There are many exercise options to work on your upper arms. Discover how to do Zottman curls and whether they are good.
Zottman curls are a type of bicep curl where you start normally but switch from a supinated grip (underhanded) to a pronated grip (overhanded) at the top of the movement.
In turn, this makes it so you work the arm muscles involved in slightly different ratios than a regular bicep curl.
More specifically, Zottman curls focus more on your brachialis muscles (deeper upper arm) and brachioradialis muscles (a forearm muscle).
This is not necessarily always better or worse than other dumbbell bicep exercises. Your choice will depend on your training goals and preferences.
One thing you do want to keep in mind is that Zottman curls tend to be more challenging on your wrists. Some people may need to stick to the regular version.
How to do a Zottman curl
To do a Zottman curl you need one or two dumbbells. Once you have these, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Stand upright with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms hanging beside you. Point your hand palms forward.
- Slowly raise the dumbbells as far as comfortable while keeping your upper arms in the same position.
- While keeping the dumbbells at about the same height, turn your hands 180 degrees inward. Your hand palms should point forward now.
- Lower the dumbbells in a controlled motion until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
- Rotate your hands 180 degrees outward so that you are ready for the next repetition.
Since Zottman curls are intended to be an arm muscle isolation exercise you really want to focus on keeping your upper arms in the same position.
You can also make this easier by doing seated Zottman curls. Potentially with your upper arms on a preacher bench.
Zottman curls muscles worked
From a high level view, Zottman curl work your biceps brachii (the typical upper arm muscle), your brachialis (a deeper upper arm muscle), and your brachioradialis (a forearm muscle).
Additionally, you work a few other forearm muscles to rotate your wrists at the top of the movement.
In the first upward motion, you mainly engage the two-headed biceps brachii.
When you move your hands downward, you focus a lot more on your brachioradialis and brachialis muscles.
Zottman curls stand out in the amount of weight you can use for the eccentric motion in the downward reverse curl.
In regular reverse curls, you are not able to use as much weight because the muscles involved are weaker.
Zottman curl vs bicep curl
So from the things above you can conclude that Zottman curls work the brachialis and brachioradials (deeper upper arm and forearm) muscles more than bicep curls.
In turn, bicep curls work your biceps brachii to a larger extent than Zottman curls.
Zottman curl vs hammer curl
Hammer curls are an exercise where you hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip aka with your hand palms pointing to the center.
Similar to Zottman curls, by rotating your wrists hammer curls focus more on the brachialis and brachioradials than regular curls.
You can say that Zottman curls will focus more on the concentric motion of the biceps brachii and the eccentric motion of the other muscles.
That being said, it is hard to predict how the results of hammer curls will compare to the results of Zottman curls.
Benefits of Zottman curls
There are both more general and unique aspects of Zottman curls. These lead to some of the benefits below:
- Different muscle engagement: This first benefit does not apply to everyone but some people like the different muscle engagement of Zottman curls more.
- Can make your upper arms bigger: Doing Zottman curls in a smart training routine can grow your upper arm muscles. Many people find this a visual benefit.
- Could strengthen your grip: Zottman curls will generally lead to more grip strengthening than regular curls. This can allow you to lift heavier and make daily life easier.
These benefits are not unique to Zottman curls but if you like the exercise and its positive effects, you can definitely do it more often.
Zottman curl alternatives
You could also conclude that the Zottman curl is not perfect for you but that you want to work similar or more muscles.
In that case, you can consider some of these Zottman curl alternatives:
- Regular bicep curls: A possible alternative if you want to focus more on your bicep brachii muscles. You can focus more on the inner of the two muscle heads by doing the curl outward and more on the outer of the two by doing the curl inward.
- Reverse curls: If you want to focus on your brachialis and brachioradialis all the way and less on your biceps brachii reverse curls can be a good alternative.
- Hammer curls: This alternative focuses mainly on the brachialis and brachii muscles in your upper arms and less on the brachioradialis in the forearm.
- Pull-ups: Pull-ups are more of a compound exercise that also works your lats (middle/upper back). You can also switch up the angle of your grip to focus on different muscles.
If you find choosing between these Zottman curls alternatives challenging, you want to think about what muscles you want to work the most.
After that, you can also try out a few options to see what you enjoy the most.
Are Zottman curls a good exercise?
Zottman curls can be a good exercise for people who like the increased focus on the eccentric motion of the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles.
Some people will find it interesting to know that Zottman curls are named after George Zottman, a strongman born in the 19th century who was known for his arm strength.
One thing you do want to keep in mind is that Zottman curls can be somewhat challenging for your wrists.
If you have any issues in this area, you may want to stick to regular curls instead.
What are Zottman curls good for?
Zottman curls can be good for training the eccentric (muscle lengthening) motion of the brachialis and brachioradialis (deeper upper arm and wrist) muscles
Is the Zottman curl worth it?
Whether the different muscle engagement of the Zottman curl is worth it depends on your personal training goals and preferences.
Are Zottman curls better than reverse curls?
Zottman curls are not necessarily better or worse than reverse curls. These exercises have their different ratios of muscle engagement. Some people will prefer one. Some people will prefer the other.