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View Full Version : Trap bar - Opinions?


Allen Yeh
02-01-2010, 09:06 AM
I used a trap bar for the first time on Friday and then foolishly decided to try out Gary's half hour deadlift challenge with it.

What does everyone think about them that have used them?

As I'm not prepping for a PL meet Not a big deal to opt with the trap bar for a bit right?

I liked that the DL felt more natural with the trap bar.

I didn't like that if my hand position was the tiniest bit off that the whole bar would tilt, on one of my reps the thing tilted so bad that when I was lowering the DL I thought I was going to crush my toes.

Also the grip "bar" was very narrow much smaller in diameter than a regular bar, without my Lynx grips I felt like the bar was cutting into my hand.

Foot placement was a bit odd for me too as with a conventional DL you know where you place your feet relative to the bar. With the trap bar since you aren't as close to the bar a few times I found myself leaning a bit too much on one side or the other.

Mike ODonnell
02-01-2010, 09:50 AM
When I used to have access to one, I would do them while standing on a step. More like a deep squat starting out of the hole, less pulling than a DL.

I favor the DL for more "pulling" and back, but the trap bar can be rotated in esp if you can do it elevated (instead of doing a snatch grip DL on a platform for example).

Neill Smith
02-01-2010, 01:34 PM
I really like them and can DL more with a trap bar than straight bar. For what it's worth, I remember Rip saying that the top of a barbell DL is a stable position, and the top of a trap bar DL is "an unstable mess".

Gavin Harrison
02-01-2010, 09:19 PM
Early in my training, I'd used a trap bar exclusively for dead lifting. When I went to another gym that didn't have a trap bar, I couldn't dead lift nearly as much as I could with the trap bar. It seemed to me that deadlifting with a trap bar transfers poorly to dead lifting with a straight bar, however, the opposite is not true.

For me at least, trying to go from trap bar DLs to straight bar DLs was awkward and yielded poor results, at least for my DL. I don't know if trap bars are a good training tool or not, I've never used them past the point when I moved to a gym without them, even when given the opportunity. I guess they could have been useful because they allowed me to lift a bit more weight than a straight bar, at least before I'd done much heavy lifting.

Derek Weaver
02-01-2010, 10:19 PM
Like Mike said, trap bar DL'ing is more of a leg pressing movement than a pulling movement.

When I had access to one on a regular basis I was too stupid to realize that deads and squats were more beneficial than the hammer strength machine row. In the couple of times that I've had access I've liked it.

I think it's a good thing to use when you either want/need to get the bar off your back for a bit but want to still develop the lower body, or are maybe just getting back into deadlifting after an injury. Kind of like a step approach to actual pulling (this one is merely a guess though. nothing to back it up)

James Evans
02-05-2010, 08:26 AM
I like it.

I got one for the rowing club I coach at back in September. It took me an hour to unwrap it and was a workout in itself. It was like the most maddening childhood Christmas present scenario you can imagine. Desperately wanted to try it out and there was just more and more cardboard and bubble wrap. If the thing had needed batteries I would have smashed something up.

I have 'athletes' that lack the flexibilty to deadlift conventionally. I see this with the squat too and it is often matched with a lack of back strength to support even a barbell.* This is particularly apparent with the novice women I coach, but does include some of the guys. I read a lot of stuff by Will Heffernan over the summer and saw that he used a trap bar a lot. I also knew that Cressey was a fan and he certainly isn't shy of conventional deadlifting.

I have 2 hours a week with the guys, 1 hour with the girls, and across both groups 32+ athletes of vastly different ability and experience. In a tiny space. Keeping it simple helps.

Pros

I can load people up in a way I can't do with normal deadlifts.

The hybrid nature of the exercise gives me a kind of half way house between deads and squats.

The grip limitations of normal deadlifts are postponed to much higher loads.

I can comfortably pull reps at a far higher % of my 1RM. Mostly I see people keeping their shape with the trap bar and requiring minimal resets.

After extended use I've taken people back to normal deads and magically they respond to the cues much better and finally get it.

It is much easier on the lower back. Brooks Kubik wrote that the trap bar does not give an adequate stimulus to the low back. Fair point but my guys are hammering their backs just by rowing and if I can get them through the season relatively pain free and without having to administer therapy to them twice a week simply to allow them to race, I'm happy. I do not get beaten up by this in the way that I can do from deadlifting normally.

Cons

The bar weighs 30k. It's bloody awkward to move around and to store. I can't fit our bumper plates onto to it and the smallest O plates I can use are 20k cast iron. Initially I was horrified by this because I thought the lowest amount I could load it up to was 70kg and this would stop the girls from using it. Thankfully I have plastic training plates and so we can start at 35k.

It's not a particularly versatile tool.

Some trainees seem to lack even a degree of spatial awareness. It's hard enough to get them to notice the rings and knurling on a standard bar but now they have something like a foot and half square to stand in WHEREVER they choose and a grip selection that seems to be made by lottery.

It is much easier on the lower back...

Anyway, I like it. I can manage about 35lbs more for a single than I can with a straight bar. Does it carry over to straight bar deadlifts? Who cares, I'm just trying to get people stronger and make them better at rowing, not better at deadlifting. And proper deadlifts still rock.


*Interestingly, novices I first taught in February 2009 came back for this season with significantly developed flexibilty and back strength. My conclusion was that a summer of rowing (they had not lifted since March) had done wonders for their general athleticism.

Gary John
02-05-2010, 10:09 AM
I've written about the trap bar and use it for many different exercises.

For conditioning, load up light maybe 275-300#, then do a set of 5 lifts, hold and walk until you can't, set it down, regrip, set of 4, walk, set of 3 walk, set of 2, walk, 1, then fall over. Had people who favor the total nanny state whine about farmers walking a trap bar. Just figure it out.

Ryan Viera posted about doing explosive jumps while the trap bar is on blocks. I would place the bar on 8 inch high timbers and try and jump straight up. Very nice for throwers.

Like others who have posted, doing lots of trap bar lifts heavy seems to help both my squat and dead. Again, my throwing is more important than how much I total in a power lifting contest.

James Evans
02-05-2010, 10:30 AM
I've written about the trap bar and use it for many different exercises.

For conditioning, load up light maybe 275-300#, then do a set of 5 lifts, hold and walk until you can't, set it down, regrip, set of 4, walk, set of 3 walk, set of 2, walk, 1, then fall over. Had people who favor the total nanny state whine about farmers walking a trap bar. Just figure it out.

Ryan Viera posted about doing explosive jumps while the trap bar is on blocks. I would place the bar on 8 inch high timbers and try and jump straight up. Very nice for throwers.

Like others who have posted, doing lots of trap bar lifts heavy seems to help both my squat and dead. Again, my throwing is more important than how much I total in a power lifting contest.

Actually Gary, in terms of versatility I was doing the trap bar a disservice - will implement some farmer's walks outside when the weather gets better. They don't like it much when I make them do it with DBs.

Brandon Oto
02-05-2010, 03:32 PM
I tried using it for a cycle, both regular and on a deficit, and really enjoyed it; it felt like a very athletic and natural movement, especially done dynamic against bands.

After a few workouts my back was completely screwed up and I was out for a couple weeks.

Dunno.

If I could use it, I'd use it not for lifting heavy (like a regular DL), but for athletic training, like I mentioned. It's a squat more than a pull and it resembles jumping more closely than most things you can load.

Darryl Shaw
02-10-2010, 05:53 AM
When I used to have access to one, I would do them while standing on a step. More like a deep squat starting out of the hole, less pulling than a DL.

It's a squat more than a pull and it resembles jumping more closely than most things you can load.

Interesting......

Anyone have any thoughts on using trap bar DL's as a safe alternative to squats for someone with arthritic knees?

Mike ODonnell
02-10-2010, 11:23 AM
Interesting......

Anyone have any thoughts on using trap bar DL's as a safe alternative to squats for someone with arthritic knees?

Can't see why not, as technically it's more like a squat holding heavy DBs...that are connected...and bar shaped.

Supporting the knee with strong and balanced (ratio wise) quads/hams is very important.

May help people get more posterior chain activation too by going lower and having better form than with a bar squat. Plus many of my clients who I used it on just felt more relaxed and safer doing it that way (knowing they could drop it at any time), so performance probably was increased due to that mental factor.

Using a step/box with it also is good for getting full ROM.

Derek Weaver
02-10-2010, 01:12 PM
I was actually thinking of this thread and realized that the trap bar deadlift is a) good as an intermediate lift between an actual pull and squat. b) a good step up exercise for those lacking the flexibility/mobility to do a fully squat (I'm thinking obviously hips, and ankles, but also thoracic extension and mobility of the shoulders) while working on the necessary attributes to actually squat

Someone with arthritic knees would likely do well. A good way to load the body, range of motion will be okay-but not great. I don't see why not. Like a non retarded leg press.

Brandon Oto
02-10-2010, 03:14 PM
Can be somewhat harder to keep the knees in a correct track than with regular squats IMO.

Conventional DL is the knee-friendly version of the squat if you ask me.

Darryl Shaw
02-13-2010, 05:51 AM
Can't see why not, as technically it's more like a squat holding heavy DBs...that are connected...and bar shaped.

Supporting the knee with strong and balanced (ratio wise) quads/hams is very important.

May help people get more posterior chain activation too by going lower and having better form than with a bar squat. Plus many of my clients who I used it on just felt more relaxed and safer doing it that way (knowing they could drop it at any time), so performance probably was increased due to that mental factor.

Using a step/box with it also is good for getting full ROM.

So it's kinda like doing DB squats using a bar type contraption...... seems kind of obvious when it's put like that. lol.

Good point on the psychological aspect of feeling confidant to push your limits without fear of failure. There have been a few occasions over the past couple of years where my knees have simply given way on me during heavy squats so I'm becoming increasingly reluctant to test my limits on this exercise. Trap bar DL's sound like a good way to get round that problem.

I was actually thinking of this thread and realized that the trap bar deadlift is a) good as an intermediate lift between an actual pull and squat. b) a good step up exercise for those lacking the flexibility/mobility to do a fully squat (I'm thinking obviously hips, and ankles, but also thoracic extension and mobility of the shoulders) while working on the necessary attributes to actually squat

Someone with arthritic knees would likely do well. A good way to load the body, range of motion will be okay-but not great. I don't see why not. Like a non retarded leg press.

Again some good points. I like squats but my knees don't. I don't want to stop squatting so an exercise that permits me to perform a squat like exercise but with heavier loads than my knees can handle in a full squat would, I think, be extremely beneficial.

Can be somewhat harder to keep the knees in a correct track than with regular squats IMO.

Conventional DL is the knee-friendly version of the squat if you ask me.

I understand what you're saying but I can already do convnentional DL's to my hearts content. What's missing from my workouts are genuinely heavy squats. If trap bar DL's can provide my with a means of getting back into heavy squatting (sort of) with less pain due to the slightly reduced ROM and less risk of injury from a failed rep then I'd be a fool not to give them a try.

So it looks like I know what I'll be getting for my next birthday. :)

Brandon Oto
02-13-2010, 06:18 AM
Try wide box squats as well.

Derek Weaver
02-13-2010, 11:06 AM
Wide box squats can be interesting if additional flexibility needs to be developed. Start slow if need be.

Derek Weaver
03-03-2010, 01:55 PM
I just saw this while I was looking through a couple other things and it made me think of this thread:
I usually start my high school athletes with the trap bar deadlift. The trap bar is a great piece of equipment that I feel should be used more often by strength coaches. It evenly distributes the weight through the midline of the athlete’s body as opposed to in front of it like regular straight bar deads. This is a great way to strengthen a young athlete’s low back, while placing much less stress on the spine. By no means is the trap bar just for beginners, though. I use it with my college and professional athletes as well.

Here's the full article (http://www.defrancostraining.com/articles/38-articles/57-the-pro-maker-an-interview-with-joe-defranco.html) if anyone's interested.

It was posted a while ago on t-mag I think.

Jay Ashman
03-03-2010, 02:06 PM
funny because I use the trap bar for my HS athletes as well, along with box squats... much safer on their backs and gets results.

Joe Hart
04-06-2010, 02:58 PM
After reading this post I started kicking around the idea of getting a trap bar. So, those of you that have used one, do you remember what brands they were? I noticed that there is a trap bar in the store (PMenu) and it is reasonably priced. I found the PDA bars and they are on the high end, but they seem like really nice bars and then you can go to Amazon and get ones for much less (some got bad reviews). Or I could just stick with normal DLs.