What is a Zercher Squat?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 January 2020
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A Zercher squat is one of the more painful exercises one can do in a gym. It involves lifting a barbell with the crook of the arms rather than with the hands, starting in a squatting position and transitioning to a standing position, then back down into a squat. The Zercher squat can be performed from the starting position — with the barbell on the round — all the way through to the standing position and back down, or it can be performed by getting the barbell into the crook of the arms only once, and performing squats without putting the barbell back onto the ground in between repetitions.

Invented by Ed Zercher, a body builder active during the 20th century, the Zercher squat is not an exercise commonly seen in gyms and fitness centers. It is, however, one of the more effective exercises one can do, as it works many of the muscles in the legs as well as the upper body. The exercise also works core muscles and improves balance. It is therefore an efficient exercise, but most people avoid it because holding a barbell with the crooks of the arms, between the forearms and biceps, can be quite painful and very awkward. The Zercher squat should never be performed without the aid of a spotter.


To begin a Zercher squat, stand in front of the barbell with weights selected for the correct fitness level. Then bend down at the knees, grasp the barbell with the hands, and deadlift the weights to just above the knees. Slowly begin to work into a squatting position, resting the barbell on the lower thigh just above the knees. Roll the weight slowly down over the thighs and forearms until the weight of the barbell is resting in the crooks of the elbows. Hold this squatting position for a moment, then stand up, holding the barbell solidly in the crooks of the elbows.

To complete the Zercher squat from the standing position, squat down once again. Repeat this motion several times for a good workout. Some lifters choose to do the full Zercher squat, which involves rolling the weight back off the arms and back onto the ground for one full repetition. He or she must then deadlift the weight again, rolling it back onto the lower thighs just above the knees and back onto the forearms down to the crooks of the elbows. This version of the Zercher squat is significantly more difficult and requires strength, agility, and balance.


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