5 Trap Bar Deadlift Benefits: Explosive Strength And Muscle Mass
We know that there are a host of associated benefits that come with deadlifts and squats. They are both fantastic exercises that build lower body strength, muscle mass, and power.
That they are both highly complex movements.They are complex because they require the movement of multiple joints simultaneously, using both a large amount of balance and motor coordination. This makes them difficult to learn (when performed properly), so much so that they may not be suitable for all trainees.
Fortunately there is a great alternative.
The trap bar deadlift
The trap bar deadlift is an exercises that requires the use of a trap bar (hence the name). This exercise is ultimately a squat-deadlift hybrid that has a host of benefits over the more traditional squat and deadlift exercises.
1. They are easy to learn
When we first start out training in the gym, we often find ourselves more comfortable performing some movements over others. This tends to hold very true for the squat and the deadlift, with those who find the squat comfortable often finding the deadlift difficult to learn and vice versa.
The trap bar deadlift is much easier to learn as it can be performed in a number of different ways.
For those who prefer deadlifting, it can be performed with a high degree of hip flexion, making more similar to a traditional deadlift, whereas for those who are good at squatting, it can be performed with a more upright torso where the movement becomes more similar to a squat.
This allows to gradually improve our ability to either squat or deadlift without losing any of the strength and muscle gains associated with both of those movements.
2. They are safer than traditional deadlifting movements
Now I will be the first person to go into bat for the deadlift, any and every day of the week. It is one of the best exercises we can use to develop lower body strength and power (with specific emphasis on the glutes and the hamstrings), and as a movement pattern, is extremely important to learn as it teaches us how to load through our hips effectively.
Unfortunately, it does have a couple of downsides.
Firstly, as the bar is placed in front of the body, it does create a significant load through the lumbar extensors of the lower back. While this is often a good thing (it allows us the opportunity to strengthen the lower back), it may not be fantastic with those with lower back trouble.
Secondly, during a traditional deadlift the bar is quite close to the floor. This can make getting into the starting position of a deadlift quite difficult (and even dangerous) for those who don’t have very good mobility at the hips, increasing the risk of injury during the movement significantly.
The Trap bar deadlift eliminates both of these issues immediately.
As you stand in the middle of the trap bar, the load is placed at the centre of the body (rather than in front of the body) significantly reducing the shear force that goes through the lumbar spine.
Secondly, it has handles that sit ~2 inches higher than a traditional deadlift bar. This reduces the mobility required to complete the movement effectively, significantly reducing the risk of injury during the movement.
3. They are great for building lower body muscle mass
Now, while having a slightly smaller range of motion (due to the height of the bar) is fantastic for increased safety, it also has one other benefit.
It actually means that we can lift more weight in comparison to a traditional deadlift.
The amount of weight lifted, and its impact on muscle growth, is known as ‘mechanical tension’. Mechanical tension is one of the key three components of muscle growth, and by increasing it we can significantly increase our capacity to build muscle mass.
The trap bar deadlift creates a huge amount of mechanical tension on the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, increasing their capacity for growth!
4. They build the posterior chain
Now, I mentioned above that the trap bar deadlift focuses on the quad, hamstrings, and glutes, and this is actually one of its greatest benefits.
The posterior chain describes the group of muscles that sit on the back of the body (calves, hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors). These muscles play an important role in spinal health, our ability to perform athletic movements (AKA jumping, bounding, and sprinting), and our capacity to move big weights in the gym.
Unfortunately, as a result of our relatively sedentary lifestyle, they are often extremely underdeveloped. This can lead to low back pain, while limiting our ability to perform explosive and powerful movements.
Fortunately, the trap bar dead-lifts absolutely crushes the posteriors chain, providing us with a fantastic way to build the strength and integrity of these muscles. This can significantly limit our risk of developing lower back pain, while also improving our potential for athletic movement!
5. They are perfect for building explosive power
Jumps squats are an exercise commonly used to develop explosive lower body power. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the squatting movement can be somewhat difficult to learn, making explosive squatting movements impractical.
But, luckily, the trap bar can be used in the exact same manner, and is much easier to learn.
By performing jump squats using the trap bar, you don’t have to worry about resting the bar on your back. This makes it easier (and arguably safer to perform). A side effect of this as that you can often use more weight than you would with a traditional jump squat, which is likely to further improve the power developed from the movement.
So, to conclude.
The trap bar deadlift provides a great alternative to traditional deadlifting movements for beginner and advanced trainees alike. It allows us to use huge amounts of load that can contribute to lower body mass and strength (with a specific emphasis on the posterior chain – which we know is extremely important), while significantly reducing the load placed on the lumbar spine.
It is extremely easy to learn, and can be used in a number of ways that can promote muscle growth, increases in muscle strength, and even to develop muscle power. As such it is a worthy additional to any gym and any training program!