Written by Coach Justin Nassra
The trap bar deadlift, although not as popular as its brother the conventional deadlift, has enormous benefits for your posterior chain.
What is the posterior chain?
In the strength and conditioning industry, the posterior chain consists of various muscle groups including the erector spinae group, gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and gastroc/soleus complex.
Why should you train the posterior chain?
The biggest reason people should train their posterior chain is because most of the time injuries that people endure is due to muscular imbalances in that area.
One of the main reasons training your posterior chain is important is because it helps to keep your lower back safe. One of the most important movement patterns to help train and strengthen your posterior chain is the hip hinge. When you perform this movement pattern properly, the correct muscle groups are activated, specifically your gluteal muscles and hamstrings, all while keeping a tight stiff neutral spine.
The knee is a very vulnerable joint. The knee joint is two bones sitting on top of each other with little to no bone stability, which means this joint gets its stability from its soft tissue structure. One of the most common occurrences for knee injury is when the knee collapses inwards due to quad dominance. Most quad dominance is brought on from daily activity, especially for someone who sits at a desk all day. When you are sitting, your glutes and hamstrings are turned off, leaving your quads as the primary movers in the lower extremity.
Benefits of the trap bar deadlift
When performing a conventional style deadlift, one of the biggest challenges people seem to face is finding their balance and getting comfortable with keeping the bar close to the body. In addition, people tend to lean out too far over the bar, which causes you to lose your balance and fall forward, causing rounding of the spine. While performing the trap bar deadlift your shins and knees won’t get in the way. Deadlifting with the trap bar is great for people who are newer to lifting, because it reinforces proper spinal position.
⁃ People with insufficient range of motion in the hips:
One of the biggest benefits to a trap bar is that it caters to people with insufficient hip mobility. Remember, a conventional deadlift requires a decent amount of hip flexion with the knee length not bent all the way to 90 degrees, while properly loading the hamstrings (tension). If these people have to compensate with spinal flexion, it will increase their chance of a spinal disc injury. The high handles on the trap bar deadlift are high enough off the ground where they can maintain proper spinal position and decreases the range of motion a person has to travel to set up for their lifts.
⁃ Muscle activation:
For most athletes, the trap bar deadlift is a great way to activate the proper muscle groups to get maximum benefits. For example, with the proper set up, conventional and trap bar style deadlifts go hand and hand. They both require activation of the entire posterior chain. I firmly believe just having a solid setup and lifting the bar an inch off the ground, then progressively working your way up with small isometric contractions until you have ultimately reached full hip extension, is extremely beneficial. This is so important to try because you are working with a movement that requires you to integrate all the muscles of your body throughout the entire lift.
A conventional style deadlift requires a specific type of pull: it must be hip-dominant because the barbell has to stay in front of your legs, maintaining contact with your body throughout the entire lift. However, when using a trap bar, you can still deadlift the same exact conventional way (push your butt back, minimize forward knee travel, and deadlift) as if you were using a barbell, except without bloodying your shins. It will also decrease your risk of lower spinal flexion and in turn, spinal disc injuries. You can also drop your hips a little lower and let your knees travel a little further forward to get more quad activation.
So, next time you have a trap bar available to you, take it for a test drive!