Monday Mayhem: Zottman Curls

Work Those Biceps

The beginning of the week can sometimes bring about that urge to call out of your beginning of the week workout regiment with a bad case of the Mondays. But fear not! Monday Mayhem is here to help you from hitting the couch instead of the bench after work with fresh and exciting exercises to get you up and out and smashing through your week ahead!


This Week's Mayhem: Zottman Curls


Step by Step: Zottman Curl

Photo courtesy of


A classic old school bodybuilding exercise, the famous (or perhaps infamous) Zottman Curl is one of the few arm exercises that targets your bicep almost exclusively.


Unlike traditional dumbbell curls that rely heavily on triceps as the weight is lowered, the Zottman Curl keeps biceps fully flexed for as long as possible to isolate the muscle and train it more thoroughly than most any other exercise in its class.


Developed and named after legendary 19th century strongman George Zottman, the curl is performed using a pair of dumbbells and following these steps to execute:


  1. Begin with the palms of your hands facing each other, and at the side of your hips (photo A).

  2. Curl the weights as you would a normal bicep curl. Be sure to keep your arms close and in control. Continue the movement until your biceps are fully contracted and the dumbbells are at shoulder level (photo B).
  3. Squeeze your biceps as they reach their peak. If you are doing pause reps as part of your routine, now is the time to count down from/up to whatever your target number is. 
  4. To bring the weights back down, rotate your wrist until your palms face down. The correct position is identical to how palms face during a bench press or a lateral pull down (photo C).
  5. Slowly lower the weights, making sure to keep your arms in control. Letting the weight drop too fast can pull at your shoulders and will negate the effect of this part of the exercise. 
  6. As you reach the bottom, turn your wrists to return to the starting position where your palms face each other and rest at your hips (photo D)

Remember that although the bicep can reach incredible sizes as seen demonstrated by professional bodybuilders, the muscle itself is relatively weak; you will very rarely see weightlifters take on the Zottman Curl with more than 40lbs at a time. To this day, the fact the man himself was able to do the exercise with 50lbs at a time is an impressive accomplishment.

The key to getting the most out of Zottman Curl is to perform the exercise slowly and with control at all times to avoid strain on the shoulders and joints. The recommended starting weight for the exercise is about 15lbs, 20lbs for more ambitious lifters.

Try to run through a full set of 10 reps at your next gym session to kick your arm training to new levels!

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