Full-Body Exercises

Test Your Strength with the Zercher Deadlift

Are you hardcore enough to perform this advanced move? We show you how.

Zercher Deadlift

You are likely familiar with the Zercher squat—the man-making, crook-of-your-elbow front squat named after 1930s strongman Ed Zercher. But Zercher’s legacy also touched another staple move: the deadlift. His variation of this total-body tussle with gravity evolved from his experience with the squat. Rather than performing a standard deadlift and transitioning the weight to the hands and elbows, he started with the bar on the floor, hunched down as low as possible, arms wrapped around the barbell. An impossible starting position to stand up with the weight? Not if you buckle down your technique.

This is an exercise for only the most serious of strength athletes. It requires incredible hip, ankle, and lumbar flexibility and a penchant for the primal. Be honest with yourself: If you don’t have the mobility to get into the starting position, then this lift is not for you. It’s also a surefire sign that you need to add a ton of mobility work to your routine. Exercise extreme caution when loading the weight. Start light, see how your body responds, and take it from there.

How to Do It

1. Approach the bar with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Squat down as low as possible, allowing your upper back to relax and round.

2. Slip your elbows under the center of the barbell between your legs and squeeze the barbell in the crooks of your elbows.

3. Take a deep breath before you begin the lift. Track the knees out over your toes and try to keep your back from shifting while under tension.

4. Deadlift the bar to the fully upright position, keeping your core braced throughout the lift. Return it back to the floor in the exact reverse order.