One common variation of the conventional deadlift seen in many gyms and athletic facilities is the trap bar deadlift. This deadlift variation offers coaches and athletes a slew of benefits to fit a variety of needs and abilities, ranging from training beginners, decreasing lumbar stress, increasing hypertrophy, supramaximal loading pulling capacities, and more.
In this article, we are going to deeply discuss the benefits, muscles worked, tips on how to pull more weight, and how to do it safely. Let’s get started!
Trap Bar Deadlift Benefits
Here is a brief overview of the benefits coaches and athletes can expect from trap bar deadlifts.
- Develop glutes, hamstring, and back strength
- Pattern positional strength specific to cleans and snatches
- Enhance posterior activation and patterning that directly correlates with deadlifting, squatting, jumping, and most pulling movements.
- Increase muscular hypertrophy of the hamstrings, lower back, glutes, and upper back to have directly application to most athletic movements (training, jumping, running, etc)
- Less loading on the lumbar spine due to increase vertical torso in pull, so may be better option for lifters with flexibility issues (hamstrings) or looking to decrease stress on back
- Shorter range of motion than conventional deadlifts (handles are usually higher off the floor), making this a good way to overload pulling strength and maximize glute, quad, and upper back pulling strength.
Trap Bar Deadlift Muscles Worked
Below is a listing of the primary muscles targeted by the Romanian deadlift (in no specific order).
- Gluteus Maximus
- Spinal Erectors (lower back muscles)
- Trapezius and Middle Back
Trap Bar Deadlift Tutorial
Below is a video tutorial by Mark Watts on how to properly perform the trap bar deadlift.
Please note that this exercise can be done not only for maximal strength, but muscular hypertrophy (increased volume and reps with decreased load) and even for explosiveness and power (lighter loads, faster reps, often with jumps).
Trap Bar Deadlift Tips
Below are three quick and efficient tips to help beginners and more advanced lifters lift more weight and do it safely.
#1: Load the Hips Like a Squat
Unlike the conventional deadlift variation, the trap bar deadlift allows a lifter to stay in a more upright loaded position at the start, very similar to a clean pull and/or squat positioning. Due to the increased knee flexion and vertical torso, the lifter must distribute their weight fully across both the hips and hamstrings, but also the quads and upper back.
When setting up for this lift, lifters may want to allow for slightly more knee bend, much like they would when descending into the squatting position, only having the hips slightly more up and back. These loading mechanics can help to keep the lifter tighter and more compact in the setup, allowing for a more vertical and upright torso throughout the lift.
[Do you know the real differences between the trap bar deadlift and conventional deadlift? Here they are!]
#2: Fill the Abs, Obliques, and Lower Back with Tension
Like any lift, bracing the entire core and back is the key to stabilizing and protecting the spine. When done properly (especially when paired with tip #1), filling the abs, obliques, and lower back with tension can really help to keep the ribs “stacked” above the pelvis.
Think about bracing hard, and try to keep the pelvis and rib cage aligned over one another, making sure not to “spill” your ribs or pelvis too far back or forward (excessive anterior/posterior pelvic tilt and/or excessive lumbar flexion/extension). This will ensure a rigid, stacked, and braced midsection and back to maximize your lift.
#3: Drive Through the Whole Foot and Heel
While a lifter should always be thinking about staying balanced in the whole foot regardless of the deadlift and/or squatting variation, sometimes people hear deadlift and think about driving through the heels and pulling, rather than an equal pull with the back and hamstrings and push with the quads.
Because of the more upright torso and increased knee flexion in the load, the lifter should be able to drive aggressively through the floor through the midfoot (49% of balance) while still having 51% of their balance in the heel (slight preference for the heels), much like most squats, clean pulls, and regular deadlifts. This will ensure maximal performance via usage of the entire lower body.
The trap bar deadlift is a great alternative to add into most training programs, for nearly every athlete. Whether the goals are to increase pulling strength, add muscle mass, or decrease spinal loading and/or limit range of motion for a specific client/athlete, the trap bar deadlift can be your best friend. As with all lifting variations, they should be used and programmed wisely, and never allowed to sacrifice form for “ego-boosting and back-breaking” loading and or extra reps.
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