The deadlift is an all-time great exercise and one every regular gym-goer absolutely must include in their training programme. However, it is also an exercise that people get wrong with alarming frequency – and when performed incorrectly it can put you at risk of injury, with the lower back being particularly vulnerable.
If you’ve found that your back is unduly sore after knocking out a few deadlift sets, consider sharpening up your deadlift form. In the meantime, try using a trap bar to perform the exercise.
The trap bar was invented by powerlifter Al Gerard as a way to reduce the strain on his back during deadlifts. The hexagonal or diamond shape of the bar allows you to stand inside it and grip the bar with your hands by your sides, rather than having to pick up a straight bar from the floor in front of your feet, which shifts your centre of balance forwards and can lead to back pain as a result.
That makes it a particularly good variation for beginners, because most people don’t stroll into a gym ready to nail the deadlift with perfect form, so it’s a smart move to build strength with this variation first and familiarise yourself with the basic motions.
Since the trap bar version of the move reduces the load on both your back and hamstrings, sticking with a barbell might be a better move if your primary aim with your deadlifts is beefing those up – assuming you’re having no injury problems owing to your perfect form. For many gym-goers, however, the trap bar deadlift is a safer exercise that also builds strength and power in the lower body.
How To Do The Trap Bar Deadlift
Step into the middle of the trap bar and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Reach down and grasp the handles of the bar, then sit your hips back, lift your chest and shoulders, and raise your gaze so you’re looking in front of you.
Keeping your back flat, stand up by straightening your hips and knees to lift the bar to around mid-thigh height. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the move, before lowering the bar back down with control.
Trap Bar Deadlift Variations
Romanian trap bar deadlift
This variation places more emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes than the standard trap bar deadlift. Stand holding the bar at thigh height. Hinge at the hips and move your glutes back as you lower the bar in front of your shins until you feel a good stretch in the hamstrings, then drive back up. Keep a flat back throughout. As with the standard deadlift, using the trap bar for the Romanian deadlift reduces the pressure on your lower back.
Band-resisted trap bar deadlift
Rig up a resistance band to pull against for a harder variation of the deadlift that also ensures you’re working against greater resistance at the top of the exercise when the band is at its most taut. This means you have to focus on the whole lift, rather than putting all your effort into getting the bar moving and then relaxing in the second half of the exercise. If you attach the ends of a looped band to the bar next to the weight plates you can then stand on the band as you lift.