It’s also beneficial for those with shoulder problems or those who have difficulty balancing conventional squats due to excessive thoracic kyphosis. The Zercher squat allows for a more upright trunk angle through a more forward centre of gravity and doesn’t require as much balance as the back squat. The increased forward lean often helps to reduce excessive thoracic kyphosis and alleviate compression on the spine.
It’s named after Ed Zercher, who popularized its use in the 1940’s .
How To Do The Zercher Squat
- Load a barbell into your squat rack and place it onto the safeties.
- Position yourself underneath the bar so that it rests in the crooks of your elbows as opposed to being gripped by your hands. Feet should be placed around shoulder-width apart and slightly outside of your hips.
- Keeping your torso at an upright angle, allow your knees to move forward until they’re about a foot in front of the bar (the depth you’ll use will vary depending on how heavy the bar is).
- Slowly lower the bar until it reaches knee or thigh level. You may pause briefly at this point for safety.
- Once you feel confident that you have lowered the barbell to a safe position, push through heels and pull back through heels to return to the starting position.
Executing this lift with the correct technique and form can prevent a lot of pain and premature wear and tear on your body, As with all exercises, take care of your lower back and legs by avoiding overexertion and proper form.
Keep your chest up at all times, especially during the squat portion of the exercise. Ensure that your back remains flat throughout the movement. If you can’t maintain a flat back, don’t lower yourself any further. This will place excessive stress on your lower back and could cause injury. It’s always recommended to start with lighter weights for Zercher and work up progressively.
Zercher Squat Muscles Worked
The Zercher Squat activates many of the same muscles as the back squat. However, due to its more upright torso position and upper body position, it works muscles in a slightly different manner. The hips, glutes and quads are all used a lot during this lift.
The glutes and hip extensors are heavily involved in this lift. They’re used to bring your legs up into a powerful forward bend at the bottom of the lift as well as during the return to the starting position.
The quads are also worked quite hard. They’re used to drive your knees forward into a very deep forward bend and then extend your knees at the bottom of the lift.
All three heads of the hamstrings are slightly involved in this lift due to its increasing angle of knee bend, these are heavily involved in the eccentric phase of the lift as you lower yourself down to the bottom position.
Your abs work hard to maintain a strong and rigid core throughout the movement.
Although this muscle group is engaged during the squat, it’s more heavily activated during the eccentric phase of Zercher squats.
These muscles are responsible for flexing and extending your back. They’re heavily involved in the return to the starting position.
What are the benefits of the Zercher Squat
The Zercher Squat offers many of the advantages of a barbell back squat, but with a less strenuous lower back position. This makes it more suitable for those with injuries to their lower back, as well as those who may have difficulty balancing conventional squats due to excessive thoracic kyphosis.
It’s also a great exercise for those who lack the strength required to push their knees into a very deep and forceful forward bend. By holding the bar in the crooks of your elbows load increases the difficulty of Zercher squats and this combination is often referred to as heavy Zercher squatting.
The increased forward lean often helps to reduce excessive thoracic kyphosis and alleviate compression on the spine. It’s also a great exercise for people suffering from lower back pain, as it may be able to alleviate or even prevent this problem.
Not too many people out there are aware of this lift and it’s popularity has been steadily increasing over the last decade. The ability to use heavier loads in a more upright position makes Zercher squats a great assistance exercise for an intermediate or advanced lifter who’s looking to get the most out of their squatting program.
How to Use Zercher Squats in your Workout Program
Zercher squats are most commonly used as a supplementary exercise to your back squat workout, although they can be alternated with other variations such as front squats or dumbbell squats.
Although they can be performed with very heavy weights, the Zercher Squat is most commonly performed to better develop leg power and strength, or even done as a supplement to other lifts.
It’s also great for developing balance when compared to your front squat. Most people find that they have more difficulty maintaining balance during front squats than with Zercher squats, due to the increased forward lean of Zerchers.
Wrapping It Up
Zercher squats have been around since the late 1980’s and has been used by some of the greatest strength athletes in the world. Adding Zercher squats to your workout program will make you stronger and more powerful. It’s also a great assistance exercise for those looking to improve the strength of their squat.
All in all, the Zercher Squat is a highly underrated exercise that can be used as a supplement to any squatting program. It’s time to add a new tool to your arsenal, in the form of the Zercher Squat.