Zercher Deadlift

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
What I had incorrectly been calling the Spider Lift but now know is the Zercher Deadlift.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ijKM3WqsoM

This is session #3 of these for me.  Last time was 3 days ago and I worked up to 135 lbs.  Today, up to 165 lbs., which puts me over bodyweight for the first time.  So far, nothing but singles, and no plan to do anything but singles for a while, maybe forever on these because the setup is really important to the safety of the lift even more so than a regular barbell deadlift.

-S-
 

bencrush

Triple-Digit Post Count
Good work, Steve! 

I used to be very flexible when my bodyweight was 150lbs (until I was 25 years old) and this was a strange lift that I was way above average on the first time I tried it.  I know I did over double bodyweight the first time I tried it, but I don't remember if I hit 315lbs or 325lbs at 150lbs bodyweight. 

Never "trained" the lift, but I do recall doing it maybe a half dozen times from 1993 to 2001.  I saw a guy in the rec center here in Lawrence (KS) doing it back in 1993.  He was about 6' and probably close to 250lbs.  Over 50 years old, but he never told me exactly how old he was.  Very muscular guy.  He called it a "prisoner lift" - which is what he said it was referred to as when he was serving a prison sentence in the 80s.  The first time I saw him, he walked into the weight room in a pair of ladies running shorts - and without any type of warmup - straddled a barbell that another gym goer left loaded to 405lbs on the ground and started ripping out reps in the Jefferson Lift (straddle deadlift - http://www.usawa.com/tag/jefferson-lift/).  I didn't count the first few reps because they were so fast and because it seemed amazing at the time.  I'd guess he did 15 reps on that as his "warmup" for what he did next.  Which is the Zercher Deadlift.  Or his nickname for it - the "prisoner lift." 

I, along with everyone that was openly or surreptitiously watching him, was disappointed when I saw him strip off 90lbs and do a single Zercher Deadlift.  But looking back on it now, of course, 315lbs for a single as a "warmup" lift in the Zercher Deadlift is remarkable.  He moved the bar so fast with 315lbs on it that the bar jumped off his elbows at lockout.  Given the ease of the lift, all of us in the weight room were surprised when he dumped the bar (no bumper plates) from above waist height.  Then he loaded the 90lbs back on and left the weight room for so long that I thought he had gone home for the day.  Everyone at that point was too leery of him coming back and being pissed about having to load the bar again, so the bar just sat there on the floor until about 30 minutes later he strolled back in (he addressed the room and said that he had "fallen asleep" in the locker room) and did an ugly Zercher Deadlift with 405lbs.  It was an amazing lift.  One I will never forget witnessing.  I've never personally seen someone pull more than that.  When I say "ugly" - I don't mean it was what looked like a limit lift.  It was just ugly.  Looked like his spine would surely snap.  But he wasn't even wearing a belt.  He actually loaded 50lbs more on the bar, but I didn't get to see if he made the lift because unlike him, I had a time limit on how much time I could actually spend at the gym during those days, haha. 

Steve, sorry to kind of steal your thread man.  I had never shared this Zercher Deadlift story on a forum and decided today was a good time to share it with some people who would at least appreciate it.

 
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Here are today's efforts - 175 and 200 lbs. I weighed 156 this morning.


This may be the lift that allows me to ride a bicycle regularly again - we shall see this summer.

The most interesting question for me is how regular deadlifts will fee.

-S-
 

LoganMurphy

Double-Digit Post Count
Respect! I'll have to try these in the future, I've got the mobility but gotta dial down the convention DL technique before trying anything exotic.  What goal are you shooting for with this lift?

logan
 

Pavel

Founder and Chairman
Master Certified Instructor
Steve, very nice ZDLs—but please stay away from the bicycle!

Ladies and gents, watch his body language; this is the back alignment of a pro deadlifter—a flat lower back and flexed upper back.
 

Pavel

Founder and Chairman
Master Certified Instructor
Ben, a good story!

There is no safe way to lower a heavy ZDL safely slower, so the guy made a good call.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Pavel, thank you!

Logan, no goal - I did these for the first time just 5 days ago so I'm just getting used to the movement and I'm not sure having a goal weight would be a good thing.  200 lbs. came up off the floor quickly, and for this lift, I think if it started to slow down, I'd back off on the weight.

OTOH, it seems like a fine warmup or assistance lift for the Zercher Squat, which I plan to do at the USAWA Nationals in June, so I think I'll keep it in my training in some form.

-S-
 

Mattsirpeace

More than 500 posts
Pavel -- please comment more.  We are responsible adults.

Ben -- thanks for posting.  There are enough youtube videos of guys doing Zercher Deads with 300 or 400+ lbs that we can estimate what good is.  Your talent is nuts.

Steve -- I comment with some humility since you have a world record in deadlifts.  I propose that the best use of Zercher Deads is as an exercise, not as a lift.  Or multiple "easy" sets of five, no singles, and especially no psyching up or belts.  Here's a Dr. Stuart McGill interview.  At one point he explains that some lucky guys can adapt to forward bending:

https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/an_interview_with_dr_stuart_mcgill_part_i&sa=U&ei=DPoXU-HuBZKEoQTz0YC4Bg&ved=0CAYQFjAA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNGKEupooC0pPeThbm4tI6jReRDxTg

I seem to fall in the lucky category since I've survived uncoached backsquats and the misfortune of working as a furniture mover.  I'm forty, 6'2", 205 lbs.  I like starting with 135 and taking long warmups.  Performances so far this year:

Medium effort, 205 Zercher x 5, 285 Sumo x 5

Medium-high effort, 225 Zercher x 5, 305 Sumo x 5

I'm very cautious about pushing past 225 In Zerchers since what I'm after is long-term structural adaptations instead of short-term bragging rights.  I'll move up if it just sort of happens from being consistent.

Five years ago I did Zercher Deads and they had a squatty look.  Since then I've become a hip-hinger (thanks guys) and now my Zercher Deads really are deadlifts; my body position looks like Steve's except that I'm taller and actually bend over so far I look behind and upside down at the bottom.

 
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Matt, the Zercher DL can be an exercise and it can be a lift.

Please take note Pavel's comment about my back  - I am not one of the lucky guys who can adapt to forward bending of the lumbar spine; I perform this lift without doing that.  I manage it with hip and hamstring flexibility as well as upper back flexibility.  Have a close look at the video - my thighs are almost parallel to my lower back but my lower back isn't bent, so it's hips and hamstrings that contribute to the range of motion.

5's are cardio. :)  Seriously, I like triples for my high-rep work.  I can't stay truly tight for a set of 5 of anything, and unless it's in a program that specifically builds muscle as well as skill, e.g., the Rite of Passage, 3 is about my upper limit.  I really prefer singles, especially for anything big and lower body like a squat or a deadlift because 5's in those lifts will soon take me out of my weight class.

-S-
 

Mattsirpeace

More than 500 posts
Steve, thanks.  You are training at a sophisticated level with competition and weight classes.  I do see how you're performing a minor miracle by doing Zercher Deads without lumbar flexion.

I am going into some lumbar flexion -- that's one strategy for being safe, if you're in the lucky group.  My motivation is preparation for any manual labor the future inflicts upon me.

Today I got a reasonable single with 255.  It was a hint that if and when I get stronger the lift will really start to get interesting.

Let us know how your training and competing goes.  Thanks!
 

trend

Double-Digit Post Count
Good too see folks still practicing this wonderful lift!

simple,direct,brutal

trend
 

Pavel

Founder and Chairman
Master Certified Instructor
Trend, it is great to hear from you! How is life treating you?

Ladies and gents, Trend is one strong deadlifter.
 

Pavel

Founder and Chairman
Master Certified Instructor
trend, please drop me a line through contact@strongfirst.com.
 

Luke Luko

Double-Digit Post Count
Nice. So Trend, you're the person who practiced a lot of power breathing against the water resistance and doing some crazy one-arm/one-leg evil wheels ;]

Great, just want to say hello.

 

 
 
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