The Trap Bar Pulls is a very popular variation of Clean Pulls that use 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 Pulls are great to use as part of a teaching progression for Olympic Lifts.
Also, because the weight is shifted back toward the body, Trap Bar Pulls can sometimes work really well as an alternative for someone who may experience low back issues when trying to do pulls with a bar (make sure to check with your doctor or athletic trainer).
In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do Trap Bar Pulls including some coaching points and a few alternatives if you don’t have a trap bar to work with.
How To Do Trap Bar Pulls
- Trap Bar (also known as a hex bar)
- Bumper Plates
- Step inside the trap bar.
- Place feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
- Toes either straight ahead or ever so slightly turned out.
- 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.
- Take a deep breath to brace the abdominal muscles.
- 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, and drives the hips forward, keeping tension in the abdomen and upper back, maintaining the hand position over the midfoot.
- Once the bar crosses the knees it should “double in speed” from the lifter aggressively triple extending the hips, knees and ankles.
- As soon as full extension is reached the lift should be finished with an aggressive shrug.
- Either drop the bar or lower it down under control back to the starting position. Reset and repeat.
Easily the most common mistake for deadlifts or pulls 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 prescribed weights from your training program.
How Many Reps?
Because Trap Bar Pulls are an explosive Olympic-style movement, reps should stay at 5 or below each set. This is because fatigue on high-rep sets can cause form to break down and potentially lead to injury.
I generally program Trap Bar Pulls as 3 to 5 sets and 3 to 5 reps per set.
Trap Bar Pull Variations
Trap Bar Deadlift
Trap Bar Deadlifts are basically Deadlifts, but with a trap bar instead of a barbell. They’re also essentially Trap Bar Pulls without the explosive triple extension.
If you are using Trap Bar Pulls as part of a teaching progression for Olympic lifts, then I would actually start with Trap Bar Deadlifts first. Learn the movement in a more controlled manner and then add speed to the movement once the technique is proficient.
Trap Bar Pull 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 may give you more ideas to replace Trap Bar Pulls as well.
The obvious alternative is an exercise that I’ve already mentioned multiple times, Clean Pulls. If you don’t have a trap bar and you’re able to do regular Clean Pulls, 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 Olympic lift variations? Check out the Olympic Lifting Section of our Exercise Library. There you’ll find dozens of exercises, all with complete step-by-step instructions.