If you’re thinking achieving bigger and stronger biceps like those of bodybuilding champions is beyond you, don’t be worried. The most basic rule of making your muscles bigger and toned is to train them in different movements.

By different movements it means adding variations of exercises meant for the same muscle group. Performing the same movement over and over not only makes the muscle get used to it, it also leads to overexercise. While the basic bicep curl is a great exercise to train the upper arms, targeting the long head of the bicep means adding some variety to your arm or bicep routine.

The Zottman curl is an exercise that can do the job by directly targeting your brachialis (muscle above the elbow) as well as the brachioradialis (the large forearm muscle). The Zottman curl trains your biceps in a more effective way by performing curls with a different grip, thereby intensifying the movement and combining the efforts of the muscles above and below the elbow.

The most significant benefit of adding this exercise to your routine is that it also adds muscle strength to your forearms.

Types of Zottman curls

  • Reverse grip barbell curl
  • Zottman preacher curl

Muscles worked

  • Biceps (brachialis) and forearms (brachioradialis)
  1. Benefits of Zottman curl
  2. How to do the Zottman curl
  3. Tips to perfect Zottman curls
  4. Precautions while doing Zottman curl
  5. Alternative exercises to the Zottman curl
  6. Takeaways for the Zottman curl

Performing this exercise in the right way only helps you get bigger biceps, it also works your forearms by adding muscle endurance as well as strength in your wrists. This exercise also helps to make your grip stronger, allowing you to perform more complex exercises with ease.

Caution: Do not perform this or any other exercise in the absence of your trainer or someone experienced enough to observe and improve your form, if necessary.

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Before starting any exercise routine, don’t forget to warm-up your body with some mobility exercises for your shoulders, wrists, chest, hands, and legs. You can also use a treadmill, a cross trainer or the bicycle before hitting the floor for your workout.

Equipment required

  • A pair of dumbbells


  • Medium to high (experienced trainee to professional)

Reps & sets

  • 3 sets of 15 reps each

How to do it

  • Hold both the dumbbells in each hand, palms facing away from you.
  • Throughout the movement, keep your elbows and back locked; this will help you to move your forearms without putting pressure on your spine.
  • While lifting the dumbbell, try to focus on your bicep and forearm muscles; all the stress of the weight should be on your biceps while curling.
  • Add a 'squeeze' at the top of the movement.
  • Twist the hand for the palm to point downwards for the return movement.
  • Slowly bring the dumbbell down to the resting position. This is one rep.
  • Do not pull yourself back while lifting the dumbbell. It indicates you're lifting heavier than you should.
  • Throughout the movement, keep your elbows close to your chest. Do not let your elbows move forward or outward.
  • If you’re unable to lift both the dumbbells together, perform it alternatively - one arm at a time.
  • For better results, hold the dumbbell at shoulder level for a few seconds at the top of the movement.
  • Try to maintain a slow movement and lift weights in line with your strength levels to avoid workout injuries and poor form.
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​Much like any other exercise during a workout in the gym, there are a few pointers one must keep in mind before performing those intense movements.

  • Before performing any exercise, do not forget to loosen up your arms, chest, shoulders, legs or the part you are about to exercise. Ask someone experienced for correct form and weight. 
  • To avoid injuries - lift according to your strength.
  • Ask a 'spotter' for additional resistance while bringing the weight down.

There are several 'curling' movements one can perform to achieve stronger or toned bicep muscles which can be performed as alternatives to the Zottman curl:

  • Reverse dumbbell curl
  • Reverse barbell curl
  • Alternating dumbbell bicep curls
  • Dumbbell concentration curl
  • Machine preacher curl
  • Standing or seated dumbbell curl
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Named after famed 19th-century strongman George Zottman who invented the movement, the Zottman curl is a variation of the conventional bicep curl with dumbbells, but a move that allows you to isolate your forearm on the way down. Most forearm exercises focus on you building a stronger grip that allows you to pick up heavier weights, and this one comes with the added benefit of training your upper arms as well.


  1. Melrose, D. et al. Exercise Technique: The Zottman Curl. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2014 Feb; 36(1):92-93.
  2. Ravichandran, V et al. The effect of short-term heavy strengthening training on muscles of upper limbs. Drug Invention Today. 2018 Dec; 10(12):2524-2526.
  3. Goble, DJ. et al. Combination of BTrackS and Geri-Fit as a targeted approach for assessing and reducing the postural sway of older adults with high fall risk. Clin Interv Aging. 2017 Feb; 12:351–357. PMID: 28228655.
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