em>Friday October 10, ,192014
Here I go again….Most (good to Great) strength coaches in the country will be unfamiliar with this “old time” “Secret” soviet Man-maker..
Of all the many ways to pick a barbell up off the floor, the zercher deadlift is perhaps the most dangerous, and definitely one of the hardest. It’s a way of making a simple act unnecessarily difficult; kind of like putting a feral cat in the tub before taking a bath. It’s basically the ‘overly manly man’ of deadlift variants. Picking up objects sometimes requires our bodies to in affect, “scoop” underneath it. Such as in the case of lifting stones, another person, or even a heavy bag of dog food..
The “Zercher Deadlift” is an incredibly awkward lift. First, it drastically extends the range of motion of a normal deadlift–for me, it’s roughly equivalent to doing a 16” deficit deadlift; or starting with the bar 8 inches below floor level. And, of course, ‘lockout’ has the bar quite a bit higher than a normal deadlift as well. Second, it requires the lifter to assume a rather uncomfortable hunched-over position. Some degree of spinal flexion is unavoidable, and a lot of hip (flexion) and ankle (dorsiflexion) flexibility is required to even reach the bar.
As is readily apparent, the position for the ZDL is perhaps best described as ‘compromised’. The vast majority of people will not be able to perform this lift safely with heavy weights. Two simple tests:
1. Put a pair of 45s–or bumper plates of any weight–on a barbell, squat down, slide your forearms under the bar, and wedge yourself tight under the bar. If you cannot do this comfortably (i.e. without over-stretching anything), you should not try heavy ZDL.
2. Have you adapted to loading your back in a position of flexion? Unless you have done specific work towards this purpose, or are a very strong grappler (accustomed to lifting opponents at odd angles and without a flat back) or a strongman (accustomed to lifting atlas stones), or perhaps have a history of manual labor (and no back pains or injuries as a result) you should not try heavy ZDL.
2a. If you have tremendous hip flexibility and excellent T-spine mobility in flexion, you may be able to perform the ZDL with a neutral lumbar region. Do not try to do so unless you are accustomed to deadlifting heavy with a neutral low back and ‘relaxed’ upper back, as David Hansen and Konstantin Konstantinovs do; and have the flexibility to maintain this position for the ZDL.
The ZDL will always have some degree of risk due to the rather extreme position, but if you keep the above in mind the danger should go way down.
(Today you will have expert eyes watching you)
Louie Simmons says,
“Zercher lifts will build every squat and deadlift muscle in your body with the exception of your hands… Ed Zercher intended for the bar to be lifted off the floor in the crook of your elbows. At 181, I made 320 off the floor and an official deadlift of 670 in 1973. But at 198, I could no longer bend over far enough to hook the bar in my elbows” (Westside Barbell Book of Methods pg 179).
I believe Louie classified the ZDL as a special exercise for the deadlift. He also invented a zercher harness for… ahem… larger lifters to get some benefits of doing the zercher squat/deadlift.
Skill / Strength
working on 1 – rep sets, not to say 1rep max sets..If it feels okay, and with a coaches watchful eye, go heavy..