Zottman Curls For Building Massive Arms


Forearm Strength Training

Building strength in the forearms is important and often grip strength is used as a measure and indicator of health and fitness (1). However, for many, developing the muscles of the upper arms is a priority while the forearms often get neglected. As a result, the upper biceps develop well yet the forearms fail to adapt at similar rate which leads to imbalances in strength and size.

While forearm training will bring about increases in size, strength and definition there are a number of other, less obvious, benefits associated with forearm training.

Regular forearm training can have a positive impact on gym performance and daily function. Strong forearms can facilitate a greater performance for many compound exercises, such as the deadlift and bench press where having a strong grip is essential. Improving grip strength generally can have a positive impact on simple day to day activities – for example, carrying heavy grocery bags or opening stiff jars.

Regularly performing forearm based exercises can also help to reduce the risk of experiencing injury – specifically around the elbow and wrist joints. Sprains or strains are fairly common injuries that can occur instantly or develop over time (2) and often result from weaknesses around a specific joint. Therefore, strengthening the forearm will have a consequent positive impact on both the elbow and wrist joint.

How To Perform A Zottman Curl

The following 4 coaching points will demonstrate how to effectively perform the Zottman curl. Be aware that this exercise can be performed unilaterally (one arm at a time) or bilaterally (both arms simultaneously).

1) Selecting an appropriate weight and grab the dumbbells using a thumbless, supine (palms up) grip – this will immediately make gripping the dumbbell harder and force the forearm muscles to contract.

2) Before starting the movement, ensure that the elbows are tucked in tightly to the ribcage. From that position, focus on contracting the biceps and hinging at the elbows until the dumbbells rise up to roughly shoulder height.

3) At this point, focus on squeezing the biceps for 1-2 seconds. Before beginning the lowering phase, rotate the entire arm so that the dumbbells are now being held in a prone (palms down) position.

4) In a controlled fashion, begin to lower the dumbbells back down to the hips. Once the dumbbells have returned to the starting position, rotate the arms again and return to a supine grip.

Zottman Curl Benefits

A commonly used forearm resistance exercise is the reverse bicep curl which involves a pronated grip throughout. The benefits of the Zottman curl over the reverse curl is that by using a supinated grip in the first phase it is possible to lift a heavier weight and therefore put more stress through the arms.

The eccentric contraction (lowering phase) produces more force than a concentric contraction (drive phase) and therefore, look to lower the weight slowly and maintain control throughout in order to maximize forearm activation. This technique is known as eccentric or negative training and has been found to be effective for building strength (3).

As briefly mentioned in the coaching points, a thumbless grip places a greater demand on the muscles of the forearm. Removing the thumb from the equation makes gripping the weight highly challenging and, as a result, the fingers have to squeeze hard to prevent the weight from slipping from the hands.

Therefore, it is clear that the Zottman curl is excellent for placing an increased load on the biceps and for maximizing the eccentric contraction of the forearm muscles.

Zottman Curl Programming

The Zottman curl can be performed for a variety of sets and reps depending on one’s fitness goal. Those looking to build muscle size, should perform 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps as this volume is optimal for muscular hypertrophy. It can also be used as an effective high-rep finisher at the end of a workout. Completing 2-3 sets of 20-30 reps will be more than enough to bring about a great pump.

Finally, the Zottman curl can be used as effective preparation for a forthcoming workout – specifically for any exercises that require any degree of elbow flexion. If using this exercise as a warm-up, avoid heavy weight and muscular failure. Heavy loads will use up valuable energy that is required for the ensuing workout, whereas light loads will effectively warm the tissues without excessively burning up energy.

Final Word

There is no doubt that the Zottman curl is a highly effective arm building exercise which simultaneously places a load on the forearms and biceps. In terms of forearm building exercises, the Zottman curl should be regarded as one of the most effective as regularly performing this exercise will lead to a simultaneous increase in strength and size of both the forearm and upper arm.

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1 -Publishing, Harvard Health. “Give grip strength a hand”.

2 -“Sprains and Strains”. medlineplus.gov.

3 – Information, National Center for Biotechnology; Pike, U. S. National Library of Medicine 8600 Rockville; MD, Bethesda; Usa, 20894 (May 30, 2018). Golfer’s elbow: Strengthening and stretching exercises. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).

Jacob Ladon is a staff writer and former amateur bodybuilder. He has been passionate about bodybuilding since he was 15 years old and discovered the joys of training in the gym. He reports and comments on all bodybuilding related matters.