The Hidden Secrets About The Carry Over Of Trap Bar Deadlifts

February 9th 2020

Lifters may find that they get more carryover on their squats than their deadlifts with a more quad-focused exercise like the trap bar deadlift. Nevertheless, the trap bar deadlift is still a great accessory for lifters who need another general exercise for overall leg strength and growth.

The trap bar deadlift is a great, overall movement for any lifter that is simply tired of doing conventional deadlifts or sumo deadlifts. 

However, if your goal is to get better at the conventional or sumo deadlift, your best accessories will be to perform variations as close to the technique you want.

This means that if you want to pull a 700lbs conventional deadlift, you just need to practice more and be more efficient with the conventional deadlift.

Sure, you could do a trap bar deadlift as an accessory but it should not be your main focus.

However, if your goals are more aligned with physique or general strength, I see no harm in adding the trap bar deadlift if your body responds very well to the stimulus.

Give it 6-8 weeks of programming and reevaluate from there.

Of course, I could say how great the trap bar deadlift is but that would not be helping you at all.

You need to figure out how to do the trap bar deadlift and whether or not it is an exercise you want to continue to overload and work to heavier and heavier weights with.

So, let us focus on some trap bar deadlift technique, starting off with the foot position.

Trap bar deadlift foot position

The trap bar deadlift is a viable deadlift alternative that utilizes the trap bar instead of a regular barbell.

One of the primary benefits of the trap bar deadlift is how flexible it is, and how it can decrease the risk of injury compared to the barbell deadlift.

If you want to learn more about the trap bar deadlift and its viability check out the other article we wrote about here (internal link).

The goal of the article today is to answer what the correct foot position is for performing the trap bar deadlift.

How we point our toes, or how wide we stand has an impact on what muscle groups are being worked.

This is helpful for us to keep in mind if we are training to get better at a certain sport, movement pattern, or if there are specific muscles that we want to target for maximal growth.

With that being said, let’s get into the most optimal setups for the trap bar deadlift.

What is the correct stance for the trap bar deadlift?

For most people, the most optimal stance for being able to lift the most amount of weight is taking a shoulder-width stance with the toes pointed forward.

This is similar to a conventional deadlift stance.

This stance works your glutes, hamstrings, quads, lower back, and a whole lot of other muscles similar to if they were being worked in a conventional deadlift.

However, if you are trying to target your glutes, abductors, or adductors (muscles that shape your inner and outer thigh), you may find that adjusting your stance width or toe angle may help to target those muscles better.

There is no right or wrong stance to perform the trap bar deadlift, but how you stand will make a difference on what muscles you are trying to target.

The three core components you can play around with as part of the trap bar deadlift set up are:

  • Stance width
  • Hip height
  • Toe angle

We will go over how a change in these factors will have on the demands of the exercise, as well as who would benefit most from assuming these stances.

Stance width

The first factor to look at is how wide your stance is when performing the trap bar deadlift.

To put things simply, the more narrow your stance is, the more emphasis is placed on the lower back.

The wider your stance, the more emphasis is placed on the glutes and the quads.

You can kind of imagine the difference between a narrow vs wide stance as the same in a conventional vs sumo deadlift.

In a sumo deadlift, the legs are much further out, which decreases the range of motion of the overall deadlift and places most of the emphasis on the glutes and quads.

One important note to keep in mind is that certain body types find it easier to lift more weights with a wider stance.

This is something that you should experiment with if your goal is to lift the most weight you can.

The downside, however, is that a wider stance will place more pressure on your hips so you may need to an adequate amount of hip mobility before you can start deadlifting with a wide stance.

The next factor that plays a role in your trap bar deadlift stance is how high your hip sits.

Hip Height

How high your hip sits plays an important role in what muscle groups are being worked.

If you sit your hips high, like in a conventional deadlift, then you will be placing most of the emphasis on the lower back.

However, if you sit with your hips lower, you will be using a lot more quads, glutes, and hamstrings in order to lift the bar off the floor.

Sitting lower will make the trap bar deadlift much more similar to the squat.

If your goal is to improve your strength in the squat without overloading your spine, sitting lower may be right for you.

However, if you are using the trap bar deadlift as a replacement exercise for the conventional deadlift, you might want to remain sitting with your hips high so that you will still be targeting your lower back during the exercise.

Toe angle

This is arguably one of the least important factors in the trap bar deadlift, but it can still make a small difference.

Your toes can either be pointed straight forward or tilted a bit out (about 45 degrees).

There will not be much significant difference in terms of what muscle groups are being used when your toes are pointed straight or out.

This factor is mostly dependent on what you find most comfortable.

Most people find it more comfortable to point their toes straight forward when they are performing the deadlift with a narrow stance and pointing their toes out when they are deadlifting with a wider stance.

Play around with your toe angle and see what is most comfortable for you.

How important is the stance for the trap bar deadlift?

How you stand is very important when performing the conventional barbell deadlift, but it doesn’t matter so much when performing the trap bar deadlift.

Perform whatever stance you find most comfortable, or that aligns with your goals.

As long as your stance is not causing you any pain or discomfort, there is nothing to worry about because of how safe the trap bar deadlift is.

The trap bar deadlift is an overall great exercise that can replace the conventional deadlift or perform as an accessory movement in order to develop strength in your other lifts.

In the next section we will go over how your stance when performing the trap bar deadlift can affect the carry over to the conventional deadlift, sumo deadlift, and the barbell back squat.

How can the different stances for the trap bar deadlift carry over to other exercises?

As stated earlier, the trap bar deadlift is a great accessory exercise that can help you develop strength in other compound movements.

For each of the compound movements, I will go over the most optimal trap bar deadlift stance and set up so that there is as much carryover as possible.

Conventional Deadlift

To gain the most carryover from the trap bar deadlift to the conventional deadlift, you want to have your stance in a similar starting position as if you were performing the conventional deadlift.

As a general rule of thumb, you want:

Stance width: Narrow/Shoulder width apart

Hip Height: High (same position during your conventional deadlift)

Toe angle: Pointed towards

Again, this set up is very similar to the set up of your conventional deadlift, which makes sense due to the principle of specificity.

Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is a deadlift variation that requires much more quads and glutes.

Because of this, you will find the most optimal trap bar setup to be:

Stance width: Wide (preferably as wide as possible)

Hip height: Hips high (similar starting position to your sumo deadlift)

Toe angle: Pointed slightly outwards

This will target your quads, and glutes so that you could develop a stronger sumo deadlift.

Barbell Back squat

Whether you perform the back squat using a high bar, or low bar, in order to get as much carry over from the trap bar deadlift, you want your stance to be similar to your squatting stance.

In addition, you also want to keep your hips low.

This is because keeping your hips low increases the demands on your quads, glutes, and hamstrings similar to that of a squat.

Stance width: Similar width to your back squat

Hip height: Low, you actually want to be squatting the trap bar

Toe angle: Similar to that of your back squat


This is just a brief overview of the small adjustments you can make when performing the trap bar deadlift in order to get the most out of the exercise.

As with everything in weightlifting, nothing is black and white. Find what stance works best for you, aligns most with your goals, train hard, and you will see results.

By incorporating the trap bar deadlift into your routine, you will get stronger over time and develop a great physique with the trap bar deadlift.

And what great way to include the trap bar deadlifts by having a program that is flexible enough to add new exercises accordingly.

Did I catch your attention?

I should because not too many programs are designed to have the individual lifters choose accessories or even main movements into the program.

Sometimes, it is just squat, bench press, deadlift and overhead press, which is 100% acceptable too.

But you also want the freedom to know you could. And I am currently running this program (5/3/1) that satisfies those requirements for me...

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