The exercise I’m currently loving for bigger biceps: Zottman curls

If these aren’t in your pull program, then they should be

Man doing Zottman curl
(Image credit: Getty Images)

None of us are strangers to the bicep curl, it’s the cream of the crop when it comes to building bigger biceps. But, if you’re a little bored of this monotonous move and you're looking to switch up your pull exercises, why not consider the Zottman curl? 

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I was first introduced to Zottman curls, but I’ve been including them in my upper body workouts for years now. Even if my coach doesn’t put them in my plan, but I see that I’ve got bicep curls, I’ll ask if we can substitute with Zottmans instead. Not only do I feel like they leave my arms with a bigger pump afterward, but it does more than just target the biceps, as it's great for building forearm strength. Intrigued? Give them a go, you won’t regret it. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Zottman curls.

What are Zottman curls?

The Zottman curl is a variation of the bicep curl performed with a pair of dumbbells that not only strengthens your biceps, but your forearms and grip strength too. The exercise uses both an underhand and overhand grip throughout different portions of the lift to target different areas of the arm. It’s actually been around for centuries, as the exercise was named after George Zottman, an American Strongman who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. However, it’s a challenging exercise, which is why some people aren't familiar with it. 

T3 Active Writer doing Zottman curls

(Image credit: Future)

What muscles do Zottman curls work?

Zottman curls mainly target the bicep brachii (a.k.a your biceps), the bicep brachialis (a muscle that lies beneath your bicep and helps with elbow flexion) and your forearms. The latter is mainly activated during the wrist rotation and eccentric portion of the lift (where you’re lowering your arms). 

This makes it an excellent exercise to build overall arm strength, because strengthening the forearms can often go amiss during training, but is essential if you want a strong grip. Not to mention, you're also targeting more muscles than you would doing the conventional bicep curl. 

How to do Zottman curls

For this exercise you’ll need a pair of dumbbells. Don’t be shocked if you’re reaching for a much lighter weight than what you normally would doing a regular bicep curl. Zottman curls are far more challenging, so this is completely normal. Here’s how you perform the Zottman curl:

How To Do A Zottman Curl - YouTube How To Do A Zottman Curl - YouTube
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  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold your dumbbells with a supinated grip (palms facing upwards) down by your sides 
  • Next, curl your arms up towards your shoulders, exactly as you would a bicep curl, squeezing at the top of the lift
  • Once you reach the top, twist your wrists so that your hands are now in a pronated grip (palms facing towards the floor)
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position

If you're looking to build functional strength, MiraFit suggests aiming for three to four sets of 8 to 12 reps using a moderate weight and focusing on your form and controlling the movement.  

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.