I'm a fan of the Zercher squat and have started learning Zercher variations of other movements.

I've heard some negative comments on the Zercher variations by well-known trainers, mostly based on the hold being bad for your elbows. These have just been passing opinions, however, not extended discussions.

Is there evidence to support or refute whether Zercher exercises are bad for your elbows?

It doesn't seem that these lifts are immensely popular, at least on the internet. I've had trouble locating in depth discussion of the mechanics (really anything beyond how tos) so any other in depth resources would also be appreciated.

  • 2
    I don't have an answer but my immediate gut-punch comment is just that there is a better exercise for anything that the zercher squat may excel in. It's a neat lift, advanced, and cool to show off with, but I'm confident that there's another exercise for any aspect of it that's simply easier to execute, and targets muscles more efficiently. Could be why it's not very popular. However, I would gladly love to be proven wrong. I'll do a bit of digging myself.
    – C. Lange
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 3:52
  • I'm not a powerlifter by any means, but I've seen the Zercher squat done a lot. I always just waved it off as a fun thing to do, and not really something that's a serious part of a serious training routine. I could be way off, but it just strikes me as a parlor trick. I haven't done any research, but I can't imagine it's good for your elbows. Taking weight meant for your legs, and loading them on an arm joint just sounds no good. Maybe, just maybe, I could get behind it if you used a thicker (or padded) bar to even out the pressure on the elbow tendons.
    – Alec
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 8:02
  • fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/45930/…
    – Babu
    Commented Apr 5, 2023 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


Personal experience of mine and others, with what research I could find: https://gymjunkies.com/zercher-squat-101/ Biceps tears are much more common than elbow injuries, but you can prevent these; explained below:

First let me tell you how to correctly perform one as there are two ways:

  1. with your hands holding each other and your arms crossed enter image description here

  2. with your arms at shoulder width and hands up in the air like a 'U' enter image description here

When you perform a Zercher squat, #2 is the best way to go as it prevents rounding of your upper back. The exercise is supposed to help with thoracic extension of the spine, so your upper back rounding out would eliminate that or make it much harder. That being said, elbows are not the main weak point, but biceps are! biceps tears are common with this exercise because your using your biceps to hold the weight. Elbows shouldn't be a common injury because your biceps are the stabilizer here, not your elbow, so typically a bicep would be injured first. With #1 method above, while your elbows should be ok, it is pressing more on the tendons on the side of your elbow, increasing your risk of tennis elbow along with a biceps risk as well. If you're doing the exercise correctly with proper posture, your elbows shouldn't even be a main factor, with#2, but biceps should be a concern as the bar is resting on your biceps, and with heavier weight this can be a huge issue. There are several ways to combat this

  1. wear athletic tape/wrap around forearm or bicep
  2. Wear a full length shirt, with a thick hoody
  3. Lower the weight! This exercise is best with perfect technique and form over heavy reps.

This exercise is best used for thoracic extension which we could all use, core work, and a moderate to high rep scheme of 8+ reps. This is not meant to build strength, but build muscle and endurance in your quads as well as bullet proof your upper back and core(provided you do it correctly)

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