While he did the first few reps, I commented, "Notice how you can bring the bar up to your chest and also lower it more comfortably than you could with a straight bar - with lots less pressure on your joints." 

"I notice. It does feel smoother and I have to admit, it doesn't bother my wrists at all. What's next?" 

"Curls on a preacher bench. I think the EZ-curl bar is especially good for these because your elbows are locked in a tight position when you do them. A straight bar places a great deal of pressure on the elbows and wrists. With the cambered bar this stress is alleviated nicely. That means you can do more weight or more reps - or both - with the EZ-curl bar than with a straight bar. More work, more results." 

I had to stop doing preacher curls because of my bad wrist. These hardly bother me at all. Not bad. I may start curling again," he said cheerfully.

"Wouldn't hurt," I remarked, but he missed this bit of caustic wit. "Same idea applies when doing curls with that piece of apparatus which goes over the lifter's head and locks his arms against the apparatus. It goes by different names, depending on which company is selling it. Bi-Blaster is one of them. 

"It's made of hard plastic and has indentations for your elbows?" 

"That's it."  

My roommate at college had one . . . and a pair of 20-pound dumbbells. He would do a few sets of curls before going out on a date or to a club. Wanted a pump to impress the ladies." 

"Did it work" 

"Not really. He was a jerk. All the curls did was make him a jerk with bigger arms. He'd love the EZ-curl bar though." 

"I'm sure he would. The EZ works great on the Bi-Blaster because the lifter's elbows are really locked in tightly. There's no freedom of movement to put stress on the wrists and elbows. The EZ takes the pressure off those joints. It serves the same useful function for reverse curls."

"I can see that. What else besides curls is it good for?" 

"A variety of triceps exercises. In fact, there are more triceps movements than biceps. Almost everyone finds he can do straight-arm pullovers more comfortably with the EZ-curl bar than with a straight bar. Same holds true for skull-crushers and French presses. Again, the cambered bar lessens the stress on the wrists, elbows and shoulders." 

I thought you didn't like French presses or skull-crushers." 

"I don't for other athletes, but bodybuilders can get away with them. Bodybuilders don't do a great deal of throwing, blocking or tackling. Those dynamic movements cause the problems if a person does triceps work which requires lots of elbow flexion.

"Again, because of its light weight, the EZ is ideal for women or beginners. I've had very few female clients who could handle an Olympic bar for pullovers, but they can all manage the EZ-curl bar. Lie down on a bench and do a set. You'll see what I'm talking about."

He did a few reps, changed his grip, then continued. "Yeah, I can feel a big difference. I the the EZ would be good for close-grip benches too, wouldn't it? They put a lot of stress on the wrists." 

"Now you're thinking. It's perfect for close-grips." 

He got up, smiled and said, "Well, I have a new appreciation of this pup. Anything else?" 

"You can use it for upright rows plus all sorts of wrist movements for the same reasons I've mentioned for the other exercises. Beginners can also use it for bentover rows and front raises for the deltoids. I've had some people who were very weak use it for almost every exercise in the program from squats to benches, inclines, overhead presses, good mornings and even deadlifts. It's a useful piece to teach form to anyone who, for whatever reason, is unable to handle a regular bar." 

"None of these exercises has bothered my bad wrist at all."     

"Keep in mind that any auxiliary exercise is typically done with a light weight and for higher reps - 15s, 20s or more. The light poundage keeps the exercise from being too stressful,  

but by the same token the lifter will not always notice if a joint is being stressed because the reps seem so easy. It's not like having to struggle with a heavy set of 5 reps. Often the joints that are involved in the exercise do not reveal they have been dinged until the following day. 

Then, of course, it's too late." 

"Better to be safe than sorry." 

I nodded in agreement . "You should thank Nick for buying the EZ-curl bar and maybe encourage him to get a few more because it will become popular."

"I will. Now if you have some time between sets, I have some other questions," he added with a grin. "Not questions really, but verification of some of Nick's stories. We know he likes to exaggerate, so I want your version of what went on at Hula's Bar and Lei Stand, and if there really was a Mini-Mauler and Debbie Dorm, and if Hotel Street was as wild as he said." 

"I'll be more than happy to fill you in on all the details," I said wearing a devilish smirk.         

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