Zercher Squat Form, Benefits, And Tips
Everybody squats (or at least everyone should). We’re all looking for the golden ticket. The one-size-fits-all workout and program. You know, the one that makes us look like the Hulk if we stick to the program to the letter. Enter – the Zercher Squat.
I Am Up For It, Tell Me All About Zercher Squat
Squatting is one of the most universally respected and widely performed movements, with applications in almost all athletic endeavors. Some variations, on the other hand, present new challenges to even the most skilled lifter in the gym.
The Zercher Squat is a less-common type of squat in which the barbell is held in the crook of the arms, out in front of the body.
Consider including the Zercher squat in your strength-training program if you’re looking for a new squat variation. We are going to cover everything you need to know about Zercher squat, but first a look into the past:
How It All Began
Long before Dan John invented the Goblet squat, there was another anterior-loaded squat practiced somewhere in the world known as the Zercher squat. Ed Zercher, a 1930s St. Louis strongman, invented Zercher squats because he didn’t have a squat rack where he trained – well, at least that’s what the lore says.
So basically, he deadlifted the barbell from the floor and managed to wedge it into the crooks of his elbows. The legendary Zercher squat was thus born.
Yep, I agree it does sound painful? However, if you want to bulk up your quads, spice up your squats, and increase your mental toughness, consider the Zercher squat. This extreme exercise covers a lot of ground and should be included in your training.
Muscles Trained By Zercher Squat
The Zercher, like any good squat, involves a lot of musculature in both the upper and lower body. Carrying the barbell in the arms, on the other hand, adjusts where the tension is placed and stimulates the tissues in a unique way. The big muscular players in the Zercher squat are listed below.
- Upper back (Rhomboids and middle traps)
- Biceps (isometrically)
How To Perform A Zercher Squat With A Barbell
The Zercher squat is a squat style that can increase quadriceps and glute development while also increasing upper back strength and thoracic spine integrity. Despite having no direct relationship to competitive lifts such as the snatch or back squat, many athletes can benefit from the unique challenge that Zercher squats place on the body.
- Place the barbell in the crooks of your elbows and “scoop” it out of the power rack. Set your feet in your normal squat stance, making sure to leave enough space for your elbows to rest inside your knees when you squat. If you want, you can add extra strength to the setup position by clasping your hands together.
- Squat as low as you can while keeping your hips directly underneath you, keeping your torso upright. Avoid bringing your elbows into contact with your knees or thighs. Also, try to keep your back as upright as possible as the weight tries to pull your torso forward.
- Push through the floor as you would in a front squat once you’ve reached your full depth in the squat position. Pay close attention to your trunk posture and use your arms to pull your chest up to keep your torso upright. You should feel tension in the legs, arms, shoulders, and core.
My Legs Are On Fire, Now Tell Me The Benefits Of Zercher Squat
Zercher Squats Can Help you Build Stronger Lower Body And Quads
Zercher squats can help you gain lower-body strength. The Zercher squat engages muscles in your posterior chain, such as your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, while prioritizing your quadriceps on the front of your leg.
Due to the higher degrees of knee flexion achieved at the bottom of the squat, Zerchers have increased quadriceps engagement and development (sometimes even more than the front squat).
Because it targets the quads so well, the Zercher squat benefits from slow, conscious control for each repetition to maximise hypertrophic potential.
Zercher Squat Improves Your Squat By Training With Upright Posture
When performed correctly, this movement forces a very upright posture while also allowing for a high degree of knee flexion. Because of the slightly wider stance, the hips must also increase their range of motion. The Zercher squat is excellent for developing perfect overall squat form.
Zercher Squat Strengthens Your Upper Back Muscles
Zercher squats can help you build upper back strength. The Zercher squat promotes muscle hypertrophy and postural strength much more efficiently than a standard bodyweight squat because it activates muscles in your upper back and shoulders.
Zercher Squat Helps You Develop Core Stability
Zercher squats engage your body’s anterior stabilizers throughout the entire range of motion, particularly core muscles like the transverse abdominis.
If the core and upper back aren’t strong enough for each repetition, the lift crumbles. Because of the positioning of the barbell, the Zercher squat is ideal for reinforcing strong posture and steel-forged abdominals.
Strength Carryover To Real-Life Activities
Many people can benefit from performing an ‘odd lift,’ such as the Zercher squat, because it simulates the strength required for their day-to-day activities.
Outside of Strongman training, there are several situations where you will need to carry weight in front of your body or hold weight in the crease of your elbow.
You might be a firefighter, nurse, or first responder who needs to carry a person who is unable to walk. You could also be a labourer who needs to carry or hold objects in front of the body while walking or climbing stairs.
Zercher Squat Drawbacks
Its Best To Be Done By Advanced Lifters
While the Zercher squat may appear ‘cool,’ it should not be the first exercise you learn in the gym. Before attempting the Zercher squat, you must have solid squat skills.
You should be able to perform front squats and conventional deadlifts without difficulty. In addition, before doing the Zercher squat, you should learn the back squat, overhead squat, military press, and sumo deadlift.
This is because performing the Zercher squat effectively already requires superior motor control, lower body strength, balance, muscular coordination, and core stability.
After you’ve honed these fundamental skills with other exercises, you can consider attempting the Zercher squat.
Other Less Complex Squat Variations Might Provide Better Results
Other exercises may provide the same benefit as the Zercher squat, depending on your fitness and strength goals.
While I mentioned that the Zercher squat can improve your quad strength, postural integrity, and core stability, it is not the only exercise that can do so.
Back squats, front squats, conventional deadlifts, overhead squats, and lunges are some other exercises that can help with these qualities.
Many people find the Zercher squat difficult to perform. As a result, you should not feel compelled to perform this exercise when you can achieve the same results with less complex exercises.
Not The Most Comfortable Squat Variation
There’s no denying that the Zercher squat can be a painful exercise to perform.
The pressure from the barbell on the crease of the elbow is the main source of concern for most lifters. If the load becomes too heavy, the pain can become so severe that the lifter is unable to place the barbell on the arm at all.
Regardless, if the barbell rolls forward on your arm because you were unable to maintain an upright torso, it can be extremely painful, resulting in bruising or abrasions.
Finally, because the barbell is pressing up against the chest/abdomen area, it is difficult to breathe while performing the Zercher squat. This isn’t a problem if you’re doing low reps, but if you’re doing high reps, it’ll be difficult to catch your breath as the set progresses.
Zercher Squat Tips
Since Zercher squats are clearly a difficult squat variation, we advise you to consider the following before you begin:
- Begin with a simpler variant. If you’re a beginner lifter, start with an easier variation like the dumbbell front squat or the kettlebell goblet squat.
- Be aware of your breathing. When performing Zercher squats, the barbell placement may push against your chest, making breathing difficult.
- Put on a long-sleeved shirt. Because the weighted barbell can press against the tendons on the inside of your elbow, wear a long sleeve shirt to relieve some of the pressure on your arms.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.