Zercher Squat

Great exercise.

Ed ZercherEd Zercher was a St Louis Strongman (pictured here performing an unsupported leg press), who famously trained using equipment looking more at home in a junkyard than a gym. His basement was filled with pieces of old machinery, anvils, wrecking balls and assorted odd-shaped heavy objects. Clearly strength was a passion.

The name Zercher is survived by a couple of lifts, primarily the Zercher Squat. Deadlifts are also occasionally performed, holding the bar in the same unusual way.


For both the Zercher squat and deadlift the bar is rested in the crook of the elbows. This shifts the body's centre of mass much further forward than in the case of a front squat or traditional deadlift. The hands are then crossed, made into fists, clasped together or held in whatever way feels most comfortable to the lifter.

In the case of the squat, these were originally performed free-standing. The bar was deadlifted from the ground (using traditional methods) and rested on the upper thighs whilst the lifter carefully squatted down. The lifter would then proceed to hook their arms beneath the bar and stand up again, before reversing the process and returning the bar to the ground. These days the lift is often started with the bar already raised (via the pins of a rack, blocks or anything else at a convenient height), and only the squatting motion is performed.

For the Zercher deadlift the bar begins much lower - on the ground if possible, or at the very least on the lowest pins of a rack. Taking a wide stance, the lifter's arms are hooked beneath the bar in the same way as in the squat. The hips are lowered, and then the lifter raises the back and straightens the legs simultaneously. As the body's centre of mass has been shifted forward by holding the bar in this unusual way, much more stress is placed on the hamstrings than in a traditional deadlift; which focusses on the spinal erectors.

See also

Slow like honey - workout from 04 May 2005 (video)

The Zercher lift

Wally's Place: The man behind the Zercher lift

ABC Bodybuilding forum: The Zercher Deadlift

You Might Also Like...

NB : For a complete list of everything we use and recommend, swing by the reviews area. And of course the Straight to the Bar Store. It's all in there.

To learn how to put it to work, swing by the Guides area.

Scott Andrew Bird

Scott Andrew Bird is a writer, photographer and a guy who just loves this stuff. He's been at home in front of a computer for more years than he cares to remember (OK, 35) and is now making amends for years of many mistakes noted in the De-constructing Computer Guy articles (part 2) on T-Nation.

Find out what he's up to via Twitter, Google+, Facebook; and of course his online home. Enjoy.

Like this? Check out :

The Zercher Deadlift.Zercher Deadlift.Wow.
The First Year.It's been just over a year since I first began to share my bedroom with weight plates. Over that time the act of lifting weights has gradually moved towards the status of 'healthy obsession' (although there are some who would dispute the 'healthy' part of that phrase), and shows no signs of becoming anything less.
New Routine.

Down to 3 sessions per week.

The Zercher Squat.

Superb exercise.

From the Archives : The Zercher Squat.

The first in a series of Timeless Exercises.

Zercher Inspirations.

Unusual, but highly effective.

Of course, if you enjoyed these, I'd highly recommend grabbing the Strength & Fitness Newsletter. Delivered weekly, and absolutely free.

(there's also a Daily Update, if you're looking for an even larger dose of training-related goodness.)

NB : If you'd like to write a guest post for Straight to the Bar, or if you'd like to join the team of Moderators here (I love hearing about everyone's training approaches) - get in touch. And if you've got a fitness competition or seminar coming up, add it to the calendar.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Over to you. Leave a comment below, or send us a tweet :

blog comments powered by Disqus
Straight to the Bar Strength Kit

Are You as Strong as You Could Be?

Grab the Straight to the Bar Strength Kit.

Training Guides, eBooks and of course the Strength & Fitness Newsletter. Absolutely free.