The heel elevated trap bar deadlift is a great exercise to further target your quads by using a trap bar. By having your heel elevated, you are increasing knee flexion which will lead to more muscle and strength gains in your quads. In this guide, we will discuss the benefits and break down the proper form for this exercise.
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Why Do Heel Elevated Trap Bar Deadlifts?
Here is why you should consider doing this exercise:
Lack Of Mobility
One of the downsides of an increasingly sedentary society is that functional movement such as the deadlift feels almost unnatural for most people. Poor ankle mobility combined with poor hip mobility leads to a disaster for anyone trying to deadlift any sort of weight.
Essentially, the lack of mobility causes the heels to come off the ground. With the heels off the ground, the lifter is then forced into an unstable position where they are at risk of tumbling over.
By placing of few plates under your heels, lots of the demand on your ankles and hip is eased.
Becoming Explosive At The Bottom
Without a doubt, the hardest part of traditional trap bar deadlifts. The more time you spend in this position and practice exploding up, the stronger you will become.
If a heel-elevated trap bar deadlift helps you do this then the exercise can be very beneficial for becoming explosive at the bottom of your deadlift.
Protecting Your Lower Back
Even if you squat with perfect form, your lower back is subject to some compression and strain.
This can become a problem if you also like to do other rigorous exercises that take a toll on your back like barbell deadlifts or barbell rows. Therefore, heels elevated trap bar deadlifts allow you to properly load your legs without compressing your spine.
More Quad Focused
In comparison to a regular trap bar deadlift, deadlifting with plates under your heels shifts most of the load onto your quads. This can be really useful if you have an imbalance in your leg muscles or just want bigger quads in general.
How To Do Heel Elevated Trap Bar Deadlift
Place your platform
Step inside your trap bar
Get into a deadlift stance
Lower the weight
- If you use weight plates, make sure they are thinner and have no chance of sliding
- Work hard to keep your core and back tight
- Try to really feel the movement and flexion in your quads
Other Trap Bar Deadlift Variations
There are tons of other useful variations that you can incorporate into your trap bar deadlift work. Here are some of our favorites:
Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift
Trap bar RDLs are a great way to strengthen your posterior chain. In comparison to the straight bar RDL, you will be able to move more weight while lowering your risk of a lower back injury.
Trap Bar Deadlift Jumps
Sometimes simply referred to as trap bar jumps, this variation is basically just a deadlift followed by a jump at the top of the rep. These are very popular for athletes as they can help you build serious explosive power and do not require much technique.
Deficit Trap Bar Deadlift
The deficit trap bar deadlift can be very useful if you are trying to increase the range of motion or working on your explosiveness from the floor. This version of deadlift variation is done by standing on a platform to make the lift harder.
Benefits of Hex Bars
Many gym purists will argue that the standard straight barbell is the pinnacle of all exercise equipment. While the barbell may be an immensely useful tool, the hex bar has some unique benefits to take into consideration
It is Easier On Your Lower Back
In terms of trap bar deadlift benefits, the primary one is injury prevention for your lower back, When you are doing a deadlift with a hex bar, the weights are situated directly at your sides as opposed to in front of you during straight bar deadlifts. This means that the trap bar allows the weight to be more in line with your own center of gravity.
In practice, this means that there will be less sheer force on your lumbar spine when you are moving the weight. Also, trap bars tend to offer a higher starting position so you do not have to bend down as much.
I am a large proponent of the straight bar deadlift but will be the first to admit that lower back injuries are common especially if proper form is not used. The trap bar relieves some of the risks by putting you in a much safer position.
Neutral Grip Position
Unlike traditional barbells where you either have to be pronated or supinated, the trap bar has a neutral grip.
This will make the biggest diffrence in injury prevention when it comes to your shoulders and biceps:
Shoulders Are Externally Rotated
Many people have extremely limited shoulder mobility due to a sedentary lifestyle. This lack of mobility can lead to pain during pressing movements.
Comparatively, a trap bar allows you to take a neutral grip which externally rotates your shoulders. This externally rotated position removes lots of strain from the shoulder joint and is more comfortable.
No More Bicep Tears
When you are doing a barbell deadlift, you can either take an overhand grip or a mixed grip.
The overhand grip is fairly safe for your biceps. The problem is that the overhand grip often becomes the weakest link in someone’s deadlift. Meaning that their grip strength caps their deadlift.
Advanced lifters find that a mixed grip allows them to lift more weight. However, if you use a mixed grip, you are putting your bicep in a very vulnerable position. Bicep tears are not uncommon using this grip and should be a cause for concern.
There is no need to use a mixed grip with a trap bar. In a neutral position, your biceps are much safer.
Less Technique To Learn
If you are a serious lifter, you will know that lifting is NOT as easy as it looks. To master a lift you need to spend time learning the movement and acquiring the needed mobility.
And while the same could be said for a trap bar, it is much easier to learn. You do not really need a whole lot of mobility to technique.
For the most part, you can really just get inside it and lift it up. This makes it a great choice for beginners or anyone who does not want to worry too much about their form.
You Can Lift More Weight
Due to the weight being at your sides during a hex bar deadlift, you will find that you easily lift more weight than you with a regular bar.
Simply put, trap bars allow you to put more total weight on your muscles. This can lead to more muscle growth and stimulus.
Furthermore, the gains you see on trap bar lifts will almost certainly translate to your other lifts as well. I know for a fact that when my trap bar deadlift goes up, my conventional deadlift and squat have gone up as well.
There is a reason that hex bars are used a lot by professional sports teams and that is because they build explosiveness and power like nothing else.
A study conducted at Robert Gordon University concluded that the use of a trap bar resulted in significantly greater peak force, velocity, and power during deadlifts compared to a regular straight bar.
This benefit is not as clear as the other ones but I’ve found that many people especially have found that the trap bar does wonders for your grip strength.
Simply put the neutral grip allows you to focus much more on the way you hold the bar and grip it.
Not to mention that the trap bar makes it very easy to do. grip strength-based exercises like farmers’ walks or shrugs that are also heavily worth the forearms.
If you struggle with mobility or are simply looking for a better way to target your quads, the heel-elevated trap bar deadlift is a great lift. You can still load your legs with very heavy weights without putting additional weight on your spine. Just follow the tips outlined here and you should be ready to go.