Trap Bar Vs Barbell Deadlift (Lifting Technique Comparison)

The deadlift is one of those main compound lifts seen as essential by the bodybuilding community, the powerlifting community, the CrossFit community, and anyone looking to build a rock-solid core with explosive power.

Purists will tell you that you should be doing the barbell deadlift. It's an iconic lift. But are there any benefits to doing it this way? Can you get the same results by using a trap bar?

What Muscles Are Worked?

As we said before, both versions of this compound lift will heavily target your posterior chain. Compound lifts are lifts that target multiple large muscle groups in a single movement. Others include the bench press, the squat, and the military press.

In regards to the standard barbell deadlift, you need to apply a counter-motion as the center of gravity of the bar is forward from you. This means you have to engage a lot of stabilization muscles in your back.

This targets your back in a hardcore way. You will get a lot more posterior chain activation, but the stress levels on your back are very high, which is what makes the barbell deadlift such an injury causer.

The trap bar deadlift, on the other hand, allows for the weight to be central. You are lifting straight upwards instead of backward slightly. This makes the trap bar deadlift heavier on the quads and hamstrings.

Verdict: Trap Bar Deadlifts target your legs more. Barbell Deadlifts target your back more.

Trap Bar Vs Barbell Deadlift

What Grip Do You Use?

  • Overhand Grip 
    The standard grip, the overhand grip, requires you to lift the bar with both palms facing downwards. If you tell someone to lift a bar, this is how they would naturally pick it up without any guidance. This grip works really well for beginners but becomes more difficult when you progress to heavier weights as the grip strength needed becomes very high.
  • Mixed Grip 
    The mixed grip is where you have one hand palm up one hand palm down. This is a grip that you will see a lot of in powerlifting and heavier lifts. It gives more grip strength security, but it can cause you to rotate your body slightly. If you arent aware of this, then it might cause you to lift in a way that is slightly off-balance, causing injury. One way that experienced lifters get over this is to alternate hands between sets.
  • Double Hook Grip 
    The last grip is perhaps the most difficult. It takes some serious practice and can be quite painful for those not used to it. This grip is similar to the overhand grip, but you hook your thumbs under your fingers so that all of the bar weight is resting on your thumbs.
  • Trap Bar Deadlift Grip 
    With the trap bar, you will only be able to use one type of grip as the handles are located in such a way that you only have one choice. You may find holding a trap bar difficult at first due to the unusual position and wide grip, but you should find your progress pretty quickly.

Verdict: Barbell deadlifts require a strong grip; start with the standard overhand grip before progressing into one of the more difficult versions. The trap bar deadlift has only one grip but will require you to develop your grip strength.

User Mobility

One of the reasons why people struggle with the traditional barbell deadlift is because they have mobility issues like a tight posterior chain or hip flexors.

Trap bars are much better suited for those with these kinds of problems. The handles are raised, meaning you have to flex less at the hip. They also allow you to live straight upwards instead of back and up.

This is a much easier motion and will allow you to really focus on that mind-muscle connection without worrying about injury or tightness.

If you want to become the master of the barbell deadlift, then you will need to make sure you prioritize working on mobility and flexibility. Standard deadlifts require you to be limber and have a perfect form, or you might injure easily.

Verdict: If you have tight muscles in your posterior chain or back, you will be better off sticking to the trap bar. If you have quad injuries or want to powerlift, stick to the traditional deadlift.


Pros & Cons Of The Trap Bar Deadlift

Benefits

  • Can lift heavier weights
  • Perfect for beginners
  • Focus on lifting, not form
  • Quad-blasting perfection
  • Prevents shins scraping on the bar

Downsides

  • Less activation of posterior chain
  • Harder for shorter users
  • Not seen as serious lifts by hardcore lifters

Pros & Cons Of The Barbell Deadlift

Benefits

  • Effective compound lift for hamstrings and back
  • Versatility of grip allows for targeting different muscle groups
  • Used in strongman and powerlifting scene
  • Uses a bar that most home-gym owners already own

Downsides

  • Challenging to perfect
  • Hard for people with mobility issues
  • Shreds the shins and hands-on heavy lifts

Trap Bar Vs. Barbell Deadlift: What Is The Difference?

Steps For Performing The Barbell Deadlift

The barbell deadlift is the original form of the exercise. Typically performed using an Olympic barbell with rubber bumper plates on either side.

  1. 1
    Position yourself with the barbell over the top of your laces and point your feet ever so slightly outwards, roughly hip-width apart.
  2. 2
    Pivot at the hips and reach down to the barbell with both hands.
  3. 3
    Grip the bar in whatever grip you have decided to use.
  4. 4
    Now bend at the knees until your shins touch the bar, then move slightly back.
  5. 5
    Now keep your spine in a neutral position and inhale and hold, stabilizing your core. Also, engage your glutes.
  6. 6
    Now, press down into the floor through your heel and pull the bar off the ground and upwards.
  7. 7
    Press down as hard as possible with your legs until the bar is above your knees.
  8. 8
    Now, push your hips forward and stabilize with the bar off the ground.
  9. 9
    Now do the same movements in reverse until the bars slides down and touches the floor.
  10. 10
    Rinse and Repeat

Steps For Performing The Trap Bar Deadlift

Trap bar deadlifts are named after the specialist bar of the same name. A trap bar has the outer structure of a hexagon with two spindles that can have weight added.

The hex is hollow, meaning you can step into it. This places you on the same mid-line as the weight and allows you to stand straight up during your deadlift.

  1. 1
    The first step is to step into the trap bar and position yourself with your feet hip-width apart. Now you need to bend at the hips and grasp the handles of the trap bar with each hand.
  2. 2
    Now you are in the correct position, you need to sit back onto your hips until you feel the pull of tension up your posterior chain and hamstrings. Once you feel this pull, you need to bring your shoulders back and down as low as they will go. Puff up your chest and tuck your chin in.
  3. 3
    Inhale, and hold, creating strength throughout your core.
  4. 4
    With explosive power, stand straight up. First, straighten your hips, then straighten your knees. Do not curve your back.
  5. 5
    Lower the bar in a controlled manner, and repeat.

Stretching & Strengthening Your Quads (Progress Your Trap Bar Deadlifts!)

Trap bar deadlifts require you to have supple and flexible quads that are primed and ready for the pain to come. Here are some straightforward yet highly effective stretches to do before or after a quad workout. This will help you progress with the trap bar deadlift.

  • Lying Quad Stretch 
    The lying quad stretch is the perfect warm-up for the trap bar deadlift and should be done beforehand
  • Standing Quad Stretch 
    Hold onto an object for stability and pull your foot in towards your hips. Do this for 30 seconds on each side, tilting your pelvis to increase the intensity if necessary.
  • Barbell Front Squats 
    Now you have stretched your quads, let's look at improving the strength of the muscles. Perhaps the best possible workout for this is the barbell front squat.
  • Dumbbell Lunges 
    If you struggle with front squats due to mobility issues, dumbbell lunges are the next best thing. When done correctly, these will light a fire in your quads like nothing else.
  • Leg Press 
    The leg press does not require as much in terms of stabilization muscle as lunges or squats. Just make sure it's not your only exercise because your stabilizer muscles will not be engaged.
Trap Bar Deadlift Vs Barbell

Stretching Exercises To Help Progress Your Barbell Deadlifts

Compared to the trap bar deadlift, the conventional deadlift requires you to have a lot of upper body strength as well as lower body strength.

Here are some great stretches and exercises to implement in support of the conventional deadlift.

  • Bridges 
    Bridge stretches are amazing for opening up the hips and warming up the lower back. These can be done solo or with the aid of bolsters.This is a great way to start your warm-up before a conventional deadlift session.
  • Downward Dog/Upward Dog  
    If you are familiar with the yoga moves, they are perfect for stretching and releasing back muscles that are tight in the majority of us that sit in an office chair.Make sure that during the upward dog, you really open your chest and pull your shoulders back to target the smaller muscles in your lower back.
  • Pullups / Weighted Pullups 
    If you want an exercise that targets all of the upper body and a lot of the lower body needed to perform a conventional deadlift, you should consider adding pullups to your warm-up or supporting routine.
  • Rows 
    The other exercise that really aids in the upper body aspect of the conventional deadlift is rows. All variations of rows will be beneficial here and are really good for helping you create the mind-muscle connection necessary to become a beast at barbell deadlifts.
  • Romanian Deadlifts (RDLS) 
    Perhaps the most important supporting exercise you can do for your barbell deadlifts is the Romanian Deadlift. Romanian deadlifts train both speed and mobility exceedingly well.

Conclusion

The deadlift is one of the oldest, most respected, yet equally feared lifts that you can do. When done right, they can improve core strength, leg strength, back strength, size, power, and mass. It really is an impressive lift, and it feels impressive to do.

Don't be put off by the potential dangers; follow our tips and tricks and the steps above, and you will be lifting like Eddie Hall in no time.


Paul J