Men Over 40 Can Use the Zottman Curl to Build Stronger Arms

Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.

One of my younger friends in the gym is the strongest guy I know for his size. He’s 40, five inches shorter than me and at least 20 pounds lighter. Even with my size advantage, he always reminds me he has me beat when we do biceps curls and grip strength challenges.

As I’m getting up there in age, I can’t afford to give any of my younger friends any more advantages, so I’ve started to focus more on building up my arm strength. One exercise I mix into my routine is the Zottman Curl. I use it because it pulls double duty—I can attack my biceps and forearm strength in one exercise. You also get to work on your grip strength, which is an indicator of overall strength and mortality as we get older.

How to Do the Zottman Curl

To set up, you’ll need to grab a pair of dumbbells. Stand in an athletic position, squeeze your glutes, abs, and shoulder blades, while gripping the dumbbells at your sides in a neutral position. Curl both dumbbells up, twisting your palms toward the ceiling. At the top of the curl make sure to get a strong bicep squeeze. Here’s the key to the curl: Before lowering the dumbbells back to the starting position, twist your palms forward, making sure to keep your elbows in and moving only at the forearm. Then, lower the dumbbells slowly back to the starting position. That’s one rep.

The Zottman Curl is one exercise you don’t want to rush, especially during the eccentric (lowering the dumbbells) part of the movement. Too often when curling you’ll see all kinds of people wasting that portion of the movement, losing control and not getting the most out of the exercise. Since grip and forearm strength is critical for older men (twisting doorknobs, opening jars, hanging exercises, etc.), take full advantage of the exercise by lowering the dumbbells with a slow and controlled movement. Keep your upper arms in line with your torso so your elbows don’t jut forward, which can also diminish the effectiveness of the exercise. Also, if your body is swaying, you’re using too much weight. Simply grab a lighter dumbbell to maintain control.

You don’t need much weight for the Zottman curl because of your focus on the eccentric movement. Start by dropping the weight you’d usually do for a standard curl by 10 to 15 pounds. When raising the weight, remember to supinate (turn your palms upward) and squeeze as much as possible to hit your biceps. When lowing the weight, use a five-count and remember to pronate (turn your palms downward) as much as possible to hit your forearms. Start with 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

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