Lift Of The Week: Trap Bar Deadlift

As I mentioned on Friday, last Monday I maxed out on my deadlift. Last time I maxed, a couple months ago, I walked away from that lift feeling absolutely perfect. No undue soreness, no actual pain, nothing. This time, however, even though I only added 5 pounds to my previous max, I felt it immediately. I wish I had video of my max, because I’m sure something happened to my form on my final (but successful!) attempt at 230.


This is my previous max – 225lb, about two months ago.

My mid back was extremely fatigued after that lift, leading to back spasms which were not comfortable, to say the least. I ended up modifying my training plan for the rest of the week, pushing my heavy bench day to Friday from Thursday because of this fatigue. It’s all good, and I feel great now, but it did leave me wanting something a little less stressful for this weeks deadlift session. Enter: The trap bar.

The trap bar is one of my favorite pieces of gym equipment, although it’s something that I see used very rarely. Although it’s an excellent training tool, it seems as though a lot of people at my gym are afraid of it. To be honest, though, it’s probably one of the things to be least scared of, because it’s a tool that actually makes lifts like deadlifts a little bit more idiot proof.

The trap bar, also called a Hex-bar, is a sometimes hexagonal, sometimes diamond shaped barbell which you stand inside, instead of behind, when you’re using it. A quick review of physics and levers shows us why the trap bar places less stress on your spine than a traditional straight bar deadlift.  Standing “inside” the bar, instead of behind it, changes the lever arm when doing movements such as deadlifting. Because the load/weight is closer to the axis of movement due to the side handles (instead of grasping the bar in front of your ankles), it places less stress on the spine, and requires a little bit less mobility and technical prowess than a traditional deadlift or squat. Basically, the load is easier to lift because it’s closer to the axis — your hips.

Not to mention, the positioning and load changes actually allow you to lift more weight with a trap bar than you generally can with a traditional, straight bar deadlift. Who doesn’t want to lift more?

This week, in order to give my back a little bit more time to rest, I’ll be replacing traditional deadlifts with the trap bar variation in today’s session. This will allow me to continue my training, while protecting myself after overdoing it last week. I can still train heavy deadlifts, but can put less stress on the muscles surrounding my spine that were so royally pissed off at me last week. Sounds like a win to me!

Things to remember when doing a trap bar deadlift:

  • Step inside the bar with feet equidistant from the front and back of the bar, a little bit wider than hip-width apart.
  • Just as in traditional deadlifting, keep your chest up, core engaged, and lats engaged — pull those scapulae into your back pockets!
  • Remember — this is still a deadlift. Most of the movement should come from a hip hinge, not from your knees coming forward. Stand with your hands by your side, and push your hips back in order to lower yourself to the handles. If the movement starts with you bending your knees and pushing them forward, you’re doing it wrong.  You can do more of a quad dominant trap bar lift by bending your knees a little bit more, but this turns it into more of a squat like movement than a deadlift/posterior chain movement. Remember what your goals are, and correct your form accordingly.
  • Use those glutes! Just like in a traditional deadlift, squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. Thrusting your hips forward at the top of the lift without contracting your glutes will put a lot of undue (and dangerous) stress on your lumbar spine. Squeeze those glutes, and keep your hips underneath you. No air humping at the top of your lift, please!

Readers: Do you use the trap bar? What’s in your workout plan this week? 

16 thoughts on “Lift Of The Week: Trap Bar Deadlift

  1. I haven’t deadlifted in a few months due to disc issues and I reckon the trapbar will be my way of easing back into it! It’s a godsend! My max is 130kg on the straight bar, but I reckon the trapbar always ups it by 5-10kg.

    1. 130kg — that’s huge! And I know, I really love that i can rep more with the trap bar, without worrying about any weird pains. Good luck with your injury recovery!

  2. I still haven’t pushed myself on the squats like I should.

    1. To be honest, I haven’t been pushing my squats at all either. I’m actually benching more than I’m squatting right now, which is pretty ridiculous.

  3. I used a trap bar when I was restricted from squatting with a quad injury. I loved it!

    1. It is definitely a great tool for injury recovery while still weight training!

  4. I’ve never even seen a trap bar at my gym! But now I’m curious to try it because I’m never 100% sure if I’m doing deadlifts correctly, so I like the idea of an idiot proof deadlifts haha.

    1. They’re not 100% idiot proof, but they are definitely a little bit safer against injury, especially for someone who isn’t sure if their form is correct with the straight bar! Have you worked with a trainer to have your DL form assessed?

  5. I wish my gym had a trap bar! They look so great. And good job on your new max!! One day I will get there…one day 🙂

    1. Thanks!! You’ll get there — it just takes hard work, persistence, and a whole lotta patience 🙂

  6. OMG you need to enter a GUN SHOW because you have some sexy AK-47s!!!!!

  7. i pull sumo, so i generally only pull with a traditional barbell. BUT, i use a trap bar once to twice a week for farmer’s walks. because the handles are barbell-sized (rather than dumbbell-sized, which tends to be wider) i can hook grip them (dumbbells are too wide for me to hook) and can also carry and walk with a lot more weight than i would be able to with dumbbells. when i maxed my DL in august i just barely got 240 up before my grip gave out; after two months of twice-weekly trap bar walks, i pulled 281 at my meet in october with no signs of grip fatigue. it’s wizard equipment!!

    1. Wizard equipment — ha! Nice work with the grip work and new max, that’s awesome!! I need to do more grip work, I’ve been trying to use Fat Grips on my pullups but I hate them so much, maybe I’ll just do Trap Bar walks instead.

      1. i haaaaaate fat gripz!! i was using them too for a bit, but i can’t hook grip them so it was a bit pointless anyway. trap bar walks are also really great for core/low back stability, since the bar will tend to swing a bit as you walk so your core and low back have to communicate to one another to keep you from falling over or hyper-arching your low back. i highly recommend!! : )

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