How to Do Smith Machine Zercher Squats? Right Technique, Benefits and Muscles Worked

My front squats have started playing me up. Limited mobility of my wrist pushes me to think of alternatives to front or back squats. My life fitness gym only has a Smith machine and not a squat rack which got me thinking are Smith machine zercher squats an excellent alternative to front squats. 

Yes, it can prove helpful if complemented with a few more exercises. I have expanded the details in the article on all your looming concerns about Smith machine zercher squats. 

What is a Zercher Squat?

It is a front-loaded squat and mimics a front squat. You hold the bar in the crook of your arms (across elbows) closer to the midline of your chest. When you pick up the bar, it should be equal to chest height or slightly lower, making it an excellent place to unrack the bar. If the bar would be marginally higher, you had to come up on your toes tips to pick the bar. 

How to do Smith Machine Zercher Squats

Benefits of Smith Machine Zercher Squats

The weak point in front or back squats is that you start to lean forward or lose your upper back when squatting. The Zercher offers a great movement to fix that. It strengthens back muscles and core and allows you to stay upright more easily. You feel a lot of the work in your abdominals as well.

Last but not least, Zercher teaches you to squat correctly, which is to open up the hips, instead of bringing your knees in. 

What Muscles Are Worked In Smith Machine Zercher Squats?

Zercher squats mainly work your mid back, quads and glute development. Some people get more glute development with zercher squats rather than front squats. Doing these squats is necessary when you are doing functional training. Zercher prepares you to do stone and sandbag pickup.

Holding Bar in Crook of Arms in Zercher Squats Causes Pain, Solution?

Some people complain that the pain of holding the bar in the crook of their arms for a zercher squat limits the weight that one can lift. Should such people look for other alternatives, like front squats? Not necessarily, You will get this argument with wrists too. If you are performing a front squat, many people don’t have mobility in their wrists. 

Right Technique

One can easily get rid of this discomfort or pain in the crease of your arm. Put a pad on your arm/Fat grips to relieve this pain. Also, an axle bar can help. It’s bigger in diameter. Hope this will relieve the pain issue. All of the Smith machine squats are easier if done in right way with proper technique.

How to stand and hold the bar on Smith Machine Zercher Squat?

Ensure you have a good set-up where you don’t have to change your position to get the bar out. It will set you up for failure. 

Your standing stance will be slightly wider than what you use for font or back squat. Remember, your standing pose in zercher squats is straight upright compared to front squats. There’s very little flection of the hip. 

can zercher squats replace back squats

Lastly, your arms shouldn’t be closer to your body and not keep the bar right in the crease, slightly on the arm instead. Arms should be reasonably low to do it right. Try to externally rotate the shoulder to maintain a proper posture. If you use a cross arm, the shoulders will become internally rotated, rounding that upper back and bringing the scapula forward, which is not what we want. In the face, we want to open the chest up, externally rotate arms and stay neutral. So that has a strengthening effect!

Also Read: Do Planet Fitness have Smith Machines?

Can Zercher Squats Replace the Back Squats?

Let’s say you are working out at home, don’t have a squat rack and can’t do front or back squats. Could you get a decent and reasonable leg game using the Zercher squat? Yes, it can be a good choice for a long-term period if you can manage progressive overload. If you are an average lifter or probably not going to be a powerlifter, backing up zercher squats with box jump, body weight lunges, and weighted step-ups with dumbbells will do it. 


How Deep Should You Go While Doing Zercher Squats?

You have to squat and go down until the bar touches your thighs or pass a 90-degree angle with your knees.

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