Zottman Curls are an incredibly unique curl exercise that challenges both the biceps and the forearms. I love adding Zottman Curls into a program to add some variety at the end of a workout.
However, as great as they are, sometimes you may need an alternative for Zottman Curls.
The most obvious reason is that you don’t have any dumbbells, but it could be that you’re just looking for new ideas to add to your strength training.
Whatever the reason, you’re in the right place. I’m about to share with you 8 great Zottman Curl alternatives.
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Table of Contents
- Alternatives for Zottman Curls
- Barbell Reverse Curl
- Reverse Cable Curl
- Hammer Curls
- Fat Grip Pull-ups
- Multi-Grip Bar Curls
- Dumbbell Forearm Twist
- Band Curls
- Reverse Wrist Curls
- Final Thoughts
Alternatives for Zottman Curls
Zottman Curls are very unique and as such there aren’t many exercises that can do exactly what they do. What I’ve tried to do in this list of alternatives is give you exercises that also challenge the biceps and forearms like Zottman Curls do.
I’ve also tried to include exercises that use a variety of equipment like barbells, cable machines, bands, etc. So, hopefully, no matter what equipment you have access to, one of the exercises listed here will be a good substitute for you.
Barbell Reverse Curl
- Weight Plates
- Stand tall, back straight, head up, feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the barbell with both hands, palms down (pronated grip).
- Start with the bar at arm’s length against the upper thighs.
- Curl the bar up towards the shoulders until the forearms touch the biceps.
- Keep upper elbows close to the side.
- Lower the bar back to starting position using the same path.
- Continue until all reps are completed.
You’ll most likely need to use less weight for Reverse Curls than you would normally use for barbell curls. The wrist extensors will be the limiting factor here that will dictate how much weight you’re able to use.
Reverse Cable Curl
- Pulley Machine
- Slide the pin to the bottom of the cable machine.
- Hook a straight bar attachment onto the cable.
- Grab the attachment with an overhand grip (pronated) and stand about a half step away from the machine – just enough room where you won’t hit it as you curl.
- Stand tall with good posture and a slight bend in the knee.
- Flex the biceps and curl the attachment up towards the shoulders, squeezing the biceps at the top of the movement.
- Lower back to the starting position under control.
- Continue until all reps are completed and then gently lower the attachment back down to the floor.
Don’t just let the attachment go at the end of your set and allow the attachment to go flying and slam back into the machine. This will obviously tear the machine up. It astonishes me that people would disrespect equipment like that, but unfortunately, I see it happen all the time.
As for the actual technique of the lift, the biggest mistake I see with Reverse Cable Curls is allowing the wrists to bend forward. This places undue stress on the wrist and can make the lift very uncomfortable. Keep the forearms engaged and maintain a neutral wrist position as you curl.
- Start standing with feet flat on the ground about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand and stand tall with good posture.
- Start with palms facing in toward the body.
- Now, curl both dumbbells up to shoulder level by flexing the biceps. Palms should finish still facing one another. Do not rotate the palm up.
- Squeeze the biceps at the top of the rep and then lower back down to the starting position.
The biggest mistake I see with Hammer Curls is swinging the dumbbells at the bottom of the rep. Lower the weights down under control and do not swing them at the bottom.
The other mistake I see usually comes when an athlete is trying to use too much weight. Instead of keeping the elbow in place at their side, they allow the elbow to drift back behind the torso which turns the movement into more of a row than a curl.
Fat Grip Pull-ups
- Fat Grip Pull Up Bar (Either as part of a rack or a wall-mounted bar)
- A Regular Pull-Up Bar with a pair of Fat Gripz attached*
- Approach the fat grip pull-up bar and grab the bar with a pronated grip (palms facing away).
- Use a bench to get to the bar if it is too high.
- Squeeze the bar and engage the core muscles and do not cross your legs.
- Engage the upper back and pull up until your chin is over the bar.
- Pause for 1 second with your chin over the bar.
- Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
If you don’t have a fat grip pull-up bar for Fat Grip Pull-ups then I highly recommend getting a pair of Fat Gripz. They can be attached to a pull-up bar, barbell or even dumbbells to increase the diameter of the bar, turning any piece of equipment into a fat grip. I’ve used them for years at every school I’ve worked at and they are worth every penny.
Multi-Grip Bar Curls
One of those uses is for curls that can also stress the forearms. You can use either the neutral grip or for an even bigger challenge to your grip, use the angled handle upside-down.
If you have access to one of these specialty barbells, they can make a great alternative for Zottman Curls.
Dumbbell Forearm Twist
- Biceps (Biceps Brachii)
- Forearms (Brachioradialis, Pronator Teres, Pronator Quadratus, Supinator Muscle)
- Grab dumbbells in each hand and stand with feet shoulder-width apart*.
- Curl the dumbbells up until the elbows are at 90 degrees (forearms should be parallel to the ground).
- Now, begin rotating the forearms – alternating between palms up and palms down positions.
- Count each rep when palms turn up.
*Forearm Twists can also be done seated with forearms resting on the thighs. Or, forearms resting on a bench. I prefer standing because it keeps the biceps more engaged during the movement.
Don’t rush through. Time under tension is important for Dumbbell Forearm Twist. Stay under control of each rep.
- Resistance Band – Advanced athletes will generally use a Green Band. Beginner-level athletes might use a blue or even a red band.
- Grab a resistance band, place one foot ‘inside’ the band and stand on it.
- Now, slide your hands ‘inside’ the band on the opposite end.
- Grip the resistance band shoulder-width apart with your palms facing up (supinated).
- Curl up by flexing the biceps, keeping the elbows tucked close to the sides.
- Squeeze hard at the top of the rep and then slowly lower back to the starting position.
- Once you start the set, try to maintain constant tension on the band. Don’t let the resistance band go slack at the bottom of the rep.
There are two easy ways you can adjust the tension of the band to make Band Curls harder or easier.
First, stand on the band with two feet instead of one. The wider your stance, the more difficult the curls will be.
The other is to grip lower on the band. Instead of gripping all the way at the end of the band, choke up on the band similar to a baseball player choking up on a bat.
Reverse Wrist Curls
- Weight Plates
- Grab a barbell and sit down on a bench.
- Lay your forearms on the bench (or on your thighs) with your wrists hanging just off the front edge.
- Allow the wrists to bend forward, dropping the hands and bar toward the ground.
- Now, flex the wrist extensors and raise the hands as high as possible while keeping the forearms connected to the bench.
- Slowly lower the hands back to the starting position.
- Repeat until all reps are completed.
Some beginners may find that even a 45-pound barbell with no weight on it is too heavy to be able to do Reverse Wrist Curls. If that is the case, use dumbbells or resistance bands to strengthen the wrists and forearms until you’re able to progress to a barbell.
Zottman Curls are a unique and very effective exercise for working both the biceps and the forearms. However, there may be occasions when you need an alternative for Zottman Curls.
Hopefully, at least one of the suggestions that I’ve given here is a good fit for you.