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How to do Zercher Squat & Barbell Zercher Squat Benefits

What is Zercher Squat and how to do it?

Have you ever heard or tried the Zercher Squat? I bet that most of you might not have heard about this type of legs exercise. Some might have heard of it, but are afraid to try it as they have other well established muscle building exercises to do. This outstanding fitness and bodybuilding exercise can develop your core muscles, back muscles and leg muscles. This multi muscle compound exercise should definitely be included in your workouts at some point. The Zercher Squat is way to complex for a beginner athlete. Additionally you need to strengthen up and to practice the mechanics of this exercise not to risk any injuries. In this complete guide to Zercher Squat, we will discuss how exactly to do this squat, what are the benefits and negatives and we will show you some videos on how to perform it correctly!

What exactly is Zercher Squat?

Zercher is a word that comes from the location where the barbell stands during this exercise. The barbell is hold in the crook of your elbows like you cradle it on your torso during the squat. You basically hug the barbell and press it against your chest. With the barbell in that position, you can make different variations of the zercher:

  • Squat down with it (Zercher squat)
  • Walk with it (Zercher carry)
  • Bend over like a Romanian deadlift (Zercher good morning)
  • Hold it for time (Zercher hold).

In this article we will focus on the Zercher Squat as the most widely used muscle building, strengthening and endurance building exercise.

Who is Ed Zercher?

Ed Zercher was a lifter in the thirties of the last century. He had some quite unique ways of lifting weights and strengthening his leg muscles. Probably the most famous yet dangerous was the Zercher Lift or the Zercher Squat. Some say that this legs exercise was invented by Ed Zercher as he trained in his basement and had no squat stands.

Legends say that he had the crudest minimum of barbells and fitness equipment in his basement and that is why he had to invent different and unconventional exercises to build muscles.

He would place the barbell in front of himself, squat down into a DEEP squat and slide his lower arms underneath the bar, till the bar rested in the crook of his elbows. From this position, he would hold his arms upright (picture something similar to the finish position of a close-grip barbell curl) and support the bar in the crook of his elbows. Then he would rise.

Bio-mechanically, this is a scary weight lifting exercise, as the movement is movement full of potential injuries. The back is severely rounded while in the bottom position. The weights are out in front of you, multiplying the mechanical disadvantage. That is why the Zercher squat is far more popular in advanced athlete routines.

Some of the power lifting achievements of Ed Zercher

At the Fifth Annual Western AAU Weight Lifting Championships Ed Zercher (Bodyweight 156 Pounds), had the following lifts:

One Hand Snatch 120 lbs.
One Hand Clean & Jerk 130 lbs.
Two Hand Military Press 170 lbs.
Two Hand Snatch 145 lbs.
Two Hand Clean & Jerk 200 lbs.
Total 765 lbs.

How to do Zercher Squats:

You cradle the barbell in your arms and perform a barbell squat. Since this exercise is best performed away from a power rack and off the floor, it will be good to step back away from the supporting machine. The key to making this fitness exercise for legs work is to concentrate on flexing the abdominal as hard as possible. By doing so you have an added benefit – your might not need to work your abs.

The “pure” Zercher Lift or the so called Zercher Squat is performed like this (taken from the USAWA rulebook):

“The bar starts on the platform and at the lifter’s discretion the bar is deadlifted to a position where it may be supported on the knees or thighs.

Feet placement is optional, but the feet must be in line with the torso.

The lifter will then bend down, with the bar resting on the legs, to a position in which the lifter is able to secure the bar in the crooks of the elbows.

The lifter will then stand erect with the arms bent and the bar fixed at the articulation of the upper and lower arms.

The lifter’s arms may be inside or outside of the legs.

The hands may be locked together.

Once the bar is motionless, the legs straight, the body erect with shoulders upright, an official will give a command to lower the bar.

The bar must be returned to the platform under control for the lift to be complete.

It is acceptable to drop the bar once it is below the level of the knees provided that the hands follow the bar to the platform.”

Some tips & tricks of the Zercher Squat:

  • bring your elbows down a few inches below your knees and you will get a REALLY good stretch that way,
  • tend to have a wider stance while doing this exercise
  • wrap the bar with a t-shirt or sweatshirt. Either you are a beginner or an experienced athlete this will help. The barbell can dig into your arms. Some athletes say they can hold the barbell up to 150 pounds or more without any arms protection, however don`t risk it
  • these squats REALLY hammer your glutes and hamms, especially with the much wider stance. This is a perfect compliment to a closer stance front or back squat.

Benefits of Zercher Squat

Zercher squat will build monster traps, strengthen the abs, increase your glute and quad muscles, improve the front squat, and even work the biceps. Zercher Squat can help you build quads better than the front squat. It can pump up your traps more than shrugs. It can make you a core of steel faster than most ab workouts. It can even give you bigger biceps.

  • your squat will go up leaps and bounds
  • strengthens your hams and glutes
  • you don’t have to work your abs

Negatives of Zercher Squat

Most athletes do not do this exercise as they find it hard, they find it easy to make injuries and they are afraid to experiment with something they are not aware of. Here are some of the most common negatives of the Zercher Squat:

  • it is monster hard to perform (even with little weights)
  • it might hurt (not only the area where the bar stands)
  • you are the only one doing Zercher Squat in the gym
  • you did not know how to perform it right

Zercher Squat on YouTube – the proper way to perform

We love all videos of T nation. Here is a video of how to perform the Zercher Squat professionally in order to build monster muscles and stay injury free.

 

 

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