How to Do the Zottman Curl to Build Biceps and Strong Forearms

Gyms are filled with gleaming machines and AI-powered apps help you pick your ideal workout, but in some ways, we haven’t come very far in training since the formative period of the 19thcentury. One particular area that has remained the same: forearm training.

Old-time strongman George Zottman was onto something in the late 1800s when he came up with his namesake curl variation, one that targets the biceps on the concentric portion of the lift then reverses course and hits the forearms during the eccentric phase.

Yet, surprisingly in 2022, forearms remain one of the most underworked muscle groups. It’s about time to change that, starting with this latest Form Check as Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and fitness editor Brett Williams, NASM-CPT reintroduce us to this centuries-old forearm flexing move.

How to Do the Zottman Curl

The Zottman curl allows you to attack the forearms, but first we have to refamiliarize ourselves with normal biceps curl form. Squeeze your glutes while using your abs to drive your ribcage down and close before finally squeezing your shoulder blades. You also make this a true biceps isolation exercise—palms in neutral, squeeze the biceps to curl the dumbbells up, thinking about rotating the palms, turning the pinkies at the top to get a good squeeze.

Men’s Health

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Men’s Health

Now comes the twist to the exercise that makes it an effective forearm move. Instead of lowering the dumbbell as you normally would in a curl, you’re going to rotate your wrists to twist the dumbbells forward, making sure to keep your elbows in position at either side of your torso. Since your forearms aren’t normally as strong, try and lower the dumbbells for at least a two-count, really emphasizing the eccentric portion of the lift. Don’t just drop the weight quickly, lower with good control after each rep. That’s what makes the Zottman curl different from all others.

“If people are going to curl up, they’re going to twist quickly and they’re going to lower down way too quickly, then you lose that eccentric effect, you don’t get the most out of curl,” Samuel says.

Since this is a forearm-focused movement, don’t try and lift heavy with this accessory move, maybe about 10 to 15 pounds less than you normally would in a curl for about eight to 10 reps.

“You don’t want to have to rush through a bunch of reps,” Samuel says. “I’d rather you get eight to 10 good reps and really appreciate that eccentric field in your forearms and feel it in your biceps.”

Want to master even more moves? Check out our entire Form Check series.

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