The Trap Bar Deadlift is a very popular variation to conventional deadlifts that uses a trap bar (or hex bar) instead of a traditional barbell. Because they allow the lifter to be able to shift their weight back in their setup, Trap Bar Deadlifts are great to use as part of a teaching progression for conventional deadlifts.
Also, because the weight is shifted back toward the body, Trap Bar Deadlifts can sometimes work really well as an alternative for someone who may experience low back issues when trying to deadlift with a bar.
In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do Trap Bar Deadlifts including some coaching points and a few alternatives if you don’t have a trap bar to work with.
Table of Contents
How To Do Trap Bar Deadlifts
- Trap Bar (also known as a hex bar)
- Plates (Preferably bumper plates, but iron plates can also be used if necessary.)
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.
Trap Bar Deadlift Variations
Trap Bar Pulls
Trap Bar Pulls are basically Clean Pulls, but with a trap bar instead of a barbell.
Control the weight to the knee and then explosively jump shrug with the bar. I like utilizing this variation during in-season training to take a little bit of strain off the low back.
Trap Bar Deadlift Alternatives
Don’t have a trap bar? No worries. Here are a few alternatives for Trap Bar Deadlifts that you may be able to try in its place. Want even more options? Here are 10 Trap Bar Deadlift Alternatives that still work great.
The obvious choice is to simply switch to conventional Deadlifts (or sumo deadlift if you prefer). If you don’t have a trap bar and you’re able to do regular deadlifts, they are the first recommendation that I would give you.
The setup and movement are almost identical, it’s just with a different bar.
Kettlebell Swings are another good hip-hinge alternative for Trap Bar Deadlifts. Kettlebell Swings are more of an explosive movement compared to a compound strength movement like deadlifts. This means you won’t be moving nearly as much weight, but you will be moving it much quicker which can lead to improvements in power.
More Links and Info
Looking for more lower body strength exercises? Make sure to check out the Lower Body Strength Section of our Exercise Library.