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Why and How People Use the Zercher Squat

January 20, 2005

The Zercher squat is quite a nasty squat, and the first question most beginners ask is Why bother with the Zercher squatting technique at all? The reason is that you need variety in your workout routine. Even changes as subtle as going from a back squat to a Zercher squat will alter the muscles being used, the muscles being pulled, and the load you put on your lower back.

Repetitive-strain and repetitive-damage injuries are a common problem for people that do not mix it up a little. Give your shoulders, hips, and wrists a break by using the Zercher squatting technique. It helps you work your core a bit better than many of the abs-specific moves, and the lower center of gravity means you will find it easier to balance, which will reduce your number of potential injuries.

How to Perform the Zercher Squat

Place the bar at a height just below your mid-chest, wrap your arms under the bar and lift it off the rack. Allow your elbows to go down a little, so that they come to a naturally comfortable position. Step away from the rack, open up your stance with your feet slightly apart and toes pointing outwards. Perform the squat while keeping your back straight, and rise up again.

Which Muscles Does the Zercher Squat Work?

The Zercher squat will work your quadriceps the most, as well as your glutes, calves, and hamstrings. You use a pushing force, and it is generally reserved for the more advanced weightlifter because a degree of control is needed that is often beyond beginners and intermediates.

Wrap the Bar with a Towel During Zercher Squats

Perform the Zercher squat too often, and the bar may start to irritate the thin layer of skin on your arms where it makes contact. It can also be troubling for beginners, and they feel they need a towel wrapped around the bar. The best advice is not to do it! Too many people have had the bar slip, and as a result of either it being unbalanced, or the weight falling, it has resulted in injury.

The biggest reason people may see permanent damage using the squat is due to pushing yourself too far. You can push yourself to the limit with back squats and move a lot more weight doing so. However, if you try to push it to the limit with the Zercher technique, you’ll put a lot of stress on your bicep tendon. Do not forget you are resting the weight on your brachialis and/or on your tendon.

If you do want to push your weight up a little, then it is going to be dangerous. Sadly, one of the few ways to push up the weight without using a front squat Zercher harness is by using a piece of wood, which makes the whole process even more dangerous. This would involve placing a piece of wood at the crook of the elbows and then placing the bar onto it. This is possible, but not recommended because the chances of the bar slipping are increased dramatically.

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