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The Zottman Curl | How To, Correct Form And Variations

The Zottman curl might just be the bicep building exercise that you’ve been looking for.

Regular curls, or hammer curls do not target the whole bicep area. To develop bigger arms you need to work all areas, including your brachioradialis, biceps brachii and brachialis. This means that your arms will appear ‘thicker’ than the result achieved from standard curls as the long muscle along the outside of your bending arm is worked along with your forearms.

How to Perform The Zottman Curl

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand extended at arm’s length, stand upright with straight posture.
  2. Your elbows need to be tight to your body, with your palms facing each other when you start.
  3. Keep your upper arms still and feel the weight strain your biceps as you curl. Keep your elbows still so that only your forearms move.
  4. As you curl, rotate your grip so that your palms go from facing each other at the start to facing upwards in a supinated grip as in a standard bicep curl.
  5. The highest point of the lift should be close to your shoulders. Hold this position an extra beat, feeling your muscles contract, before lowering the weight again. While here rotate your wrist again so that your palm faces downwards and lower the weight again.
  6. As you bring the weights down to your sides, turn your wrists so that your palms face each other again, returning to the starting position.
  7. Take home message: they are essentially standard curls but you turn your palms to face down as you lower the weight.

Additional Pointers For Correct Form

The amount you lift and the number of reps you lift depends on your aim, but as a general rule drop sets are a killer way to develop your biceps. This is because they’re a smaller muscle group and so they respond well to high frequency. Being a single joint movement you will not lift the volumes you would with compound lifts, such as standing rows. Pick a medium weight and aim for high reps for the first set. Then following a minimal rest, reduce the weight slightly and perform the same reps. Repeat, lowering the weight three times in total.

Alternate your arms if you struggle to get the full range in as your muscles fatigue.

Don’t lock out your legs. That means don’t straighten your legs to the point there is a risk of hyperextending them or bending them too far. You may well ask what your legs have to do with an arm exercise. When an exercise, such as the Zottman curl involves standing, your balance and leg strength will be tested. You need to ensure that you don’t move your legs to ‘assist’ with the lift. Locking out your knees means there is no give in them so your hips and lower back may be tempted to move to bear some of the weight. Your knees should be slightly bent to serve as a kind of minimal suspension that keeps you from putting your spine into the lift.

Make each movement count. Keeping your elbows tight is a good way to ensure your arms do not flounder. Make sure that your biceps contract throughout the entire exercise so that you do not fling the weight to the top of the lift and catch it when it drops again on the way down.

Use a mirror. Using a mirror is one of the best ways to check your posture and technique is accurate and that you don’t form any bad habits as you advance and increase the amount that you lift.

You see many people inaccurately perform various curls by hoisting a weight that is too heavy for them from the starting position to the uppermost position as if that is the aim of the exercise. The aim is in fact to develop your biceps, so a simple trick here is to lift lighter if you’re struggling and focus on feeling the work done by the muscle you want to build.

Zottman Curl Variations

Reverse Zottman Curl

Performed the same point for point, except your palms will be facing downwards on the way up, and then facing up on the way down.

Table Zottman Curl

A Zottman spin on the preacher curl, plant your elbow on a surface so that you are not tempted to cheat. You will likely lift a lighter weight, but see your technique executed to a higher standard while alighting all the muscle fibres this exercise is meant to hit. Why? Only your forearm will be able to move, thus ensuring you take the weight in your bicep alone.

Cross Body Zottman Curl

When performing the Zottman curl, bring the dumbbell towards the opposite shoulder at its highest point.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Master of Science in Sport Physiology and Nutrition. She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. Find out more about Faye's experience here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faye-reid-8b619b122/.

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