Trap Bar Deadlift vs Conventional Deadlift: Which is Better?
Deadlifts are one of the best movements you can do in a weight room to develop strength and muscle mass. However, like most exercises, there are multiple variations of deadlifts using all types of different equipment.
One of the most popular variations is Trap Bar Deadlift.
How exactly does a Trap Bar Deadlift compare to a Conventional Barbell Deadlift? Is one better than the other? Which should you be incorporating into your training?
Those are the types of questions I hope to answer in this guide. I’m going to go over how to properly perform both deadlifts along with coaching tips and the benefits of both variations. Then, I’ll compare the two side-by-side to help you get a better idea of which you should be using based on your goals and preferences.
Trap Bar Deadlift
- Trap Bar (also known as a hex bar)
- Plates (Preferably bumper plates, but iron plates can also be used if necessary.)
Pro Tip: Don’t have a trap bar? Here are 10 Trap Bar Deadlift alternatives you can use instead.
Deadlifts, no matter the style, are essentially a total body exercise with almost every muscle group involved during the lift. The Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes and Lower and Upper Back are all heavily utilized.
- Step inside the trap bar.
- Place feet roughly shoulder width apart.
- Slightly turn their feet outward (engaging the glutes).
- Take a deep breath to brace the abdominal muscles.
- Hinge at the waist and bend at the knee simultaneously until you’re able to grab the bar handles.
- As you pull yourself down into the setup position, maintain a neutral head posture, with eyes fixed on something about 1-2 feet in front of you.
- In the final setup position, pull the chest up, and shoulder blades back, while still maintaining a brace in the abdominal muscles and get ready to lift.
- Start by pulling the “slack” out of the bar. This is where the lifter needs to create tension by slightly pulling into the bar and pushing their feet into the floor before maximal contraction/attempts.
- Once this tension is created, the lifter drives their feet through the floor, drives the hips forward, keeping tension in the abdomen and upper back (DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK), maintaining the hand position over the midfoot, the lifter stands tall with the barbell, and locks the repetition in.
- It is important that each repetition is locked in and controlled at the top of the movement. This is considered an isometric hold. This hold generally only needs to be about 1 second.
- After locking in the repetition for about 1 second, the lifter is ready to lower the weight. Take in a big breath, maintaining a braced core and shoulder blades pulled together. The hips will push back and the knees will bend simultaneously.
- The weight should be maintained in a position over the midfoot. The athlete will continue to lower the barbell until the weights rest on the floor and prepare for the next repetition.
Easily the most common mistake for deadlifts of any kind is allowing the back to round, placing unnecessary stress on the back. Keep the back flat throughout the movement and the core braced.
Do not bounce the bar off the floor between reps. Yes, bouncing the plates off the floor into the next rep may make the lift easier to do, but it’s also a good way to allow your technique to break down. Reset for each rep.
Unlike barbells which have a standard weight, hex bars weight can vary from one bar to the next. Keep this in mind if using set weights off of your training program.
- Bumper or Iron Plates
The deadlift is a very basic movement; there is a setup, a concentric movement (pulling the bar off the ground), an isometric hold (locking the repetition in), and an eccentric movement (lowering the bar back to the ground before the start of the next repetition).
One of the most important considerations for Deadlifting is the setup. Two stances need to be considered; traditional, slightly wider than shoulder-width stance, or a wide, sometimes referred to as a “Sumo” stance. (More on Sumo Deadlifts)
An athlete should determine their deadlift stance based on a number of factors:
- What feels comfortable.
- Limb-Torso length ratios (An athlete with longer arms may find that they prefer a wider stance).
- Sport Specificity (An Olympic lifter would find more benefit from the traditional stance as it is more specific to their sport. Conversely, a defensive lineman may find some benefit from a wider stance depending on the time of year in their season).
Once a stance is chosen, a proper setup is critical for executing the lift properly, to reap the benefits of the movement and minimize the risks of injury.
When the athlete approaches the barbell, they should:
- Place their feet slightly wider than shoulder-width (The width of a stance for an athlete choosing a wide stance will vary based on height and comfortability).
- Slightly turn their feet outward (engaging the glutes).
- Take a deep breath to brace the abdominal muscles.
- The athlete should hinge at the waist and bend at the knee simultaneously until they can comfortably squeeze the barbell with both hands pronated (I will talk more later about mixed grips later in the article).
- As the athlete pulls themselves down into their setup position, they should maintain a neutral head posture, with their eyes fixed on something about 1-2 feet in front of them.
- In the final setup position, the athlete should pull their chest up, and shoulder blades back, while still maintaining a brace in their abdominal muscles and ready to lift.
The athlete is now ready for the concentric movement of the Deadlift. The athlete needs to pull the “slack” out of the barbell.
This is where the lifter needs to create tension by slightly pulling into the barbell and pushing their feet into the floor before maximal contraction/attempts.
Once this tension is created, the lifter drives their feet through the floor, drives the hips forward, keeping tension in the abdomen and upper back (DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK), maintaining the barbell over the midfoot, the lifter stands tall with the barbell, and locks the repetition in.
It is important that each repetition is locked in and controlled at the top of the movement. This is considered an isometric hold. This hold generally only needs to be about 1 second.
Specifically for powerlifting, a judge will tell the lifter when they can lower the weight but it is also important for athletes and general lifters to maintain good control of their repetitions at all times and with all attempts.
After locking in the repetition for about 1 second, the athlete is ready to lower the weight. The athlete will take in a big breath, maintaining a braced core and shoulder blades pulled together. The hips will push back and the knees will bend simultaneously.
The bar should maintain a position over the midfoot and should never rest on the thighs during this movement. The athlete will continue to lower the barbell until the weights rest on the floor and prepare for the next repetition.
Now, let’s talk about gripping the bar. For most field and court sports athletes, gripping the bar with an overhand grip is what I would recommend.
The main reason I recommend this grip is that the athlete is deadlifting to gain strength and athletes should be training symmetrically as much as possible.
This is not to say that a mixed grip is bad for lifters. A mixed grip in some cases will help the lifter pull more weight. But again, I must stress, that lifting more weight for “more weight’s” sake is not a good reason.
Some lifters may switch which grips they mix (right-supinated, left pronated and vice versa) but this will be hard to track after hundreds of reps and sets over the course of a lifter’s career.
Obviously, a powerlifter will be training with the grip that they see that helps them pull the most weight.
By far the most common mistake with Deadlifting is improper form. Because the lift is very technical, uses the whole body, and requires patience and persistence, lifters can oftentimes have incorrect form without realizing it, go up in weight too quickly, and potentially injure themselves.
Have a certified coach watch your sets and reps.
In regards to your setup and form; treat every rep like it’s a 1 rep max. Put a tremendous amount of detail in your setup (Do it the exact same way, every rep)
Make small gains in weight over time. Deadlifting is not a race.
Deadlifts are a type of strength training exercise that have a number of benefits. Some of the benefits of deadlifts include increased muscle mass and strength, improved posture and balance, and increased flexibility and range of motion in the hips and lower back.
Deadlifts can also help to improve overall athletic performance, as well as increase bone density and reduce the risk of injury.
Trap Bar Deadlifts vs Regular Deadlift: Which is Better?
Now, let’s take a look at the two deadlift variations to see if one is better than the other for a few common lifting goals.
Better For Developing Strength and Hypertrophy: Toss Up
The main difference between a Trap Bar Deadlift and a Conventional Deadlift is the bar being used.
Using a trap bar changes the lift in two subtle, but substantial ways. Having the handles to the side of the body allows you to bring the hands closer toward the hip. This allows for the weight to be shifted slightly more towards the hips and also allows for a more upright torso position.
The other difference the trap bar makes is that trap bar handles are typically more elevated off the floor than a barbell. This puts the lifter in a more advantageous starting position, similar to doing a rack pull or using lifting blocks.
This all leads to many lifters, depending upon the trap bar, can actually move more weight with Trap Bar Deadlifts than with Conventional Deadlifts.
With all that being said, does that make Trap Bar Deadlifts better for building size and strength?
In my opinion, not really. The fact is both movements are amazing at both developing strength and muscle mass. In fact, they’re two of the best options for that in the entire weight room. So, to say one is better than the other is really splitting hairs.
Better For Beginners: Trap Bar Deadlift
I will say that I’ve found Trap Bar Deadlifts better for beginners and young athletes to start with. Trap Bar Deadlifts are typically easier for new lifters to learn the proper starting position. Also, because the weight is shifted more toward the hips and the torso is more upright it’s easier for a new lifter to execute properly as well.
The trap bar also makes the bar path easier to execute as well. Beginners often will let the bar drift away from them because they’re worried about hitting their knees or they’re not comfortable yet with the bar potentially scraping up their shins.
A trap bar can remove those issues and allow a beginner to focus more on bracing and driving with the legs.
Finally, a trap bar can also be a great solution for beginners who may not have the mobility yet to achieve a proper starting position with the barbell. Because the handles are elevated it is much more forgiving for lifters while they work on improving their flexibility and mobility.
I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – Trap Bar Deadlift vs Conventional Deadlifts. However, the truth is, there is no reason you shouldn’t have both exercises in your strength training program (assuming you have all the necessary equipment).
Both are excellent exercises for building lower-body strength and hypertrophy. Incorporating both into your training program can also add much-needed variety and keep your plan from getting stale.
So, my suggestion would be instead of trying to decide between the two exercises, figure out how you can utilize both Trap Bar Deadlifts and Regular Deadlifts in your training plan.