How to Perform the Zottman Curl

How to Perform the Zottman Curl

If you are looking to add a new workout to your arm routine, it might be time to look to the past to give you a better future, by trying the Zottman Curl. It’s considered an old school exercise, which makes sense because it was created by and named after George Zottman, also known as the strongest man in American circa 1890. Yup, picture an old-timey strongman, minus the mustache, and you’ve got George Zottman.

Born all the way back in 1869 in Philadelphia,  Zottman was a mountain of a man, weighing in at 218 pounds with 24-inch shoulders,  19-inch biceps, and 15-inch forearms. The biceps and forearms are courtesy of the curl that bears his name. Zottman was so ahead of his time in the world of fitness and strength training that he still holds records to this day, including a seated clean and press with a 175-pound dumbbell.

The curl itself may have been created a long time ago, but don’t let it’s age fool you, it is still an incredible exercise that is going to give you the pump you are looking for. To learn how to do it right, lets turn to the BUFF DUDES for the low down:

How to Perform Zottman Curl - Killer Arm Exercise

The Zottman curl stands out versus other curls because it works several different muscles in your arms and allows you to get a good supination and pronation of the palm, for one.

Supinating up, you are going to focus on peaking the bicep and the rotation at the top position should be slowly letting down. That is really going to work the eccentric contraction; tearing those muscle fibres up so you can rebuild them up bigger and stronger. This movement is also going to help build the brachialis, the muscle in the upper arm that flexes the elbow joint, and the brachioradialis, the muscle in the forearm that flexes the forearm at the elbow.

When performing this exercise, ensure your elbows remain tucked in throughout the movement. If those elbows start to flare up and out, your biceps do not get the full benefit of the movement.

This movement also adds a workout to your extensors in your forearms and makes this a true full arm work out.

So that’s the BUFF DUDES breakdown of the move, but what do some other experts have to say about the Zottman Curl and how to maximize it’s effects on your arms.

Lauren Dedosky is a journalist who has spent years digging into medical and scientific research, and she offers a great breakdown of what makes the Zottman Curl so effective, “Think of the Zottman curl as a two-for-one special. It gives you all of the upper arm building power of the biceps curl and all of the forearm building power of the reverse curl in a single move. And in this case, all of that building makes you better at lifting. Everything. So whether you’re trying to hoist a couple of bags of groceries with one arm or squeeze out an extra rep of the pull-up with perfect form, you’ll be glad you added the Zottman curl to your routine.” 

Competitive bodybuilder who specializes in golden era bodybuilding methods, Alex Mullan recommends doing the Zottman Curl early on in your workout, “Zottmans serve as an excellent movement early on to bring blood flow to your arms and warm up your elbow flexors. As an alternative, you can also use them as a high-rep finisher at the end of your session to flood your gangly arms with blood and put the finishing touch on your massive pump.”

This makes the Zottman a great bookend exercise to your next arm day.

Jimmy Pena is the founder of PrayFit and has been the exercise physiologist for Tyler Perry, Mario Lopez and LL Cool J. He is also one of North America’s most published training expert. When it comes to the Zottman, he recommends moving to the reverse method once you’re comfortable with the curl, “Start with your palms facing down, reverse-curl the dumbbells up, pause and squeeze, rotate your palms up and slowly lower the weights to the start. Work your way up to doing multiple sets of each version for optimal effect.” 

As the fitness director for the Mens Health brand, BJ Gaddour knows a lot about fitness and points out that to fully maximize this exercise, it’s not just about doing it, but about doing it right. In this case, that means paying attention to your timing. “Take 3 to 5 seconds to slowly lower the weight. Your fibers must lengthen during the eccentric—or lowering— the portion of the curl, which causes the most muscle damage. As your body repairs the fibers, they’ll grow stronger and thicker.” 

This is a piece of advice that is echoed by the team at, “Using a slow eccentric (lowering portion) of the exercise can help to improve tension and mind muscle connection.” 

Sports writer, Nick Harris-Fry, recommends that you don’t over do the weight with this exercise, “Don’t go heavy because the slow lowering section of the Zottman curl will quickly become impossible if you overdo the weight, and the dumbbells will descend too fast.” To put that into context Haris-Fry adds, “If you do want a target weight to build up to, 19th-century strongman George Zottman – the man the exercise is named after – used to do it with 22.5kg (49.6 lbs) weights.” 

Timmy Hendren has 14 years under his belt as a personal trainer and strength coach and 8 yeas as a physiologist in a cardiac rehab setting recommends a way to get the most out of the curl, “At the top of the movement, flex the bicep as hard as possible (think about flexing in the mirror).” 

So, it appears that any arm work out you undertake can benefit greatly from the addition of the Zottman Curl  can you can either perform it before any arm workout, as a nice warmup, or after a bicep workout to get a nice burnout. Either way, the Zottman curl is BUFF DUDES, expert and Fit After 45 approved!

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