The Trap Bar Deadlift

I’d first read up on the Trap Bar Deadlift in Stuart McRobert’s 1991 Hardgainer bible, Brawn, back in 2010. It’d been listed by him as a possible Deadlift variation. The Trap Bar, designed by Al Gerard, is a rhombus shaped bar, fixed to two plate loaded ends. It’s purpose was and is to make the Deadlift movement safer and more comfortable when handling relatively heavy weights. Also, the bar has two sets of handles; there are two high handles, parallel to each other on the bar. You can also flip the bar over and pull using the bases of the handles. Some bars also come in a hexagonal shape.

It should be noted, however, that the Trap Bar was named after the Trapezius muscles in the upper body. In fact Paul Kelso wrote a whole book on how to perform trap exercises using the Trap Bar. But for the sake of this article we will only be discussing the Trap Bar Deadlift.

Simply flip the bar over if you wish to use it’s low handles.

Some benefits of this incredible bar include:

  • Greatly mitigates stress on the lumbar spine
  • High handles for those with limited hip range of motion (ROM)
  • The parallel direction eliminates the need for a mixed grip
  • Reduced anterior deltoid stress
  • More stimulus on the quads, glutes, and abs.
  • You will see an increase in both your size as well as your strength – best of both worlds!

As you can see above, the Trap Bar Deadlift, while still a hip hinge exercise, can force your body to adapt to new stimuli, all while protecting key areas from a potential injury if you’re already headed in that direction. More on that later. Here’s how to properly perform the Trap Bar Deadlift using the bar’s high handles.

  • Step inside the bar
  • Brace your core as if you were performing a traditional Deadlift
  • Grabbing the handles, lift your chest up and keep your spine neutral
  • Push from the floor as if you’re performing a leg press
  • Exhale at the top, inhale again and smoothly bring the bar down
You might find it easier to maintain a neutral spine with the Trap Bar Deadlift as opposed to a traditional Deadlift bar.

Much like a traditional Deadlift, where your shoulders land after you straighten your back out will determine where your hips land during the set up. While this exercise does come off as more of a squat since your quads are targeted more than your hamstrings, never force your hips to go lower than they are. This even goes for if you chose to pull with the low handles, which will emulate the traditional pull a little more due to the lower leverage. And while this is a fantastic Deadlift variation, don’t think it doesn’t come with some cons.

  • Grip Problems – the handles on the trap bars tend to be on the thinner side. Upon performing this move for the first time early last year, I found out the hard way just how easy it is to really tear the skin off your palms. If you have this problem then make sure to put a generous amount of chalk on your palms before gripping the bar.
  • Limited Weight – I’d asked my Instagram followers just a few days ago to tell offer their views on the Trap Bar Deadlift. One follower made the incredibly insightful statement that, while he found it to be his 2nd best accessory lift for the traditional pull, the biggest downside is that most commercial gym trap bars “cap out at 405”. Sadly this is very true, and even the bars in some hardcore gyms are the same.

Upon my first use of the bar early last year, I did so to give my anterior delts a much needed break, as well as provide a new stimulus to my quads. Shortly before the gyms shut down my quads were measured at 24 1/4 inches, a quarter of an inch thicker than they were three weeks before that measurement, and I know I have the Trap Bar Deadlift, along with other lower body accessories to thank for it. I started using it again seven weeks ago because I had just come back from a TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae) strain and wanted as little pressure on my lower back and sacrum as possible.

I highly recommend use of the Trap Bar for those who are either recovering from an injury or trying to prevent one from occurring, those who are training for the military, as it’s now a staple of their fitness assessment, and just about anyone looking for something different on their journey to overall size and strength, regardless of your goals. In fact, if you’re a Strongman competitor you can definitely use the Trap Bar to perform farmer carries!

Do you perform the Trap Bar Deadlift in your routine? Why? What are your goals? Tell me in the comments!

Works Cited:

McRobert, Stuart. (1991). Brawn. Nicosia, Cyprus. CS Publishing Ltd.

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