Trap bar deadlifts are awesome. They’re a deadlift variation that can be great for everyone and can be useful for lifters wanting to pack on mass and improve their strength and power.
I regularly program trap bar deadlifts for myself and my clients. I love this exercise because can typically be performed at higher volumes and trap bar deadlifts are great for beginners wanting to build their total body strength.
In my trap bar deadlift guide, I’ll cover how to properly perform reps, discuss some benefits of trap bar deadlifts, and highlight what muscles they work.
The trap bar deadlift is an awesome exercise for improving your power and strength. You get a lot of versatility with the trap bar deadlift and it tends to be a little more beginner-friendly compared to barbell deadlifts.
Nail your setup
When setting up for trap bar deadlifts, you’ll want to assume a stance around hip-width apart. This can vary from lifter to lifter based on comfort preferences and anatomy.
As you bend down to grab the middle of the handles of the trap bar, think about bending at the knees and hips evenly to a point where you can grab the bar while creating good full-body tension through the trap bar and the floor.
Your knee and hip flexion will depend on your limb lengths, height, and the type of handles you’re using with your trap bar.
Brace and press through the floor
Once you’ve properly set up, you’ll then brace and create full-body accordingly for the weight and intensity you’re using and drive the feet through the floor. If you’re using heavier loads, then you’ll need a more rigid brace versus doing high-volume sets.
Think about bracing the body by creating tension through the trap and floor to ensure you have the most stability possible so you can more efficiently produce power.
Lockout and squeeze the quads and glutes
As you lock out your trap bar deadlift rep, think about squeezing the quads and glutes. I like this cue because it signals when the hips and knees have hit full extension and when you should continue on with your reps.
When locking out your reps, make sure you’re not overextending at the torso creating a pseudo-lockout position. Think quads and glutes, then let the torso simply follow suit and move based on your trap bar mechanics.
Break at the hips and knees
After you lock out your rep, you’ll then break at the hips and knees simultaneously to lower the weight. As a rule of thumb, you want the trap bar landing in the same area that it started in.
Everyone’s timing will vary slightly so you may need to experiment with what works best for you. If you’re ending up in the same place you started in then you’re likely pretty on point with your eccentric sequencing.
Trap Bar Deadlift Benefits
There are a ton of benefits that come along with the trap bar deadlift. Whether you’re new to trap bar deadlifts or regularly use them, here are some of my favorite trap bar deadlift benefits to keep in mind.
1. Great for Pretty Much Everyone
The first and arguably best trap bar deadlift benefit is that it’s a deadlift variation that can be great for pretty much anyone. The trap bar deadlift could best be described as a blend of a squat and a deadlift from a mechanics point of view.
Since the arms are to the side in the trap bar deadlift, you don’t have to worry about clearing the knees which gives the trap bar deadlift a little more of a squatty feeling compared to a barbell deadlift.
With the trap bar deadlift, you’ll get more quad involvement which is great for anyone wanting to build their pulling strength and legs simultaneously as you’ll still get a lot of hamstrings and glutes as you lock out reps and move through hip extension.
Whether you’re a gym newbie or a weathered lifter, the trap bar deadlift can be an awesome exercise for building strength, and power, and it can be useful for packing on mass in the legs, glutes, and upper back.
2. Awesome Exercise for Beginners
Compared to other barbell compound lifts, the trap bar deadlift can be a little more beginner-friendly. From a movement mechanics context, the trap bar deadlift tends to be less technical.
For example, the barbell deadlift tends to need a little more fine-tuning when optimizing form and pushing higher intensities whereas trap bar deadlifts need less finessing overall.
Since the arms are by the sides of the body, it can be easier for lifters to set and brace for trap bar deadlifts to maintain good form without doing things like shooting the hips up or losing balance during reps.
Trap bar deadlifts can also typically be performed for higher volumes which are also great for beginners wanting more reps and exposure to lifting and pulling heavier weights.
3. Easy Exercise to Modify
Another trap bar deadlift benefit that is often slept-on is how versatile a trap bar can be. By manipulating knee and hip angles you can easily shift your focus and intent with trap bar deadlifts.
For example, if you wanted to get more of a quad and lower body bias, then you can opt for a low-handle trap bar deadlift, and if you wanted a posterior bias then you could bring the hips higher and perform trap bar RDLs or stiff-leg trap bar deadlifts.
If you’re new to lifting, then learning how to manipulate your body position for specific outcomes can be a critical skill to develop and sharpen. The trap bar can be an awesome tool for helping you do this.
4. Killer Trap and Forearm Builder
The trap bar deadlift can be great for building the trap and forearms when used in the right context. In general, you’ll perform trap bar deadlifts for the glutes, legs, and back, however, these are not the only muscles that will reap benefits from this exercise.
If you’re performing heavier sets at higher volumes, then you’ll find that your forearms and traps get an awesome workout as well. The forearms help you balance the trap bar and keep your grip secure while the traps help to stabilize the bar and prevent sway during reps.
While you wouldn’t necessarily use trap bar deadlifts for isolated trap and forearm development they can be a great exercise for passively building these muscle groups.
5. Good Option for Working Around Injuries
If you’re battling an injury, and more specifically a back injury that tends to get aggravated by barbell deadlifts then trap bar deadlifts can be a good variation and option to explore.
The trap bar deadlift tends to put a little less strain on the back as it doesn’t pull you forward as much as a barbell deadlift. This can be great for lifters that are working around a back injury but still want to lift and push heavier weights.
Note, injuries are individual, and trap bar deadlifts are not a definitive, “Going to work exercise for every context,” when training around injuries, however, they can often be a better bet for those who want to train with heavy loads and limit stress on the back.
Trap Bar Deadlift Muscles Worked
The trap bar deadlift will work a lot of similar muscles to a barbell deadlift but with a few key differences. It’s important to remember that the muscles used in the trap bar deadlift will vary and ebb and flow depending on how you’re performing them.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to cover what muscles the high-handle trap bar deadlift work below.
Trap Bar Deadlift Muscles Worked
*bolded indicates a higher degree of involvement
Coaching Note: Your anatomy can also influence “how much” certain muscles are working in your trap bar deadlift reps. For example, taller lifters versus short lifters will have different leverages requiring different amounts of effort when completing reps.
Trap Bar Deadlift Mistakes
In the gym, there are two trap bar deadlift mistakes that I see newer lifters make all of the time that hinders progress and gains.
1. Not Centering Their Grip
The first trap bar deadlift mistake is one of the easiest to fix and that’s not centering one’s grip on the handles. If you’re off with your grip then the trap bar is going to tip forward and backward which can negatively impact reps.
Even if your grip is off a little and the forearms have to work harder to stabilize the trap bar you’ll cut into your effort output. A grip that is off can also result in a lack of balanced reps which can also lead to faster fatigue accumulation during sets.
2. Sequencing the Hips and Knees Poorly
Another trap bar deadlift mistake is not sequencing the hips and knees correctly. In practice, this will look like the hips shooting up too quickly during the lifting portion of the movement or the trap bar shifting during the descent.
Ideally, you want the hips and knees to extend and break at the same time or at least relatively at the same time based on your mechanics and how you perform trap bar deadlift reps.
As a rule of thumb, you can the trap bar to start and finish in pretty much the same position on the ground, and if you notice that your bar is shifting forward or backward throughout your set then you may be breaking at the hips and knees inefficiently.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q:What does trap bar deadlift work?
Q:What is a good trap bar deadlift?
Q:How much does a trap deadlift bar weigh?
The trap bar deadlift is one of my favorite exercises due to its versatility and how awesome it can be for lifters from all walks of life. You can perform trap bar deadlifts for strength and power, and they can be great for packing on mass.
If you’re new to lifting, then I’d highly suggest familiarizing yourself with trap bar deadlifts and playing with different trap bar variations to bias different muscles and goals.
If you have additional questions about trap bar deadlifts, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).