by Phil Daru
Zercher Squats have been a part of my training programs for years to help initiate sport specific performance. When utilized in the right order, it can benefit all fighters by increasing strength through proper biomechanical loading while being a safe alternative to the regular back squat. The reasons why I prefer the Zercher Squat, over a regular Barbell Back or Front Squat, all point to the overall result and create a stimulus response thats links to physical demands of fighting.
UFC Fighter, Dustin Porier Performing Zercher Squats
3 Reasons Why I Use Zercher Squats
Reason #1 – They are Safe
First let me start by stating this isn’t the only exercise variation I use, if the athlete has the ability to perform regular barbell front and back squats. But the majority of fighters do not have the neuromuscular proficiency to perform traditional lifts under max loads. I like the Zercher squat because its safe and effective. Most fighters lack the dexterity and mobility to climb underneath a bar and perform a squat or lunge with it being placed on the back or in front rack position. Ankles, hips, and shoulders are joints that need ample amount of mobility to perform compound movements. What the Zercher does is puts the barbell in a non advantage position to help with initiating a true hip hinge due to the counterbalance. The fighter finds it way easier and of course safer to perform a complete movement of the exercise. With full range of motion the muscles of the athlete get worked more efficiently to drive metabolic stress and positive muscle damage to the working tissues. Even in a metabolic conditioning circuit this can be thrown in under a high fatigue state because the exercise isn’t highly technical to execute. The only negative about this is once the athlete gets to higher percentage of load the bar may irritated the forearms but a simple towel wrapped around the bar will alleviate that issue.
Reason #2 – Transfers to MMA Specific Positions
Reason number two of why the Zercher is ideal is because it puts the fighter in a familiar position of sport practice. I have trained literally hundreds of fighters and a large amount of them do not want to be in the weight room to begin with, but as soon as you introduce something they can familiarize with they are all in on it. This is the true definition of a General Specific Exercise due to higher transferability to the sport of MMA which can work the muscles and biomechanics needed to optimize performance for combat athletes. When the bar is placed in a point of the crook of the elbow while driving through the gravitational pull it gives the athlete a close resemblance of driving through a takedown, getting double under hooks on opponent and looking for a trip or to gain control of the opponent to allude strikes. With that your utilizing biomechanics that simulate the sport in its competitive realm.
Reason #3 – High Bang for the Buck
Reason three is it works the proper muscles that a fighter needs to reduce injury and enhance performance. The entire posterior chain, shoulders, hips, and quads get superior muscle activation through this variation. This will allow the fighter to gain more postural strength and stability with the ability to evade takedowns, sweeps, and positional turns off of the cage. With that being said, it will also help initiate takedowns, and strikes with higher force outputs.
Hopefully I have made a pretty solid argument for the Zercher Squat and variations of this exercise to have you consider this for yourself or your fighters. This is not complex nor is it very difficult to coach. Try it out and i’m sure you will be pleased with the result.