Zach Kotecki – @ZachKoteckiFitness
When it comes to developing leg strength there are few exercises that are as effective as the Zercher Squat. Although you may have never heard of this funky name before it is still used by many athletes, strongmen and powerlifters. It was made popular by former strongman and powerlifter Ed Zercher back in the 1930’s. Before diving into the Zercher Squat completely you should know this is a fairly difficult movement and it is by no means the most comfortable to perform. However, the benefits of the Zercher far outweigh all the discomforts and pain.
What does the Zercher Squat do for you?
When compared to the more popular back squat seen in most gyms nowadays, the Zercher Squat puts minimal compression on the spine due to the positioning of the barbell not being loaded on top of the rear delts. If you have trouble with your low back or SI joint this may be a more appealing lift for you to do. It also allows for you to maintain a greater squat depth because of your posture. The Zercher Squat is going to also work your whole body but specifically it will target your core as you have to keep it contracted to help stabilize yourself and work your legs (quads) in a completely new way that you may have never experienced before. You’ll notice too that the Zercher Squat will work your traps/rear delts, which plays into your back squat by developing a bigger shelf for the bar to sit on.
How can the Zercher Squat help you?
If you are performing front squats with a barbell and while you are going up you come loose, your back rounds and starts to fall forward. The Zercher Squat will help strengthen your weak areas such as this. It can also work as an accessory movement into your deadlift. If you notice your sticking point is when the barbell reaches knee level, adding the Zercher Squat to your training regimen will help push you past those sticking points leading to a bigger deadlift down the road. The Zercher Squat also allows you to go deeper in the hole than other squat variations. This will help you develop more explosive power when shooting out of the hole that will positively affect both your front and back squats.
How to perform the Zercher Squat
1) Perform the exercise in a squat/power rack. Place the barbell in the crooks of your elbows with your arms bent. Your palms should be facing you, knuckles pointing to the sky, with your arms about shoulder width apart.
2) Clasp/grab your hands together making one big fist – this will help stop the bar from rolling off of your arms.
3) Keep the bar tight against your midsection; feet should be a few inches wider than shoulder width apart with your feet (toes) externally rotated (pointing out).
4) Start your descent, keeping your core tight (belly button tucked into your spine), externally rotating your feet into the ground. Elbows should be in contact with your thighs, palms still facing you in a clasp grip, keeping your chest up and lats tight.
5) Go as low as you can, drive up out of hole by squeezing your glutes, pressing through your heels and externally rotating your feet, twisting them into the ground as you come up.
Work the Zercher Squat into your training programs from time to time. Perform it safely and watch your other lifts benefit as well.