How To Zercher Squat: One Exercise To Rule Them All

We all want that golden ticket. The one-size-fits-all exercise and perfect program. You know - the one that makes us look like the Hulk as long as we follow that program to the T.

Well folks, that all sounds great. But in reality, we know there is no one-size-fits-all exercise, program, food, or supplement... PERIOD.

However, I have a secret weapon exercise that will get us really close; it has a lot of bang for its buck. It builds massive quads, big glutes, a wide back, and some awesome biceps. Exactly what every athlete needs.

Meet the Zercher Squat

What an exercise! It almost sounds mythical. I would say that outside of most strength and conditioning coaches and the athletes we implemented it with, very few people have heard of a Zercher Squat or know what is.

The Zercher Squat is a heck of an exercise: you hold a barbell in the crease of your arms and squat up and down.

What makes this exercise so great? This movement has a lot of details hidden in it where we can reap many rewards.

  1. Tension: It creates and teaches you to generate a lot of tension throughout your body. We need to learn how to brace and squeeze for all activities. Due to the bar's placement, we subconsciously, or naturally, must contract all the right places.
  2. Toughness/Grit: I’m not going to lie - this movement does not always feel so good. With many athletes, you are going to have to allow them to wrap some form of padding around the bar for a while. That is just the cost of admission though. The mental fortitude you need to have to perform the exercise will pay off. Athletes really dial in and focus.
  3. Safety: It is very hard to load this exercise to the point of increasing an athlete’s risk of injury. Also, if the athlete gets in trouble they can just bail by dumping the bar out in front of them. No spotters needed.
  4. Mobility: We struggle with many lifting movements due to not being able to be in the correct positions. The Zercher does not require much mobility, making it a good fit for the majority of the athletic population.

Any drawbacks? Like I said before - it can hurt and be awkward, but it is well worth it.

How To Perform A Zercher Squat

1. Set the rack up just below your elbow 

View #1:

 

View #2:

 

Side note----No Rack? No problem. You can Zercher deadlift from the floor or even conventional deadlift it. You then let it rest on your knees, scoop it up at the elbow crease, and proceed to squatting or even carrying it. 

Deadlift To Zercher Squat:

 

Zercher Deadlift To Zercher Squat:

  

2. Put the bar in the crease of your elbows

3. Keep elbows tight to your sides

4. Squeeze hands together or have palms facing the ceiling

5. Get hips under the bar, grab a big belly breath and squat it up from the rack

6. Take a couple steps back, settle the bar, and grab more air if you can

7. Squat down until elbows touch thighs or fall in between

8. Stand up, Repeat and get massively athletic

 

When Should You Utilize The Zercher Squat?

Add Zerchers as an alternative to any of your current main squat movements, routines, or protocols. They are interchangeable for volume and intensity as well. Action step: now go change your programs back squat to Zercher for the next block.

Thank me later. Train strong.

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About The Author

Ryan is the Director of strength and conditioning at Pro Performance RX In Morgantown, West Virginia. Ryan has been working in the private sector with hundreds of youth athletes for the last 5 years. He is always excited to talk training and dig deep into the Why. Never stop learning, growing and adapting. In the great words of Bruce Lee be like water.

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