Trap Bar Deadlift vs Regular Deadlift: Differences and Benefits
by Evelyn Valdez·
In the fitness world, deadlifts are often seen as one of the ultimate exercises you can master because of how heavy the load can get, helping you maximize your strength. And just like every other exercise out there, you can try a bunch of different variations other than the conventional deadlift depending on your goals.
While most deadlift variations involve a barbell, there’s a slightly different one that has been gaining a lot of popularity over the past few years, and that’s the trap bar deadlift. Even though you’re still lifting a bar, the trap bar (also known as a hex bar) surrounds your body like a cage, changing the way that load is distributed.
So, how is the trap bar deadlift beneficial in comparison to the conventional deadlift? And is the trap bar deadlift easier? Well, we’re here to tell you all about it. So, if you’re interested in deadlifting to increase your strength or maybe to train for a competition, grab a pen and paper, and let’s begin…
Benefits of deadlifting
When it comes to listing the benefits of trap bar deadlifts and conventional deadlifts, the reality is that both exercises offer the same base benefits, just like most deadlift variations that you can try.
Both deadlift variations target your lower body muscles, such as your hamstrings, glutes, quads, and hips, along with your core and your back muscles, particularly your traps, lats, and erector spinae. That said, conventional deadlifts focus more on your hamstrings and erector spinae, while trap bar deadlifts result in better quad engagement.
Overall, here’s what any deadlifting variation can do for you:
- Full-body activation
- Stronger posterior chain
- Decreased lower back pain
- Better grip strength
- Increased mobility
- Enhanced athletic performance
Differences between trap bar vs. regular deadlifts
Just because both variations offer the same base benefits doesn’t mean that it stops there! Because both the bar and your lifting form are different during the two exercises, trap bar deadlifts and straight bar deadlifts can offer additional benefits that align with different goals.
Here are the four main differences between the two deadlift variations:
One of the main things you’ll notice when doing trap bar deadlifts for the first time is that your body’s path upward follows an almost straight line, keeping your torso upright at all times as you lift the bar that goes around your body. Because of this reason, some lifters argue that it’s closer to a squat than to a deadlift.
During conventional deadlifts, both the hip hinge and knee flexion are greater since you need to reach for a bar closer to the ground, as opposed to the trap bar with handles on the sides that are more easily reachable. This means that the trap bar deadlift form isn’t as demanding for your joints, making them more beginner-friendly.
Traditionally, conventional deadlifts are performed with an overhand grip, lifting the bar right in front of you by reaching forward. With a trap bar, however, the bar surrounds you and the handles are on each side, meaning that you grab it by keeping your hands in a neutral grip position.
Because of this, it’s easier to hold onto the bar when doing trap bar deadlifts. The natural position of the hands and arms allows you to lift more comfortably and prevent the bar from sliding, meaning it requires less grip strength than regular deadlifts, but at the same time makes it slightly more difficult to improve your grip strength.
On top of the grip being easier during trap bar deadlifts, the bar is also surrounding you at all times, distributing the weight all around as opposed to conventional deadlifts in which you deal with a load that’s fully in front of you.
This weight distribution and friendlier grip make for a great strength training combination, allowing you to lift more weight with trap bar deadlifts than with conventional ones, which is great if you want to maximize strength while keeping the risk of injury low.
Since your form is different during trap bar deadlifts because of the shape of the bar and the weight distribution, muscle activation is also different from conventional deadlifts.
As we mentioned earlier, both variations train the same muscles, but conventional deadlifts focus on your posterior chain due to the hip hinge movement while trap bar deadlifts are more quad-centered due to the upright position. Because of this, you might choose one or the other depending on your specific goals.
Which one is better?
Well, that depends. Both variations offer great benefits, so you might get more done by doing one or the other — or maybe both!
If you’re a beginner, are recovering from injuries, or haven’t built enough base strength yet, whether muscle or grip, then trap bar deadlifts might be better for you. They’re friendlier, easier to learn, and still give you all the benefits of a regular deadlift, plus a killer quad workout.
Trap bar deadlifts are also great for athletes because of how you lift the weight. The upright movement and neutral arms and hands position allow for more explosiveness than barbell deadlifts, helping you build your power and speed which is great for those who practice specific sports, especially those that involve jumping.
On the other hand, if you’re focused on increasing your overall mobility, particularly on your hips and knees, conventional deadlifts are the challenge that you need. The movement isn’t as restrictive as with the trap bar, allowing you to increase your range of motion and strength, particularly in your posterior chain.
And of course, if you’re planning to get in a powerlifting competition, conventional deadlifts are the way to go. Trap bar deadlifts are still fairly new so you will not be seeing them in competition, and since your form is different in both variations, you’re better off sticking with conventional deadlifts during training.
At the end of the day, the best and most effective workout routine is the one that has enough variation to engage every muscle in your body. Unless you’re training for a competition or have any limitations, mixing both exercises is the best way to get the most out of a deadlift session — just remember to always use a weight that’s safe for you!
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