How to, muscles worked and advantages


Want to add a unique squat variation to your strength training routine? Consider zercher squats.

This squat variation is a weightlifting workout that hits muscles throughout the core, upper back and legs and involves different squatting techniques while emphasizing more on the quadriceps, arms, core, glutes and upper back.

Rather than placing the barbell on your back, this squat variation requires you to hold the bar at the crease of your elbows with your arms completely flexed. It’s usually considered an effective variation of the front squat, but there are some differences.

In this article, we will discuss a few important things about zercher squats so that you can do this exercise in the right form and build functional strength throughout your body.

Zercher squats: Muscles worked

This unique squat variation targets the entire muscles of the lower body, including the legs and glutes while particularly focusing on the quads. As this exercise requires you to hold the barbell in your elbows, this specific position helps target the major upper body muscles, such as the core and upper back.

The primary muscles targeted by the zercher squat are:

  • hamstrings
  • quadriceps
  • glutes
  • adductors
  • obliques
  • abdominals
  • upper back (middle traps and rhomboids)
  • biceps
  • latissimus dorsi

Mastering zercher squats: Correct form and technique

Zercher squats target the entire lower body muscles. (Photo via Pexels/MART PRODUCTION)
Zercher squats target the entire lower body muscles. (Photo via Pexels/MART PRODUCTION)

Below is a step-by-step guide on how you can do this exercise correctly:

  • Start by removing the barbell from the power rack, and place it in the crooks of your elbows. Stand straight with your feet in a normal stance, and make sure you have sufficient room for your elbows to lower when you squat.
  • With your upper body straight and stable, squat down as low as you can while keeping your hips directly under you. Do not let your elbows touch the thighs or knees. Resist the load of the barbell as you pull your torso forward for better balance.
  • Once you go into a deep squat, push through your heels, and pull your chest up while keeping the torso straight. As you do that, you will feel tension in the arms, shoulders, legs, and core.
  • Repeat for a few reps.

When starting this exercise, begin by opting for a weight that you can easily control for at least two sets of ten reps. Always remember to use a weight that allows you to perform the movement with good technique throughout all repetitions and sets.

Benefits of zercher squats

Including this squat variation in your strength training routine can offer you several benefits, including:

Boosts overall lower body strength

A zercher squat recruits and activates muscles throughout the lower body and posterior chain. That includes the hamstrings, lower back, quadriceps and glutes. Additionally, it helps target and strengthen smaller muscles throughout the legs as well.

Improves core strength and stability

Zercher squats help develop core strength and stability. (Photo via Pexels/Scott Webb)
Zercher squats help develop core strength and stability. (Photo via Pexels/Scott Webb)

Regular practice of this squat variation helps strengthen the anterior stabilizer muscles in the body, including the core and transverse abdominis through a full range of motion. If you’re looking to tone your abs, zercher squats can be very beneficial.

Strengthens the upper back

Zercher squats target muscles throughout the shoulders and upper back while also improving muscle hypertrophy. It works great on postural strength too.

Safe for the lower back

Compared to back squats that put a load on the spine, zercher squats are quite a safe squat variation, as there’s no load on the spine. You can do this exercise with heavy weights without stressing and straining the lower back.

Overall, this unique squat variation is effective and can be easily added to full body, upper body, lower body, or core training workout sessions.

If you are a novice exerciser, though, consider starting with light weights or opting for easier squat variations like goblet squats or dumbbell squats till you master your form. When performing this exercise, be very mindful of breathing, as the barbell can get pushed against your chest, making it difficult for you to breathe.

To protect the tendons in the elbows, consider wearing a long-sleeved gym T-shirt to ease some of the strain on your arms. Be safe and practice regularly to achieve the best results.

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