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Build Huge Arms with the Zottman Curl – Benefits, Technique and Mistakes to Avoid

Build bigger and stronger arms.

This extensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about the Zottman Curl.

What is the Zottman Curl?

The Zottman Curl is a hugely effective bicep dumbbell exercise that combines a conventional curl and a reverse curl in order to maximise effectiveness at all times during the movement.

The exercise creates exceptional contraction in your biceps and overloads your forearms during the eccentric portion of the lift.

Muscles Worked by the Zottman Curl

The Zottman Curl primarily targets the biceps branchii.

This muscle group consists of two heads, the short and long head. These work in conjunction to move the arms and power force and momentum.

The exercise also places a great demand on the brachioradialis, an important muscle in the forearms.

Bicep workouts zottman curlSource: Photos courtesy of CrossFit Inc
Build stronger arms

These muscles serve to create pronation, supination and flexion in the forearms.

Additionally, the core, grip, triceps and shoulders all have to work (to a lesser degree) to balance and control the range of motion.

Benefits of the Zottman Curl

This unique dumbbell exercise has many great benefits.

Better General Arm Strength

The Zottman Curl is a great way to enhance general arm strength. It combines the benefits of the Bicep Curl with the advantages of the Reverse Curl, all combined into a single exercise.

The results in better functional strength for your full arms.

Bigger Arm Muscles and Biceps

The exercise mainly focused on building muscle mass for the biceps.

Hypertrophy is also stimulated for the forearms, helping them to grow thicker and build more mass.

Optimise all Phases of the Movement

One of the best benefits is the fact that the Zottman Curl provides the advantages of two exercises at the same time. The biceps and forearms are worked at the same time.

Reverse Curls and Hammer Curls do also work the forearms, but the way that the Z Curl changes the grip (and the exercise itself) is unique.

You benefit from working your upper and lower arms at the same time.

Hammer the Forearms

The movement is started as a conventional Biceps Curl. This means you can use a load that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to Reverse Curl into that position because it would be too heavy.

Workout to Fix Skinny ArmsSource: Karsten Winegeart

By rotating the wrists at the top of the movement, you can hammer the forearms by slowly descending and controlling the movement at all times on the way down (eccentric).  

Why is it Called the Zottman Curl?

The Zottman Curl exercise is named after George Zottman, a 19th Century strongman.

How to Do the Zottman Curl

For this exercise you will need two dumbbells.

  • Start standing, holding a dumbbell in each hand
  • Rotate your wrists into a supinated position (palms facing upwards). Arms fully extended and resting by your sides
  • Place your feet roughly shoulder width apart to establish a solid base with your body for the movement
  • Inhale and brace your core, grip and glutes
  • Tense your biceps as hard as you can and curl the dumbbells upwards as you bend your elbows
  • Pause at the top of the movement. Then rotate your wrists into a pronated position (palms facing the floor)
  • Slowly lower the load downwards until your arms are extended
  • Exhale
  • Twist the dumbbells back into the starting position as described at above (palms facing upwards) for the next rep
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Training Tips for the Zottman Curl

Feel your muscles. You want to pay close attention to how your muscles feel and move throughout this movement.

Go slow. Don’t rush the exercise. Lift with purpose, precision and control at all times.

Start light. This exercise demands great form to get the maximum benefits. Start with light weights to learn the technique and how it feels for your body. Once you feel ready then you can start loading up with heavier weights.

Sets and Reps

If you want muscle growth then train 3 – 5 sets of 8 – 12 reps with rest periods of 30 – 45 seconds.

Want to get stronger? Then program 4 – 5 sets of 4 – 6 reps with rest periods of up to 3 minutes.

You can even use them as a great warm to get your body ready for the session ahead or as a finisher exercise to maximise the pump by working to absolute fatigue.

Zottman Curl Mistakes

Make sure you aren’t holding back your progress by making any of these common mistakes.

Swinging the Weights

This is a sure-fire sign that the lifter is not strong enough to handle the weights that they are trying to use. Using momentum will reduce the effectiveness of the movement and minimise any strength and muscle mass gains that would otherwise be made.

A Rounded Back

A straight back and neutral spine (not hyperextended either) must be maintained. The core should work to stabilise the body while the arms perform the movement.

Going too Fast

The Z Curl is a slow and deliberate exercise. The movement should be slow and controlled. This will also maximise the time under tension and therefore hypertrophy.

Zottman Curl Variations

These variations will enable you to add the exercise into your training in different ways.

Alternating Z Curls

With this variation you simply perform the exercise unilaterally, one arm at a time. It will force your focus onto each limb and show you where any weaknesses or strength imbalances might be found.

Resistance Band Z Curl

Simply attach a resistance band to your arms (and stand on it to hold it in place) to add a new challenge to the exercise.

Zottman Curl Alternatives

These alternatives are also fantastic ways to add strength and muscle to your arms.

Reverse Curl

An excellent way to enhance your forearms, these can be combined effectively into workouts with Zottman Curls.

Dumbbell Bicep Curl

An absolute classic of an arm exercise. This is an essential part of building mass.

Barbell Bicep Curl

The compound lifts for building the biceps. Do this first before your move onto the other arm exercises in your session.


Got more questions? Scroll through to find the answers.

What does the Z Curl Work?

The exercise works by focusing on two distinct muscle groups in the arms during the two phases of movement.

The concentric first curl targets the biceps (biceps brachii and brachialis), and the lowering eccentric portion focuses on the forearms (brachioradialis and brachialis muscles).

The wrists are also strengthened and testing by this exercise.

Why is the Zottman Curl Good?

The exercise is good because it trains the entire arm, in independent stages, in a unique and effective way.

We all know and understand the benefits of strong biceps but forearm training is often neglected or completely overlooked altogether. This excellent lift combines them both.

Should I do Zottman Curls?

Yes, they have a place in everyone’s training routine. They are even a great way to pack in more stimulus in a shorter space of time, allowing you to make your training as efficient as possible.

Are Zottman Curls Better than Bicep Curls?

Zottman Curls are better than Bicep Curls at training your full arm and simultaneously working the forearms.

Bicep Curls are better than Zottman Curls if you want to exclusively train the biceps and are not as focused on other parts of the upper body.

Both have their place and purpose within an intelligently designed training program.

Learn More

These articles on the Behind the Neck Press and the Deficit Deadlift will help you further enhance your gains.

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