Zottman Curls pay homage to old school exercises from yesteryear. It was devised by strongman George Zottman in the 1880s and it’s an excellent and unique arm exercise that blasts the biceps and forearms. It’s also a great exercise to use for warming up the arms before using more traditional exercises. Although it’s an older exercise which was used and perfected by early bodybuilders and strongmen, modern-day gym-goers can use this movement to maximize their biceps potential for growth. It is not a very well-known exercise in this day and age, but it’s slowly coming back into popularity, being implemented in many workout routines and training regimens. The reason why people use this unique exercise is because it actually stimulates a much wider variety of muscles in the arm than most other traditional exercises. If your arm workouts have been dull and stagnant, then it’s worth a shot to add this distinctive movement into your routine. Listed below is everything you need to know in order to perform this exercise safely and effectively.
Exercise Instructions: Grab a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang down naturally to your sides with your palms facing in towards your body. Position your feet about shoulder width apart with a slight bend in your knees and a stable, athletic stance. Slowly curl both dumbbells up to the top position while supinating (twisting) your wrists as you bring them up to about shoulder height (palms will be facing upwards at the top). Pause for a moment at the top and rotate your wrists 180 degrees so that you now have an overhand grip on the dumbbells with your palms facing downwards. Lower the dumbbells back down slowly while keeping your wrists and hands in the same position all the way down. This will complete a full repetition of this exercise.
Muscles Targeted: Through a series of supination and pronation movements, Zottman curls target the biceps brachii (2 heads of the biceps consisting of the small head and large head), brachialis and the brachioradialis (forearms). It does a great job tearing up the muscle fibers using eccentric contraction. One of the unique aspects of this exercise is that it really hits the forearms very well due to the twisting action of the wrists during the range of motion.
Why This Exercise is Important: Zottman curls are great as part of either the beginning or end of a biceps workout. It gets the blood pumping throughout the arm, which is excellent for warming it up, or it can be implemented at the very end of a training session to completely burn out the muscles in the arm. It’s a very useful tool for getting that extra bit of blood into your biceps to really get it stimulated and working to its maximum potential. It can also help with people who have problems with one arm being stronger or bigger than the other. The nature of this exercise can help solve many muscle discrepancies that a person might notice between their two arms.
Things To Avoid: Zottman curls need to be executed with perfect form and technique in order to maximize the movement and avoid injury. This means there should be no rocking back and forth with the body in an effort to lift the dumbbells. You need to keep your ego in check and avoid using too much weight. This will cause you to “cheat” by using your momentum to get the weight up. This can be a hard thing to do for some people, since they want to lift as much weight as possible in an effort to get big and strong. But the real gains come from strict technique and not from how much weight you can lift. The decreased weight can also help you avoid any injuries, as the movement of this exercise is somewhat unique and awkward.
Reps and Sets: For beginners, shoot for 1-2 sets of this exercise with 12-15 reps per set. Advanced trainees can go heavier with about 8-10 reps per set and 2-3 total sets but if you decide to use heavier weights, just make sure to watch your technique (working out in front of a mirror really helps) in order to put the emphasis directly on the intended muscles and avoid injury.
Other Exercises To Use: Zottman curls are best utilized when they are teamed up with traditional dumbbell curls, where your palms are facing towards your sides at the beginning of the exercise, later being turned (supinated) to face towards your chest at the top of the movement. Hammer curls are also a great exercise to add to the mix. With the normal dumbbell curls and hammer curls, you should use heavier weights to help with overall mass and strength building and try using a pyramid style repetition scheme where you will do 3 sets of descending reps (10, 8, 6) while increasing the weight with each set.
Zottman curls are a unique exercise that can be a great part of your biceps workout. However, it doesn’t benefit you at all if it’s not performed correctly. It must always be executed with proper technique and when paired up with other exercises that compliment it, will bring you the jacked guns you’ve always been dreaming about. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps and other muscle groups.