Compared to the straight bar deadlifts, the trap bar deadlift is often written off as being the “easier” of the two lifts. However, what many people do not realize is that by switching which handles they use on their trap bar, they can make their trap bar deadlifts much harder. In this guide, we discuss the proper low-handle trap bar deadlift form, its benefits, and the muscles used, and compare it to the high-handle version.
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Muscles Used By Low Handles Trap Bar Deadlift
Like any trap bar deadlift, the low handles variation will heavily work the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors. In comparison to the straight bar deadlift, you can expect to have more quad activation and less posterior chain activation. In many ways, the trap bar deadlift can be viewed as a blend between the squat and deadlift in terms of muscular activation.
Low Handles Trap Bar Deadlift Benefits
If you have access to a trap bar with multiple handle heights, here is why you should consider opting for the lower handles:
More Quad Activation
By performing the hex bar deadlift with the lower handles, you are increasing the range of motion and stretch on your muscles. In particular, you will notice that your quads and hips will feel a deep stretch at the bottom of the lift. This lift is not a squat, but the level of knee flexion does provide similar levels of stimulus for your quads.
Strengthen Your Posterior Chain
The posterior chain is the group of muscles that run from your upper back down to your calves. This includes muscles like the spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings. All these muscles are very important for posture and stabilization on other lifts.
Thanks to the increased range of motion, this deadlift variation is more challenging and can place more emphasis on your back. Granted you will have to use less weight but this simply means you are getting more out of less weight.
Lower Back Strength
In order to do this movement with proper form, you will need to develop tremendous lower back strength to keep your back from rounding at the bottom. With a bulletproof lower back, you no longer have to worry about the strain brought on by squats and regular deadlifts.
Increased Time Under Tension
While getting stronger on your lifts is a key factor in muscle growth, another important factor is time under tension. Again and again, studies have shown that time under tension is a form of progressive overload that leads to greater hypertrophy. Since this lift has a greater range of motion, your muscles will be under the tension of the weight for a longer period of time. Meaning more muscle growth.
Carryover To Other Deadlift Variations
Strength is strength. If you get stronger on the hex bar low-handle deadlift you will experience some carryover to your regular trap bar and barbell deadlift. Not only that but the low-handle hex bar deadlift can help expose weaknesses in your regular deadlift. If you struggle to get the most to get the weight off the floor, it will be obvious.
Likewise, the greater range of motion and time under tension may show you that you struggle the most with locking out. Either way, the low-handle hex bar deadlift is a great way to work on your weaknesses and breakthrough deadlift plateaus.
Develop Explosive Power
To get the bar off the ground, you are going to need to learn how to be very explosive off the ground. The more you do this movement, the more this force production and explosive power will be developed in the human body. This will not only show in your weightlifting as getting stronger on the trap bar deadlift has also been shown to help with athletic movements like jumping and sprinting.
How To Do Low Handle Trap Bar Deadlifts
Step into the bar
Get into a deadlift position
Lift the bar
Lower the weight
Low Handles Trap Bar Deadlift Tips
To get the most out of the movement, use the following tips:
Your back and abs should be engaged throughout the lift to keep the bar stable. Do not allow your back to bend or shoulders to roll forward
Do not allow your elbows to bend, keep your arms straight.
If you feel your knees caving in, lower the weight. You do not want to risk a knee injury.
Low Handle vs High Handle Trap Bar Deadlift
Here are the main differences between the low and high trap bar deadlift:
Greater Range Of Motion
Since you start lower to the floor with the low handles, you have a greater range of motion that is more similar to the traditional barbell deadlift. This means a deeper stretch in your muscles and more time under tension as well.
Have To Use Less Weight
Due to the increased range of motion, you will be weaker on the low handle variation. This is not necessarily bad since it just means you are getting more out of less weight. However, this also means that if you use the high handles version, you will have the option of overloading your muscles more with heavy weight.
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 barbell 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 power 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.
Most people look at trap bars and just see deadlifts. But the truth is that trap bars are very versatile pieces of equipment that can be used for a number of exercises. Here are just a few:
Single Leg Deadlifts
Trap Bar Deadlifts
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.
The low-handle trap bar deadlift is a very challenging variation of the trap bar deadlift. In comparison to the regular or high handles, you will have a greater range of motion and train yourself to be explosive off the floor. If you are looking to switch up your deadlift training, give it a try!