Can doing trap bar deadlifts make you better looking? Maybe, maybe not. But it will definitely get you stronger. Here are 7 benefits to unleashing the trap bar on your workouts.
The trap/hex bar deadlift is one of my favorite all-time exercises.
A compound movement that targets your legs, hips, and lower back, trap bar deadlifts are a variation of a staple of every strength training program on the planet, the almighty deadlift.
Although the trap bar is one of the last specialty bars that home-based lifters will use (and it’s almost always collecting dust at my local gyms), the trap bar is bottled excellence.
Compared to your standard Olympic barbell, the trap bar can help you lift safer, develop more power, and even make you moderately better looking.
All ha-ha’s aside, here are some reasons you should become more acquainted with your neighborhood trap bar.
Let’s jump right in.
Benefits of the Trap Bar Deadlift
1. Ideal for taller lifters.
Taller athletes and gymgoers (6’ and up) are often at a mechanical disadvantage when trying to perform conventional deadlifts.
Lee Boyce, a strength coach based out of Toronto, notes that the leverages are not in the favor of tall people when deadlifting.
“If you’ve got long legs, a short torso, and less than fantastic mobility, you’ll inevitably be putting your upper body behind the bar, which is not an optimal position for pulling strength,” he notes.
One of the best parts about trap bars are handles at variable heights. Tall people, when pulling from regular bar height, can feel like they are doing a deficit pull, especially when they don’t have the mobility to get down that low.
If you have lousy mobility or you are tall, a trap bar can be a much safer way to get your deadlifts in.
2. The weight is centered in the body.
When using the trap bar, the weight is generally going up and down in-line with your body. It’s not in front of you. For newbie lifters, or lifters who lack lumbar stability, this encourages a better technical lift.
In regular deadlifting, the weight is in front of the body. Improper technique places too much sheer force on the lumbar spine.
Because you are “stepping inside” the weight—instead of having it out in front of you—greater emphasis is placed on the hip pivot. You sit back at the bottom of the lift instead of leaning forward and trying to pick the weight up with your back.
For functional strength and those who tend to lift with their backs and not their hips, trap bars are excellent.
Traps bars are great for taller lifters.
3. A neutral lock-out.
Often I will see deadlifters hyper-extend their back at the top of the lift.
This is done as a way to counter-balance the weight in front of them. Although it might feel satisfying to lock-out this way, this isn’t a safe position to put yourself in.
Using a hex bar nixes this in the bud—at the top of the lift you remain vertical and neutral instead of trying to counter-balance the weight in front of you.
4. A neutral grip on the bar.
Personally, the neutral grip has always been my favorite part of trap bars.
Years of competitive swimming have given me, shall we say, somewhat delicate shoulders, and I have found that if I want to do heavy weight for deadlifts, I can only really do it with a neutral grip (and two heaping spoonfuls of pre-workout, obviously).
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The internally rotated shoulders grip with mixed or underhand grip is simply not possible for me. The neutral grip means I can focus on using my hips, glutes and back to hook the bar into the air instead of feeling my shoulders and biceps look at my with panicked eyes.
Neutral and angled grips more closely resemble “normal” patterns and are typically more comfortable.
5. Unleash more power.
For athletes, the trap bar deadlift is especially critical as you can recruit more power doing this exercise versus regular deadlifts.
One paper  took a group of twenty well-trained men and had them perform 1RM tests on both a barbell and hex bar. Maximal force, power, and velocity were all higher on the hex bar.
When you consider that this form of deadlifting is typically safer and produces more power, this exercise quickly becomes an essential tool in the athlete’s training arsenal.
6. Less threatening for beginners.
The scraped shins, torn biceps, the hyper-extended lockouts—for the average gymgoer, seeing this play out can dissuade them from wanting to deadlifts.
The trap bar solves a lot of those barriers. It also shortens the learning curve for deadlift form.
Deadlifts, despite their simple-looking technique, take time and coaching to properly master.
A trap bar is a great transitional tool to straight-bar deadlifts as your hips can sit lower, your shins aren’t getting shaved by the bar, and you can get a better sense of how the lift should be performed.
7. Trap bars are wildly versatile.
Even though we tend to view the barbell as the be-all and end-all for heavy lifts in the gym, the trap bar is just as versatile as it’s straight-laced brethren.
Stuff you can do with a trap bar includes doing overhead press (with a neutral grip woopwoop), farmer’s walks, floor presses, split squats, and so on.
The barbell will always get the most attention, but the trap bar is sneaky-sneaky with how functional it can be.
Trap Bar Benefits – FAQ
Can you lift more with a trap bar?
Yes! You can lift more with a trap bar compared to a barbell on deadlifts because the weight is closer to your center of gravity and you are in a biomechanically superior position.
During the hex deadlift there is reduced peak activation in the spine, hip and ankle, and more peak power coming from the knee1.
Additionally, when you use high handles on a trap bar you are performing what is basically a rack or partial deadlift. The shorter range of motion allows for higher loads.
Is trap bar deadlift better for athletes?
I recommend trap bar deadlifts to athletes because the movement is easier to learn, it’s highly adaptable (short and tall handles), and there is less sheer force on the spine.
This is important for athletes who spend a lot of time training and don’t make weightlifting their primary training activity (like powerlifters, for example, who specifically train deadlifts to be awesome at deadlifts).
Above that, trap bar deadlifts transfer well to athletic performance because the exercise generates more power2 compared to barbell deadlifts.
More power translates to higher jumping ability, faster running, and more explosiveness off the blocks or on the court.
Are trap bar deadlifts easier?
Trap bar deadlifts can feel easier because there is less load on the spine3. For many lifters, especially those with shaky technique, this is the big weak spot in their deadlift.
With a trap bar deadlift, the weight is spread out “around” the body instead of in front of it, which can make the exercise feel easier.
Does trap bar deadlift increase vertical?
Trap bar jumps (load the bar with a couple of light plates and perform a loaded squat jump) have been shown to increase vertical jumping ability.
One study4 looked at the effects of ten weeks of loaded trap bar jumps and clean pulls and found that both exercises were as effective for increasing vertical jumping, with improvements of 4cm each.
But this is looking at trap bar jumps, not trap bar deadlifts.
At the end of the day, trap bar deadlifts are a piece of the strength training puzzle, and while there are some loose associations between maximum force (strength) and power output (explosiveness), they don’t perfectly predict one another.
Using a trap bar at home
With a lot of gyms closed, more and more athletes are turning to pimping out their own home gyms.
One of the bright spots of COVID has been the explosion in home fitness gear. More competition has resulted in decreased prices for commercial-grade fitness equipment for the home user.
And that includes picking up a killer trap bar for deadlifting.
Here is a quick list of my favorite trap bars for home gyms (👈 check out my comprehensive buyer’s guide if you want more info on these bars and more).
- Rogue TB-2. This is my go-to trap bar at home. Raised handles, long sleeves (16” total), and Rogue’s patented black powder-coat earns top marks and top performance.
- CAP Barbell Olympic Trap Bar. This bad boy has the basics dialed in: dual handles, rated for up to 500-pounds of plates, and available in a few different colors to look all shiny and pretty in your home gym.
- Everyday Essentials Hex Bar. No frills, made of heavy-duty steel, has dual handles, and rated for up to 1,000-lbs. Affordably priced. Enough said.
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