Zottman Curls

What is the Zottman Curl? Is it some kind of new hairstyle? Maybe a fancy cocktail?

The Zottman Curl is actually one of the oldest and most powerful bicep exercises. It’s often thought of as a “forgotten” weightlifting exercise, but it’s made a bit of a comeback as fitness enthusiasts discover that sometimes the oldest things are the best. 

Civil War Strongman

George Zottman was born around the time of the end of the Civil War, though the exact date of his birth is lost to history. He was a strongman who lived in Philadelphia, and he helped to popularize weightlifting with his innovative and effective exercises. Nicknamed the “Local Hercules,” he was often described as a giant. 

He didn’t just get all those muscles though, he worked for them. He’s credited with inventing, or at least popularizing, the Zottman Curl. This exercise is a variation on the traditional Bicep Curl, but with a few added twists.

Stay in Control

The focus of the Zottman Curl is control. That control extends up through the initial lift, and trails all the way through to the final extension back down. What makes it different from the traditional Bicep Curl is that it has a twist at the top, where the hand turns around to face the outside while holding the dumbbell. 

This exercise is meant to go slowly. The arm lifts with focus and attention every moment along the way. It should take about five seconds to go each way, both up and down. This is important because with the investment of time in each repetition, the muscles are forced to work harder. That’s the secret to this compound exercise, and why it works the forearms and biceps so effectively. No wonder this exercise is a favorite of bodybuilders.  

How To Do a Zottman Curl

To do the Zottman Curl, start out with a set of dumbbells that are of a challenging but manageable weight.

  • Stand with your feet hips’ distance apart, firmly planted and with knees slightly bent. 
  • Pull your elbows close to your sides as you hold the dumbbells down with the palms facing out. 
  • With control, slowly curl the dumbbells up to shoulder height, both at the same time. 
  • At the top position, squeeze the biceps and hold. 
  • Rotate the wrists inward so that the dumbbells twist to face outward. This is called a pronated grip.
  • Again with control, lower the weights back down to the sides, elbows always in, back to the original position.
  • When the dumbbells reach the starting position, rotate the hands back out so that the palms again face forward. 
  • Repeat. 

Note that this exercise is much more intense than a traditional bicep curl, which it is of course a variation on. 

Herculean Forearms and Biceps

The Zottman Curl develops the forearms and biceps with incredible tenacity. If you want to get your arms bulging and huge, this is absolutely the exercise for you. The deltoids are also engaged to a lesser extent.

Though George Zottman has been gone for nearly a hundred years, his legacy is still felt today in exercise enthusiasts who use the Zottman Curl to attempt to replicate his tremendous strength and physique.

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