TYPE OF EXERCISE
Upper body and single joint.
PRIMARY MUSCLES USED
Elbow flexion: biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis (1), elbow extension: triceps brachii and anconeus (1), forearm supination: supinator and brachioradialis (1), forearm pronation: pronator quadrates, pronator teres, and brachioradialis (1).
This variation of the biceps curl is aptly named for late 1800s strongman George Zottman who is said to have developed this exercise. Zottman was allegedly known for his exceedingly well-developed and powerful forearms.
This dumbbell lift is a hybrid curling movement consisting of elements of the basic bicep dumbbell curl and a reverse-grip curl. The concentric phase of this lift uses the generally stronger biceps brachii as its primary mover. The eccentric phase of this lift enhances the use of the forearm muscles compared with the concentric phase. The overload on the muscles of the forearm during the eccentric portion of this curl may be enhanced as a result of the potentially greater loads afforded by the biceps brachii's contribution to the concentric portion of the lift.
From a safety standpoint, the Zottman curl may be preferable to other more commonly used forearm exercises especially different varieties of wrist curls. However, this exercise technique can be awkward for lesser experienced lifters. Rotating the wrists in an uncontrolled or ballistic manner at either transition phase of this lift may result in wrist injury.
- Begin by standing with the knees and hips slightly flexed and the feet approximately shoulder-width apart.
- While holding 2 dumbbells of equal weight, allow the arms to hang freely at the sides.
- Supinate the hands and position the dumbbells on the outer portion of the thighs.
- In a controlled manner, the lifter should bend the elbow via a concentric action of the biceps brachii.
- As the dumbbells rise from the sides in an arc-like manner, the elbows should remain at the sides in their starting position and noticeable flexion of the shoulders should not occur to emphasize the biceps brachii (Figure 1).
- The palms will remain supinated throughout the ascent portion of this lift.
- The lifter should inhale during this phase.
TRANSITION TO DESCENT
- At the top of the ascent phase, slowly rotate the dumbbells until the palms are pronated (e.g., facing away from the shoulder).
- This rotational movement should be conducted in a deliberate controlled manner before the descent phase of the lift.
- With the palms pronated and facing away from the body, the elbows will extend in a controlled manner resulting in an eccentric action of the biceps brachii (Figure 2).
- The dumbbells will descend in the exact same arc-like motion as the ascent until the dumbbells are back in the starting position.
- The lifter should exhale during this phase.
TRANSITION TO ASCENT
- Before performing subsequent repetitions, the dumbbell(s) should be slowly and deliberately lowered as the palms are supinated (e.g., facing away from the body once again).
- The ascent phase should not begin until this rotation has been completed.
- This lift may be performed in the standing and seated positions, on an incline bench, or with a preacher-bench. Compared with standing, the seated, incline, and preacher-bench versions of this may serve to further isolate this movement and reduce any momentum contributed by the lower body.
- Likewise, this lift may be performed bilaterally, unilaterally, or alternated.
- If the full required rotation of the wrist at the end of the concentric phase (supinated to pronated) is not possible for those learning the lift, the lifter may consider rotating the wrists inward to a thumbs-up position (commonly known as the “hammer, or neutral, position”) for the eccentric phase until the forearm muscles are strengthened further.
This exercise is recommended for any sport or physical activity in which lower arm strength and stability is vital such as baseball, softball, volleyball, power lifting, combative sports, and tactical situations. It is recommended that this lift be performed by itself or following multijoint movements requiring optimal grip strength. Unlike traditional wrist curls, the Zottman curl may be preferable to younger lifters and those with previous wrist injuries.
1. Floyd RT. Manual of Structural Kinesiology (16th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2007. pp. 143–144.