As anyone who has ever watched me lift would notice, I am built to deadlift. I have pretty long arms, and a proportionally shorter torso. So of course I love to deadlift- who doesn’t love things they are good at? However, deadlifts can be stressful on your spine, even with perfect technique. That’s why I recommend incorporating variations from time to time. One of my favorite variations of the deadlift is the trap bar deadlift (TBDL). With the trap bar, you can hit those same deadlift muscles from different angles to prevent overuse and injury.
That’s what it’s called?
Yes, that odd shaped barbell is called a trap bar. It’s also commonly referred to as a hex bar, or even a shrug bar by people who aren’t that strong. You lift by standing in the middle of it and picking the barbell up. Most models also have different height handles – making this a fantastic lift for beginners and people with mobility issues. Since the weight is not in front of your shins, there is a significant lessening of shear forces on your spine.
The trap bar deadlift is a hybrid exercise – a little bit like a squat, a little bit like a deadlift. If you set up with your hips higher, you can recruit more glutes and hamstrings. If you set up more upright, you recruit more quadriceps.
Who is this for?
- People who have back issues
- People who only train their lower body sparingly
- People who have mobility issues (rounding of their back)
I think athletes benefit the most from using the trap bar deadlift. The exercise is a fantastic way to load up your hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes, while reducing the stress on the lower back. Another benefit that is overlooked is the very simple learning curve – there isn’t much in the way of nuance with the trap bar. A conventional deadlift is a very technical lift in which many subtleties are only learned after years of experience. Athletes who don’t have the time to pursue perfecting their deadlifts can still train their lower bodies effectively with the trap bar. TBDLs allow more time spent on sport specific skills while still improving strength and performance in the weight room.
If you are a busy person that can only get in the gym once or twice a week, the TBDL is also a great option to include because of its hybrid nature – its a cross between a deadlift and a squat, while also training your grip and back. Truly a great “bang for your buck” lift.
How to set up
- Stand in the middle on the bar
- Either squat down (to focus more on the quads) or hinge back (to focus more on the posterior chain)
- Grab the handles
- Achieve full body tension by squeezing your lats and taking in a big breath
- Stand up
It’s that simple.
Since this is a compound exercise with the potential for big loads, I would stick to under 8 repetitions per set. If you re looking for max strength, stick to 3-5, and if you are looking to add some muscle, you can do 6-8 reps per set. You can also throw this in as a supplemental exercise for the squat or the deadlift if it is not your main lift for the day.
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