A piece of equipment so commonplace on the gym floor that we often take its very existence for granted. That, at least, is my impression of the E-Z Bar. Having previously discussed the history of barbells, the ancient origins of the dumbbell and even the Swiss Ball for God’s sake, it’s somewhat shameful that the E-Z Bar’s history has been neglected. Especially after it helped me to rehab my elbows following an overzealous few months doing triceps extensions with a straight barbell (Not the smartest in hindsight).
So who do we credit for the EZ Bar and when exactly did this handy piece of equipment come into being?
The Origins of the EZ Bar
Photo courtesy of Ironhistory.com. See here.
Unlike the aforementioned dumbbells and barbells, whose first creator will remain anonymous it seems until the end of time, the man responsible for the EZ bar is remarkably easier to track down. In one of the more morbid searches I’ve done in recent years, I can tell you that Lewis Dymeck, an American lifter born in Arizona, was the man responsible for the EZ bar so popular amongst lifers.
Why morbid I sense you asking?
Well Louis had a relatively small online footprint, meaning that aside from trawling through old lifting mags from the 1950s, which PhD permitting I hope to do in the coming months, the best information I’ve gotten on today’s inventor comes from his death notice and obituary… So yes… morbid.
Courtesy of Findsgrave.com… A resource I never thought I’d need for this blog.
But it’s not all bad as aside from the above, I did come across a Daily Courier article written in honour of today’s inventor. Interviewing Lewis’ friends and family, we get a pretty cool insight into both the man and the inventor. Although I’m not sure about the FBI stuff! If you’ll indulge me I’d like to quote some of the piece:
In addition to patenting exercise equipment at their childhood home in Williamsport, Pa., Lewis Dymeck had Q clearance – pretty much “top secret” stuff – to work with the nascent Atomic Energy Commission; he was the first engineer at Hughes Aircraft Co. to get his own patent funding; and the FBI called him for consultant work….
Dennis Dymeck remembers his father working metal in shorter and shorter bent bars until settling on and selling the 48-inch, 1-and-1-16th diameter bar back in Pennsylvania.
“I remember him working on the bars, making them shorter and shorter. Then he’d bend the metal and go get them nickel-plated,” said Dennis Dymeck, whose father got him involved with weightlifting at a young age. “And he packaged them up in the kitchen, the ones he sold. It was a one-man show.”
Now in any case, Lewis’s invention came to light in the late 1940s and early 1950s when he obtained the first patent for the EZ Bar. Quite luckily for us, the original patent is still available online (here).
So why did he bother?
A common question faced by many people with an idea is why should I care? Why bother? And more often than not, who cares?
Well for Lewis, this bar would help solve a common problem across the gym floor. It would help lifters’ keep their form, and one imagines their body parts, in check. Going through the patent’s information we read that
As therefore proposed, the straight bar bell device is one that is used for the standard exercises to effect the development of the arms and biceps. In these exercises, the instructions are always the same and recite that the exercisemust be done with strength of arms alone, while keeping the elbows close to the user’s sides, without swinging the body.
However, very few persons can do such exercises correctly, since it is not natural or comfortable to do such exercise with a straight bar bell.
It has been found that by providing the bar of the bar bell with a pair of tortuous portions in proper spaced relation intermediate its ends so as to form hand grips, a bar bell is produced which overcomes the disadvantages of the conventional straight bar bell.
Accordingly, an object of this invention is to provide a bar bell for exercising purposes which will permit the exercises to be done correctly without body movement or strain.
Another object of the invention is to provide a bar bell which is simple in construction, rugged in design and highly eflicient in action.
So for once the gym bros’ cheat curling for biceps came to some good eh? Lewis’ invention was primarily catered to those for whom strict technique was an afterthought. The resultant bar was as follows
Expanding the EZ Empire
So Lewis Dymeck got his patent in 1950… then what? What steps were taken to promote it amongst the general public? Given the industry at the time, Lewis’ decisions following his patent were to prove pivotal.
Within months of gaining his patent Lewis uprooted and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Once there, he entered into business with Andy Jackson of the Jackson Barbell Company. Though Lewis had been advertising his bar since the patent, his partnership with Jackson promised a greater ease of production, distribution and marketing.
Thus from 1952 to 1954, one finds a series of advertisements for the rather technical sounding Dymeck/Jackson Curl Bar. For reasons I haven’t been able to understand just yet, the bar was rebranded from 1954 to 1964 when it became the Jackson Curl Bar.
In 1964, Jackson sold the rights to the Muscle Mogul Bob Hoffman, who began to produce and distribute the product under the name EZ Curl Bar. Though Lewis and Andy were the forerunners of this product, it is Hoffman one suspects who helped popularise the device and also the new name.
Indeed within a decade of Hoffman’s acquisition, the EZ bar had become a favourite of both competitive bodybuilders and the lay public. A position it seems to have held ever since.
Nevertheless if you ever stumble across an EZ bar with the initials ‘LD’ etched inside, you’ll know the meaning!
As always…Happy Lifting!
P.S. Given our love of being lifting hipsters, here are some great but rarely seen EZ Bar Exercises for Biceps, Triceps and the Chest.
The French Press
Heheheh…CONOR, you’re the only Iron Gamer of whom I’m aware (in the fifty of the sixty-six years years of my life which I’ve spent bodybuilding) whose history research is as obsessively thorough as mine to include studying patent records. I’ve made use of US and European patent documentation during my research of anabolic steroid history. (Ohhh, alright, I’ll confess the actual words I thought as I chuckled upon seeing your patent link: “he’s as insane as me!” lol)
As far as I know, the EZ curl bar is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that virtually every system, method, technique, program, or piece of equipment promoted as “new and latest!” is essentially a recycling, re-introduction, re-labeling, re-discovery, or outright rip-off of what was already being used by the time Sandow became famous.
I was introduced in 1972 to the EZ exactly how you mentioned, through York Barbell Co./Bob Hoffman magazines, courses, and catalogs. That photo of Grimek curling with it in those advertisements widened my 16-year-old eyes. I bought my first EZ from York for my original home gym in the basement of my parents’ house circa early 1973.
Thanks so much! Haha and glad to find a fellow obsessive. Not insane…just obsessive!
I think we’re blessed nowadays that Google patents is so accessible for the history of this stuff. It’s a wonderful resource which I use with glee admittedly. You’re right about the EZ bar. I’ve yet to find a very obvious precursor to it. I have found patents for one sided barbells in the 1900s but nothing like that! It’s remarkable