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.
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.
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.
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