Trapbar Deadlift: Go to compound lift for training and rehabilitation

In this blog, I am going to breakdown the trapbar deadlift and highlight the differences between the more conventional straight bar/barbell deadlift methods that most people are familiar with.

Firstly, let’s unpack the foundations of this exercise, by looking at what muscles are recruited and run through a quick step by step process to use the trapbar deadlift.

As a compound lift, we are recruiting multiple muscle groups which include the quadriceps (anterior chain), hamstrings/glutes (posterior chain), and erector spinae (back). This means that we able to incorporate two of the most fundamental movement patterns of the lower limb: these being the squat and the hinge.

Setting up the trapbar deadlift is a relatively easy process. I like to keep things as simple as possible with regards to guiding a client through this exercise.

1. Start by standing in the middle of the trapbar with feet roughly hip width apart
2. Grasp the middle handles of the bar with both hands, then sit your hips back so that you are in a hybrid squat and hinge position
3. Keep your arms locked, set shoulders down and back and keep your chest and torso relatively tall
4. Simply stand tall and lift the trapbar by pushing through your feet, arms should remained locked
5. Once at the top, pause and slowly lower the bar down back to your setup position.

Although still a deadlift, there a subtle differences that create variability between the trapbar deadlift and conventional straight bar/barbell deadlift

Let’s breakdown some differences between the two lifts and I’ll explain why it is such a great tool for rehabilitation and reintroduction to strength training.

As highlighted earlier, the trapbar deadlift is a hybrid approach between your squat and hinge movement pattern. It is certainly feels a little more “squat” dominant but is still largely a hinge movement.

In comparison between these two types of deadlift exercises, the trapbar more evenly distributes load between the joints due to a more upright starting position (reduced hip flexion). In short, it is a useful alternative that can provide some variability between exercises.

Here are a list of some of the other key differences when comparing the trapbar deadlift to the conventional barbell deadlift.

  • Reduced horizontal displacement at beginning of lift
  • More evenly distributed load between joints
  • More upright position/reduced hip flexion
  • Reduce stress over lumbar region
  • Increased loading through the knees due to weight being behind the knees
  • Alternative lift to the squat/deadlift: hence able to lift more weight

It is one of my favourite compound lifts to prescribe and complete in the gym for rehab and strength-based training. Due to the setup of the lift and reduced stress over the lumbar region, I have found that the trapbar deadlift is a fantastic exercise to prescribe for your end stage low back rehabilitation or for those regular lifters or gym goers who are wanting to increase load without irritating or flaring up their low back region.

On top of this, your conventional deadlift generally requires more skill and practice whilst the trapbar deadlift is a much simpler setup that is suitable for people who are less experienced in the gym. I like to imagine the trapbar deadlift as a heavy farmers carry, largely because the setup is the same!

So next time you have a client with a low back flare up or you want to mix things up with your training give the trapbar deadlift a go!

Stay tuned for our follow up video on how to use the trapbar deadlift.

Swinton, Paul A; Stewart, Arthur; Agouris, Ioannis; Keogh, Justin WL; Lloyd, Ray. A Biomechanical Analysis of Straight and Hexagonal Barbell Deadlifts Using Submaximal Loads. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: July 2011 – Volume 25 – Issue 7 – p 2000-2009
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e73f87

Jamie Cheok – BeFit Training Physio Coogee

Jamie Cheok – BeFit Training Physio Coogee

Jamie Cheok is a physiotherapist based in Coogee in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Jamie has successfully treated musculoskeletal problems on the basis of a thorough assessment and diagnosis coupled with evidence-based rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs and goals of each individual. To book a consultation, click the link below.

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