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Zottman Curls: Muscles Worked, Benefits, Form and More

Want to stimulate more bicep growth and get more out of your curls?

Try the Zottman curl!

Bodybuilder doing Zottman curls to build muscle in his biceps

The Zottman curl is a variation of the regular dumbbell bicep curl that's nowhere near as well known.

This is a shame because it's actually a really good exercise to stimulate growth in the biceps and forearms in a new way!

It's essentially a regular dumbbell bicep curl, except with added twist (literally!).

In this post I'll briefly be going over the muscles worked when you do Zottman curls, as well as the benefits of doing them over regular dumbbell bicep curls, the basic form of this exercise and some training tips that you can take away.

Let's get into it!

How to Perform Zottman Curls

Like I mentioned earlier, the Zottman curl is an awesome variation of the regular dumbbell bicep curl.

This means that essentially, the primary range of motion is going to be pretty similar between the two exercises.

Please note that the first part of the Zottman curl is essentially a regular dumbbell bicep curl.

Here's how to perform the Zottman curl:

  1. Sit on a bench or stand with a pair of moderately heavy dumbbells in your hands.

  2. Keeping your elbows fixed in position throughout, bring the weights up to your shoulder level by flexing and bending at the elbow (both arms at the same time).

  3. Try not to swing your body or cheat the weight up at all. Hold the weight at the top for a second.

  4. Once at the top, twist the dumbbells inward to have your palms facing behind you.

  5. In a controlled manner, lower the weight back down with your hands and the weight in that new position.

  6. Twist the dumbbells back into your starting position at the bottom.

  7. Repeat.

Check out the video below by Marcus Filly to see a demonstration of this!

Muscles Worked During the Zottman Curl

Since the Zottman curl is a variation of the standard dumbbell bicep curl, it's also going to hit more or less the same muscle groups.

When you do any sort of bicep curl, the main driver of the exercise is going to be the biceps (obviously!).

The Zottman curl is no different.

It's a great bicep exercise to further develop your muscle mass and size.

However this exercise also does work the brachialis muscles a little more than the standard barbell curl.

This is a small muscle that sits underneath our biceps, and aids in elbow flexion when our hands are in a more pronated position.

You'll see most people targeting this muscle group by using exercises such as the dumbbell or rope hammer curl, but the Zottman curl does also do this pretty well.

By growing the size of your brachialis, you're going to be able to 'push' the biceps out further away from your bone, and create the illusion of both a bigger and stronger arm.

On top of that, the Zottman curl is also going to hit the brachioradialis and wrist flexors a little more than the regular dumbbell bicep curl would.

These are the muscles that run along your forearms, and are responsible for your grip strength.

Analysis of forearm muscles, brachioradialis and wrist flexors.

The reason for this is the fact that the Zottman curl has an added twist in the exercise, which primarily puts the brachioradialis at its most biomechanically advantageous position.

When you reach the end of the twisting motion at the top of the movement and lower the dumbells like that, you shift more of the weight onto your brachioradialis, away from your biceps.

This is why some people like to perform reverse grip curls with a barbell or dumbbells.

They want to work the biceps, whilst shifting a little bit more of the emphasis onto the forearms as well to develop their size.

However this additional forearm activation does come at a slight cost.

It's going to mean that your biceps do a tiny bit less in terms of overall work done.

Throughout your set, your forearms are going to contribute that much more, and take a little away from your biceps.

However this certainly does not mean that the Zottman curl is not a good bicep exercise.

It's only a slight tradeoff in terms of bicep activation, but the extra forearm engagement is going to go a long way as you train consistently. Especially if you've got them underdeveloped.

Overall it's a great exercise that's going to hit the biceps well, with more forearm activation for only a slight tradeoff in bicep engagement.

Benefits of the Zottman Curl

There are several benefits of the Zottman curl that could be helpful to many of us in our everyday lives.

Helps More With Grip Strength

The first benefit of the Zottman curl is the fact that it engages your forearms more, and allows you to load those muscles heavily.

For example, if you're a competitive or avid athlete that constantly relies on your grip strength (think rock climbers, rowers, wrestlers, etc.), you're going to benefit greatly from having that extra forearm engagement.

Having this increased grip strength is going to mean that you're ale to produce more force and worry less about your smaller body parts giving out first.

And since you're going to be working your brachioradialis and wrist flexor muscles a little bit more, you're also going to have a slight easier time avoiding injuries in your hands or forearms.

If you've ever failed a heavy deadlift due to grip and tore some skin off your hand, or ever strained a muscle in your forearm due to overuse, you'll know what we're talking about.

It's not a fun thing to have to experience.

Easy Way to Train Your Forearms

The Zottman curl works your forearms hard.

We've already covered that enough.

However what we haven't said is the fact that it's one of the best ways to accumulate more forearm volume without doing ANY extra work at all.

It's a great bicep exercise that you could use as a substitution for regular bicep curls if you wanted, and then that could also serve as your primary forearm exercise for the workout if you're the type that likes to hit forearms!

It's going to cost no extra time in the gym whatsoever, and is one of the most time efficient and practical ways you can hit your forearms and grow them.

A New Kind of Stimulus

Strong and muscular man doing Zottman curls to build muscle in his biceps

When we work out, we put our bodies under repeated bouts of stress.

However if you keep going for too long and don't switch anything up, your body will eventually grow used to the stress you put it through, and you might find that progress slows down a little bit.

However if you do the Zottman curl for the first time on your next 'pull' workout, there's a pretty good chance you'd wake up with very sore biceps and forearms the following day.

This is because it's a new kind of stimulus and challenge that you're putting your muscles through, and is one that they haven't yet experienced before.

Recently I transitioned to a new gym for the first time and found that they had some pretty good machines that my old gym did not.

I tried their seated military press machine for the first time, and woke up with shoulders sorer than ever before.

The Zottman curl is a great variation to the regular bicep curl that offers some pretty good benefits, and it's up to you to test it out and see whether it's something that you enjoy doing.

Training tips

To finish this article off we'll also leave you with some helpful training tips so that you can make the most out of the time you spend doing your Zottman curls!

Don't Try to Go Too Heavy

As with all isolation exercises in the gym,, the Zottman curl is not meant to be done with excessively heavy weights.

If you find yourself hitting less than 6 reps in a set, it's time for you to drop the ego a little bit and lift a little less weight.

The Zottman curl is not like the squat, bench or deadlift where it makes sense to try and lift heavy so that you can build strength.

The Zottman curl is more geared towards burning out the muscles at the end of your workout, and really giving them a hard time before you leave the gym.

Instead, aim for 2-4 sets of 6-15 reps.

This is going to allow you to acquire more workout volume and get those muscles working in a range of motion that makes sense for this particular exercise.

Go Slow on the Way Down

The eccentric portion of the movement is extremely important if you're wanting to build muscle mass.

This is the portion of the lift where most of the gains actually come from.

Take it from the ISSA, who say: "Eccentric training works well because of the human body’s ability to mechanically load and create great stimulus to the skeletal muscle in these certain exercise phases.

The ability to produce greater forces during eccentric actions is what induces muscle hypertrophy and maximal output."

The Zottman curl is an exercise that allows you to load the muscles of the biceps and forearms heavily, especially on the eccentric.

By slowing it down, you're going to focus more of the weight onto the forearms and really make them work hard under heavy loads.

Pair this with intense training close till failure, and you've got the perfect recipe for some MASSIVE bicep, forearm and grip strength gains.


The Zottman curl is a fantastic variation to the regular bicep curl that's going to work the biceps, brachialis and forearms all through a new range of motion.

It's got a wide range of benefits that most people could definitely take away from, and is an effective choice among the list of classic arm-builders!

Definitely look to give this exercise a try if you haven't done so before. It'll be well worth it.

Do you currently do the Zottman curl?

Let us know in the comments section below!


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