The hexagonal (also know as the Trap Bar) deadlift is a widely studied barbell strength and power movement used across various sports to bring about increases in power, strength, and muscular hypertrophy. Often seen in bodybuilding, “formal”/traditional strength and conditioning, and some powerlifting settings, the trap bar deadlift (TBD) may offer CrossFitters, weightlifters, and fitness athletes a viable training alternative/variation to more traditional back squats and conventional straight bar deadlifts (SBD) when looking to increase muscle mass, minimize lumbar stress, or to simply increase power and strength.
In this article, we will discuss the scientific findings that may in fact prompt you to seek out a Trap Bar and mix it into your current training routine.
The Trap Bar Deadlift can be used during a training phase to promote power, strength, and muscular hypertrophy. Coaches and athletes should determine their intended training objective to fully understand the practical application of this training tool.
Research has shown the Trap Bar Deadlift significantly decreased the amount of loading at the spine, shifting it to the knees and hip, creating a greater benefit of quadricep, hamstring, and glute development while minimizing lumbar stress. The ability to further isolate muscle groups using this variation (balanced quadricep and hip activation) can merit this deadlift variation as a great training tool to assist in muscular development of the lower body. Additionally, the decreased spinal stress allows lifters to increase training volume and train to greater levels of muscular fatigue in the legs, creating a hypertrophic environment while minimizing low back injury risks in comparison to the straight bar deadlift.
Due to the biomechanical differences between the trap bar deadlift vs. the standard deadlift, the trap bar version has been shown to induce less spinal stress than the standard. In the trap bar deadlift, the bar is much closer to the lifter (horizontal distance between the barbell and the midfoot), decreasing horizontal displacement of the load by 75% when compared to the straight bar deadlift.
Analysis of loads lifted by weightlifters and powerlifters has shown that athletes can lift significantly heavier loads using trap bars vs. straight barbells. The ability to systematically overload the body has been show to promote positive neuromuscular adaptation adaptation and muscular strength, making this a highly valuable training option in strength and power athletes looking to maximize performance.
Enhanced Power Production
Similar to barbell jumping squats, coaches and athletes can program trap bar deadlift jumps to promote power and explosiveness. This is a great variation with athletes who may struggle with maintaining an upright positioning in the squat due to lack of experience, injury, or mobility. Furthermore, researchers found that when used in power training, the trap bar deadlift had similar peak power outputs as that of the power clean, making the TBD a great alternative to increase explosiveness, power output, vertical jumping ability, and athleticism.
Aside from the reasons above, the trap bar deadlift is a great training tool for beginners to build muscle mass, promote strength and power, and minimize training risks and injury. Due to the alignment and biomechanical loading patterns of the trap bar, beginners may be able to learn quicker than more advanced than SBD and Olympic lifts.
Mark Bell and Jessie Burdick discus and demo how to perform the trap bar deadlift.
The trap bar deadlift can be an effective training tool for functional fitness, weightlifting, and powerlifting athletes throughout the training year. When used in conjunction with squats, Olympic lifts, and other sport-specific movements, the trap bar deadlift can further promote optimal muscular development, strength, power, and explosiveness.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Featured Image: Mike Dewar