Benefits of the Trap Bar Deadlift

 The gym can be a very intimidating place for some people.  All these strange machines, bars, and cable attachments and knowing how to correctly use them without feeling judged can cause some people to miss out on great exercises that their body could use to feel and move better.
One piece of equipment  is the Trap Bar or also called the Hex Bar.
It Looks fairly simple, but I do not see to many people using it, in comparison to a straight bar.
I am writing this post to educate and explain why this is a great piece of equipment and may be especially good for you who may have specific issues to address.
The benefits to using the Trap bar over the traditional straight bar for deadlifts and squats are:
1.  Less Stress on the Spine
When using the straight bar, the weight is loaded away from the axis of rotation (the hips) causing the lumbar spine to be used like a crow bar in order to move the weight.  This results on a lot of pressure put on the lumbar spine.  The amount of weight you lift is determined by how much your spinal erectors can hold, (i.e. resisting flexion) rather than how much force your legs can produce.  Without proper form or use of weight belt, the lower back will pay for any mistakes.  By stepping inside the trap bar, the long lever is shortened along a horizontal axis, reducing sheer force on the spine.
2.  More power
Research by Swinton et al., determined that the trap bar deadlift was a more efficient exercise for building maximum power, compared to the straight bar deadlift.  According to the authors, significantly greater levels of peak force, velocity, and power were produced with the trap bar compared to the straight bar across a range of submaximal loads. Since power is a measure of an object’s force times its velocity, this means the hex deadlift allows you to lift more weight, over a greater distance, faster.
3. Good for beginners
By standing in the middle of the bar, it helps beginners correct their form, compared to the forward grip of using a straight bar, that requires a lot of upfront coaching and mobility work. Especially with the majority of the population already having a forward, rounded posture. That’s where the trap bar comes in so handy. Its configuration leads to a much more upright torso position, allowing you to “sit” into the movement with far fewer technical requirements than a traditional straight bar deadlift. It also allows the knees to move more forward and the hips to sit lower than normal, avoiding the bar scraping your shins at the bottom of the movement. One benefit to using the straight bar is, at the end of the movement with hip lockout, the bar tells you when you are there because it comes up against the front of the legs, preventing any lumbar extension. With a Trap bar, that does not happen, but can easily be coached, when getting to the sticking point.
It can be used for more than just deadlifts too.

It can be used for more than just deadlifts too.

Proper Execution
To setup for the trap bar deadlift, first step inside the perimeter of the bar, making sure your feet are positioned equidistant between the front and back of the bar.  Grip the handles tightly on either side so that your middle finger is in horizontal alignment with the front of your shin, while rotating the insides of your elbows forward. This will help to pick up any slack at the shoulder capsule.  Squat your hips down with an arch in your back.  Once in position, stand up by driving your feet into the ground, straightening your legs, and thrusting your hips forward. As you approach the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes together and brace your abdominals to finish the movement.

Should you abandon the straight bar deadlift altogether?

It depends on your goal. If you’re concerned about the risk of lower back injury, the trap bar is a safer choice. However, if you’re trying to achieve maximum back extensor and hamstring recruitment, then the straight bar is the better option.  You can also use either to compliment your lifting with assistance lifts.  Meaning, If you do your heavy lifting with a straight bar, do some assisting lifts with the trap bar and vise versa.

I hoped this information has helped you introduce a new or safer component to your lifting program.

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About The Author

Kevin Fulton

Kevin Fulton is personal trainer in Pittsburgh, PA. His goal is to help his clients look, feel, and move better. In his spare time you can find him under a barbell or practicing jiu jitsu.

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