Building muscle and increasing athletic performance is very strenuous. It takes time, lots of hard work and an immense amount of stress on the body; it’s necessary stress, but stress nonetheless.
Avoiding pain is the name of the game, but let’s remember that strength training isn’t exactly supposed to tickle. This is one of those exercises that surely will not feel great, but the results that come along with it are worth the momentary discomfort.
The Zercher March is a combination of the classic Zercher Squat—where you rack the bar in the crooks of your elbow—and weighted marching, a long-time favorite of some of the greatest powerlifters ever.
Together, you get a blend of old- and new-school training concepts with an extremely effective exercise.
Simply rack the bar in the crooks of your elbows and do your normal squat walkout.
When the bar is racked, you should be flexing biceps, squeezing pecs and activating lats to create as much upper body tension as possible. This not only ensures a safe rack position by securing the bar, but it also will allow you to perform at a higher rate due to the tension you create, similar to other major lifts.
It’s also important to note that safety pins should be at a level that makes sense for you to rack and un-rack the bar. For example, do not have the bar at the same height as you would for a Front or Back Squat. It should be somewhere between your sternum and upper thigh height. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised.
In terms of performance, this is also a simple execution. It’s also highly customizable. There is not really a right or wrong way to perform this. There are several factors such as march height, ankle position, tempo, hip angle, etc., which can be altered to make this exercise right for your goals.
Generally speaking, I have found the most success with the following recipe:
- Marching knees to hip-height
- Ankle dorsiflexion on elevated ankle
- Foot stance hip-width apart
- Sets of 30 seconds using Front Squat 8 to 12 rep load
Play around with it and use what feels the best for your chosen goal. You may find that a wide stance with low marching and knees angled outward works better for what you’re trying to get out of the exercise.
Either way, this is a great way to build core stability. I’ve been using this a ton to develop a better dynamic control of the lumbar spine and pelvis.
This will also allow you to train for increased balance through strength via your single leg planted on the ground during the march. There’s no need to balance on a stability ball to develop your core when you can build strength and balance at the same time like this.
Lastly, it’s a great hip and anterior core strengthener. All of these training benefits have great carryover into sports and life. The Zercher March may be one of the hidden gems you’ve been looking for to take your game to the next level.