Zercher squat

Exercise details

  • Target muscles: Quadriceps (Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Intermedius, Vastus Medialis, Rectus Femoris)
  • Synergists: Gluteus Maximus, Adductor Magnus, Soleus
  • Mechanics: Compound
  • Force: Push

Starting position

  1. Place a barbell on a waist-high rack and load it.
  2. Keeping your elbows tucked in to your sides, scoop the barbell up with the crooks of your elbows, pull it into your body, and cross your wrists over the bar to hold it in place.
  3. Carefully step backward from the rack and stand with a wide stance, with your knees and feet pointing out diagonally in the same direction.


  1. Keeping your back straight and body upright, inhale as you squat down until the bar touches your thighs.
  2. Exhale as you stand back up into the starting position, driving through your heels.
  3. Repeat.

Comments and tips

  • Initiate the squat by pushing your hips backward and then bending your knees forward. This will allow your body to “fold” down in a smooth motion, with your torso remaining upright.
  • Keep your back straight, body upright, chest out, and feet flat.
  • Keep the bar close to your body, and your feet and knees pointing in the same direction.
  • If the bar hurts your arms, try pronating your forearms (turning your knuckles upward). The bar will then rest more on your brachioradialis muscle, which may be less sensitive.
  • The Zercher squat was created by strongman Ed Zercher in the 1930s. Because you hold the barbell relatively low, in the crooks of your elbows, the exercise puts less pressure on your spine than the barbell squat and front squat, making it a suitable alternative if you suffer from back pain.
  • Since the Zercher squat mimics the everday activity of carrying a heavy load in your arms, you can use it to develop body-wide functional strength. Strongmen use the exercise to train for strongmen activities, such as lifting Atlas stones.

Zercher squat video



  • When I want to pretend that I am a big, strong man (and, I am); I like to show off doing ‘Zercher squats’ but weighted fairly heavy. Usually anywhere from 275-315lbs; in fact, with this exercise, I feel it in my lower back, core muscles/stabilizers and everywhere else squats are meant to blast..

    This exercise, truly, separates the men from the boys! LOL!

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