The Zercher Squat: Advantages and How to Do It

It's time to get to know one of the many different ways you can perform squats. With the Zercher squat, you'll strengthen your arms and legs with confidence.
The Zercher Squat: Advantages and How to Do It
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 15 December, 2023

Among the gym workouts that require the greatest strength we have the Zercher squat. It implies a higher degree of technical difficulty when compared to other movements. Not because it’s very difficult to execute, but rather because of the strength and power involved.

Its main feature is the position of the bar and your posture. This is what decides the complexity of the movement.

Remember that a squat is a basic exercise in any workout and consists of moving towards the ground, by bending your knees, and simulating that you’re sitting in mid-air. But for it to be a Zercher squat, you must start in a parallel position and move the bar from the height of your shoulders to the bend of your elbows.

It’s estimated that these squats were created in 1930 by Ed Zercher, a weightlifter. In his athletic career, Zercher was one of the strongest men in America.

Advantages of the Zercher squat

The back is one of the body parts that benefits the most, as it must be kept straight and in a neutral position. The muscles responsible for stabilizing the trunk and spine are responsible for posture, preventing injuries.

The Zercher squat is one of the best front squat variations you can practice. It adds dynamism and a degree of difficulty to your routines.

Other advantages are as follows:

  • It strengthens the trunk and supports the need to maintain an upright position throughout the exercise.
  • It increases the stability of your core.
  • It allows you to intensify your overall strength level.
  • As the days go by and as a result of this activity, you’ll be able to perform more intense squats.
  • You increase the muscular progress of your quadriceps.
  • You work concentration as a great ally, through a controlled practice.
A woman doing squats.
Traditional squats don’t involve extra weight, but other variations, such as the Zercher, include barbells and dumbbells.

How to do the Zercher squat?

The main thing to do is to use this exercise as a compound routine, as you perform the squat and, at the same time, with your arms, you carry the weight of the bar. Start with a moderate weight that doesn’t exceed your limits.

1. Secure the bar

You need to make sure the bar is properly secured on a rack or similar place. Place it at elbow level.

Add a few weights for a low starting weight, as the goal is to rehearse the movement first, and then fully devote yourself to lifting more weight and increasing your resistance.

2. Spread your feet apart

Spread your feet apart in the classic squat position. Standing up in front of the bar, you can begin to execute each step.

You can perform warm-up exercises beforehand to help your legs prepare for the Zercher squat.

3. Bend your arms

You should bend your arms to keep the bar in the groove of your elbows. Then, emphasize keeping your elbows connected to the sides of your body and try to squeeze your hands together, placing your palms facing the ceiling.

Read more: 5 Tips for Perfect Squats

4. Breathe deeply

This is one of the most demanding steps, as you’ll be lifting the bar. You’ll have to test your physical power and the ability to breathe deeply.

Start by placing your hips under the bar, and start to breathe deeply. Finally, lift the bar from its support.

5. Stabilize the load

At this point, after lifting the bar off the rack, take a few steps back to help you balance the bar. A breathing exercise at this point is vital to support the weight and complete the squat.

With the weight balanced, squat down until your elbows reach your thighs or drop between your legs. To finish the Zercher squat, stand up and perform as many repetitions as you think you can.

What muscles does the Zercher squat work?

Many muscles tare involved in the work during the squat. For instance, the quadriceps, which support your entire body weight and allow you to walk, run, and sit. In addition, you work a wide, thick leg muscle called the soleus.

You can also work the hamstring muscles that are located in the back of the leg and are responsible for activating the fibers to move the knee joint.

Similarly, the following muscle groups are strengthened:

  • Adductors
  • Spinal erector
  • Biceps brachii
  • Trapezius
Zercher sqauts.
Whether you use the bar in front of you, such as in the Zercher variant, or the bar behind, you add upper limb work to the squats.

Additional recommendations for proper squats

Do your best to keep your back straight during the exercise, as balance is paramount for you to avoid injury. Try to carry all the weight you hold on your heels; in this way, you help your back to stay upright.

You should also strive to perfect the technique, pay attention to every detail regarding the steps to be performed and increase the degree of difficulty with the weight. Over time, you can try other variations or types of squats.

One of the main goals is to lower yourself as far as you can, although this must be adapted to your physical endurance. You cannot sacrifice your neutral back position for this purpose.

Make sure you maintain healthy eating habits and get enough rest.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Cardona L, Avella R. La sentadilla: un ejercicio fundamental en la actividad física y el deporte. Revista digital: actividad física y deporte. 2015; 1 (1): 95-106.
  • Slater L, Hart J. Patrones de activación muscular durante diferentes técnicas de sentadilla. Revista de investigación de fuerza y acondicionamiento. 2017; 31 (3): 667-676.
  • Swinton P, Lloyd R, Keogh J, Agouris I, Stewart A. Una comparación biomecánica de la sentadilla tradicional, la sentadilla de levantamiento de pesas y la sentadilla de caja. Revista de investigación de fuerza y acondicionamiento. 2012; 26 (7): 1805-1816.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.