The trap bar deadlift is an amazing full-body exercise that works lots of muscles in your body. In this guide, we will discuss all the muscles worked during trap bar deadlifts and discuss some of the many benefits of this exercise.
Table of contents
What Muscles Does The Trap Bar Deadlift Work?
Here are all the muscles worked by the trap bar deadlift:
Compared to the traditional barbell deadlift, your quadriceps are going to be more heavily engaged. Your quads have to work hard to extend your legs as you pull the bar up. For this reason, many people say that the trap bar deadlift is more leg focused than the conventional deadlift. Out of all the hex bar deadlift muscles worked, your quads are going to be doing the most work.
Your hamstrings are still going to be heavily taxed during a trap bar deadlift, just not as much as they would be by straight bar deadlifts. The hamstrings will most be called up during the eccentric portion of trap bar deadlifts to slow the bar on the way down.
3. Lower Back Muscles
The main muscles in your lower back work deadlifts are the spinal erectors or erector spinae. Similar to the hamstrings and the other muscles in the posterior chain, the trap bar deadlift put less strain on these muscles compared to the traditional barbell deadlift. Studies have found that compared to the traditional deadlift, the trap bar deadlift places have about 50% less posterior chain activation. The rest of the load is mainly being passed on to the quads.
For people that are already doing movements that heavily tax their lower back like barbell rows or squats, the reduced lower back strain that comes with the hex bar deadlift is a positive.
The glutes are the largest muscles in your body and will be heavily worked to drive your hips forward during a trap bar deadlift. However, it is the same story as the hamstrings and lower back. You can expect strength and muscle gain in your glutes but not to the same extent as barbell deadlifts.
Your lats or latissimius dorsi will have to work set your back and help pull bar up during the trap bar deadlift.
Your traps or trapezius or more heavily taxed during a trap bar deadlift. Thanks to the neutral grip, your traps will feel more engaged at the lockout position.
7. Gripping Muscles
There are lots of muscles that make up your strength in your forearm including the flexor digitorum profundis and flexor pollicis longus. However, thanks to the neutral grip of the trap bar, you will likely be able to handle more weight than you could with a regular barbell. Therefore, you are overloading these muscles more.
Trap Bar Deadlift vs. Barbell Deadlift Muscles Worked
While people commonly debate and obsess over the minor differences between the trap bar and barbell deadlift. the reality is that both work the same muscles. As long as you train either one with dedication and get stronger, you can expect to make serious gains in your quads and posterior chain.
At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide which fits your training better.
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.
At the end of the day, both the conventional deadlift and trap bar deadlift are great exercises that will heavily work the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. It just comes to individual build and preference to see how you can use both exercises within your own training.