Zercher Squats: The Ultimate Lower Body Exercise!

The Zercher squat is an exercise category known as an “odd lift.”

“odd lift” is a strength exercise that incorporates two or more exercises.

The Zercher squat is an example of this.

Both the lifter and the weight are carried in their arms while squatting.

Table of Contents show

What Is Zercher Squat?

Zercher Squat Step By Step Instructions

This is a front-loaded exercise.

The barbell should be placed in front of your body.

The Front Squat and Goblet Squat are other front-loaded exercises.

Because the lifter wants to keep the torso from being pulled forward, these exercises emphasize the quads, upper back, and core muscles.

The Zercher squat is unique in that the lifter is basically ‘carrying the weight’ throughout the movement.

This means that the front delts (biceps) and shoulders are also challenged.

How To Perform Zercher Squat Properly?

A barbell, plates, and a squat rack are required for the Zercher squat.

People like to put padding on the barbell or wear long sleeves while performing Zercher Squats.

This helps to keep the barbell from slipping off their arms.

To ensure that you are familiar with the basic techniques, practice the setup with the barbell before you load the exercise.

It will be awkward at; first, I’m not going to lie.

#1 Place The Barbell In The Crease Of The Elbow

Zercher squats place the barbell in the crease at the elbow, where the lifter “hugs” the weight as closely as they can.

To increase upper body strength, it is common to overlap your hands.

#2 Set Your Feet

Once the lifter is in place, they will assume a squat position.

The feet will be slightly wider than usual for a back squat.

Lifters might have to experiment with what feels the most comfortable.

It’s usually quite broad, as I mentioned.

#3 Squat Deep And Keep Upright Torso

The lifter will bend at the knees and squat deeply to prevent the barbell from pulling the body forward.

The goal is to keep weight at the mid-foot of the foot.

Although the back may be slightly rounder, the back should remain neutral.

#4 Let The Elbows Fall Within The Legs

The elbows should travel within the knees.

If the elbows touch the knees and prevent the lifter from squatting higher, the feet may be too narrow.

Try again to widen your stance.

#5 Stand Up And Repeat

After the lifter has reached a lower than usual squat height, they will be able to drive their feet across the floor and stand up.

During ascent, keep your chest high and the barbell close to your body.

Muscles Worked By The Zercher Squat

Zercher Squat Step By Step Instruction

The Zercher, like any good squat, involves a lot of muscle in both the upper and the lower bodies.

The unique aspect of carrying the barbell around the arms is that it adjusts tension and stimulates the tissues.

Here are the Zercher squat’s big muscle players.


Zercher squat requires you to squat low in a vertical position.

If you squat higher vertically, your knees will flex more, increasing the load and stretch on the quadriceps, compared to a more upright or hip-dominant squat.


Like all squats, the glutes are engaged to a greater degree the deeper you go and how low you go each repetition.

The glutes assist the quads in the squat by providing stability during deep squat and strength to stand with power.

Abdominals & Obliques

Your muscles will work harder to lift a load further away from your midline.

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The Zercher Squat increases the intensity and demands of the abdominals, obliques, and stomach.

This is because the lifter must have more excellent anterior core stability to do the squat.

Lower Back And Lats

The Zercher squat requires keeping your body upright by placing the load in front.

Your back and the lat muscles help keep your torso straight while also helping the biceps to secure the load in the elbows.


The biceps support the load while it is held in the elbows.

The Zercher squat forces biceps to contract isometrically to keep the load in place.

3 Tips To Do Zercher Squats

What Is Zercher Squat Exercise

Zercher squats can be a problematic variation of squats.

Here are some tips before you start:

#1 Start with a simpler variation.

Start with a more manageable version if you are a beginner lifter.

#2 Pay attention to your breath.

Zercher squats can be difficult to breathe because the barbell may push against your chest.

#3 Wear a long sleeve shirt.

To relieve pressure from the weighted barbell pressing against your elbow, you can wear a long-sleeve shirt.

Common Zercher Squat Mistakes

Zercher Squat Step By Step

Here are some things you should know if you are new to the Zercher Squat.

Incorrect Posture:

This squat variation causes too much stress to the back, making it a bad morning.

This can be prevented by reducing your weight and engaging the core, biceps, and back.

Don’t Let Your Elbows Or Hands Drop:

It can be uncomfortable to have a barbell stuck in your elbows.

This can cause your elbows to drop forward and the biceps to lose their tension.

Start light and gradually increase your strength before you load up on heavy lifting.

Don’t Keep Your Back Engaged

Leaning forward too much and raising your hips too fast will result in a loose upper back.

This is a problem with all squat variations, including the Zercher.

The neutral spine encourages better form and safer squats by keeping the back engaged.

Improve Your Movement With The Zercher Squat

The Zercher Squat is an alternative for injured athletes or unable to place the barbell on the back.

It is recommended to do 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions using light to moderate loads.

You should move in a controlled manner and pay attention to your tempo.

You should rest between sets to ensure that you have control over the barbell’s movement and movements.

Improve Your Strength With The Zercher Squat

The Zercher Squat can program strength training, just like back Back squat.

You must decrease the weights, as it is easier to support the weight using your back than your arms.

Sets of three to five reps should be kept with extended rest periods.

Build Muscle With The Zercher Squat

The Zercher Squat will increase muscle mass if you do it in a higher volume.

You should do 4-5 sets of 8-12 reps.

Rest periods should not exceed 45 to 90 seconds.

7 Zercher Squat Benefits

Zercher Squat Instruction

#1. Increases Quad Strength & Hypertrophy

Zercher squats will use quad muscles more than your glutes or hamstrings.

The Zercher Squat encourages the torso to be upright with the hips directly below the torso.

The hips are hinging forward, so the knees must travel more forward.

This places the knees at an angle at the bottom.

The quads will need to work harder if the knees push forward at a greater angle.

You can see my comparison of Zercher and front squats.

This is another excellent exercise to build quad strength.

#2 Easier To Train Deeper Squats

The Zercher Squat is an excellent variation in squatting that can help lifters reach more profound levels than they would with a back squat.

The Zercher squat is a quick way to train at lower ranges of motion, without any need for mobility if you feel that your bottom mobility is limited and you have difficulty lifting your hips above parallel.

The Zercher squat, a front-loaded variant that brings the line of force closer to the knees, is the reason.

The hips and ankles are not as restricted in their ability to squat deep.

Instead, they require less flexion.

#3 Reinforces Upright Torso

How To Perform Zercher Squat

During the Zercher Squat, you will need to challenge your back postural muscles and maintain a straight torso.

The strength of your postural muscles will limit your ability to do the Zercher Squat.

If they fail, you’ll tip forward, and the barbell drops to the floor.

Suppose you start to lean forward in exercises such as the back squat because your postural muscles feel tired.

In that case, other muscle groups will compensate and help you complete the movement.

The Zercher squat is a more isolated exercise, so you can’t rely on other muscles to support your position.

#4 High Strength Transfer To Strongman Events

Strongman athletes will find the Zercher squat one of the best ways to train for their competitive events such as the Atlas Stone and Yoke Carry.

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This means that movements involving Conan’s Wheel, Yoke Carry, Atlas Stone, and Yoke Carry will be more effortless if the Zercher squat is trained.

These exercises are incredibly challenging because they require weight-bearing in the front and weight holding in the elbow crease.

Some Strongman athletes might not have Conan’s wheels in their training environment, so the Zercher Squat is the best way to train for this event.

#5 Enhances Daily Strength For Real-World Activities

How To Do Zercher Squat

A Zercher squat is an example of an “odd lift” that can benefit some people.

It mimics real-world strength.

You can use Strongman training in many other ways than just lifting weights in front of your body.

You might be a nurse, firefighter, or first responder and need to transport a person who is disabled.

Another example is a laborer who must carry or hold items in front of the body when walking upstairs or walking.

Crossfitters also started using the Zercher Squat because of the wide variety of activities they might be exposed to during competitions.

This may include lifting or holding the weight in front.

#6 An Alternative To The Front Squat

For those who want to add variety and effectiveness to their training, the Zercher squat is an excellent front squat option.

After mastering the front squat, they might want to try a more complicated variation, such as the Zercher.

If you have plateaued in strength or are bored with your current set of exercises, you might consider switching to the front squat.

The Zercher squat is not recommended before the front.

The learning curve for the Zercher squat is much easier if you have mastered the front.

#7 Increases Core Stability

Any front-loaded exercise like the Zercher Squat will improve the stability of your core, which includes your transverse abdominous, erector spinae, and transverse abdominus.

These are the most active muscles to keep your pelvis from inclining too much and your spine round.

The Zercher squat requires that the core work harder to perform the movement efficiently.

You will be amazed at how sore your core becomes the next day when you do Zercher Squat.

This is more than what happens with weighted crunches and leg raises.

3 Disadvantages Of Zercher Squat

How To Zercher Squat

The Zercher squat has its benefits, but you might be hesitant to do it.

Let’s talk about 3 reasons.

#1 It’s An Advanced Exercise

While the Zercher Squat may seem incredible, it should not be your first exercise in the gym.

Before you attempt the Zercher Squat, there are a few things you need to know.

You should be able to perform front squats as well as conventional deadlifts.

You might also consider learning the overhead and back squat before attempting the Zercher Squat.

To do the Zercher Squat efficiently, you need superior motor control, lower strength, balance, core stability, and muscular coordination.

After you have mastered these skills with other exercises, you may be able to try the Zercher Squat.

#2 You May Find Other Squat Variations That Are Better

Depending on your strength and fitness goals, you may be able to achieve the same benefits as the Zercher Squat with other exercises.

You should program your exercise to get closer to your goals.

Although I mentioned the Zercher Squat’s ability to increase quad strength, core stability, and postural integrity, it isn’t the only exercise that can do this.

These same qualities can also be achieved with other exercises, such as the back squat and front squats, conventional deadlifts, overhead squat, or lunge.

The Zercher squat is not an easy exercise for many people.

This is why you don’t have to do the Zercher squat.

There are more straightforward exercises that can provide similar benefits.

#3 It’s Very Uncomfortable

Zercher squats can be uncomfortable.

Most lifters are concerned about the barbell’s pressure on their elbow.

The pain can get so severe that the lifter can’t even place the barbell on their arm.

It can inflict bruising and abrasions if the barbell rolls up on your arm.

The Zercher squat is difficult to breathe because the barbell presses against your chest/abdomen.

This is fine if you’re doing low reps.

However, if your reps are high, it can be difficult to catch your breath.

Is The Zercher Squat Dangerous?

Zercher Squat Instructions

You don’t have to do the Zercher squat dangerously if you adhere to the following guidelines: keep your torso straight, keep your elbows in line with your body, crease your elbows and squat wide enough that your elbows don’t touch your knees.

Also, make sure your balance is over your mid-foot.

If the barbell is too far from your body or your posture is incorrect, you could inflict bicep injuries.

Who Should Do The Zercher Squat

What Is Zercher Squat

The Zercher Squat is a challenging squat variation that can build strength, hypertrophy, or improve positional awareness.

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Here is a detailed breakdown of how the Zercher can benefit different populations.

Strength And Power Athletes

Power and strength athletes need muscular mass to work out at the gym.

The Zercher Squat can improve positional awareness and help develop the postural strength needed for improving sport-specific requirements.

Powerlifting And Strongman Athletes

Powerlifters can benefit from Zerchers as an accessory movement to squats.

This is especially useful for those who are unable to do front squats.

The Zercher squat’s loading style is for strongmen.

It mirrors a front-load carry.

Variations are common in strongman events.

Olympic Weightlifting

The Olympic lifters have far greater relevance to the front squat.

Still, some weightlifters may enjoy Zercher Squats if they are looking for a way to improve their posture or work around a wrist injury.

Fitness And Everyday Athletes

If performed correctly, this movement can improve upper back strength and core stability.

This movement is also highly beneficial for all people, regardless of their sport.

Front-loaded lifting and carrying loads can benefit real-life training, manual labor, and contact sports.

Zercher Squat Variations

#1 Zercher Squat With Chains

To add resistance to the Zercher Squat, you can attach chains to either end.

This increases tension in the upper portion of your workout and decreases at the bottom of the Zercher squat, where most energy is needed to push upwards.

#2 Zercher Lunge

You can also use the Zercher method of holding the barbell to perform other compound exercises, such as the lunge squat.

This variation requires you to grip the bar Zercher-style and concentrate on each lunge in slow, controlled movements.

You will be able to test your balance and control with the Zercher lunge Split squat.

#3 Zercher Bulgarian Split Squat

For those who want to increase glute hypertrophy, the Zercher Bulgarian Squat is an excellent choice.

The Bulgarian squat, like the Zercher lunge, requires balance.

This variant trains your biceps and glutes simultaneously, giving it an additional benefit over traditional Bulgarian squat.

Zercher Squat Alternatives

You might also like the Zercher Squat.

To improve your overall body training, try these leg, glute and back exercises:

#1 Goblet Squat


  • Hold a dumbbell vertically, with your hands under the top portion of the weight.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in a standing position. Engage your core, and keep back straight.


  • Hinge at your waist, bend your knees, and lower your hips towards the floor.
  • Once your hips align with your knees, stop and allow your quads to contract to return to the starting position.
  • Continue this motion until you have completed the desired number of reps.

#2 Barbell Reverse Lunge


  • Place some weights on your barbell and secure it to your rear deltoid.
  • Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and your chest up.


  • With your left foot in front, lift your right leg so that your right knee touches the ground. Your left knee should cross your left ankle in this position.
  • Next, proceed to drive up to the standing position in a controlled manner.
  • Continue this motion until you have completed your desired number of reps.

#3 RFE Split Squat


  • Place your trail foot on the raised surface behind you.
  • Take a step forward with your lead foot, so your trail leg is bent slightly.


  • Lean forward while keeping back straight.
  • Engage the core and squat down into your front leg.
  • Take a breath at the bottom of each rep, and then drive up with your lead leg.
  • Maintain core tightness and continue!

Final Thoughts

Zercher Squat Working Muscles

The Zercher Squat offers many benefits.

It increases quad strength and allows lifters to train in deeper positions.

The Zercher Squat is also an excellent option for anyone who needs strength in front-loaded positions or a Strongman athlete.

The Zercher Squat is similar to the front squat and can be used either as an alternative or a substitute for it.


  • Timothy P. Carnes

    Timothy P. Carnes is a certified personal trainer with a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science from the University of Florida. With over 8 years of experience in the fitness industry, Timothy is an expert in strength and conditioning, body composition, and overall health and wellness. He also holds certifications in strength and conditioning through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and corrective exercise through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). As an author at FitGAG, he shares his knowledge and expertise on a variety of topics, including strength training, body composition, and overall health and wellness tips. Timothy believes that consistency and discipline are the keys to achieving fitness goals, and he strives to inspire his readers to prioritize their fitness and wellness journey. Through his articles, Timothy aims to empower his readers to take control of their health, enhance their performance, and live their best lives.

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