The Trap Bar Deadlift is a great substitute to the conventional Deadlift. Using the trap bar changes the way Deadlifts feel and makes them more possible for those with mobility impairments to perform. However, the trap bar has far more uses than just for Deadlift.
The Trap Bar is suitable for both lower- and upper-body exercises and can actually help individuals with these exercises as the bar utilizes a neutral grip. Additionally, it can be turned 90 degrees from the way it usually faces when being used to provide more of a stability challenge than normal, as the bar will sway side to side and possibly tip backward or forward if not lined up properly.
So with the ability to use the bar for exercises beyond just the Deadlift and the possibility to use it with the weighted ends in front and behind the lifter rather than just to the sides, let’s look at ways this can be accomplished.
Although the trap bar is used in a standard manner width wise with plates going across the lifter, turning the bar 90 degrees to have weights offset in front of and behind the lifter make the bar able to used in a longitudinal manner. The grip remains the same, but stability is challenged more than with the standard trap bar setup because the bar wants to sway both back and forth and sideways. Because of this, the core is more challenged than with a standard setup forcing lifters to lock in and focus more and recruiting more core muscle engagement. This setup can be used for just about any trap bar exercise possible.
Unlike a barbell where lifters can move their hands to find the most comfortable width on the bar, the trap bar only allows for hands to be placed at a fixed width due to its shape. Regardless of whether the bar is held widthwise or lengthwise, the bar will be held in a neutral grip and will be lifted with arms facing out at about 45 degrees in the scapular plane.
The primary upper-body presses the trap bar can be used for are the Shoulder Press and Bench. Due to the nature of both presses, the bar should actually help the lifts feel more comfortable than when performed with a standard barbell. Additionally, when the bar is flipped lengthwise or to have its handles facing down, stability is also able to be challenged more so than with a barbell or standard trap bar grip.
While the Trap Bar is not the bar normally used for upper-body pressing, it is both a great addition to a repertoire and substitute for a barbell on some upper-body presses.
Just like with upper-body presses, the trap bar can also be used for upper-body pulls. Throughout the lifts, lifters will utilize a neutral grip to perform all exercises. Primary upper-body pulls to use for this include both Bent-Over Rows and Pull Ups.
You can perform Bent-Over Rows with a neutral grip having the bar face in either direction. The bar allows for the weight to be more centralized around the lifter. Rather than pulling a standard barbell that might pull away from the lifter, the trap bar remains centered with the lifter. This bar helps make for a more controlled feeling with the Row as the bar is stable around the lifter, and when used longitudinally, it adds a strong stability and core challenge.
To perform Pull-Ups, the bar needs to be placed on a rack. From here, the bar can be gripped in any manner for Neutral Grip Pull-Ups. The bar adds stability to traditional Pull-Ups. With it, dead stop protocol is an additional challenge that should be used as this forces maximal control of both yourself and the bar.
Especially when a facility does not have a farmer’s bar, the trap bar presents a great option to use as a substitute for the exercise. The carry can be performed with or without Deadlifts at the start and finish of the exercise. Simply walking foot by foot for either a distance or amount of steps is a way to help measure this exercise. Performing the carry with the trap bar facing its usual way allows you to pull a heavier load, while using it longitudinally allows for a tougher core stability challenge.
Using the trap bar in all these ways shows how great and versatile the bar is. While it typically is used for Deadlifts, it has many more uses than just that, and only some are shown here.
If there is anyone who truly has mastered the trap bar, it is Joel Seedman. For more on trap bars take a look at some of his recent content, or hop over to my Instagram and Twitter to see how else you can add the trap bar and more to your routine.