Today we pick up with the final part of the “Big Powerful Arms” article from the March 1956 issue of Strength and Health. The excerpt below, following up on the previous passage by Steve Stanko, includes shorter sections by champion weightlifter Dick Bachtell, multiple physique contest winner Jim Park, and Charles Vinci, who took home gold medals for weightlifting in two Pan American Games and two summer Olympics.
Each of these experienced iron game figures had different methods for developing the various arm muscles. Bachtell recommended the Zottman curl, an older exercise which apparently was not in common use by the time this article was written, and is certainly not well-known today.
A photo of Dick Bachtell performing Zottman curls, which accompanied the original article. Click to enlarge (opens in new window/tab)
Zottman curl background and technique: https://physicalculturestudy.com/2016/03/30/forgotten-exercises-zottman-curl/
Some memories of Jim Park: http://www.cbass.com/JimPark.htm
A profile of Charles Vinci: https://www.cleveland.com/sunpostherald/index.ssf/2012/03/former_champion_weightlifter_s.html
By DICK BACHTELL
Although I continue to train and stay in good condition, it’s hard for me to say just which biceps exercise I like the best. When I first began using weights, like all novices, I practiced all bodybuilding exercises and enjoyed them, but later switched to weightlifting because it afforded better competition, thereafter most of my training has been along weightlifting movements, and I found that cleaning weights or pulling them overhead gave my biceps plenty of work. Even today most of my training is done on lifting movements which helps to stimulate blood circulation and increases respiratory action that makes me breathe deeper and fuller, all of which is considered important if good physical condition is to be maintained.
On days when I have a yen to practice bodybuilding exercises, I include curling movements, and although I’ve done most of them, I still practice the regular curl with barbell and sometimes with a pair of dumbells, but perhaps the one I like the best is the odd curling exercise named after the man who practiced it more frequently than any other, Zottman, because it seemed to provide the whole arm with stimulating exercise; biceps, forearms and wrists. Perhaps another reason why I and many others liked this exercise is because you don’t have to handle heavy weights and struggle while doing it, because once you get the rhythm of it, the systematic movement, the whole exercise goes along like clockwork, making the arm swell and congest with blood. I still believe that by doing this exercise, even though I wasn’t a bodybuilding fanatic, it helped to increase the size of my forearms. I can’t help but think that many of the old timers used this exercise (it was a popular exercise then) and if you will study their pictures you will notice that almost all of them had rather large and powerful forearms with an iron grip, something that very few top stars have today. This could have been influenced by practicing this Zottman exercise, but naturally, other factors could have helped.
Including it in your training occasionally for added variety might be a good idea. Personally, I think it’s one of the best movements to employ for warming up the biceps, forearms and wrists. Only a few repetitions will start the blood coursing through the veins and the biceps and forearms grow tighter, but to obtain the full benefits you should continue using it for a number of weeks, handling a weight that will permit you to do at least eight repetitions but not more than twelve. Included with other biceps methods, the Zottman curl will prove a wonderful supplement as an aid to bigger and stronger biceps. The old timers couldn’t be all wrong, and they had the muscle to prove it!
I have never found the arms particularly hard to develop; for several years I was content to follow the usual barbell exercises of presses and curls and my arms grew to 17 inches without specialization, but when it came to serious competition for such titles as Mr. America and Mr. Universe (Both of which he won–Editor’s Note), I found that more than mere bulk was required to place my arms in the top physique category.
There is a difference between size and shape, and also between mere bulk and good separation. To win titles you must have size, shape and separation–the Three Ss of the Super-arm. So I began to experiment with various “shaping” exercises, such as the concentration curl (or “cramp curl”), the French press, along with my regular heavy two-arm curls and presses. I have found dumbells the ideal exercising medium to give shape to the arms, and the exercise which I demonstrate in the photo with this article is one which I find very effective in moulding a high biceps with strong definition.
The position assumed by the upper body–bending forward–is necessary to get the full “feel” of this concentration curl. It is also best to rest or brace the other hand in order to give full play to the exercising arm. You take a light enough bell so that you can do at least 15 reps, and try to bend the arm fully into almost a cramping position at the top of each curl, thinking hard into the muscle as you do so.
Do at least three sets of these curls for each arm — continuing the reps until the arm is fairly aching. I like to do these at the very end of my exercise period, so the blood is left in the arms at the finish. You might try these and see if they work for you.
I am, first of all, a weight-lifter–but even weight-lifters are conscious of the size and shape of their muscles. I was a bodybuilder before I was a liflter, and I still like to do a good bit of dumbell development work for the arms.
At home I have a rack of solid iron dumbells, ranging from 50 lbs. up to 100 lbs., and I use these dumbells several times a week in addition to my regular weight-lifting workouts in the York gym. I like to do dumbell curls and dumbell presses, and I do these both alternately, using one arm at a time, and using both hands together. Just the other day I did several sets of 3 repetition presses with 100 lb. dumbells. I believe this dumbell work helps my pressing power (Vinci recently did a 230 lb. press–Editor). I also like to do curls, and use up to 50 to 60 lb. dumbells in these.
On our recent long trip through the Far East the crowds would ask us to do some muscle posing after our lifting exhibitions, and I was very glad then that I ha spent some time in developing my arms and shoulders. I think weightlifters should not only be strong–but they should look strong too. Dumbell curls and presses give the arms a better workout than the same movements with barbells, and are sure to give you more shape and separation.