Swellin’ to the Jammiez: Turn Down for Squats!


“Let’s go to Planet Fitness, get fucked up on cupcakes, and throw dumbbells at each other!”
That’s probably a thing that some of your jabroni friends who only lift due to their belief in “the beach bod” say to each other while planning their next siqq tanning bed sesh. I assume that since you are on a heavy metal blog you probably don’t do lifelovey things like go to the beach or try to rid yourself of your pallor which leaves us with the fitness part of the equation. So you pale shut-ins, how about we get to the swellin’?

When I first attempted this life of lifting weights, my father (a former power lifter) made it a point to tell me how important it is to squat. The key points were that squats are important to build a solid base, they promote growth, and they make your booty look great in your favorite pair of skinny jeans. We’re all familiar with the standard squat and perhaps even the front squat, so today I’d like to introduce you to my favorite alternative: The Zercher Squat. The Zercher squat is an old strongman exercise named after its creator Ed Zercher, a total madman who lifted random pieces of malformed iron instead of weights. “What is this lunatic exercise and why do I care?” Well I’m glad you asked!

Instead of carrying the bar on the top of your shoulders, a Zercher squat involves carrying the bar in the crook of your elbows and tight to your body. If that sounds confusing, here is a picture for reference:

While this might just seem like an even more painful version of a squat (and it is painful), there are some key benefits to the Zercher. One is that by holding the bar in your elbows it reduces the load on your back and the compression on your spine. This bar placement also means that you’ll be using a more upright position which places greater emphasis on your anterior stabilizers (fancy talk for abs). Zerchers will also allow you to go deeper than you might be able to with traditional squats and will place greater emphasis on your posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings). So now that we’ve covered the history and benefits, let’s do the damn thing.

1. At the squat rack you’ll want to adjust the bar to where it is roughly belly button level. You can go lower if you want to start with a deep lift, but I prefer being able to just pick it up.

2. Get the bar in the crooks of your elbows, then make a fist with one hand and cover it with the other with your knuckles facing the ceiling. When you hold the bar you’ll want to keep it in tight to your body.

3. After you’ve lifted the bar you’ll want to place your feet just a little bit wider than your shoulders with your feet angled outward slightly. Ideally somewhere around 1 o’clock.

4. Inhale, then start your movement down. Keep your back straight and in an upright position. You’ll want to lower yourself until your elbows just touch the top of thighs.

5. Your upward motion will be similar to that of a standard squat. You’ll want to push up through your heels and exhale as you raise.


Congrats! You’ve completed a Zercher! A few tips/bits of advice: You’ll want to start with a lower weight than what you’ll do with a standard squat. The positioning of the bar and added effort from your core makes these much more difficult, so don’t go in thinking you can just pick up where you left off with traditional squats. I also find that Zerchers are best a complimentary exercise. I like to do them once a month as a change of pace from standard squats. I also highly recommend wearing a pair of Chucks any time you plan on doing a squat of any kind. Chuck Taylor’s have a flat soul with no padding, so you can press up from your heels flat footed. Running shoes tend to be more padded in the heel and will shift you more towards the balls of your feet than the heel. I know you all own a pair of Converse because you listen to metal and they hand that shit to you when you sign up.

Now, I leave you with some of my favorite jams for lifting heavy things with my legs. Have a good lift!

Questions or advice? Let me know in the comments!

(Header photo VIA, Zercher photo VIA)

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