T Nation

Trap Bar Questions


got a few of questions, hoping for some answers...
1) why do some strength coaches ( Defranco, zach even esh etc..) seem to favor trap bar DL over the normal bar for their athletes?
2) i see alot of their athletes doing trap bar DL but they sometimes use the high handle and sometimes the low. when should you use the high or low handles?
3) for athletic purposes, is the trap bar a good alternative to convertional DL? is there a downside to using the trapbar over a standard bar?

thanks for the help!


I did a video about 6 weeks ago while in Colorado (yet to be published) where I say that the trap bar deadlift is one, if not the best lower body exercise.

It combines all the advantages of the squat and deadlift without their disadvantages.

The body is put in the same mechanical position as the squat, which makes it a great quads and glutes exercise. And involves the upper back and traps just as much as the deadlift.

The high handle allow you to use more weight which means more stimulation on the upper back and traps but a bit less emphasis on the glutes and hams.

The lower handle is a great way to build the whole lower body: glutes, quads and hams specifically. But since you use a bit less weight it doesn't overload the traps as much.


I think the trap bar would be better than squats and deadlifts for the bodybuilder concerened with lower body development

Bur is it still better for the athlete looking to build up the all important posterior chain which helps one run faster and jump higher???

obviously powerlifters would have no use for it because it doesn't carry over to the squat and deadlift


Wow, that is a very resounding endorsement of an exercise from Thibs.

This is the main criticism of the TBDL - no "carryover" to squats or "real" deadlifts. Ironically, the guy who invented the original trap bar, Al Gerard, was a powerlifter with a bad back who was looking for a way to train his squat and deadlift without overstressing his back. He came up with the trap bar, and it supposedly increased both his squat and DL without actually training those lifts. The Westside guys rotate the trap bar into their max effort days, but then again, they change ME exercises frequently so none of those guys would train on a trap bar for more than 3 weeks or so, and many change exercises weekly. And I've read plenty of posts that said "The trap bar sucks because it did nothing for my DL or squat." So what's the right answer? You'll need to experiment on yourself to see what works. Yeah, that's not helpful, but in the long run it will pay off because you'll find the exercises that work best for you.


several years ago I spent a few months using a trap bar and didn't do any conventional deadlifts. When I went back to doing deadlifts for the first time in a while I felt like my lower back was going to snap in half and I had to spend a couple of months getting my strength on the conventiona deadlift back to where it was before I started using the trap bar.

But I agree with the positives mentioned it is a great exercise and probably the 2nd most effective exercise for my quads (front squats).


thanks for the reply..
one more thing. i usually incorporate TBDL in my rotation for max effort lower days (together with squats and DL), is it ok to rotate between squats and TBDL alone in cycles or should i fit conventional deads in the rotation? im a basketball player who follows WS4SB3 with my goals focused in being as explosively strong as possible for my sports. thanks again.


this is a good question, would love to see what CT has to say bout this.


I wouldn't categorically state that it "doesn't carry over to the squat and deadlift"

That would be like stating that Chin Ups don't carry over to Pull Ups.


agreed... just wondern if it is a good enough option for an athlete to use and is it sufficient for strength improvement and building up the posterior chain which seems to be highly important for athletes?


For some it would be a sufficient lower body exercise (i.e. it wouldn't require adding any other main movement). That would be true of individuals with a balanced lower body or even a posterior chain dominance.

If someone is quads dominant, then some work for the hamstrings would be needed. But again, it is rare (if not unheard of) to have one single exercise that provides all of what an athlete needs. The regular deadlift might not provide enough quads stimulation for some... the squat might not give enough posterior chain development for others, etc.

PERSONALLY I prefer to stick to 1 or 2 main lower body strength exercise and bulk up volume and work on neglected muscles using sled work. The legs need a lot of work to grow maximally, but the really effective lower body movements tend to drain the nervous system which decreased your overall capacity to tolerate volume. For that reason I prefer to add more sled/prowler work instead of adding more lifting exercises.


Do you consider the Glute Ham Raise to be draining on the nervouse system? I swear by them


No, they are fine. The lower body exercises that put a lot of stress on the nervous system are those that compress the spine in some regard (squats, front squats, all forms of deadlifts). Even leg presses and hack squat machines fall in that category as they do compress the spine.


thanks for the reply.. i also stick to 1 or 2 main lower body movements for my leg days however i have a question with regards to using TBDL as a main movement. usually when i do convention DL, i do assistance work for the quads (bulgarian SS or Speed skater squats) since the DL works the hams hard. i finish off with a circuit of GHR, reverse hypers heavy KB swings and hip thrusts.
when i do TBDL im not sure if i should focus on a quad or ham dominant assistance exercise since the trap bar doesnt hit the hams as hard as convertional deads would. what would u suggest? in the past after using TBDL as a main movement id use either zercher squats or bulgarian SS as an accesory. thanks for your time.


Why not finish off with a small set of Barbell Lunges, forward and reverse or maybe some step-up reverse dumbbell lunges...


Does anyone know where you would find more info/posts on what Christian does with his athletes as far as sled dragging goes. I'm sure this has been discussed so I dont want to ask again in a diffferent thread. The concept of building strength in the lower body through sleds is very interesting and I'd like to see a little bit more about how people use it in terms of distance, weight, reps and other basic concepts.


For what purpose?


Trap bar deadlifts are easier on your back because the load isn't held in front of your body. It is more directly in line with your spine, so the lever arm is really short. So, if you try to do a similar weight with a normal deadlift, your back is going to be like "what the fuck" because it isn't used to having that weight out in front of you.


From his TRAINING Q & A 4 -thread.
There were a discussion about this topic somewhere in the last few pages.


I use both the high handles and low handles but about 90% of the time I use low handles as I feel high handles is cheating. Trap bar is an excellent alternative to deadlift but the carryover isn’t as big as you might think. I have done 340kg/750 pounds on the low handles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Y4OTGRH6kk


Yeah the trap bar deadlift doesn’t really transfer to the deadlift.

As for the original question, TBDL can be either quads dominant or hamstrings dominant depending on how you do them. If you use a squatting motion (starting with the hips low and focusing on keeping the torso upright) it will hit the quads more, but you can also do it like a Romanian deadlift in which case they would hit the hamstrings more