Funny Name, Big Benefits
If your first thought upon reading the headline was ‘what the hell is a Zercher squat?’ You’re not alone. Just a few short years ago I was in the same boat, but ever since Zerchers have been a staple of my lifting routine, and for good reason. Zerchers are similar to front or goblet squats in that the weight is loaded on the front of the body. The Zercher advantage over goblet squats is that it allows you to use a heaver load without worrying about your grip failing from a heavy kettlebell. Your forearms will give out well before your legs if you trying to go heavy with a goblet squat. Try a set of goblets with a 60 pound kettlebell versus a barbell loaded to 60 pounds and you will immediately notice the difference.
Compared to the traditional front squat, maintaining proper form is much easier. Good front squat form requires adequate wrist extension and shoulder flexibility, which most people don’t posses. Also, the center of gravity on a front squat is much higher than a Zercher, making it harder to focus on correct form, especially under a heavy load. Zerchers eliminate those concerns, allowing you to lift heavier and with more confidence. I haven’t done a front squat since I discovered Zerchers and have no plans to go back to them since I get the same benefits without the added hassle of worrying about form.
Zerchers are great for training the quadriceps since the weight is loaded on the front of the body, the quadriceps receive the brunt of the work while the glutes pitch in as well, which is opposite of what occurs when doing a back squat. Your rectus abdominis (your six pack muscles) also join the party. The frontal loading of Zerchers causes an intense contraction of those muscles to keep your torso upright and prevent the weight from sending you face first to the floor. The first time I ever did Zerchers my abs were sore for a couple of days afterward.
Proper technique for a Zercher is very similar to a back squat. You’ll want to focus on driving the knees out, pressing the feet straight through the floor, shooting the hips up, keeping a tight core and big chest, and squeezing the bar hard into your midsection, like you’re trying to pull it into your abdomen.
You can program Zerchers like you would a squat or deadlift, or add them as an accessory if you still want to focus on other lifts as your prime movements.