The Benefits of the Zercher Squat.

We had some looks of bemusement around the gym yesterday when the Zercher squat was posted up on the board. Even more weird looks after it was demonstrated.

The Zercher squat is a great squat variation to include in your training, but not simply for novelty’s sake. With the bar resting in your arms, there is little to no axial compression on the spine. So for folks with back injuries who want to dabble in squatting, this would be a safe option.

With the bar resting closer to the waist, the athlete can keep the torso much more vertical; the spinal erectors are not fighting against a load on the shoulders. For people with excessive hip flexion during the descent of their squats (butt gets pushed way too far back), this is a great tool to help teach a more vertically oriented spine. There is only so far you can push your hips back with the weight oriented on your body that way before you get dragged way forward.

It’s also a great diagnostic tool to assess whether an athlete is firing their glutes properly when squatting. No glute activation means their hips shoot up first as they rise from the squat. With a load so far in front of your center of mass, this makes it much harder to stand up with the weight.

Finally, given how uncomfortable it can be holding the bar in the crease of your arms, the intensity of the lifts will be much lower. So if an athlete was looking to increase his or her weekly volume of squatting, but didn’t want to fry and dry his or her central nervous system, the Zercher squat becomes an even more attractive alternative in the tool box.