Tom Venuto's

Zercher Squats: A Very Evil Exercise

Tom Venuto

I was scheduled for front squats today, and previously was gearing up to start moving the poundages back up at least in the ballpark of my former 315 “glory days”… However, I slightly tweaked my lower back on T-bar rows last week so I started thinking about what I could do for legs that would put zero load on my spine but at the same time could build some mass. For some reason, “Zercher Squat” just popped in my head. The thing is, I’ve known about this exercise for ages, but for some reason had NEVER tried it before! Well, today I tried it…This exercise is evil (translation = “I like it!”)…

The Zercher squat is simply a barbell squat where you hold the bar in crook of your elbows. You just rack the bar in the squat rack or power rack a little lower than usual, scoop the bar up with your arms and start squattin.

It is a bit uncomfortable, but actually not as bad as I thought.

This exercise did exactly what I wanted it to do - there is literally NO compressional load on the spine whatsoever. It does take a bit of core strength and certainly the back is involved, but its the absense of that compression force that makes this a really good one for guys like me. I plan to keep doing these a while.

I didn’t know what to expect for poundages, so I warmed up with quarters, then slapped on the 45’s (135 lbs) and did a few sets of 8-12. My guess is that most people use these as a strength / power exercise with low reps because it does get uncomfortable holding the bar there as the reps go higher, but I’m in this game for hypertrophy so 10-ish reps or so is the place I want to be.

I also decided to do these with 3/4 range of motion and constant tension to maximize the pump and hypertrophy effect. It may be an old strongman exercise, but I did them bodybuilding style for sure. I also changed my foot positions. I found with the wide sumo stance, I could drop below parallel, while with a narrow stance, your elbows hit your thighs.

Well, I thought I did okay for my first time, as I had no reference point for poundages and I definitely felt it for 3 sets of 10 or so at 135. Also, it was the last exercise in the workout with pre exhausted quads and they were continous tension, non-lockout reps.

Then I found out I was being a sissy and I have been out-zerchered by girls:

Then to make the humilation even worse, I found this video:

Oh, and this is really evil! Zerchers with 315 and chains!

Stay tuned! I will redeem myself from my puny first workout poundages and report back my training progress on the “zercher project.” I’ll also let you know how it feels on the lower back as the poundages climb.

If you like “evil stuff” try these out and post a comment to let me know what you think.

Tom V…
currently “culking”

Published on 12 November, 2007


Mariela said:

"Then I found out I was being a sissy and I have been out-zerchered by girls"

...I was just thinking the same thing... ;-)

Posted on Nov 13, 2007 08:24 AM

Tom Venuto said:

HEY! Only *I* am allowed to make fun of me (myself). Post YOUR video... THEN you earn the right to make fun of me, LOL

It was my first workout... Sheesh!


Posted on Nov 13, 2007 09:40 AM

Dan said:

I've never even heard of these before. Wow! Honestly though, I can just imagine how much this would really strain my elbows, but I guess I'll never know until I try!

Posted on Nov 15, 2007 10:16 AM

Jay said:

Hey all. I did these .... and loved it! I burnt my quads out and stumbled It did work my core and back as well but it was rough on the arms/ crooks of elbows, so take care to pad up a bit.

Posted on Mar 07, 2008 02:08 PM

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