How to Do the Trap Bar Dead-Lift

No exercise works as much muscle as the dead-lift. This can lead to a powerful indirect effect. It has qualities of both a squat and a pull. As a total body movement, trainees may struggle to find a place for it in their program. This occurs as it does not cleanly fit into any sort of split routine. It can lead to tremendous overall fatigue as well.

The barbell squat ranks as the best lower body exercise. If you can squat, then I would suggest you do not need the deadlift. Nonetheless, it relies on maintaining a tough position to hold the barbell in place. This position can harm the shoulders, elbows, and wrists of some trainees. The dead-lift, performed with a trap bar, can achieve a similar effect without this risk. It combines properties of both a barbell squat and a barbell dead-lift.

The dead-lift works the hip, thigh, and leg regions. Joint motions include hip extension, knee extension, and plantarflexion. Both the upper and lower back work intensely to stabilize. The core muscles contract without movement along with many other muscles. You can select this as your squat movement. Only three movements are needed for resistance training. Although often described as a pulling movement, it really acts more as a squat with intense back involvement.


You will need a trap bar (hex bar) and weight plates. The trap bar comes shaped as a hexagon or diamond. It allows the user to stand inside the perimeter rather than have the resistance in front of your body. This gives a center of gravity that distributes the load better. The trap bar has some advantages over the barbell squat. The bar lies beneath the body rather than on the upper back. The floor provides an endpoint for safety. This requires no extra equipment. This serves as a great option of those lacking a power rack for squats.


The barbell dead-lift serves as one of the three core lifts for powerlifting. The barbell version undoubtedly stimulates the posterior chain muscles. The trap bar is safer though. Arguments opposing the trap bar come from those adhering to tradition. Performing the motion with a barbell focuses on the hip extensors.  This leads to an unbalanced stress.  It neglects the knee extensors of the thigh. It neglects the plantarflexion muscles of the leg. The legs hinder the path of the barbell. This all can threaten the lower back.

Therefore, I suggest solely on the trap bar version. The trap bar version involves the quadriceps, calf, and abdominal muscles to a much greater degree. This allows it to serve as a complete lower body movement.

The trap bar, especially with heavy weights, can feel difficult to remain balanced, especially when fully erect. Overcoming this requires discipline to keep the initial body and grip mechanics. The motion will not feel identical to the squat. Finding the ideal path seems harder compared with the squat. The risk of rounding the lower back feels greater. Without proper form, the hip and lower back muscles will receive the brunt of the work. The grip strength can limit the weight used, although chalk will usually help enough. The exercise in general feels less flexible for individual mechanics compared with the squat.


Trap Bar deadlifts are one of the very best exercises you can do. The Trap Bar permits you to train deadlifts harder, safer and much more productively than does an ordinary bar.

 – Ken Leistner

Most trainees will pick a narrower stance for a dead-lift versus a squat. The feet should still place closely to shoulder-width apart at the heels. The toes should point outward between 10-30°. This angle increases with a wider stance. Toes pointed straight can harm hip extension and irritate the knees. Much closer than the width of the hips sacrifices stability, limits range of motion, and prevents the inner thigh muscles from playing a role. Excessive width tightens the hips and prevents a smooth range of motion. While the base of support improves with a wider stance, you lose a balanced stress and a smooth motion. Choose a standard, medium stance.

The diameter of the plates affects the range of motion. Using 45 lb. plates usually allows the right range of motion for most trainees. You may require a block within the trap bar to stand on for more range of motion. You should aim to slightly surpass a 90° angle at the knee at the bottom. The hips still remain higher than the knees, unlike a squat. Any further for a dead-lift will usually round the lower back. It also serves no additional purpose. Achieving the range of motion expected for a squat will feel unattainable.

Step inside the bar. The elbows should feel near full extension. You will have to use a neutral grip to grasp the bar. The trap bar does not allow any variance in grip. Grip the parallel handles on each side. Your hand should reside near your shin. Grip roughly in the middle of each handle. Use chalk if available to enhance grip. Wrap the thumb around the bar. Squeeze tightly.

Stick out the chest. Pull back the shoulder blades. Keep this for the entire movement. This helps to prevent rounding of the low back. It also balances the stress for all the muscles. The eyes should focus straight ahead. Never look toward the ceiling. The neck should feel in a comfortable position. Do not tuck the chin or rotate the head. Pick a point to keep your eyes focused on during the movement. Using a mirror can harm coordination. This can lead to an imbalance. Rely instead on feel when learning the dead-lift. Do not dead-lift with your face too close to a wall or other object. This harms coordination.

Abdominal bracing occurs naturally during a dead-lift. Abdominal hollowing is an unnatural activity. This increases the risk of injury. Do not suck in the stomach.


Lifting (Positive) Phase:

Keep a good posture. Get the hips down. Keep the chest up. Any inflexibility of the hamstrings and hip muscles can lead to rounding of the lower back. Do not allow the heels to leave the floor. Tight calves can make it impossible to keep your heels on the floor. Make sure all the lower body muscles feel loose enough. Use a warm-up. Stretch if necessary.

Take in a deep breath before lifting. Hold it until reaching the top. You can also hold it until the weight reaches the floor again. This protects the spine by providing support created by a column of air. This benefit makes up for any blood pressure increase for nearly all trainees. The weight should feel distributed across the foot. Do not push through the heels only. The heel drive advice only serves as a teaching point. It helps to prevent you from leaning forward. Push through the whole foot instead.

Focus on driving the hips forward as you lift. Do not jerk the bar off the ground. Pull steadily. Do not confuse hip extension with spinal flexion. Using your hips does not mean the lower back has rounded. Since the lower back attaches to the hips, trainees often fail to notice a difference. This makes them try to keep a vertical torso. This does not represent the correct way to dead-lift.

Keep the weight moving in a straight line. Do not tip forward. Once again, keep the chest up. Imagine pulling the weight from the floor, even though the legs will drive the movement. This encourages upper back tightness. The knees should not travel much beyond the toes. The knees should never twist inward. Prevent this by shoving the knees outward. Attempt to spread the floor. Spreading the floor also encourages hip and inner thigh activation and tightness.

You will achieve the range of motion automatically since you begin from the floor. The hips should remain much lower than your shoulders. Avoid the tendency to limit the quadriceps involvement by keeping your hips too high and away from your body. This occurs when you fail to keep your chest up. This forces hip extension to dominate the movement. It rounds the lower back. This ignores the strength of the muscles attached to the knee and ankle. The phase ends when you stand with the knees near or at full extension. Either standard works fine. Keep the core and legs tight at the top. Some instability can occur here.

Lowering (Negative) Phase:

The same mechanics apply as the lifting phase. Performing the lowering phase with a barbell often involves a much quicker negative. The better weight distribution for the trap bar version allows a smoother descent.

You can minimize time spent back on the floor by using the rebound to quickly remove you from a position of weakness. Avoid excessive bouncing out of the bottom position. Performing the bounce too aggressively will make you lose your tightness. Make a fast but smooth transition. This method is referred to as a touch-and-go style.

Setting down the barbell in-between repetitions allows a brief rest and time to maintain the proper position, but prevents the stretch reflex. This refers to a dead-stop style, and explains how the dead-lift received its name. Make sure during the pause that you keep the proper position and tightness. This must happen each time you set the weight back on the floor. Do not let go of the bar. This encourages you to change positioning. Do whichever method allows you to feel safest.


Rest the bar and plates against the floor. Since negative strength remains greater than positive strength, you should be able to set down the bar carefully. The inability to lift the weight gives no valid excuse.

The Trap Bar Dead-Lift

The trap bar has its own advantages and disadvantages. It can cover the entire lower body. It stimulates lots of muscle. Choose either the barbell squat or this trap bar dead-lift as your major lower body movement.

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