The Zercher Squat: Complete Guide to Building Killer Legs and Big Back

Zercher Squat

Zercher squats offer a lot of advantages over many other exercises. They’re better than front squats for building quads and have the edge over shrugs for traps. These are more effective for abs than other abs workouts and even help you get those biceps, you desire.

There are several variations of Zercher, which may be a bit difficult and even uncomfortable, to begin with. However, if you persevere with the Zercher exercises, you can achieve incredible results through them.

The Zercher variations

“Zercher” is nothing but a particular form of exercise while holding the bar in your elbow crooks close to your torso. Once you’ve placed the bar in Zercher position, you can perform one of the following:

  1. Zercher Hold
  2. Zercher Carry
  3. Zercher Squats
  4. Zercher Good Morning (Romanian deadlift)

Top five advantages of Zercher squats

Following are the top five benefits of Zercher squats :

Zercher Squat Woman
Credit: megsquats

1) Targets the entire upper back and improves the efficacy of front squats

When you’re in the Zercher position, your entire upper body gets working. This helps you build multiple muscles including rhomboids, traps and rear delts.

If you lose your upper back during the front squats as it round bends with dropping the bar, the Zercher position will be of great help for you. It’s also helpful to maintain the correct posture in the deadlift. Hence, your complete back is worked out adequately.

2) A better contraction of the core

Zercher deadlifts and squats put your core under harder contraction than conventional deads and squats. Therefore, if you feel that your midsection doesn’t get exercised properly, Zercher squat is an awesome alternative for you.

3) An intense workout for quads and glutes

With Zercher squats, you can go deeper than any other form of squat, which affects your glutes and quads simultaneously. However, one must bear in mind that Zercher is not an ideal exercise to build strength for beginners.

4) You’ve long limbs? – go for Zercher

If you’ve got long limbs, you can go deeper with Zercher in the limits, thereby impacting your muscles even harder.

5) Additional pump for your biceps

Although Zercher squat is not primarily meant for building biceps, it has a definite effect on them. Since you’re holding the bar in a stable position in the crooks of your elbow, your biceps get automatically exercised. In the bargain, you get an additional advantage.

Limitations of Zercher lifts

Zercher Squat Man
Credit: Juji & Tom

1) Zercher isn’t easy or comfortable

Balancing a heavy bar in your elbow crooks can be very uncomfortable.

A few ways to reduce the discomfort are to wear a full-sleeves shirt, put knee sleeve on your elbows and use a thicker bar.

2) Difficulty in breathing

The Zercher position limits the expansion of your ribcage, which in turn makes it harder to breathe. High reps of Zercher, therefore, taxes your metabolism to its maximum. If you thought high-rep sets of back squats are difficult, Zercher would force you to change your opinion!

However, this extra strain on your metabolism can be beneficial for athletes who’ve to perform in low-oxygen conditions. So, if you’re involved in MMA, boxing, wrestling, CrossFit, etc., this limitation is actually advantageous for you.

3) The back is initially rounded in Zercher deadlift

In Zercher deadlift, the barbell is to be picked up from the floor for every rep. This entails that unlike Zercher squat, your lower back is rounded in Zercher lift in the starting posture.

The difficulty increases if you’ve got shorter limbs, as it’s harder to keep your back arched. In such cases, try to arch your back before lifting to minimize the effect.

However, the rounded or neutral back isn’t a great issue if you use manageable weights. Some athletes, in fact, consider this to be helpful in training your vulnerable muscles to avoid injuries.

The best ways to utilize Zercher lifts

Zercher is a highly effective and versatile exercise form and professional athletes, as well as fitness enthusiasts, can use it to build muscles. Few important ways in which Zercher can be used are:

1) Quad strengthening

Include Zercher squats in your leg-day routine and perform 3 sets of 6-10 reps. Focusing on keeping your torso stable, go down slowly and take a pause before rising up without jerks.

Zercher Squat

2) Targeting midpoint of the deadlift

You can do 3 sets of Zercher deadlift from blocks/pins with 4-6 reps. Try to keep your lower back firm and lift your hips gradually. A few sets of 4-6 reps of Zercher squats variation can also help you strengthen the midpoint.

Perform the squats in an eccentric tempo, don’t go completely down, so that your knees are at 90 degrees. A stable torso is a key here!

3) To train your body to perform in deficiency of oxygen

A combination of Zercher deadlifts (3-5 reps) and Zercher carry (20-30 yards) is an excellent way to train your body to function in oxygen deficiency. You must do about 5 reps of this combo in one set, which shouldn’t take more than 4-5 minutes.

4) For strengthening the upper back

Follow the front squats with Zercher squats. Carry out sets of 4-6 reps slowly in an eccentric tempo. Go all the way down in about 4 seconds and try to raise your elbows and arms while rising up. Focus on keeping your torso solid and lift your chest up for the best impact.

5) Get bigger biceps

Performing Zercher holds just before biceps exercises are an excellent way to increase your biceps size in a shorter timeframe. Aim to hold the Zercher position for 30-45 seconds with maximum weight that you can manage.

Immediately as you put down the weight, do a set of some biceps workout like barbell curls with 6-8 reps.

6) Enhance your metabolism

A good metabolism is a key to strengthening and bodybuilding. It’s importance increases further if you’re an athlete in fighting sports. High-rep Zercher cycle (15-20 reps) is an exceptional way to improve metabolism.

Remember to start each rep with the bar on the floor and don’t drop it down, but place it down by gradually lowering.

7) Increasing your ability to intake and use maximum oxygen

A combination of Zercher carries (1 minute) followed by 20 burpees, kettlebell swings or thrusters is a deadly exercise. Taking this as one count, do about 3 counts to make one set.

Zercher squats, Zercher deadlift, and the other Zercher lift variations are extremely effective in building muscles and strength. Using Zercher in an intelligent way, you can achieve amazing results.

Take care to perform the exercises only as explained. In case you’ve got some queries, I’ll be happy to help. Happy bodybuilding!

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