Zottman Curl

Muscles Worked and Proper Technique

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: July 8, 2021

Traditional bicep curls only work one part of your arm during the exercise. And that means you have to use multiple exercises to hit all the parts of your biceps.

On the other hand, the Zottman curl works your entire bicep and even your forearms so you get more muscle activation in less time.

In this article, I explain more of the benefits of this exercise. As well as how to do Zottman curls including a few different variations.

Zottman Curl Cover

What Is A Zottman Curl?

The Zottman curl is a bicep exercise named after American strongman George Zottman. In the late 1800’s, Zottman popularized this exercise by building exception arm size and grip strength for his era.

A distinct feature of the Zottman curl is that your hand position changes during the exercise. This exercise is usually performed with dumbbells so you can rotate your wrists at the top and bottom of the movement.

On the way up, your palms face up – also called a supinated grip. While on the way down, your palms face down – or a pronated grip. By changing hand positions during the exercise, you work different parts of your arm simultaneously.

Zottman Curl Muscles Worked

The Zottman Curl exercise primarily targets the bicep, which consists of a long head and a short head. The long head makes up the outer bicep and creates the peak. While the short head makes up the inner bicep and creates width.

The palms up concentric phase of the exercise works more of the inner bicep. And the palms down eccentric phase works more of the outer bicep, brachialis, and upper forearm.

Zottman Curl Muscles Worked

Zottman Curl Benefits & Limitations

The dumbbell Zottman curl is like the Swiss Army knife of bicep exercises. It packs a lot of features into a small space.

That being said, it isn’t the right tool for every job. For overloading the bicep muscle with heavy weight you’d be better off with a meat cleaver like traditional barbell bicep curls.


  • Targets inner bicep, outer bicep, and forearm in one movement
  • Activates more arm muscles with fewer exercises
  • Builds bicep peak and bicep width at the same time
  • Transition at the top increases time under tension
  • Improves grip strength


  • Requires lighter weight, which doesn’t maximize growth or strength

How To Do A Zottman Curl

  1. Start with a dumbbell in each hand and palms facing forward
  2. Curl the weight up towards your shoulders while keeping your elbows at your sides
  3. At the top, slowly rotate your wrist inward so your palms face mostly down
  4. Lower the weight back down towards your thighs
  5. At the bottom, slowly rotate your wrist outward so your palms face forward
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps

Zottman Curl Form

Here are some more tips to help you activate the target muscles and perform the exercise safely:

  • Angle your arms slightly outward so the dumbbells don’t hit your legs
  • Rotate the dumbbells slowly to prevent injury to your wrist
  • Try not to move your upper arms, only move your lower arms and hands
  • Use a relatively light weight that you can control through the movement

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Zottman Curl Variations

Reverse Zottman Curl

With a reverse Zottman curl you use the opposite hand position as the standard version. So you have your palms down on the way up, and palms up on the way down.

This reversal targets the same muscles, except you hit the outer bicep and forearm in the concentric phase. Then you hit the inner bicep on the eccentric phase.

Alternating Zottman Curl

Another variation of the dumbbell Zottman curl involves alternating arms. That is, you perform a full repetition with one arm then switch to the other arm. And you keep alternating until you’ve done the total number of reps with each arm.

Performing a curl with one arm at a time helps you concentrate on contracting a single muscle. And this can help increase muscle activation through the mind muscle connection.

Fat Grip Zottman Curl

Fat grips are a weightlifting accessory that increases the diameter of the bar. Studies show that resistance training with a larger diameter bar results in increased grip strength1.

Just be aware that the larger diameter also decreases the number of reps you can perform. So these grips are not ideal for every situation. But if you’re using Zottman curls to target grip strength, then fat grips may accelerate your progress.

Resistance Band Zottman Curl

If you don’t have dumbbells, you can still do this exercise. To do a banded Zottman curl, start by standing with your feet in the center of the band. Then grab one end of the band in each hand.

For tube bands with handles, grab the band just below the handle. Then you have the ability to rotate your wrist in and out to perform the Zottman curl.

17 Resistance Band Exercises For Arms

Seated Zottman Curl

Sometimes you’ll see people at the gym bouncing their legs as they curl. This generates momentum to start the weight moving, but it also takes the load off the target muscle which isn’t good for maximizing hypertrophy.

To eliminate momentum generated from the legs, you can try the seated Zottman curl. This variation is performed while seated on a bench or chair. Other than that, the movement is exactly the same as the standing version.


The Zottman curl is a versatile exercise for building biceps peak and width in one movement. In addition, the wrist rotation and pronated hand position are good for building grip strength.

Therefore, you should consider adding this exercise to your routine to condense your arm workouts. Or if you’re looking to beef up your forearms.

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