Powerlifting Zercher Squats
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Why do Zercher Squats for Powerlifting
Before we discuss why we should do Zercher squats as beginners or any regular powerlifter who wants to squat correctly, we first need to explain how the name started and how to do the movement. Zercher squats are named after its inventor from the 1930's called Ed Zercher who was a well-known strongman and powerlifter.
There are essentially two different ways that a Zercher squat can be done. Firstly you could place a loaded barbell on the floor just like doing a deadlift. You then deadlift the loaded barbell just above the knee or lower quads. While the barbell is resting on your quads you slowly squat down.
You are balancing the barbell on the lower thighs and then sliding your arms under the barbell until the bar reaches your elbows. It will be more comfortable to help protect your elbows and upper arms using a towel or a t-shirt under the bar.
The second option when doing a Zercher squat is to position the barbell in a squat rack at about waist height. You then squat down positioning the barbell in the crook of your folded arms on your inner elbows. Elbows should be shoulder width apart with knuckles facing the ceiling.
To stop the barbell from rolling downwards you can clasp one of your fists, holding the barbell tightly against your chest, your feet positioned a couple of inches wider than your shoulders and toes pointing slightly outwards. The whole point of the Zercher squat is to get your elbows in contact with your upper thighs.
You then drive upwards squeezing the glutes while pressing through your heels, while you push your knees outwards. The reverse of the Zercher squat is to simply squat down. Always remember that the further away your elbows are from your body, the more torque you’ll put directly on your lower back, stimulating more of the abdominal area.
This movement is great for teaching beginners the correct squatting mechanics because it will reinforce the important hip action, forcing the athlete to hold an upright posture through the whole movement allowing for a deeper squat. The compressive forces acting on the spine are completely illuminated when doing Zercher squats.
Because the weight is placed in the front of your body you are forced to maintain an upright position when you squat with your central core strength being taxed to the max. All this places more emphasis on your anterior stabilizers like your abs. If you do the Zercher squat correctly you will be placing more stress on the posterior of the leg developing the glutes and hamstrings.