Use The Zercher Lunge for Improved Lower Body Mechanics and Strength
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
If you’re looking for a unique lower body variation to clean up your lunge and split squat mechanics then you’ll want to give this Zercher Lunge a try as demonstrated by one of my awesome clients Erin English.
There are several unique components that make the Zercher lunge so effective for targeting the lower body and improving mechanics.
1. The Zercher lunge is particularly effective for ingraining upper back and lat activation which is a critical yet oftentimes overlooked component of proper lunge and split squat mechanics. That’s because the front loading onto the middle arms pulls directly on the upper back and t-spine. If the lifter doesn’t create ample t-spine extension and squeeze the lats then the barbell will pull their torso over causing them to collapse and lose their position. Failing to maintain a neutral spine also makes it nearly impossible to maintain a proper hip hinge position throughout the lunge. As I’ve discussed in several of my articles the hip hinge is perhaps the single most important factor when it comes to optimizing lunge mechanics as this places proper stress on the supporting musculature (particularly the glutes and posterior chain) while taking stress off the low back and knees.
2. The loading parameters of the Zercher lunge (with the weight loaded to the front near the mid torso) also make it highly conducive for improving core stabilization and neutral spine positioning during the lunge. Keeping a rigid spine and tight core are two other essential components when it comes to optimizing lunge mechanics. This further emphasizes the hip hinge position and keeps the lifter from hyperextending the lower back (excessive lumbar extension often results in overly upright posture).
3. A proper lunge also involves significant loading onto the hip of the front leg. The Zercher lunge is perhaps the single most effective weighted lunge and split squat variation for ingraining this. Unfortunately many lifters place too much weight onto the quads and knee of the front leg by allowing the hip and knee of that front leg to travel forward. While some lunge variations allow this to occur, it’s nearly impossible with Zercher lunges as the lifter will literally be pulled over by the front loading. Simply put the Zercher lunge teaches the lifter to load the front hip while maintaining a forward lean and hip hinge throughout.
Although the loading parameters make the Zercher lunge relatively difficult to implement with heavy loads, even lighter weights will cause the entire lower body including the glutes, quads, and hamstrings to receive intense stimulation. Several sets of 5-8 repetitions will more than suffice for crushing your legs and correcting your lunge and split squat technique. Super-setting these with plank variations can also help reinforce a tight core and rigid spine.