Is It Okay To Do The Trap Bar Deadlift As A Main Lift?
November 21st 2019
The barbell deadlift is one of the best compound exercises you can perform in the gym.
It targets your hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and it allows you the ability to load with heavy weights.
In addition, there are many different variations of the barbell deadlift that can allow you to target certain muscles.
For example, if you want to focus primarily on the hamstrings you should perform the Romanian deadlift.
If you want to build up your lower back, the deficit deadlift is a viable option.
However, one of the most underutilized variations of the deadlift is the trap bar deadlift.
The trap bar deadlift is very similar to the conventional deadlift, and the benefit of it is that it is much less forgiving if you perform it with improper form.
For those who are new to strength training, or performing the deadlift, you need to understand the importance of proper form.
The deadlift is an exercise that requires time and practice for your body to get the form down properly.
The reason why proper form is so important is that it allows you to lift the weight safely, whereas improper form will result in injuries that can take you out of the gym for a long time.
Therefore, if you are having trouble performing the conventional barbell deadlift, the trap bar deadlift is a perfectly viable option.
It provides the same benefits of the conventional deadlift in that it works the same muscle groups, allows high loading, and is much easier to learn so there is a lesser chance of injury.
Not only that, but it also allows you to have a more flexible starting position if your goal is to target your legs or your lower back more while performing the deadlift.
All in all, the trap bar deadlift is a variation with many different uses, and its primary advantage is that it allows you to perform the deadlift in a safer manner.
Trap bar deadlift as the main lift?
Though the conventional deadlift is recommended for all beginners, nothing is set in stone with strength training. The trap bar deadlift is still a very effective movement and depending on your motivations and goals, you will train a specific deadlift variation in order to generate the best results.
What is a trap bar deadlift?
The trap bar deadlift is essentially a deadlift but instead of using a barbell, it uses a trap bar.
A trap bar is a bar that is shaped like a hexagon that sits around your body.
It is same weight as a traditional barbell (45 lbs) and is much more narrow.
Trap bars have two handles that you could grip.
There are the high handles that make the deadlift more similar to a rack pull and could be used if you lack mobility.
In addition, there are also low handles that are the same height as a traditional barbell, making the trap bar deadlift very similar to the conventional barbell deadlift.
With that being said, the trap bar deadlift provides all the benefits that a traditional deadlift provides in that it works your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, and it also allows you to progressively add weight over time.
But how good is the trap bar deadlift really?
How good is the Trap bar deadlift? Underused or Overrated?
As stated earlier, the trap bar deadlift is a viable alternative to the traditional barbell deadlift.
Not only does it work the same muscle groups and allows heavy loading, but it is also a lot easier to learn.
For most people, the trap bar deadlift is a lot easier to perform with proper form than a conventional barbell deadlift.
This makes it ideal for those who struggle to maintain proper form throughout the deadlift, or for those who injured their lower back deadlifting.
But how good is the trap bar deadlift compared to the conventional deadlift?
They are, in fact, very comparable.
Studies have consistently found that the peak joint moments between the conventional deadlift and the trap bar deadlift to be the same.
Greg Nuckols, the creator of Stronger by Science, states that the trap bar deadlift works your back and hip extensors almost as hard as the conventional deadlift, with the addition of a great stimulus on your quads.
In terms of how good the trap bar deadlift is as a hip hinge exercise, the trap bar deadlift is more similar to the conventional deadlift, than the sumo deadlift is to the conventional deadlift.
These studies go to show that the trap bar deadlift is a viable alternative to the conventional deadlift for increasing strength and hypertrophy.
The trap bar deadlift is an underused exercise in the gym.
Unless if your goal is powerlifting, where you NEED to use a barbell to deadlift, a trap bar is a very viable alternative that offers the same benefits as a conventional deadlift while at the same time, being easier and safer to perform.
Who should perform the trap bar deadlift?
As mentioned earlier, the trap bar deadlift is a viable alternative for those who have trouble finding the proper form to perform a deadlift, or for those who are unable to perform the deadlift without experiencing lower back pain.
The trap bar deadlift is much more forgiving and less dependent on proper form and your starting position.
The reason for this is because your body is in the middle of the trap bar, between the weights, which puts the center of mass of the bar closer to the body.
This reduces the moment arm of the weight on your center of mass allowing your back to stay in a more neutral position.
In the conventional barbell deadlift, the center of mass of the bar and the weights is in front of your body.
This makes it so that when you pull the weight, your spine wants to flex or hunch.
Repetitively flexing or hunching the spine while lifting weights will increase your chance of developing a disc herniation.
This is one injury that is common amongst weightlifters that you want to prevent.
A herniated disc puts pressure onto your spinal nerves which can cause chronic back pain and takes a long time to heal.
This is why it is so important that you perform deadlifts with proper form, and with a neutral spine.
If you are having trouble performing the deadlift with proper form, and have no intentions of competing in powerlifting, the trap bar deadlift might be a viable option for you.
Disadvantages of the Trap Bar Deadlift?
Now that you know the benefits of the trap bar deadlift, what are the drawbacks?
For one, you cannot use the trap bar if you plan on competing in powerlifting.
If you plan on competing in powerlifting, you will have to know how to perform a conventional deadlift.
Another disadvantage of using the trap bar is that you are unable to perform certain deadlift variations such as the sumo deadlift, which is a deadlift with a very wide stance.
So, people with long leverages might not be able to lift as much weight as if they were to perform a sumo deadlift using a regular bar.
Programming for the trap bar deadlift?
Most beginner programs make no mention of trap bar deadlifts.
However, you can easily implement them into the beginner programs as an alternative for the regular deadlift.
Simply substitute conventional deadlift with the trap bar deadlift whenever your program requires it.
As for my specific recommendations, you want to program your trap bar deadlifts as if it were a conventional deadlift.
A great program for beginners is Starting Strength...