Deadlifts are undeniably awesome. The simple act of picking up a heavy weight and putting it back down provides a perfect challenge for your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.
Because of their simplicity and effectiveness, creating variations on the classic deadlift is common in all kinds of training programs. One of the best variations with applications a wide variety of athletes and weightlifters is the trap bar deadlift. Trap bar deadlifts have a number of benefits that can improve strength training and overall athleticism.
What’s the difference between trap bar deadlifts and barbell deadlifts?
While trap bar deadlifts and barbell deadlifts both involve a similar motion that focuses on training the hip hinge, they differ in the primary muscle groups they each work. The barbell deadlift focuses on the hamstrings, glutes and spinal erectors. The trap bar, on the other hand, puts a lot more emphasis on the quads while still working the glutes and hamstrings. While emphasizing a different muscle group is obviously advantageous when adding a new exercise to your routine, trap bar deadlifts have some other great benefits too.
4 main benefits of trap bar deadlifts
1. Great for beginners
Executing a deadlift with proper form requires a certain amount of mobility and hinging mechanics in addition to strength. This can pose quite a challenge for beginners, who often take a few sessions or more to be able to safely do a deadlift with proper form.
The trap bar makes it easier to get into the proper deadlift position and maintain a flat back. Additionally, the raised handles on the trap bar requires less hip and hamstring mobility than a barbell deadlift. This allows beginners to start experiencing the benefits of deadlifts like increased muscle mass and pulling strength, while working on improving their mobility and form.
2. Can minimize the risk of back strain or injury
Compared to barbell deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts can have a reduced risk of injury to the back and spine, particularly for beginners or taller weightlifters due to the reduced range of motion.
Reduced risk of strain on the lower back
While the trap bar deadlift uses the same hinging movement as the conventional deadlift, it puts less strain on the lower back. This makes it a good variation for beginners and athletes who need to allow for lower back recovery from other activities.
Minimizes excessive hyperextension
One of the common mistakes of deadlift form is spinal hyperextension at the top of a deadlift, or “overpulling”. You might recognize this as the bending backwards at the top before lowering the barbell back down. This is especially common in beginners and taller individuals. In order to prevent injury to the back, it’s crucial to maintain a flat back position. The inability to use the trap bar as a counterbalance minimizes spinal hyperextension and makes it easier to maintain the proper flat back position.
3. Sports applications
Trap bar deadlifts have applications in powerlifting, weightlifting, as well as other formal athletics and sports, making them a beneficial addition to a wide variety of training programs.
While a conventional or sumo style deadlift will be used in powerlifting, the trap bar deadlift can be useful in training. It minimizes strain on the lower back, which could be a training goal in a number of circumstances, diversifies pulling strength and benefits general strength.
The clean pull deadlift that required a more upright position is generally used in Olympic weightlifting. The trap bar deadlift is similar to the clean pull deadlift in that it minimizes strain on the lower back. Trap bar deadlifts can be used to increase strength in the quadriceps and glutes and improve performance in a clean pull.
Other sports and athletics
The targeting muscle groups strengthened in the trap bar deadlift have applications in a number of sports and athletics. Athletes can experience improved jumping, power, and back and lower body strength for various stances. It also provides a way to get the benefits of a conventional deadlift with decreased risk of back injury and strain.
4. Adds variety to training
Diversifying pulling strength has significant benefits in training for lifters. While it is necessary to train and perfect the techniques primarily used for the type of weightlifting that they do, adding variety to their training program challenges the body to increase strength and stimulate muscle growth and can prevent overuse injuries from repeating the same exercises and techniques.
How to do trap bar deadlifts
Now that you’re convinced of the benefits of trap bar deadlifts, you might be ready to start adding them into your training program. The steps below will guide you through the proper way to execute them:
Begin standing with feet hip width apart and knees and toes pointed forward. The width of your stance should allow for your shins to be perpendicular to the floor as you bend in the knees and squat toward the floor, unless you are allowing your hips to drop below your knees, in which case they may be slightly forward. Your back should remain flat and your shoulders positioned right above the trap bar.
Firmly grip the bar and pull your shoulder blades down. Flex the triceps. Without raising the bar off of the floor, load the pull and feel the pressure of your feet in the floor.
Keeping your chest up and back flat, push into the floor with the strength in your legs. Continue pushing into the floor as your knees and hips extend.
Come to a standing position with a neutral pelvis (no spinal hyperextension). Squeeze the glutes at the top. Shoulder blades should remain down the back.
Trap bar deadlifts offer a lot of benefits with a lower risk of injury than a lot of conventional or other types of deadlifts. They are a great alternative for beginners, tall lifters, or people with back issues who want to get the strengthening benefits of a deadlift while prioritizing the safety of the lumbar spine. They are also a great way for weightlifters and other athletes to add variety to their training programs. The low risk and high reward make trap bar deadlifts a great variation on a classic.