Archive for November, 2011

As  all of my clients and regular readers know, I am a huge fan of exercises that involve multiple muscle groups.  If you’re a new reader, here’s why these multi-joint movements are so effective:

-Almost all sport-related and everyday activities involve more than one muscle group.  We rarely find true isolation of specific muscles outside of the weight room.  Multi-joint exercises are much more functional to sports and life.

-Mutli-joint movements force your body to work harder than isolation exercises.  This means that you’re going to kick up your heart rate and respiratory rate, so you’re improving your cardiovascular fitness at the same time that you’re improving your muscular fitness.

-For reasons mentioned above, a multi-joint exercise is going to elicit a much greater metabolic effect on the body that exercises that require less energy.  For instance, a chin-up, which requires movement in both the elbow joint and the shoulder joint as well stabilization throughout the core region, is going to have a much greater metabolic effect than a bicep curl, which only requires movement in the elbow joint.  This means you’ll burn more calories in a shorter period of time.

With all this in mind, one of my all-time favorite free weight exercises is the Zercher Squat:

Zerchers are a great exercise.  The exercise is clearly targeting the legs, hips and glutes, and by coming all the way down to at least a parallel position in your knees, your quadriceps go through a very long range of motion.  This is great for explosion in sports as well as overall leg strength. In addition to targeting the legs, Zerchers also require a great deal of work to be done by the core stabilizing muslces as well many stabilizing muscles in the upper, middle, and lower back.

With pre-season hockey training really heating up, I’m always looking for good single-leg exercises due to hockey being a very single-leg dominated sport.  My athletes do a lot of lateral movement, single-leg squats, and many variations of lunges.  One great single-leg exercise is the stationary split squat:

Once this exercise becomes easy, a common progression would be to move from the stationary split squat to a reverse lunge.  The reverse lunge on it’s own is a good exercise, but as soon as I put myself into a Zercher position on the bar, the reverse lunge got that much better:

A few things to note:

-My back stays completely vertical, perpendicular to the ground.  With the weight in my elbows pulling me forward, my core muscles were forced to tighten up in order to keep my back straight.

-My shoulder blades stay pulled together in my back, this challenges the stabilizing muscles of my upper back.

-I’m creating an active stretch in the leg that is stepping back while greatly challenging my single-leg strength.

Give this exercise a try.  I suggest mastering the stationary split squat before moving into any type of lunge, and you should also master Zercher Squats before you try adding a dynamic movement to the exercise.

Have a great day!

Adam Reeder, cPT