Health and Beauty

How and why do you do the Zercher Deadlift?

The Zercher deadlift is a very unusual and unconventional exercise. This is a very complex and very difficult variation of the classic deadlift.

What makes this deadlift so difficult and so strenuous? Because of two characteristics. Firstly, the way the bar is held, and secondly, the starting position for the seemingly impossible deadlift. With the ZDL, you grip the bar with your forearms inside your elbows. You're also starting the lift off the floor, which puts you in a very difficult starting position.

This exercise requires a great deal of flexibility and mobility. This amazing deadlift was designed by famous strongman Ed Zircher in the 1930s. He was a pioneer when it came to the variety of challenging exercises. One of the most famous exercises for which he is known is the Zercher squat, which is also performed by gripping the bar with the forearms.

The Zercher deadlift is a full-body compound exercise that primarily works the posterior chain muscles. It works your entire back, trapezius, legs, abs, and even your biceps and forearms.

The deadlift is considered one of the most dangerous exercises that can be done. Due to the low starting position, range of motion, and the way you carry the load, the risk of injury is very high. Therefore, good technique and correct form of execution are essential.

Muscles used in the Zercher deadlift.
Illustrative credit © Aliaksandr Makatserchyk
  1. Start by standing in front of the bar. Your feet should be placed slightly wider than your hips. The bar should be placed over the middle of your feet.
  2. Bend down as low as possible. Let your back be slightly rounded.
  3. Place your elbows under the bar, on the inside of your legs.
  4. The bar should rest on the top of your forearms, just above the inside of your elbows.
  5. Contract and engage your abdominal muscles and keep them tightly contracted throughout the entire movement.
  6. Start by slowly lifting the bar off the floor. Do not make sudden movements.
  7. Push your feet into the floor and lift the bar.
  8. Take an upright position and engage your entire body.
  9. Hold this position for a second, then slowly return to the starting position.

Training tips

  • Due to the high-risk nature of this deadlift variation, a proper and thorough warm-up is essential before beginning this exercise.
  • To perform this exercise correctly and well, you need a great deal of flexibility and mobility in your lower body. So, before trying this exercise or adding it to your workout routine, you need to check if you have the required mobility in your hips, ankles and back to reach the correct starting position.
  • Adding pounds should be done gradually and very carefully. Even a small increase in weight, such as a few pounds, can make a big difference in this exercise.
  • This deadlift variation severely fatigues your forearms and can leave nasty bruises. To avoid this problem or at least mitigate it, you can use padding for your forearms.

How and why do you do the Zercher Deadlift?

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