2 Weird Arm Exercises You Should Start Doing

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Weirdass exercises you can start doing today to build muscle and strength

I’ve recently taken on a new batch of coaching clients, and I’ve come to realize that a lot of people don’t know what the hell I’m talking about when I design their workouts.

While most of my clients have a decent training background,  a lot of the programs they’ve done are pretty basic.

Now, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with that—you can get great results from basic programming that focuses mostly on compound lifts and bicep curls—but despite the claims of some, that’s not going to work all of your muscles to their fullest potential.

So I’m going to have to get these guys and gals used to some funky new exercises, and because I truly love some of these exercises, I think you’ll get a lot out of them, too. In this post, I’m going to share just two of my favorite arm exercises that I try to work into the programs of my coaching clients as frequently as possible.

The Y-Press

This variation of the overhead press ends up with you looking like a Y—hence the name.  You press your arms out to 45 degrees instead of straight up.  By doing this, you put your arms in a mechanically weaker position; gravity is pulling the weights down, and your arms in the weakened state have to work not to fall out laterally.

This stimulates you in a way that a traditional overhead press doesn’t. Go light here – start with dumbbells so light you’re almost embarrassed, and try 15 reps. While you’re not likely to build huge delts with this exercise, it’s fantastic for shoulder stability in all of your overhead lifts, which can help increase muscular development overall—in the long run. and it’s doubly great as a warm up.

Super Charging Tip: To really activate the itty bitty muscles like the infraspinatus and supraspinatus as stabilizers, hold for 1 second at the top of the movement.

The Zottman Curl

The Zottman curl falls under a category of exercises known as “compound-isolation movements.”  This means that one phase of the movement is a compound movement and the other phase is more of an isolation exercise.

I’ve written about CIM’s before, and I think they’ve great for both strength and mass. The first factor to consider is the number of muscles involved: Unless you have some very bizarre strength imbalance, you’ll be able to use much more weight for a compound movement than you could for an isolation movement, assuming that both lifts use the same primary mover.

Another factor that we must take into account is eccentric or negative strength—which can be up 175% greater than concentric strength (although it’s been shown that, generally, eccentric strength is closer to 50-75% greater than concentric strength in most non-elite trainees).

Compound-isolations come as a result of the two above factors. We know that you’re stronger in a compound movement than an isolation movement. We also know that you’re stronger negatively than you are positively. So, in order to put this knowledge to some muscle-building use, we “change it up.”

That is, you perform a compound movement concentrically, and then switch in the middle and execute the eccentric portion of an isolation exercise that relies on the same primary mover. Due the mechanical advantages inherent to each part of the lift, you’ll be able to use a weight that is significantly challenging in both the positive and negative phases of the exercise.

A Zottman curl is a hybrid of a traditional dumbbell curl and a reverse curl.

Here’s a video:

In the case of the Z-curl, the bicep curl (which is generally considered an isolation exercise) serves as the compound movement—because it involves the biceps, as well as the brachialis and brachioradialis.  The reverse curl mostly focuses on the brachioradialis, or forearm muscle.

Again, you can almost certainly curl more than you can reverse curl—but you can probably lower a great deal of weight in the negative phase of a reverse curl.  A Zottman allows you to do both.

This exercise is a great substitution for just about any biceps exercise, but is really phenomenal for building forearm and grip strength (which, in turn, will allow for greater biceps development).

Super Charging Tip: If you really want to take your arm—especially forearm—growth to the next level, try Zottman’s with FAT GRIPZ on the dumbbells.  Killer!


Okay, so that’s jut TWO of the FIVE exercises I have for you.  I wanted to keep this post short and sweet; Check out part two of this blog post right here!

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

  • kuljit

    awesome job. thank you Roman

  • Let me know how you like them!

  • VERY interesting exercise! I'll have to give that one a shot. Thanks =)

  • Roman,

    The Zottman has been a staple for me for years. Probably my favorite biceps exercise. Another 'unusual' favorite biceps exercise of mine uses a pull down bar. I lie on a bench with my legs up (preferably anchored against something) and using only my arms, pull the bar down to me.

    This really nails the peak of the biceps, because at the peak there is no “break” like there usually is in a biceps curl. The weight is still pulling hard when the arms are completely contracted. It's a great way to target the peaks. It's also very useful for doing partial reps on the upper half of the curl because of that lack of a break.

  • Bo

    something else to try, nice

  • rick watkins

    Both gret exercises, I've used them both. The Z-curl allows you to use heavier weight in the eccentric half of the reverse curl which I like.

  • Jeff

    Dude thanks for the info on the z curl gonna try it tomorrow.

  • Dave Hollingsworth

    Awesome stuff Roman! I'm including the Z curls in my arm work out now. Thanks!

  • Linda

    I get so FIRED UP when I receive your emails/videos. Keep 'em coming!

  • Teresa

    Great exercises. The exercise that I thought was the weirdest was doing a bent over dumb bell row one leg extended out while standing on a flipped over bosu ball. Kind of fun.

  • Hey Roman,

    what do you think about adding an unsteady base like a BOSU when doing the Z curls? :)

  • RN

    John, and anyone else in the fitness industry looking to get fit and gain muscle, you have absolutely got to read the following link. This goes against everything we learned, yet it is totally backed by scientific research and extensive studies on the part of the author.

  • Dude! Where's Part 2? (with the 3 more moves you promised in today's email) The link took me back to Part 1 again (which is awesome, don't get me wrong…but I am still waiting for Part 2) ;)

  • Heather

    Never done the Z-curl. Thanks for the tip!

  • xena

    Hey Roro! This a old blog you are reffering us to man! So the link in your mail of today(june 20th) is not working right! Please hook us up with the good stuff asap! ;)

  • Steve

    Love the Y press, I've heard of the zottman curl, but never seen it done, thanks John

  • Javier Mery

    The Y press is an awesome exercise that helps a lot with the stabilizers, which is great for swimming=)

  • Rozin

    I know most movements but I've never heard of the Y press. Interesting move.

    My favourite “unusual” movements are probably all gymnastics moves. I really like planche progressions and L-sits.

    My favourite non-gymnastic movements are Thor's Hammer and Blackburns. Not many people have heard of either but they always end up finding a place in my workout.

  • Pam

    Finished week one of your Final Phase Fat Loss. I'm in my fifties and looking to build and tone muscle. Woof! That is an awesome program!! Looking forward to see what the next 5 weeks bring!

  • Deborah

    I love the concept of doing the Y…its soooo much more “feeling it working” than just going straight up…so cool!!

  • Carolyn Swaney

    I'm on the Z curl right now. It looks almost as awesome as your green shorts;). I love them.

  • Patty

    Good ones….can't wait for the rest!

  • Per

    The close grip dumbbell press to skull crusher tricep-combo is one that I do frequently. I.e. press the dumbbells up with elbows close to the body, keep the upper arm fixed once you've locked out and then lower the dumbbells down in the negative part of a skull crusher. Once in the bottom, just bring the upper arm down along the side of the torso and press back up again.

  • cooky

    yeah, give us more!!!

  • hisham

    awesome tips keep em coming

  • Kia

    These are great… and ones I will try. I just recently did a Superwoman – very weird.

  • Tania

    Excellent – thanks for the tips. BTW, love the fluro green shorts! :)

  • Isaac

    I like the Y press Roman…. Thanks for the advice.

  • MC

    I've been doing the Y press, thanks for adding more to the repertoire!

  • Always fun to shake up the routine

  • Juan

    I like the Turkish getup myself. I feel it works my muscles in a useful way.

    I am about to leave to work out, and I'll certainly give Y-Presses a shot.

    Thank you Roman!

  • That Y-Press looks like a nice variation. Keep the unusual exercises coming … it's good to get some variety to find the best options.

  • Ces

    Did the Y-presses during the Final Phase Fat Loss Program. It really put new challenges to the shoulder workout. Looking forward to trying the Zottman curls. Thanks.

  • Dianne

    Yes, love these and use them frequently!

  • Awesome! I forgot about Zottman curls….I used to include them in my classes from time to time. Thanks for the reminder :)

  • Harold

    Cool exercises! I shall have to give both a go. I am a big fan of Spiderman jumps. Silly name, but it is basically a modified burpee and is ideal as a punishing last exercise.

  • Chris

    Brilliant! I wonder if you can do the Z's with cables. I'm sure you can do the Y's with cables.

    Z's? Y's? Are we seeing an alphabet theme here?



  • Mark

    Love Zottman curls, although I think my favorite unusual exercise is chin-up to sternum mostly because it looks badass.

  • debbie

    I have 2 small tears in rotator cuff….wondering if I can do the Y press?

  • Marilyn

    I'm hoping the Ypress will help in the strengthening of my shoulder, post surgery.

  • Ace

    These are both new to me. Can't wait to give them a try. Thanks!

  • Lisa

    I've been doing the XtremeFL and I love the Y-press. I have “issues” with both my shoulders and by starting with a fairly light weight, I've increased my shoulder strength quite significantly with this exercise.

  • steph

    I have tried to see the “abs video” a number of times on a number of e-mails and it never loads. Also when trying to leave the page it is a come on to buy the product. I thought it was an example but it is frustrating to say the least for it not to load!

  • Matt

    Haha already have these in my routine. Good post though, you're body proportions are looking phenomenal from what I can see too

  • hazool

    loooove the y press just wish my left arm would keep up with the right

  • Dude, you're wearing a Brand New shirt in the zottman video, you just instantly gained more respect in my book (not that it was lacking before).

    Oh and good post!

  • Howard

    I noticed you added the Y-Press, which is one of the exercises in the XFLD. Some of the exercises you have in the workout logs are not in your videos (or make no sense to me). For instance on Strength workout #2, you have as part of a dynamic interlude to do 100 jump squats (50 per leg). I know what a jump squat is, I just don't know how you do them on one leg.

  • Frank A

    Cool! The Z-curls are a little more challenging using a PowerStack DB!

  • Lou

    Nice Roman,

    Did the Y press yesterday and look forward to the Z curl next time.

    What's the X?

  • Seth

    Great post Roman! It's always good stimulate those muscles in unique ways! Coming from a physical therapy background, I really like to always incorporate 4-way cable pulls into a shoulder-workout day, 4-ways being: internal rotation (elbow bent to 90 degrees, pinned at side, rotation in transverse plane), external rotation (same), shldr flexion & extension (straight arm). This exercise isolates the important injury-prevention & stability muscles of the rotator cuff. Feels weird doing it at a gym, but after heavy push presses, front and lateral raises, it feels good to work the rotator cuff–even if I can only rep 10-15#!

  • George

    Big fan of the Z curl but i fell off my radar for a while. KI am hesitant to try the Y-press due to some shoulder issues resulting from separations and torn rotator cuffs. I would most likely use a weight I am completely embarassed by to start. Thanks for the post

  • David

    I will try both of these exercises. Great tips also. Thanks for your blog posts Roman.

  • Tony Roe

    Lactic-style Y-presses suck!

  • As I read your blog, I wonder how much you have forgot and I hope that I'll get to know that much! :)

  • Rob

    I'm amped up for the z curls I really need to start working my forearms more

  • Tim


    Love the Zottman curl. My five favorites are the incline squeeze press, the triple lateral raise, dumbell swing lunge, chin up with knee raise and dumbell curls with back against a wall.


  • RJ

    Cool stuff Roman. What would be a good CIM for Tris? Close-grip bench press while lowering it like a skull-crusher?

  • Seth

    thanks i want to give these a try

  • Love seeing new exercise variations! Keeps the body guessing (and the brain from getting bored)! Keep 'em coming!

  • Roan

    That Y-press is a killer and makes me feel like a pussy using light weight, but atleast you look cool doing it… When you're not falling down.

    Those Z-curls are cool. Didn't know they had that name, But I did them some time ago, they are fun and I needed to improve grip and forearm strength for deadlifting and curls! I still do actually but I stepped over to direct forearm training. How much forearm training do you recommend to improve grip and strength?

  • Isaac R

    Those Zcurls look intense! Ima add a few sets of those on my next arm specialization day!

  • Brian

    I will be adding both of these exercises to my weight training workout right away. Can't wait to see the others.

  • Vinny

    Definitely gonna give the Z-Curl a shot today. I've been looking for a good way to build-up my forearms a bit.

  • Ryan Rhodes

    I love the reverse curl so will give the Zottman curl a go. Looks interesting.

    My other favourite 'unusual' exercises are the bulgarian split squat and 21s (barbell bicep curls where you do 7 half way up, 7 mid way to top, 7 all the way).

    Also got to love the big compound exercises that are 'unusual' only because no-one in my gym every does them – overhead squat and power clean to name a few.

  • I like utilizing the cross-over step up. Serves as both a unilateral and transverse plane movement. Tends to be easier on the knees and really targets the glute-med.

  • Ty

    Favorite unusual exercise? The Human Flag. It fits the “is this awesome” selection of exercises.

  • Paul

    Is any exercise better for getting weird looks at the gym than decline spiderman pushups? Look around right after your done, and you're guaranteed to have some people confused.

  • Fred

    Those should do the trick I figure.

    I really like variations on the squat. The hardest one I've tried is probably the overhead squat. The weight you can do on that one is just embarrasing in the beginning. But a little humiliation nurtures the soul I hear :)

  • Innis

    I have to agree with the Zercher squats, those are great. Im also a huge fan of sled work and while that not very odd in the fitness world, some people give you very odd looks when you are dragging weights.

  • mike

    Great post.

    One of my favorite “unusual” exercises would be the Zercher squat.

  • Shari

    I love funky/awesome exercises! Not familiar with the Z-curl, but have heard of the Y-press. I'm here to learn! :)

  • Tom

    I thought the Lumberjack Press would be a piece of cake.I figure it's just balance and selecting the right amount of weight and hell i am athletic and coordinated!! Wrong. Very tough exercise to conquer.

  • Rashid

    Corn cob pull ups. Lift up then move right and then left back and then back forward. That is one rep. I learned this off P90X

  • Wow! Thanks for another great post Roman :)

    I'm gna try them tomoro in the gym, i had upper body workout scheduled anyway!

    Wohoo! Can't wait to try them :)

  • Great start! I love Zottman curls and I'll throw them in with back/biceps tomorrow.

    What about rope pull through on a cable setup for an unusual exercise? Love the glute ham work, and the stares.

  • Hey Roman,

    I'm a big fan of the Y Press. And yes, holding at the top does have a very different effect!

    One of my favorite movements to use with clients as a finisher is a thruster/squat thrust/push up/renegade row combo.

    Start with a pair of DB's in the front squat position and perform a thruster. Then drop down to a push up position as you would do in a squat thrust (but with your feet wide). Do a push up and then row with each arm. Finish the squat thrust.

    25 reps of that and they're usually toast!