What Are Zottman Curls?

Dan Cavallari

Zottman curls are a type of exercise used to strengthen the biceps, forearms, and other muscles of the arms. They are performed in a similar fashion to traditional biceps curls, but the motion itself varies once the weight lifter is at the top of the curl motion. Unlike regular biceps curls that only strengthen the biceps and incidental muscles that support the biceps, Zottman curls are intended to strengthen and tone the biceps, forearms, and all supporting muscles. This exercise is generally more difficult than a traditional curl and should only be attempted by advanced lifters or lifters under the guidance of trainers.

Zottman curls are similar to regular bicep curls.
Zottman curls are similar to regular bicep curls.

Performing Zottman curls correctly starts with choosing dumbbells of the appropriate weight. If this is the first time the lifter will be performing Zottman curls, it is best to choose a lighter weight set of dumbbells in order to ensure he or she can perform the motion properly. Using too much weight at the start can lead to injury or incorrect form that will prevent real muscle benefits. Beginners, too, should choose a lighter set of weights and work up from there. The starting position for the exercise requires the lifter to hold the dumbbells with the arms relaxed and the palms facing forward.

The biceps brachii is a muscle located in the upper arm that flexes the elbow joint during a Zottman curl.
The biceps brachii is a muscle located in the upper arm that flexes the elbow joint during a Zottman curl.

The lifter will then perform a normal biceps curl motion. When at the top of this motion, instead of simply lowering the arms back down to the start position, the lifter will turn the palms forward again, since they will be facing toward the body at the top of the curl. Then the lifter will execute the second part of the Zottman curls, which requires the lifter to slowly lower the weights to the starting position, ending with the palms facing toward the body.

The two distinct motions of the Zottman curls isolate different muscle sets. The first part of the curl works the biceps primarily, while the second, lowering motion works the forearms primarily. Weight lifters who have reached a plateau in arm strength and muscle building can try the Zottman curls to mix up the workout and strengthen muscles that may not otherwise get a lot of attention. The muscles that run through the wrist, for example, can be strengthened if the lifter is able to keep the wrists straight during the curl motion and the lowering motion. Most lifters will perform several repetitions of the curl, then rest and repeat for another set.

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