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LAVERA STEWARTEditor-in-Chief of the Gym Expert
Even if we were fully aware of the importance of working out, and we went to the gym 3-4 times a week, there were some things that we never found attractive. One of these things is bodybuilding. Don’t get us wrong, of course, each of our sessions included strength training. We did bodyweight exercises, lifted weights and all. But the very concept of powerlifting and bodybuilding was something foreign to us.
Two exercises that involved lifting extremely heavy loads were particularly confusing. Can you guess which ones? Yes, you are right, we are talking about squat and trap bar deadlift – two workouts that are often mentioned as the most essential powerlifting movements. We were seeing super muscular men and women passionately and diligently performing these movements, grunting under heavy loads, etc. They appeared super satisfied after each workout, and we just kept being confused.
“Why would someone put herself or himself through such effort? Okay, people who compete? But why so many others do it?” we asked once a friend who was more interested in these sports. We were particularly confused about deadlifts. The name sounded scary, as it is, let alone the sight of the exercise. “Explain this – why on earth would you do an exercise that has the word dead in the name?!” Our friend laughed and said that plenty of people get scared when they hear about deadlifts but that the workout isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds. He then explained that deadlifts are amazing compound exercises which means that they work various muscles simultaneously. That, he continued, speeds up the fat burning and muscle building process. “Everyone should deadlift,” he said,” not just bodybuilders or powerlifters as you think because this is a full-body workout that improves our overall shape.” “But, as a beginner, you might want to try trap bar deadlift first,” he added. Trap… what?
He then explained more about the trap bar, also known as hex bar deadlift, and we decided to follow his advice and try it out. Honestly, the moment we lifted the bar for the first time, we thought we missed so much by not starting sooner. The sensation of lifting a heavy load with this strangely-looking bar was beyond thrilling. We felt powerful, important, and strong! And we didn’t stop deadlifting from that moment onwards. Then one day, we thought that it would be cool to share our experiences with the rest of the world and try to break some, if not all taboos, regarding this powerful workout. Hence, we sat and wrote the text that we are now proud to offer to you.
- 1 What is Trap Bar Deadlift?
- 2 How to Perform Trap Bar Deadlift
- 3 Trap Bar Deadlift Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations
- 4 Trap Bar Deadlift Variations
- 5 Trap Bar Deadlift Alternatives
- 6 Conclusion
What is Trap Bar Deadlift?
For those of you who are total beginners when it comes to weightlifting, we will explain what a deadlift is. So, as our friend explained deadlifts, in general, are a compound exercise which means that they involve multiple large muscle groups. They are considered as one of the best exercises for improving power, strength, and lean muscle mass. Some people see it as a strength workout. However, we are going to say that it is an excellent cardio workout too. Many people do deadlifts to increase their lower body strength. However, we must keep in mind that it is a full-body workout as all muscles get activated when we lift. Usually, when performing this movement, we use a barbell with weights. However, if you never lifted weights, it is best to do it with little or no weight whatsoever until you understand how to do it properly.
Professionals insist that it is a ‘core’ lift along with squats and bench presses. There are many deadlift variations, and t bar deadlift is one of them. Now it is clear that a trap bar deadlift is a deadlift movement with a trap bar. But what is this bar? Trap or otherwise known as hex bar is a weightlifting tool made of several bars joined together. They form the shape of a diamond/ hexagon. When lifting, you are standing inside the bar and holding the handles on the sides. Like regular movement, hex bar deadlift form is a full-body workout. However, it primarily targets hips and legs. They are excellent for developing power, strength, and general fitness. Many people like them because they are hypertrophy-based exercises and can be interchangeably used with sumo deadlift.
Who Should Do Trap Bar Deadlifts?
We always say that everyone who has a desire for them should do them. These exercises are excellent for all athletes regardless of whether you are a powerlifter or a runner. However, for some athletes, the decision about doing deadlifts depends on personal preferences. For some others, deadlifts are a mandatory part of the workout routine. These people are:
- Powerlifters: If you are a powerlifter who wants to increase pulling strength and reduce the pressure on the lower back, it is an exercise for you. Apart from that, if you have the feeling that you don’t have sufficient leg drive, you can also do this exercise.
- Strongmen athletes: It can be also beneficial for strongmen athletes who wish to improve their strength and increase the load they lift. These trap bar deadlifts for mass also copy farmers carry deadlift.
- Weightlifters: They can also benefit from this exercise because it can help improve leg drive. It also improves pulling volume. Finally, it adds variation to training, which we know is necessary to avoid reaching a plateau.
- Other athletes: Trap bar deadlift is also beneficial for other athletes as it improves overall power and strength.
- General fitness: People are often asking should they deadlift if they are only practicing sport recreationally. We would say – most definitely. Of course, you need to adjust the exercise to your fitness level.
What Muscles Do Trap Bar Deadlifts Work?
We already mentioned how to deadlift with hex bar is designed to strengthen hips and legs. But we have to admit that when it is described like that, it sounds pretty vague. That is why we will look a bit deeper now into it to see which muscles are targeted by this exercise and how.
Glutes are the longest and strongest muscles in the body. They are often referred to as the butt. There are three muscles called gluteus maximus , gluteus medius and gluteus minor. When talking about trap bar deadlift muscles worked, it is essential to say that in this group the main ones are gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.
Hamstrings are located on the back of your thighs, directly opposite to quads. They are critical for all sports that rely on lower body strength. Trap deadlifts also work the hamstrings. However, if strengthening hamstrings is your primary goal, then a conventional deadlift is a better option.
Quadriceps are four-headed muscles located in your thighs. They are considered the most powerful muscles in the human body. Trap bar variation targets quad more than the conventional deadlift. The variation is easier on the lower back than any other deadlift or squat variation because you are standing in the middle of the bar.
The erector spinae consists of three muscles: – iliocostalis, longissimus muscle, and spinal. The trap bar workout puts less pressure on these muscles because of the upright position. Because of that, this variation is better for lifters who experience back pain.
It is the diamond-shaped muscle that goes from the neck to the middle of your back. Hex bar deadlifts target the top of trapezius muscle more than conventional deadlifts. The main reason is that when performing this variation, your torso is in an upright position.
Trap Bar Deadlift vs. Barbell Deadlift
When you first start lifting, you can expect to be confused by hearing about all those different deadlift names. The thing that is probably even more confusing is that many of these exercises appear o be the same. And, indeed, in its basis, the movement is the same. However, there are some unique things about each of them. It is essential to know how they differ from one another so you can decide on the variation that works best for your needs. Hence now, we are going to look into the difference between trap bar vs. barbell deadlift.
The first and most obvious difference is, of course, related to the bar. When performing a regular deadlift, you will use a barbell. In this case, you need to use a trap bar. Another difference we notice comparing hex bar deadlift vs. barbell deadlift is related to targeted muscles. Although both exercises primarily target the posterior chain, trap bar deadlift form puts less strain on the lower back and more on the quads.
We took a look at two studies to understand differences between trap bar deadlift vs. deadlift beyond the obvious ones. One showed that it is easier to lift heavier loads with the trap bar. It also showed that this type of bar allowed people to lift faster and with more force. However, total work was better when lifting with a barbell. The second study looked into the difference between two variations when lifting the same weight. The weight was 90 percent of the maximum weight a person can lift for one repetition. This study indicated that trap bar deadlift is better in all aspects when the trap bar weight is the same as barbell weight.
|Mechanical Demands||Regular Deadlift||Trap Bar Deadlift||Effect size (d)|
|One Rep Max (kg)||183||194||0.52|
Overall Benefits of the Trap Deadlift
Reduced Stress on Lower Back
As we mentioned several times, when doing this exercise, you are in a more upright position which puts less strain o the lower back. With barbell, the weight is in front of you. So you have to use the hips and the back much more than with a trap bar. Beginners who still don’t have a strong back and people with back issues, such as scoliosis, etc., will find doing trap bar deadlift way simpler.
Easy to Learn
It usually takes some time before you fully understand how to do a barbell deadlift. Some people also might find the movement awkward and even uncomfortable at the beginning. The movement with the trap bar is far less technical. And it is easier to follow a proper form with a straight back and upright torso.
Improved Pulling Strength
With this movement, you are working to improve general pulling strength. It is one of the fundamental trap bar deadlifts benefits because it helps with building the muscle mass needed for lifting heavier weights. You can combine it with other lower body strength exercises such as squats, etc.
It Helps to Reach Maximal Strength
More experienced people can use perform trap bar deadlift exercises to practice lifting heavier loads. You will not only become stronger but also get more experience and confidence necessary for lifting more weights. That can be helpful for people who want to peak maximal strength levels.
Trap Bar Deadlift Downsides
Less Specific for Powerlifting
If you are planning to enter a powerlifting competition, then barbell is a better choice. Since you are not using the trap bar when competing, maybe you should look for another variation.
When you use a barbell, you can choose between double overhand grip, mixed grip, or double overhand hook grip. With a trap bar, you don’t have so many variations. It is more about getting an even, central grip.
How to Perform Trap Bar Deadlift
Okay, so we understood what a trap bar deadlift is and what muscles it works. Now it’s the time to learn how to perform the movement.
- Setup: Stand firmly on the ground with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes directed forward. How you stand will depend on you, but make sure that your shins are at 90 degrees angle with the floor. Push the hips back and keep shins vertical.
- Load the pull: Grab the bar and pull the shoulder blades back. Make sure to pull the chest and shoulders up. Make sure to flex the triceps.
- Push through the floor: While keeping the chest upwards, push down the floor with your legs. You should be able to feel your knees and hips extending.
- Stand strong: Stand in a vertical position. Make sure that your back is straight. The pelvis should be in a neutral position. The weight should disperse between grip, gluteal muscles, trapezius, legs, and upper back.
Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
There is nothing unusual about making mistakes while working out. Everybody makes them, especially at the beginning. However, it is critical to know how to prevent or fix them. Here are some common mistakes:
- The stance is too wide: Some people feel tempted to do sumo deadlift vs. conventional stance when performing this variation. However, it requires that your feet are shoulder-width apart, which is the same as when you are doing a regular deadlift.
- Knees kick backward: It is a common mistake. However, when it happens, the focus moves from the quads to the posterior chain. That is why you always need to stay on your knees to prevent this.
Trap Bar Deadlift Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations
This section serves you or your coach to plan the trap bar deadlift program according to your needs. It is essential to know that these are only the guidelines and not strict rules.
- Beginners should do between three and four sets of eight to ten reps. Keep in mind that the load should be moderate. Also, perform the exercise at a controlled speed and rest when you feel it is necessary.
- If hypertrophy is your goal, perform between three and five sets of six to ten repetitions with moderate to heavy loads. Also, you can do between two and four sets of twelve to 15 reps with moderate weight or near failure. In that case, make sure you rest about 45 – 90 seconds.
- To increase strength, do three to five sets of three to five reps and rest when needed.
- For muscle endurance, we recommend two to four sets of twelve to twenty reps. Rest periods should be between 30 and 45 seconds.
Trap Bar Deadlift Variations
Deficit Trap Bar Deadlift
When performing this variation, you are supposed to stand on a little box or plates. Your knees are in the deeper starting position. It strengthens more the quads, glutes and hams.
Trap Bar Deadlifts with Resistance
Some people like to do banded deadlifts, which brings more variety to the exercise. Some prefer this option because it increases the force. It is visible when you use lighter weights. Others see it as a way to improve the overall force.
Trap Bar Deadlift Alternatives
The sumo deadlift is a great alternative to trap bar deadlift. They require you to assume a wider stance. The result is of it is that the quadriceps and glutes are much more engaged.
When performing this alternative, your hips are lower than in a conventional deadlift. However, the position of the hips is very similar to the one you assume in trap bar deadlift. Because of that, this movement also increases the strength of glutes, hamstrings, and quads. It is something you will typically see in Olympic weightlifting training.
And that’s pretty much it for the trap bar deadlift! As you can see, this exercise is excellent for beginners and professional athletes alike. We like it because it puts way less pressure on the spine. Plus, it is easier to learn how to do it properly. But on the other hand, the classical deadlift works just as good, and you can perform it just as effectively.
So, have you tried trap bar deadlift before? Or would you like to try it?