Dumbbell Zottman Curl: A Complete Guide | How to Train Your Biceps!

By
Mike Kenler
October 13, 2020

Dumbbell Zottman Curl

The dumbbell zottman curl is one of the best variations of the standard bicep curl. Invented by 19th century strongman George Zottman, the zottman curl targets your biceps and your forearms at the same time. If you want to improve your arm size, strength, and aesthetics, the dumbbell zottman curl is for you! 

Muscles Worked by Dumbbell Zottman Curl

Primary Muscle Groups:

The dumbbell zottman curl primarily works your biceps brachii. The bicep muscle is comprised of two “heads:” a long head and a short head. Both heads work together as a cohesive unit during lifting and pulling motions.

The dumbbell zottman curl also primarily targets the brachioradialis,  one of the strongest and most visible muscles in the forearms. The main functions of the brachioradialis are forearm flexion, supination and pronation. 

Secondary Muscle Groups:

The dumbbell zottman curl secondarily works your brachialis, a muscle in your biceps that lies beneath your biceps brachii. The zottman curl also works your abs and back muscles, as they activate to stabilize your body during the curling motion. Other smaller forearms muscles are also worked in the zottman curl.

Dumbbell Zottman Curl Benefits

1. Strength and Size Gains

The zottman curl is a premier biceps compound exercise. As a result, your biceps are optimally targeted during the motion, which helps to strengthen the biceps muscle and increase biceps hypertrophy. Growing your biceps muscles isn’t just for show — it will improve your performance in other exercises at the gym such as the barbell row and the lat pulldown

2. Forearm Activation

The dumbbell zottman curl delivers the benefits of two exercises in one, as it works the biceps and the forearms simultaneously. While the forearms generally support the arms during other curling motions, the zottman curl specifically targets the forearms.

In that way, you can benefit from working your upper and lower arms at the same time. 

3. Improved Aesthetics

Let’s face it — nearly everyone wants to have better looking arms. Depending on your goals, you can use the dumbbell zottman curl to develop bigger, more toned, or more defined biceps and forearms. This exercise is simple to learn and can help you improve the appearance of your arms in no time. 

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How to Do Dumbbell Zottman Curl 

Equipment:

For this exercise, you will need a pair of dumbbells.

Setup:

1. Grab a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing forward.

2. Assume a standing position with your feet roughly hip width apart. 

Action:

1. Keeping your back straight, contract your biceps to curl the dumbbells upwards. 

2. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and twist your hands so that your palms face downwards.

3. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position and twist your hands so that your palms are facing forward again.

4. Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps. 

Recommendation:

If you are new to the dumbbell zottman curl, choose a light weight to begin and complete 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps. If you are more comfortable with the form, grab a pair of heavier dumbbells and stick to the 6-8 rep range for 3-4 sets. 

Dumbbell Zottman Curl Mistakes

1. Rounding the Back

Many weightlifters tend to round their back when doing dumbbell curls. This rounded back position compromises the safety of your spine and can easily lead to injury.

Instead, make sure your back is engaged and straight in order to challenge your biceps in the safest way possible. 

2. Using Momentum

Far too often, I see people swinging their arms and using momentum to lift the dumbbells up during the dumbbell zottman curl. Usually, this happens because they try to lift too much weight.

Instead of allowing ego to get in the way, choose a lighter weight and focus on perfecting your form. Being mindful while lifting lighter weight will actually increase your gains and reduce your chances of injury!

3. Rushing the Motion

Another common mistake made during the dumbbell zottman curl is rushing. In other words, people explode through the curl and then let the dumbbells fall quickly to the bottom. This mistake is stealing major gains that can be made during the eccentric portion of the exercise motion.

Instead of rushing through the motion, curl the dumbbells in a slow, controlled fashion. Not only is this safer, but it will increase your time under tension and maximize the benefits of the dumbbell zottman curl.

Dumbbell Zottman Curl Variations

1. Reverse Zottman Curl 

The reverse zottman curl targets your forearms slightly more than the traditional zottman curl. Begin in the same setup position as the original, but curl upwards with your palms facing down. Then, at the top of the rep, twist your wrists so that your palms face upwards. Twist back to the starting position at the bottom and repeat!


 

2. Resistance Band Zottman Curl 

The zottman curl can also be performed with a resistance band. Step on a resistance band with your feet roughly shoulder width apart and complete the curl with the same form as the dumbbell zottman curl. This time, however, you will be holding onto the band itself!


Dumbbell Zottman Curl Alternatives

If you enjoyed the dumbbell zottman curl, check out these alternative bicep exercises to improve your bicep training:

1. Straight Curl 

Assume a standing position with your feet close together and your back straight. Hold the dumbbells together with your palms facing up. Contract your biceps to bend your arms and curl the dumbbells upwards. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the rep and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat!

 

2. Reverse Straight Curl 

Assume a standing position with your feet close together and your back straight. Hold the dumbbells together with your palms facing down. Contract your biceps to bend your arms and curl the dumbbells upwards.

Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the rep and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat!

 

3. Alternating Tension Curls 

Assume a standing position with your feet close together and your back straight. Grab both dumbbells with your palms facing up and extend your arms straight out in front of you. Curl your right hand upwards while keeping your left arm straight.

Then, curl your left arm upwards as you extend your right arm back to its starting position. Keep alternating arms and repeat!

Looking for an Intense Bicep Workout?

Follow along to this 5-minute dumbbell bicep workout!

Thank you for being a part of the Anabolic Aliens community. Always feel free to reach out with any questions, comments, or concerns at kenler@anabolicaliens.com.

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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

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