Forgotten Exercises: Zottman Curls


Looking for a new arm exercise? Of course you are, who isn’t?

Following our discussion of the see-saw shoulder press last week, we thought it was time to examine another forgotten exercise, the Zottman Curl. Named after 19th century strongman George Zottman, the Zottman curl is a fantastic way of stressing the biceps, brachialis muscles, and forearm supinators.

So what are Zottman Curls and how do I perform one?

Although a rare sight in gymnasiums nowadays,  Zottman Curls are a fantastic way to develop your forearms and biceps. To execute the perfect curl

  • Position yourself as you would normally for a standard biceps curl i.e.  dumbbells at your sides, elbows close to your torso and palms facing forward
  • Curl the DB up to your shoulders
  • Squeeze your biceps at the top
  • Turn hands over so your palms are now facing away from you (pronated grip) i.e rotate your wrists outward so your palms face forward again.
  • Lower the weight to the starting position using a pronated grip.
  • At the bottom position, switch back to original supinated grip. Repeat for prescribed number of repetitions.

Here’s a video of current bodybuilding sensation Rich Piana performing the exercise


Like any bicep exercise, the Zottman Curl can be done in a variety of ways, be it standing, seated or incline. Play around and see which suits you best.

Bonus Material

The Zottman Curl was a favourite bicep developer of the Iron Guru, Vince Gironda. Check out this rare footage below of Gironda performing the movement.

7 thoughts on “Forgotten Exercises: Zottman Curls

Add yours

  1. I like Vince’s movements. Their fairly fluid and remind me of my martial arts days. I wonder if there are more exercises that incorporate that sort of flowing movement?

    1. It’s remarkable to contrast how Vince and Rich Piana do the exact same curls. Vince’s is much more fluid and there is something reminiscent of a martial art in it.

      I can’t think of any off hand except maybe continuous squatting which has always had something of a mystical quality about it for me! Old videos of Tom Platz doing high reps with loaded bars have always fascinated me!

  2. Could I also suggest in order for the arms to align properly on eccentric, you should “roll” your torso away from the descending arm while simultaneously “rolling into” the ascending. Seems to minimize the stress/aggravation one can experience in the external rotator cuff while lowering the weight as upper arm “wants” to leave the side of the torso if not performed this way. Also, be sure to completely lower the weight before supinating across to outside of body, developed tennis elbow previously by not observing this and “flicking” the weight over before reaching the bottom. Also, some people may find the rolling motion causes excessive aggravation of spinal column/discs, performing sitting down might be alternative to remedy that.

      1. Hey Conor, Could I also suggest a modified version which I call the Hammer Zottman. Simply start with hammer rather than supinated grip at start of movement. Two reasons for this 1. This eliminates difficulty in starting movement or as set progresses as brachioradialis acts as natural assistor to biceps when at mechanical disadvantage (where muscle is pulling at or near parallel on lever on which it’s acting, in this case the forearm). As result, better cadence between concentric and eccentric phases (smoother transition at bottom, tho’ lacks that satisfying “crimping” feeling at top when switching from supinated to pronated), plus more reps and/or heavier weight is possible, 2. More loading placed on brachioradialis and brachialis in concentric phase (additional 10-15% maybe) to give forearms that real Popeye look.

      2. Absolutely John – suggest away! This is quite a coincidence as I’ve begun doing this myself thanks to some tricky elbow pain. Like you I’ve found it results in a much better flow throughout the exercise!

Tell Me What You Think!

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: