A trap bar, also known as a hex bar because of its often 6-sided shape, is a special form of barbell that was developed in the 1980s by the American competitive powerlifter Al Gerard to be able to lift heavy weights without straining his back overload. Gerard's original trap bar is diamond-shaped, meaning it's square.
Three reasons to use the Trap Bar are as follows:
1. It's a hybrid of squats and deadlifts - When deadlifting with the trap bar, you basically squat not to the maximum depth while holding the bar with your hands, like deadlifting. Except with the neutral hand position, the arms are on either side of the body at the level of the ankles instead of the pronated hand position in front of the shins. By having the bar wrap around the trainee instead of in front of them, it is possible to lift the weight in a squat-like motion without the shins coming into contact with the bar. This hybrid variation allows more weight to be used and the legs to experience a greater and more complete training effect than the regular deadlift.
2. Easier to learn technique than regular deadlift - A squat is a natural movement that we master as toddlers once we learn to walk, fall and get up, or pick up something. Deadlift is a relatively complex movement adapted to the barbell with high demands on muscular balance. As a movement in everyday life, you could compare it to lifting a heavy load in a healthy way, although you will rarely have to lift a barbell with a pronated grip in everyday life, more likely a washing machine, water crates or similar. Because the trap bar deadlift's motion is similar to the squat's motion, the trap bar deadlift is easier to learn than a regular deadlift. And can thus be integrated into a beginner's training program at an earlier stage.
3. Less stress on the lower back than the deadlift and greater posterior chain training effect than the squat - Because the trap bar deadlift is centered on the trap bar with your feet on the imaginary axis between the plates standing, it's possible to remain significantly more upright than with a regular deadlift, where the center of mass is in front of the lifter's body. This results in less stress on the lower back and intervertebral discs. At the same time, however, the posterior chain training effect is greater than deep squats because, unlike the squat, the trap bar deadlift is primarily a hip extension exercise with a large proportion of knee extension. In the squat, it's the other way around.
The trap bar deadlift is an excellent introductory deadlift exercise for beginners. It's also great for more than six reps as part of a circuit.
The trap bar deadlift is not a substitute for squats or deadlifts. It is an excellent supplement, especially when deadlifts are still too advanced in terms of coordination and especially in terms of the parallel displacement of the knee and hip joints.
Good luck training with the Trap Bar!
Picture: YPSI athlete Frederick Lüthcke in set #9 of the A series on trap bar deadlifts with 270kg.