Zercher: A Lift and A Lifter

by Roger LaPointe

Ed Zercher performing a deadlift.

Wow! Imagine if they named a lift after you!

You know you have really done something amazing in the world of weightlifting when that day comes. Lots of people set records, but very few get that named lift. There’s the Hack Lift, the Zottman Curl, the Scott Curl and then there is Ed Zercher’s squat, called the Zercher Lift.

You can read all about the proper way to do a Zercher Lift in the USAWA Rulebook. Basically, it is a front squat with the bar held in the crook of your arms.

Various individuals will tout the benefits of a Zercher Squat and others will talk about the dangers. I prefer an unorthodox way of doing it, using a rotating thick bar, as the lift can be very hard on the biceps tendons. Basically, the smaller the diameter of the bar, the greater the biceps stress. However, few people know about some of the truly amazing lifting that Ed did before becoming known for his signature lift.

Edward Zercher’s Early Lifting

At the Fifth Annual Western AAU Weight Lifting Championships Ed Zercher (Bodyweight 156 Pounds), had the following lifts:

One Hand Snatch: 120 lbs.
One Hand Clean & Jerk: 130
Two Hand Military Press: 170
Two Hand Snatch: 145
Two Hand Clean & Jerk: 200
Total 765

Ed was also a Loader and Official in the meet. This was Oct. 27, of 1934.

The December 1934 issue of The Arena and Strength reports that Edward Zercher also had the 2 Hands Deadlift record (165 lbs. Bdwt.) of 536 pounds. We also have a photo of Ed doing a 536 Deadlift, but the caption says he weighed 155.

I highly recommend using bumper plates when training the Zercher Lift, as you can dump the weight without having the damage issues associated with iron plates. When those biceps tendons suddenly start hurting, it really is best to dump it quickly. If you don’t already know the “good pain vs. bad pain” difference, be prepared to learn.