Deadlifting rocks. There’s something primal about picking a big weight up, putting it down again and trying to lift more next time. It’s simple, and it’s awesome.
Deadlift variations have a place in most athlete’s training programmes, whether you are a powerlifter focussing on heavy barbell lifts, or a runner doing kettlebell RDLs. The benefits of working the hamstrings, glutes and low back with the deadlift are undeniable.
However, barbell deadlifts do not suit everyone. Me, for example.
I’ve been enjoying the addition of the trap (or hex) bar deadlift to my training. So much so that I’ve decided to write an article about it.
A trap (or hex) bar is a hexagonal shaped barbell. Essentially, you stand in the middle of the hexagon, rather than behind the traditional straight barbell. Some trap bars have two sets of handles, one high, one low. Others just have the handles at the same height as a straight barbell.
First, let’s think about how barbell and trap bar deadlifts are similar. Both train the hip hinge, both involve a similar range of motion and both involve lifting weights off the floor, and putting them down again.
OK so what’s the difference? Essentially – trap bar deadlifts are a bit “squattier” and barbell deadlifts are a bit “deadier”. Here’s what that means:
The trap bar dead tends to put more emphasis on the quads, while the barbell deadlift puts more emphasis on the glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors. Do not miss understand this though – the trap bar deadlift still gives your glutes and hamstrings a great workout!
So why would you want to do that?...
Barbell deadlifts put a fair amount of force through the lumbar spine. Because the weight is in front of the body, we essentially use the hips as a pivot and the back as a crowbar. For many people, that’s OK (provided they lift with good form). For some people, like me – that’s not OK.
I have a dodgy back (scoliosis, bulging discs, worn facet joint and sensitive nerves). I need to be careful. I’ve come to the conclusion that traditional barbell deadlifts are not for me. I’ve smashed my back too many times. But I LOVE deadlifts….this is where the trap bar comes in.
Being ‘inside’ the bar, the weight is closer to your centre of gravity. This means the lever of the ‘crow bar’ is shorter – so there is much less sheer force on the spine. Perfect if you want to train glutes, hamstrings, and low back, without quite as much risk.
Beginners generally take at least a few sessions to get the hang of barbell deadlift form. Some people will require a great deal of coaching and will struggle with the mobility required for this movement, and the challenge of maintaining a good position throughout the lift.
With the trap bar, the movement is much less technical. It’s easier to get into a good position with an upright torso and a flat back. The bar doesn’t scrape your shins, your knees come further forward and your hips can sit lower.
Have you ever seen that person in the gym who gets to the top of a barbell deadlift, and then bends their back backwards? Don’t be that guy! That person knows they should contract their glutes at the top of the lift, but they overdo it and hyperextend the spine, which is just asking for injury.
With the trap bar dead, the barbell isn’t in front of your hips, so there is no counterbalance to hyperextend against or push off.
When we deadlift, it’s important to have a flat back. As the load gets heavier and we fatigue, your spine can round. Your body starts shifting the load onto other muscles as the hips get tired. With the trap bar, your knees can move forward, so your quads, rather than your back, naturally take some of the load away from the hips.
Trap bar deadlifts develop the glutes, hamstrings and back. The main benefit is that they put less stress on the lumbar spine than barbell deadlifts which is important for people with back issues. They require less technical proficiency than barbell deadlifts and are easier to learn. Finally, they are more flexible than barbell deadlifts – by changing your position you can change whether the lift has a greater effect on the quads, or the hips/glutes.
From a risk vs reward perspective, I really like trap bar deadlifts. They give plenty of bang for the buck, with a lower risk of injury. Give trap bar deadlifts a try!
If you want to really mix things up - you can try thick bar trap bar deadlifts. Just slap a set of Beast Grips onto the handles and take your training to the next level.
BEAST YOUR GOALS
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