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How To Deadlift with a Trap Bar? Complete Guide With Pictures and Videos

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1- What Is Trap Bar Deadlift?

A trap bar deadlift is a full body exercise that targets your posterior chain which includes your hips, glutes, thighs, and legs. It’s a variation of the traditional straight bar deadlift, however instead it uses a trap bar which is a hexagonal-shaped bar that surrounds the lifter.

This changes the overall weight distribution from in front of you to a squat weight distribution as you’re going up and down instead of a hinge.

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2- The History of Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar deadlift is a recent creation and was designed by a powerlifter named Al Gerard during the mid 1980s. It was meant to train a mix between the squat and the deadlift pattern.

Al spent his teenage years working on a farm and was constantly lifting 100 lb to 200 lb bags of fertilizer. This is where he noticed a big transfer or correlation to increasing his deadlift and squat numbers.

As he got stronger, the 200 lb bag of fertilizer was not heavy enough to improve his squat anymore. This is where he began experimenting by holding heavy dumbbells and performed a squat-deadlift hybrid movement.

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However, he noticed the heavier the weights and the larger the dumbbells, the more challenging and awkward it was to hold. They would move around and hit your needs, causing more potential injury than benefits.

Through experimentation, he slowly created the design for the trap bar to add heavier loads. It is now one of the best accessory movements to improve both your squat and deadlift numbers.

3- The Benefits Of Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar allows you to have your hands wider than if you were to be holding two dumbbells. Due to its design, it always allows you to add a larger significant load to your lift. 

Although the bar was designed as a replacement for the dumbbell squat, it is an easy to learn and lower back friendly lift that is a perfect accessory exercise for all lifters and workout programs.

Here are some benefits when you perform the Trap Bar Deadlift:

Less Stress On The Lower Back

Conventional deadlifts with the straight bar put a lot of force through the lumbar spine. This is because the load of the barbel is in front of the body, which makes your hips as a pivot and your back as a crowbar.

If you don’t have good form, you will most likely injure your back. Most people with back issues would not be able to lift heavy deadlifts. This is where Trap Bar Deadlifts come in. 

With a trap bar, you are inside the bar and the weight is closer to your center of gravity. This means the levers of your crowbar are shorter and less force placed on your spine. 

It also prevents lumbar hyperextension or overextended your back. This happens when you lean back to lock out and normally attributed to bad form, weak upper back, or poor bracing. 

It acts as a counterbalance when you’re lifting a heavy weight up and can injure your back.

Trap Bar Deadlifts are a safe way to perform your deadlifts and to train your hamstrings, low back, and glutes without many risks.

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Easy To Learn

Beginners often take a few training sessions or months to learn how to barbell deadlift properly. As it is not a movement performed normally and requires a lot of mobility, it can be a challenge to maintain good form throughout the whole lift.

With the trap bar, it is similar to a squat. The movement is less technical and is very easy to stay in a good position with a flat back and upright torso.

Your knees leak a bit more forward, your hips can sit lower, and the bar doesn’t scrape your shins.

This makes it a perfect lift for all beginners.

Simple and Quick Ways To Build Strength and Power

The Trap Bar is very effective at building strength and explosive power. There have been many studies documenting trap bar deadlifts as a better lift than the conventional straight bar deadlift.

One study found that the trap bar deadlifts have a significantly larger peak power, peak velocity, and peak force versus the straight bar deadlift. 

Another study also showed that trap bar deadlift has a greater peak power, peak force, and peak velocity than conventional straight bar deadlift. 

This means you’re working your body more, resulting in your muscles growing not only bigger but more powerful.

4- What Muscles Do Trap Bar Deadlift Work?

Glutes

The Trap Bar Deadlift targets mostly the glutes (The gluteus maximus and gluteus medius). These muscles are the key groups to overall lower body strength, power, and athletic performances.

Hamstrings

The Trap Bar Deadlifts works the hamstrings throughout the movement. It is used to stabilize your legs and when you move the weight up.

Quadriceps

The trap bar deadlift focuses more on the quadriceps. Throughout the movement, the quads are stressed and used, more than conventional or stiff-legged deadlifts.

As you have more knee flexion, you keep more of an upright torso positioning while minimizing the overall strain on your lower back and hamstrings in comparison to a conventional barbell deadlift.

Lower Back

Your lower back muscles will have a decreased load placed since your back is at a more upright torso position and greater knee flexion. This is perfect for individuals that may have lower back concerns and want to still perform deadlifts.

5- How To Trap Bar Deadlift

The Setup

After you have loaded your trap bar with your desired weight, step into the tarp bar and have a shoulder width stance with your toes pointing forward. Make sure you are standing in the center of the trap bar.

When you are in a comfortable position, squeeze or activate your glutes and begin lowering yourself by bending your hips first then your knees.

Grab the handles of your trap bar and make sure your spine is flat and neutral. Keep your arms straight and look forward like you would if you were squatting.

Load The Pull

After you’re in position, take a big breath in and use it to push your belly out. 

Squeeze the bar as you pull your shoulder blades down the back as this allows your shoulders and chest to get pulled forward.

You should feel a tight upper back and a gentle stretch on your hamstrings.

Push Through The Floor

Begin the deadlift trap bar pull by driving your feet into the ground until your knees and hip are fully extended. 

Make sure to keep your chest up and focus on feeling your hips and knees extend as you drive up.

Squeeze your glutes when you stand completely upright.

Standing Strong

When you’re in a vertical position or standing straight up, you should have no lumbar extension or flexion. 

Your shoulder blades should be down the back with the trap bar deadlift load being dispersed between your traps, glutes, legs, upper back, and forearms.

Remember to not let the angle of your back change when performing the movement.

After, reverse the movement the exact way you came up. Start bending your hips then your knees as you descend down.

6- Common Trap Bar Deadlift Mistakes

Rounding Back

The most common mistake that people make when performing the Trap bar Deadlift is rounding their back. Although much less than conventional deadlifts, it is still an issue that can put stress on your spine and serious injuries.

Round your back is usually due to one or more of these issues:

  1. A Poor Setup – Make sure your back is braced and flat throughout the whole movement. You can think of bracing as taking a huge breath and pushing out your stomach with that air.
  2. Lack of Back Strength – You need to have strong back muscles and lats to support your body for a heavy deadlift. Without it, your shoulders take the load and often cause shoulder issues. 


Your back keeps your torso upright and sturdy so your other smaller muscles do not compensate for the stress and load from the trap bar deadlift.

  1. Lack of Core Strength – Core strength is needed to transfer your lower back to your upper body. Without core strength, you will find it hard lifting because you cannot connect and generate your upper body power with your lower body.

Your Hips Rise Up Too Fast

Some beginner lifters shoot their hips up too quickly because they straighten their knees before extending their hips.

You may be able to get away with this form with lighter weight, however when you start pulling heavier you will find the sheer force will be placed on your spine.

To fix this, begin focusing on extending your hips first. It should feel similar to a squatting movement as you go back up from the bottom position.

You Lean Back Too Much At The Top Of Your Rep

Many deadlifts think leaning back at the top of the rep excessively is the best way to complete the lift and target the glutes. This puts additional stress on your spine and is not beneficial.

A complete rep is when you stand out straight and tighten your glutes at the top of the rep

The Bar Tilts or Moves As You Lift The Trap Bar Off The Ground

If the bar moves or tilts when you lift off the ground it is often because you are positioning your body properly. It can make your lift a lot harder as your force is moving forward or across the side instead of moving up.

To fix this is to set up in your normal trap bar deadlift position. Then when you grab onto the bar, pull it up as much as you can without lifting it. This should activate your back and lats and you already have initial momentum and force before you pull it up.

If you still are struggling you may need to improve your grip strength and forearms to make sure your forearms can handle that load.

7- The Difference Between Trap Bar Deadlift Vs Barbell Deadlift

Although they are both deadlifts, there are several differences that make a certain exercise better for certain situations.

Here are some differences between each deadlift.

Grip

There are different ways to grip a barbell when performing conventional barbell deadlifts:

  • Double Overhand Grip
  • Double Overhand Hook Grip
  • Mixed Grip
  • Standard Trap Bar Grip

The double overhand grip is a great grip for beginners and is common when deadlift. This is the most balanced and is comfortable to maintain. However, when you’re lifting heavier loads, it may be a bigger challenge as you need a lot of grip strength to keep holding the bar.

The double overhand hook grip is similar to the double overhand grip. The difference is the thumb sits under your thumb and can be painful to maintain.

The Mixed Grip is when one hand is facing towards you and one hand is facing the other way. Many advanced lifters use this as it helps you keep a more secure grip. The drawback is that you cause a slight rotation in the body that creates imbalances and possible injuries.

The standard Trap Bar Grip is when you grab both handles on your side of your trap bar.

Weight Path

When performing a trap bar deadlift it is more of a vertical path as you are in the center of the bar. This means you can potentially lift more weight than you would with a normal barbel.

For the conventional deadlift, the weight is in front of you. This means the weight path is more technical as you need to counterbalance the weight to stop from you tipping forward or extending too far back.

Mobility

Trap Bar Deadlifts do not require much hip mobility in comparison to traditional barbell deadlifts. As the handles are slightly higher, you do not have to bend forward down too much.

Conventional Barbell deadlifts require a good amount of hip mobility and most people lack in this area. As they are sitting in their offices all day, their hips and glutes are often tight.

That’s why Trap Bar deadlifts are a better alternative if you have any mobility issues.

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8- Conclusion

Trap Bar deadlifts are an excellent accessory for increasing your conventional deadlift and squatting numbers. They target different muscles and are perfect for individuals who are coming back from an injury or have mobility issues.

The Trap Bar Deadlift is safer and easier and is a great supplement to any workout. I recommend it for anybody who’s looking to improve their power and strength in their lower body and core.

About Julien

Hey! Thanks for being here. I’ve been active pretty much my whole life and I discovered Crossfit about 5 years ago. I want to help you improve your Crossfit performances by giving tips on specific movements, workouts and equipment. You have a question? Get in touch!