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How To Do Zottman Curl (Proper Form & Benefits)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Last updated: September 23, 2022

The Zottman curl is one of the best standard dumbbell curl exercise variations and is quite popular among bodybuilders.

Through forearm flexion, this exercise manages to target the muscles in the upper and lower arms simultaneously.

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.

Here is a Quick Summary of Our Key Findings:

  • The Zottman curl is an excellent exercise for building more pronounced biceps while working on the forearm simultaneously.
  • This exercise is characterized by curling the dumbbells upwards with your palms facing upwards, then lowering them back down as they face downwards.
  • The only setback of this exercise is that you need to lift light to moderate weights.

How to Do the Dumbbell Zottman Curl

Holding dumbbells with palms are facing forward
  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.
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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

Zottman curl makes the bicep muscle and forearms more toned and defined. Your upper arms will become stronger and get a more prominent shape and size.

Increased Grip Strength

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 

Time-efficient

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. 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

Doing Zottman Curl with resistance band

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.

2 - Reverse Zottman Curl

Use reverse curls if you are ready to work your entire forearms with the curls. Reverse curl involves holding a barbell in a reverse grip with your 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.

3 - Resistance Band Zottman Curl

You are required to step on a resistance band with your feet roughly hip-width apart. While holding onto the bar, complete the curl in the same way as the dumbbell Zottman curl.

4 - Alternating Zottman Curl

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

FAQs

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.

Conclusion: Ensure You do Zottman Curls the Right Way

Adding Zottman curls into your exercise program is an excellent way to build more strength and size in your arms.

It stimulates and supports the growth of your forearm muscles as well as the biceps.

Follow the described steps and perform the optimal number of repetitions and sets in order to achieve the perfect form and get the most out of this exercise. Also, make sure to avoid common mistakes to avoid injury and discomfort.


References:

  1. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Fulltext/2014/02000/Exercise_Technique__The_Zottman_Curl.15.aspx.
  2. https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a19521334/
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