Arm Exercises

Mastering the Zottman Curl

Take your arm training back to the old school for new-age gains.

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Mastering the Zottman Curl

Got curl problems? We've all been there. After countless years of countless reps of regular barbell curls, you yearn to try something new to beef up your arms. Well, don't worry, we've got your back. If you're looking to spice up your limb life, here's everything you need to know about the Zottman curl, including five tips to make sure you maximize each lift.

The Lift Lowdown

WhenLate in your biceps workout, since working the forearms to exhaustion will affect other biceps exercises. This exercise makes a great segue from biceps to forearm exercises.
With: A variety of other curls including barbell curls and preacher curls, hammer curls and reverse curls.
HowPerform 3—4 sets of 8—12 reps with 1—2 minutes of rest between sets.

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How to: Zottman Curl

  • Stand holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides with a palms-up (supinated) grip and your thumbs wrapped around the handles for safety. Keep your eyes forward, chest up and knees slightly bent.
  • Keeping your elbows pinned to your sides, simultaneously curl both dumbbells toward your shoulders.
  • Once you reach the top, pause and squeeze your biceps hard, then rotate the weights until your palms are in the forward (pronated) position.
  • Keeping your hands in this position, slowly lower the dumbbells toward your thighs, stopping short of lockout.
  • Pause, then turn your palms back to the supinated starting position and begin your next rep.

Tips

  •  If you can't perform all of your reps using both arms simultaneously, finish your set by alternating arms on each rep.
  •  If you have weak wrists or elbows, begin with lighter dumbbells. Build your strength by doing both barbell curls and reverse barbell curls until you can perform Zottmans successfully.
  •  Once you're comfortable with the Zottman curl as it's described here, try the reverse method: Start with your palms facing down, reverse-curl the dumbbells up, pause and squeeze, rotate your palms up and slowly lower the weights to the start. Work your way up to doing multiple sets of each version for optimal effect.
  •  Mix this move into a tri-set. Start with the standing barbell curl, immediately move to the Zottman curl and finish with the reverse curl.
  •  Concentrate on keeping your elbows in tight to avoid any deviations in form.

Last Rep

The Zottman curl was devised by strongman George Zottman in the 1880s but has yet to receive its due acclaim for its ability to build bigger biceps and forearms. By involving the brachioradialis—the prominent muscle on the thumb side of your forearm—the Zottman curl helps to add balance between upper and lower arm mass and should be part of any complete program. If this move is new to you, you'll find it welcome change of pace for your biceps that could kick-start new growth.

Watch how to perform the Zottman Curl >>


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