5 Best Curl Bar Tricep Exercises (Reliable Workout Routines)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: February 26, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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Curl bars are highly efficient at engaging and growing your triceps when performed correctly. It’s also an excellent tool for relieving wrist strain.

Today I will guide you through the best triceps exercises with curl bars that produced the finest results in my ten years as a personal trainer.

Quick Summary

  • The best curl bar tricep exercises include close grip bench presses, skull crushers, overhead tricep extensions, and JM presses.
  • A triceps workout improves strength, endurance, posture, and physical appearance. It also helps gymgoers prevent injury and pain.
  • According to a study by the American Council on Exercise, the close grip bench press is one of the top eight exercises since it activates the muscles by up to 62% degree.
  • Based on my years of training, curl-bar exercises stand out as the most effective way to sculpt and strengthen the triceps.

5 Top Curl Bar Tricep Exercises

A man perfoming curl bar tricep exercises

1. Skull Crushers

Skull crushers, also known as French presses or lying tricep extensions, are a push exercise that targets the three heads of the triceps brachii: the long head, medial head, and lateral head.

A biomechanical analysis reveals that this exercise uniquely engages these heads, ensuring balanced development and reducing the risk of muscle imbalances.

How to do the EZ (short for “easy”) bar skull crusher:

  1. Grab a good curl bar with an inside grip.
  2. Sit on a flat bench and widen your legs so that the bar bend goes on your quad.
  3. Kick the weight back so it’s above your forehead with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  4. Lower the weight over your head, keeping the elbows tucked in so they’re pointing towards the ceiling.
  5. Press the bar up by fully extending your arms.
  6. Repeat until you reach the desired number of repetitions.

2. Close Grip Bench Press

Close grip bench press on EZ curl bar

According to an American Council on Exercise (ACE) study, the close grip bench press is one of the top eight exercises since it activates the muscles to a 62% degree [1].

How to do close grip bench presses with curl bars:

  1. Hold the curl bar with an inside grip.
  2. Widen your legs while sitting on a flat bench so the bar goes on your quad.
  3. Kick the weight back so it’s above your chest.
  4. Lower the weight above your sternum, keeping the elbows close to your body.
  5. Push the curl bar up by fully extending your arms.
  6. Repeat until you reach the desired number of reps.

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3. Standing Overhead Triceps Extensions

This overhead triceps extension is an alternative to the previous exercise (skull crushers). While both exercises work the triceps similarly, this version doesn't exert pressure on the wrists.

How to do an overhead tricep extension with a curl bar:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Grab the curl bar with an inside grip.
  3. Lift the bar over your head, keeping your core tight and your glutes squeezed to help stabilize your body throughout the movement.
  4. Lower the bar behind your head, keeping your biceps close to your ears, and avoid arching your back.
  5. Return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat until you reach the desired number of repetitions.

“You can do this exercise seated or standing. Believe it or not, this move feels more challenging when you're sitting, and sitting on an exercise ball adds an element of core strength.”

- Paige Waehner, Fitness Editor at Verywellfit.com

4. JM Press

Performing JM Press in gym

The JM, a blend of close-grip bench press and skull crushers, targets triceps, delts, and pecs. In my training experience, it's a superb exercise for the upper arms.

However, I advise caution for beginners, as its complexity requires more advanced technique and strength.

How to press JM with a curl bar:

  1. Lay on your back on a flat bench.
  2. Grab the curl bar with an overhand grip above your neck.
  3. Collapse the elbows straight down while keeping them inward and allowing the curl bar to lower to your neck area.
  4. Press the bar straight up.
  5. Repeat until you reach the desired number of repetitions.

5. Push Press

Push presses are excellent for targeting your triceps and gaining upper arm strength and muscle mass. However, it is best to avoid this exercise if you lack shoulder and wrist mobility.

How to perform push presses with a curl bar:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Rest the curl bar on your upper chest, keeping your elbows up.
  3. Slightly bend your knees, then push up with your legs to press the bar above your head.
  4. Lower the bar back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat until you complete the desired number of reps.

Is Training with the Curl Bar Effective?

Two persons doing best curl bar tricep exercises

Yes, training with the curl bar is effective as it allows muscle isolation and better balance while keeping your wrists safe.

The EZ curl bars include two types:

  • The Olympic EZ curl bar - A multi-angled design for reduced joint stress. It focuses on your triceps and biceps. The Olympic curl bar’s shortness ensures that the weighted plates are closer to you, which results in more effortless bicep curl movement.
  • The EZ curl bar - A piece of equipment designed to primarily target both heads of your bicep brachii. A standard EZ bar has a 100-200 lbs capacity, whereas Olympic bars generally support up to 300 lbs.

“The curl bar is a specialized bar that offers slight variations to common movements, however, if you are not training with proper technique, loading, and training volume, the curl bar is no more effective than other pieces of equipment.”

- Mike Dewar, Founder at J2FIT

Curl bars, unlike dumbbells or resistance bands, provide a unique grip variation and wrist positioning, enhancing tricep development. Their zig-zagged shape offers customizable grips, reducing pain for those with previous injuries.

As a fitness trainer, I've seen clients benefit from this, especially when recovering from wrist or elbow issues.

Beyond typical curls and extensions, EZ bars are versatile for exercises like bent-over rows, chest presses, squats, and deadlifts. This design diversity targets specific muscles, improving strength, tone, and size.

Research by the National Institutes of Health confirms EZ bars as the most effective for targeting biceps brachii and brachioradialis [2].

What Are the Benefits of Triceps Training?

Holding EZ curl bar on shoulder level

Triceps training boosts strength, muscle mass, appearance, and stability.

In my experience as a fitness trainer, integrating tricep exercises in rehabilitation not only aids recovery from upper arm injuries but also fortifies joint stability, minimizing future injury risks.

Customizing tricep workouts with curl bars for specific goals like strength, hypertrophy, or endurance markedly improves training efficacy.

1. Promotes Stability

Powerful triceps, particularly the long head, promote a range of motion and shoulder stability.

This prevents injury and facilitates moving your upper body in day-to-day activities like carrying groceries or engaging in upper-body sports, such as boxing and swimming.

To promote shoulder stability through triceps strength, you must include exercises targeting all three heads of the muscle.

2. Improves Posture

By incorporating the tricep exercises listed above, you can support your upper body and develop and maintain a strong posture.

Researchers found that it is best to start with triceps exercises to maximize the effectiveness of your workout.

Studies in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine show this approach increases power and energy for heavier lifts and greater triceps tension, leading to enhanced muscle overload [3].

3. Boosts Muscle Size

Holding curl bar to show muscle size

The triceps, being the largest muscle group in the arms, are crucial for upper arm muscle growth.

My experience as a fitness trainer has shown that incorporating exercises like French presses, upright rows, and spider curls with a curl bar effectively builds and strengthens the triceps.

It's important to maintain proper motion range and use an underhand grip to prevent wrist pain and avoid excessive weight.

Exercises like bicep curls and bent-over rows, focusing on the medial head of the triceps, ensure balanced arm development. Otherwise, focusing solely on the biceps can result in disproportionate arm strength and appearance.

4. Improves Physical Appearance

Regular workouts targeting your triceps will help you achieve your toned look and the highly sought-after horseshoe muscle shape often desired by bodybuilders.

The key lies in the lateral head, found on the outer side of the triceps.

This critical muscle combines with the long head to create this sculpted look.

5. Prevented Pain and Injury

Posing for camera while carrying ez cur bar

The triceps, alongside the deltoids, play a key role in stabilizing the shoulder joint and warding off injuries from repetitive stress. Neglecting these muscles can have long-term consequences.

From my experience, maintaining tricep strength is vital, especially as we age.

Harvard Medical School research confirms that strong muscles slow bone loss, reducing osteoporosis-related fracture risks [4].

Furthermore, additional studies by Havard Medical School indicate that strength training alleviates pain, swelling, and stiffness in arthritis patients [5].


Can You Work Your Triceps With a Curl Bar?

Yes, you can work your triceps with a curl bar. It is appropriate for exercises targeting smaller muscles, such as the triceps and biceps. These muscles require less weight compared to chest and leg workouts that use a straight bar for a greater impact on a larger muscle group.

What Tricep Exercise is the Most Effective?

The most effective tricep exercise is skull crushers. This latter can help you grow bigger triceps as it activates the three heads (the long head, medial head, and lateral head). However, the best triceps exercise depends on your anatomy and fitness goals, such as building muscle size or strength.

To target your triceps effectively, try using also a straight bar or curl bar with a narrow grip for the best results in these reliable workout routines. Lower the bar with controlled movements to engage your triceps muscles effectively during the straight barbell and curl bar exercises.

Should You Lift Heavy for Triceps?

Yes, you should lift heavy for the triceps whether your goal is the strength or muscle mass. You can effectively break down muscle fibers by incorporating heavy tricep exercises such as close-grip bench presses and skull crushers, thus promoting muscle growth, endurance, and definition.


  1. https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/1562/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6047503/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737971/
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/strength-training-builds-more-than-muscles
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-weight-training-tips-for-people-with-arthritis
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Connor Sellers holds a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Rutgers University He is an author and personal trainer with the mission to inspire people to relentlessly pursue their fitness and lifestyle goals. He mantra is that staying fit has an overall positive effect on one’s body, mind, and spirit.
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James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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