How To Do Zottman Curl (Proper Form & Benefits)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 11, 2023
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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The Zottman curl is one of the best standard dumbbell curl exercise variations and is quite popular among bodybuilders.

This exercise simultaneously targets upper and lower arm muscles through forearm flexion.

Since I have been a personal fitness trainer for years, I have had the opportunity to partner with various health professionals and fitness instructors to teach you how to perform Zottman curls properly.

Let's get started.

Quick Summary

  • To perform Zottman curls, hold a pair of dumbbells, squeeze your biceps brachii muscles hard, and rotate your hands. Wait three seconds before going back to the starting position.
  • The benefits of Zottman curls are increased grip strength, bigger biceps, forearm activation, and time efficiency.
  • Incorporating Zottman curls into your routine can significantly enhance forearm strength and bicep definition, a key factor for improving arm aesthetics and functional grip strength.
  • From my perspective, the Zottman curl is a versatile and beneficial addition to any arm workout routine, offering a unique combination of bicep and forearm engagement that can lead to more balanced muscle development.

How to Do the Dumbbell Zottman Curl

Dumbbell Zottman Curl
  1. Start by holding a pair of dumbbells to the side with your palms facing forward (forearm supination) and putting your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Make sure your upper arm is still. Curl the weights upward towards your shoulders as your palms are facing up.
  3. Squeeze your biceps brachii muscles hard and rotate your hands, flipping them at 180 degrees while your palms face downwards (pronated grip).
  4. Take approximately two to three seconds, then slowly return the weights to the starting position, ensuring that your elbow extension is not too fast.
  5. Once the dumbbells are near your thighs, turn your hands, so your palms are in the starting position facing forward. Repeat this movement for 10 to 15 reps per set.

The Benefits of the Zottman Curls

Man holding dumbbell mid workout

Here are some benefits of incorporating Zottman curls into your exercise routine:

Bigger Biceps and Muscular Upper Arms

The Zottman curl tones and defines biceps and forearms, strengthening and enlarging upper arms.

Increased Grip Strength

The Strength & Conditioning Journal says that the reverse curl strengthens your grip [1], making it easier to carry more weight and engage in sports like rock climbing and wrestling.

Forearm Activation

Zottman Curl is also a forearm-focused exercise that makes negative repetition more difficult and increases overload.

"By rotating from an underhand grip to an overhand grip in the middle of the curl, you'll target the three major muscles that make up your biceps—the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis—and hammer your forearms"

- B.J. Gaddour, Men's Health Fitness Director 


Instead of doing reps for several different exercises, you can simultaneously strengthen your biceps and forearms when performing the Zottman curl.

Good For Diversity

When you keep repeating the same exercises, it can become dull and affect your motivation and physical performance. However, this exercise will make your workouts fresh and exciting.

4 Dumbbell Zottman Curl Mistakes

Lower shot of a man performing Zottman Curl

Like any other exercise, there are a few common mistakes that beginners tend to make. Avoid the following mistakes to ensure you get the most from this exercise.

1 - Neglecting Upright Posture

When doing dumbbell curls, many beginners tend to bend their backs. This compromises the safety of your spine and could lead to an injury. Always ensure your back is straight and challenge your biceps and forearms in the safest way possible.

2 - Rushing the Arm Movements

People rush through the movement by letting the dumbbells fall quickly. Menshealth suggests that this will reduce the contraction of the upper arm muscle during the motion. It is best to lift the weight in two seconds and lower it in three to five seconds [2].

3 - Using Too Much Weight

Since only one joint is moving in this exercise, the weight that you can lift is limited. To ensure good performance, use moderate to lighter weight.

4 - Unnecessary Momentum

You do not have to relieve muscle tension by using other body parts to balance the dumbbells. To work all areas of the bicep, work on solely raising your arms without supporting them.

Make sure you control your breathing to regulate your tempos for a better result.

4 Zottman Curl Variations

Zottman Preacher Curls

1 - Zottman Preacher Curls

Rest your elbows on a bench when performing this exercise. While holding a dumbbell in each hand, ensure that your palms face forward as you put them by your shoulders.

Lower the weights slowly until your forearms fully stretch, turn your palms towards you, and curl your arm back to the starting position.

Reverse Dumbbell Zottman Curls2 - Reverse Zottman Curl

Perform reverse curls with a barbell held in a reverse grip for full forearm engagement, hands hip-width apart.

Curl it up, keeping your elbow close to your sides. Pause for a few seconds as you lift, then slowly lower your arm.

Resistance Band Zottman Curls3 - Resistance Band Zottman Curl

Step on a resistance band, feet hip-width apart, and perform the curl similarly to the dumbbell Zottman curl.

Alternating Zottman Curl4 - Alternating Zottman Curl

Here, you curl one arm at a time, alternating them with each repetition.


What Muscles Does Zottman Curl Work?

Zottman Curl works the following muscles in the upper and lower arms:

  • Biceps brachii
  • Brachioradialis
  • Brachialis
  • Forearms

Is the Zottman Curl Effective?

Yes, Zottman curls are very effective. Perform 3-4 sets for 10-15 reps on both arms for optimal results.

Is a Zottman Curl Better Than Regular Curls?

Both exercises are equally good but Zottoman curls are one of the best variations of the standard bicep curl. The dumbbell Zottman curl works your biceps and forearms at the same time.


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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
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. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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