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Everything You Need To Know About The Trap Bar

October 21, 2016

The trap bar is one of my favorite pieces of gym equipment. For the uninitiated, the trap bar is that weird looking, stop sign shaped, piece of equipment that you have to stand inside of to use. Many now come with adjustable or multiple handles allowing lifters of different heights to adjust as necessary.

The trap bar was invented in 1985 by Al Gerard as a way to train around lower back injuries.

The bar’s primary purpose is for deadlifts, but with a little bit of creativity it can be used for so much more.

Deadlifting With The Trap Bar

Deadlifting with a trap bar allows the lifter to use an upright posture, or a significant incline. Lifting with an upright posture will create an effect that mimics a squat, while using an inclined posture will create a movement pattern that more closely resembles a traditional straight bar deadlift. The upright posture will put less stress on the spine than a traditional deadlift, and allow for a speedier recovery. This is also a ‘safer’ posture for less experienced lifters — so those who are just getting started with deadlifts can step in and easily assume a good lifting position. And that’s not just ‘bro science’…real science says so too!

Due to the neutral (palms facing in) grip required by the trap bar, it will also create a greater training effect on the traps – which is awesome. Look at any “jacked” individual, and I guarantee they have a killer set of traps.

Here’s how to do it

Step inside the bar and place your feet smack in the middle (between the front and back of the bar) and a comfortable distance apart – I use slightly inside shoulder width as a jumping off point, and adjust as necessary throughout my warmup sets until I hit a spot that allows me to really groove the movement pattern.

Take a tight grip on the handles, and align your middle finger with your shins.

As with a traditional deadlift, the movement is performed by driving the feet “through the floor” and exploding “up and out with the hips” stopping just short of full extension.

For visual learners it should look like this:

Of course, the trap bar goes beyond the deadlift. A little bit of outside the box thinking can open up a world of possibilities.

Common sense tells us that it can be useful for shrugs – as I said before the neutral grip hits the traps in a way that the straight bar doesn’t. The weight is loaded in the same manner as a dumbbell shrug (arms to the side), but the bar allows a heavier load which in turn creates a more significant training effect.

The trap bar is also an effective tool for single leg work — allowing lifters to go heavier than with dumbbells, while still giving them the option to easily “bail out” of a lift if the weight becomes too heavy or the movement pattern becomes unstable.

Here are two examples from T-Muscle.

Sliding Reverse Lunges

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

If you have ever had to train through a shoulder injury then you know that a neutral grip can take a significant amount of stress off of the joint. The trap bar is built perfectly for this, and as T-Muscle explains can be easily set up in a power rack for such a movement.

It can be used for both an overhead press, and the more explosive version – the push press.

Overhead Press

Push Press

And I would be remiss if I did not include one of my favorite uses – trap bar carries.

Here’s the thing, carrying a heavy ass amount of weight will make you bigger, stronger, more explosive, and leaner. The movement follows the same concept as dumbbell carries – hands are at the side holding the weight in a neutral position, walk until you hate your life, rest a minute, and repeat.

DB carries are a great move, and since my current gym lacks a trap bar they have become a regular part of my routine. But as with other movements, the trap bar allows me to use more weight by hitting the same muscle groups – again, meaning more muscle built, more strength gained, and more fat burned.

Trap Bar Carries:

For even more badass trap bar training ideas check out these articles.