How to Use Trap Bar Deadlifts to Build Total-Body Strength

The Trap Bar Deadlift is a full-body exercise that targets the hips and legs. It's a variation of the traditional Deadlift that uses a trap bar, which is a hexagon-shaped bar that surrounds the lifter.

It's widely considered one of the best exercises for developing total-body strength, building a larger back and traps, and improving explosive power for athletic performance.

Here's everything you need to know about Trap Bar Deadlifts to perform the move correctly and add it to your workouts.

How to Do Trap Bar Deadlifts

Step 1: Stand in the center of a trap bar with your feet hip-width apart.  Bend your hips and knees, reach down and grasp the handles of the trap bar.

Step 2: From this position, sit your hips back so you feel tension in your hamstrings. Pull your shoulders down and back, stick your chest up and flatten your back. Tuck your chin and focus your eyes about 20 feet in front of you.

Trap Bar Deadlift starting position

Step 3: Take a deep breath in and tighten your core as if bracing for a punch.

Step 4: Explosively stand up by straightening your hips and then your knees. Keep your back flat and core tight. Tighten your glutes at the top of the rep.

Trap Bar Deadlift top position

Step 5: Lower the trap bar to the ground in control and set up for the next rep.

Should I use the handles?

The most common model of trap bar has a set of handles that are a few inches above the height of a traditional barbell. This is ideal for taller athletes who might have trouble using proper form from the ground. You can consider using the handles if you're 6-foot-2 or taller.

Trap Bar Deadlift Mistakes 

Mistake 1: You round your back

The most common mistake athletes make on the Deadlift is rounding their back—although Trap Bar Deadlifts tend to be easier on the back than other variations (more on this below). Some rounding in the upper back is OK, but it becomes a problem when the lower back rounds or when the entire back looks like a boomerang as it often does with inexperienced lifters. This puts significant stress on your spine and can cause an injury such as a herniated disc.

Back rounding is usually the result of one or more issues:

1. A poor setup. Make sure your back is flat; imagine trying to squeeze a softball under your armpits to engage your lats and brace your core as if you're about to take a punch.

2. Lack of core strength. Put simply, you need to build a stronger core. Our 27 Best Core Exercises for Athletes is a great place to start.

3. Lack of back strength. Your lats and other back muscles need to be strong to support heavy Deadlifts. Some of the best exercises to strengthen these muscles for the Deadlift are Dumbbell Rows, Barbell Rows, Pull-Ups, Snatch-Grip Deadlifts and Good Mornings.

4. The weight is too heavy. Back off the weight until you can perform the lift with perfect form.

Mistake 2: Your hips rise up too fast

You will often see a lifter's hips shoot straight up because they straighten their knees before starting to extend their hips. This puts you in a tough position that makes it difficult to lift heavy weight and maintain form.

To fix this, focus on extending your hips first. Imagine that a cylinder is around your body and your head should be the first thing that comes out of it.

Mistake 3: You lean back at the top of the rep 

Many lifters lean back excessively at the top of the rep because they think this is the best way to finish the lift and target their glutes—it's more common with the Barbell Deadlift but it still applies here. This just puts stress on your spine and is pointless. Stand up straight and tighten your butt at the top of the rep. There's no need to lean back. 

Mistake 4: The bar tilts as you lift it off the ground 

You're ready for your lift, set up properly and feel confident that you can pull the weight you selected off the ground. You start the lift, and then the trap bar tilts awkwardly forward and ruins your rep. 

This is an incredibly frustrating mistake, but it's an easy fix. Simply put the weight down, recenter your grip on the handles and try again. Odds are this will take care of the issue. If not, your grip might not be up to snuff, so it's time to prioritize grip strength in your workouts.

The Benefits of Trap Bar Deadlifts 

It Builds Full-Body Strength

The Trap Bar Deadlift is considered one of the best total-body exercises in existence. The primary target is your lower body, however simply holding a heavy bar in your hands makes it a potent upper-body and core developer. In terms of an exercise, there aren't many exercises more effective than picking up heavy things and putting them down.

"The nice thing about Trap Bar Deadlifts is that you can get Squat mechanics with Deadlift benefits," says Michael Boyle, co-founder of Michael Boyle Strength and Conditioning. "The Trap Bar Deadlift for us is our No. 1 bilateral exercise."

It's Easier on Your Back 

The trap bar shifts the weight next to your body in line with your center of gravity, whereas the weight is in front of you when holding a traditional barbell. This allows you to pull the weight straight up vertically, which puts less stress on your back.

It's Highly Transferable to Sports Performance

A study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that subjects were able to produce more power during a Trap Bar Deadlift than a Barbell Deadlift when lifting at 65- and 85-percent of their max.

Power is the lifeblood of successful athletes. It allows them to exert high levels of strength in short periods of time, which is the foundation of virtually every sports skill, including sprinting, jumping and throwing a ball. Put simply, athletes who are powerful tend to be better athletes

Trap Bar Deadlift Muscles Worked

 As mentioned above, the Trap Bar Deadlift is a full-body move. It strengthens and builds the glutes, hamstrings, quads, low-back muscles, lats, traps and your grip, among many other muscles.

Trap Bar Deadlift Alternatives and Variations

Trap Bar Rack Pulls

Rack Pulls elevate the weight on a rack (hence the name) or blocks. This allows you to pull more weight to strengthen the top half of your Deadlift and is easier on your back.

Trap Bar Resisted Deadlift

Simply place a band under your feet and attach it to each side of the trap bar to challenge your muscles through the entire range of motion.

Trap Bar RDL

RDLs are a variation of Deadlifts

Trap Bar Workouts

Here are a few ways you can use Trap Bar Deadlifts in your workouts.

Trap Bar Deadlift for Strength

1) Trap Bar Deadlift - 5x3

Trap Bar Deadlift for Explosive Power

1a) Trap Bar Deadlift - 5x3

1b) Squat Jumps - 5x4

Workout With Trap Bar Deadlifts

1) Med Ball Overhead Throws: 4x3

2A) Trap Bar Deadlift - 5x3

2B) Straight-Arm Pulldown - 5x5

3A) Dumbbell Press - 4x8

3B) Single-Arm Dumbbell Row - 4x8 each arm

4A) Step-Ups - 3x10 each leg

4B) Bent-Over Lateral Raises - 3x20

5) Suitcase Carries - 4x20 yards each side

6) Optional: Biceps and Triceps

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Topics: DEADLIFT | BUILD MUSCLE | RDL | BARBELL | TRAP BAR DEADLIFT | WHOLE BODY