Are Trap Bar Deadlifts Safer Than Straight Bar Deadlifts?


People often ask me, “Are trap bar deadlifts safer than straight bar deadlifts?”

In the past I might have been inclined to say yes. But that was before I witnessed a lot of average guys sustain some really odd injuries while trap bar deadlifting over the last three years.

You see, when you get used to working with a higher level, more athletic clientele it can skew your viewpoint on things a bit.

I’ve found that to be the case with a few concepts that I once believed to be true. After being able to test them on a wider pool of average guys they didn’t pan out as well.

The theory that trap bar deadlifts are safer than straight bar deadlifts is just one of those beliefs that I’m referring to. The trap bar deadlift is thought to be safer than a straight bar deadlift because of the fact that more people can get into the start position of a trap bar deadlift without rounding their lower backs.

Very few people can pull a straight bar from the floor without some pretty serious spinal flexion. Sure, they can improve their hip and ankle mobility and put in some serious flexibility work which will lead to them being able to pull a straight bar with perfect form within 12-16 weeks. But the first time out not a lot of people can do it.

Others just aren’t built for it and will never be able to. Then we have athletes or clients who can only train for a 2-4 months at a time in between seasons. They don’t have the time to work their way into a perfect straight bar deadlift. So in this case the trap bar is often called upon.

The trap bar deadlift is a nice combination of a squat and a deadlift. Like a straight bar dead from the floor, most people can’t squat properly without several weeks of preparation either. But it’s the very rare genetic misfit who can’t do a pretty good looking trap bar deadlift within their first month of attempting to do so.

For that reason right there it becomes the go-to lower body exercise for numerous strength coaches.

The problem, however, is that the trap bar deadlift is a very unstable movement. When you combine heavy weights with shaky, unstable movements you may be asking for trouble. What I mean by this is that unlike the straight bar, which locks you into place because the bar is grinding against your thighs, you’re kind of just out there flapping in the breeze with the trap bar.

I believe Mark Rippetoe mentioned this a few years back but I never gave it much credence at the time. However, I now wholeheartedly agree that the trap bar could be much riskier and cause more injuries than the straight bar. I’ve seen too many weird, Exorcist like moves and injuries the last few years to think otherwise.

With light weights it’s easy as could be to maintain perfect form on a trap bar, but as soon as you start piling on the plates the bar starts moving in places it shouldn’t. Advanced lifters can usually control this. But the benefit of the trap bar is supposedly that novice and intermediate lifters can use it. What often happens is when pulling out of the bottom, they’ll roll the bar. I’ve seen it go forwards and I’ve seen it go backwards. Neither direction is good.

Notice the arm angle and placement of the hands in relation to the torso.

With the straight bar this doesn’t happen. You simply instruct the lifter to pull back and the bar rolls up the shins as it should. Notice the start position of the lifter pictured to the right. If he attempts to pull back from that position, as he would with a straight bar,  he could be going over backwards. And getting injured in the process.

At the midrange point on the trap bar deadlift I’ve seen novice and intermediate lifters break out into a full on Beyonce style dance routine, shimmying from side to side as the bar just sways in the breeze. Again, I’ve never seen this with a straight bar.

Finally, at lockout, when a strong hip extension and glute contraction is required, the straight bar will stop you from going too far. You can only hump the bar so much. But have a lifter with less than a year or two of experience do this on the trap bar and you may see some Cirque du Soleil type freakish back bending that results in an injury.

I actually saw a kid do four perfect reps on the trap bar deadlift this winter only to finish out his fifth and final rep by tripling his hip extension for some reason. I guess he just wanted to finish strong. At the top of the lift this hands were actually behind him and it looked like he was about to limbo under an imaginary bar in front of him. My eyes lit up wide like I had just seen a live beheading.

So the answer to the question, “Are trap bar deadlifts safer than straight bar deadlifts,” is no, not necessarily. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.. My opinion is that with heavier, top end weights the trap bar is more dangerous. But with submaximal weights the trap bar can be safer.

Beginners should only use submaximal weights so the trap bar is a good way to work them down to a straight bar if that is your goal. However, if you get a strong guy pulling more than five or six hundred pounds on the trap bar you have to consider the risk of how free and “out there,” the trap bar is. There’s nothing locking you in like there is with the straight bar and even advanced lifters may get out of their groove just a bit. All it takes is a slight deviation from the perfect bar path and you’re on the shelf for a month or three.

The safest choice of all is a rack deadlift set on the pins as low as you need them to maintain a neutral spine. As I mentioned, the majority of people will round their lower back when pulling a straight bar from the floor. That will probably lead to injury eventually, if you do it heavy enough, long enough. So the solution is to simply raise the bar up on pins or rubber mats (even better) just as high as you need it to keep a neutral spine. This may be two inches for Johnny and six inches for Joey. It depends on your body and a variety of factors.

If you had to pick one form of deadlifting as the safest for the largest majority of people that would be it right there- a low rack pull or a deadlift off a stack of mats.

Lifting heavy weights of any sort is fun, plain and simple. And we all accept that there are serious risks involved. So if you like to pull with one bar more than the other by all means do so. It’s your call. At the end of the day you gotta move some heavy iron and you gotta have fun doing it. I’m just sharing my experience and trying to keep you guys healthy so you can be in this for the long haul.

I’m basing this off of a pool of about 70-80 guys I worked with over the last few years but would love to hear your feedback. Have you found this to be the same? What has been your experience with the trap bar versus the straight bar? What do you think is the safest form or deadlift for the masses?

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59 Responses to Are Trap Bar Deadlifts Safer Than Straight Bar Deadlifts?

  1. Chris D. July 11, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    I have to agree. Recently I’ve been working up to heavy sets on the trap bar and have seen some of the “Beyonce style dance routines” you mentioned. Good heads up.

  2. kohy July 11, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    i think the trap bar is a very versatile tool. it does make the deadlift a little more squat-esque though. While it may appear safer it takes away that danger element, which may be counter productive for building an athletes mental toughness.

    kH

  3. JC July 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    This is exactly what I needed to read today, Jason. I have been training a couple groups of high school hockey and football players over the past 5 weeks and what you wrote about today is exactly how I feel about the trap bar DL, but I didn’t know what my next step should be. When we first started, I tried to get them to use proper form with a straight bar, but it just wasn’t happenning. Given that we only have ten weeks, I knew I wasn’t going to get them to the point of proper form with the straight bar, so I switched to the trap bar. Last week I saw a number of my guys do some crazy movements with their bodies, like you mentioned, when we were working our way up to maximal weight. After seeing this, I immediately thought I needed to do something different or someone was going to get hurt. Using the rack pins and a straight bar is what I need to switch to. I think this will be much safer and still very effective for the goals we are trying to accomplish. Thanks Jason!

    • Jason Ferruggia July 11, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

      @JC: Yeah, this seems to be the case with a lot of people. LEt me know how it works out. Good luck.

      @Chris D- Not sure.

      @Kirpal- Thanks

      @Nia- Agreed.

      @jason- No, that won’t be a problem.

      @Will- Exactly.

      @Sam- Thanks a lot, buddy. Good points about starting from the top down. I do the same thing.

      @Aaron- What Gianni said. And my credibility taking a nose dive? That’s old new, my friend. My first grade teacher was the first to let me know that many moons ago.

  4. Chris D. July 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Do you think there could be a way to secure a cross bar on the trap bar to ensure a stable path directly up the legs?

  5. Kirpal July 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Great article Jason. I was looking for a trap bar that I could use for standard plates but I failed to find one. Right now I just rack deadlifts at knee height because that’s the lowest i can go with the half squat rack I have. I sometimes throw in a deadlift day with the lift from the floor to test my strength. I’m doing one of the inner circle programs right now so I won’t be deadlifting for a while, but I still hope to get yoked ;)

  6. Nia Shanks July 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    I like to use the trap bar with many of my clients, for some of the reasons mentioned above.

    Personally, I don’t use the trap bar in my own training. I think it’s because I never attempted to use a trap bar until years after deadlifting with a straight bar – both conventional and sumo. It always feels “awkward” no matter if I’m going light or heavy.

    I think it’s definitely because of the fact that I’m “locked in” with a straight bar that I prefer to use it. That free feeling just doesn’t feel good when pulling heavy weight off the floor.

  7. jason July 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    for a year straight I had tried getting the straight bar deadlift down pat but to no avail. I worked on flexibility like crazy, got my squat perfect, but for some reason could just never get the deadlift right. I really think my body just isn’t meant for it-i have this wide beyonce hips and maybe that has something to do with it.

    I’ve been following your upper lower full body programs like Rampage and love them. I’m curious though, is it bad that I dropped the deadlift completely? I only work in the hang position for power movements and just squat on lower body days. After all that trying to perfect my dead I just got discouraged and dropped it. Will this be a problem if I replace “Drop the Deadlift” ; ) haha really liked that post too, but seriously, what do you think?

  8. Will July 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    The sort of guy who lacks the patience and discipline to take the time to improve his flexibility to deadlift properly is likely to get injured whatever he does.

  9. Sam Visnic July 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Jason,

    I just shake my head watching videos online of kids in near complete spinal flexion squirming up 500 in the trap bar deadlift, all the while their strength coach “guru” is chanting them on. Its amazing to me how ignorant this is. You are the ONLY one I see pointing out these truths. Great article as usual. My choice is straight bar, and start with RDL to improve hip flexibility and learn to maintain lumbar curve. As the trainee can get below the kneecaps with a solid lordosis, allow them to flex the knees and descend until they lose the curve. I like to work from the top down.

  10. Jason July 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Lots of good points. I tend to stay away from the trap bar myself. I use to use it all the time then a client hurt his low back with the shimmy. So now i tend to stay away from it. Like you said the straight bar does not have much travel. People don’t like it going up their shins but you never see it a mile off the shins either. Plus the straight bar is more difficult keeping the load lighter than the trap bar.

  11. Aaron July 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Thanks! I bought a trap bar because you said they were safer. I love that you keep changing your mind about things you so adamantly claim in the publications you sell. Your credibility seems to be taking a nose dive.

    • Larry January 17, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

      Good strength coaches are constantly evaluating their programs and making changes. You should be thankful that Jason has the b@##$ to admit that he is changing his mind. He also stated that trap bars do work…just not for everyone. I know that MIke Boyle has a ton of respect for Jason and that speaks much more to his credibility then changing his stance on trap bars! Keep up the great work Jason!

  12. Frank A July 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    There is specificity of training to consider. Just the name of the bar implies the use to train the traps! Sometimes modifying the use of equipment does not always provide for better results and can impact safety.

    • Ryan July 12, 2011 at 6:45 am #

      @Frank A:

      It is named a “Trap” Bar because you are “trapped” inside of it. Not because it is meant to train traps. Mind you, any type of deadlift is great for building monster traps, but you have to get that weight off the floor first. If you can’t do that safely then we have a problem.

      • Frank A July 13, 2011 at 10:02 am #

        Thanks for that info. If you look at where the hands are placed it would it make it easier to do shrugs for traps then with a barbell and you can use more weight than with dumbbells? @Ryan:

        • Ryan July 13, 2011 at 11:48 am #

          @Frank A:

          You could use more weight than dumbells for sure, but it is also very unstable. Personally I would choose barbell shrugs over trap bar shrugs any day. It should be easy to come very close to the same weight if you are pulling off a rack (mid thigh height) and use a hook grip.

  13. Gianni July 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    After reading Minimalist Training I asked my gym to order one. They did, so I’m gonna give it a shot!
    To Aaron, Jay has always said he constantly “Evolves” and life is a learning process. If he believes something he will share with his followers.If you read the article correctly- it does not say to avoid Trap Bars!

  14. Mike Shively July 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    Awesome article Jason. I’m glad you put it up, because I just went from MGS and started Uncaged today, and was trying to decide which style of DLs I wanted to do on Wed. I was contemplating trap bar, but I can see exactly what you mean about them. I think I’ll stick with the straight bar dls..

    And to piggy-back on what Sam said, I was actually watching 2 D-1 football players do trap bar DLs next to me in between sets last week. Some of the worst form I’ve ever seen (ridiculous spinal flexion and all kinds of Beyonce dance moves), all while their trainer/coach gave them a “good job”. Won’t be “good job” when these kids are sitting on the sidelines injured from doing trap dls with shitty form..

  15. Matt July 11, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    G’day Champ!
    Nice article mate. I’m one of those people who can’t get the DL right. I know how to do it, but can’t ever seem to get my body into the right position without loading my lower back too much. I’ve done some trap bar DL’s but not a fan (prob due to the same reasons you’ve stated here) – I’d rather just squat to be honest.
    I’d interested to hear what sort of hip mobility exercises/stretches you’d recommend to loosen up that area. My ankles are fine and I can squat well, just my hips are tight.
    Keep up the great work mate. I rate you articles as the best on the net mate! Love reading them!
    Cheers,
    MC – Sunshine Coast, Australia!

  16. Steve July 11, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    Timely article as I just bought a trap bar. Does anyone have a good link / video describing proper trap bar DL technique?

  17. JB July 11, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    My gym is virtually void of deadlifters precisely because of the difficulties in lifting from the floor. I can’t deadlift from the floor but it’s fine if I start from about 6 inches above. I’ve asked them to either get in a rack or a trap bar so people can at least start deadlifting but to no avail. Looks like they’d prefer to attract lycra wearing pussies instead ofreal men that like to lift heavy. Time to look for a new gym methinks.

  18. Bret Contreras July 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    Good thoughts Jason. I’ve seen the same thing in regards to novices using the trap bar. I’ve always preferred the straight bar with my clients just because I’m looking for a more hip dominant lift to balance out the squatting.

    I could argue that the trap bar is safer because people can shift the load more toward their center of mass which prevents them from rounding over.

    However, the problem is that then these lifters never master the hip hinge and they never really cure their quad dominance in my opinion. I believe that folks need to have the hip mobility to deadlift from the floor, and they need to learn how to pull with the straight bar and use their hammies to their full extent as hip extensors.

    So the hex bar and rack pull are fine starting out, but the goal is always to create good conventional deadlifters (and squatters I should add) over time.

    Cheers!

  19. Jeff July 11, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    Jason,

    I’ve simply never had access to a trap bar so I’ve never used one…but they always looked weird to me and I’ve never really even wanted to use one…

    Even in the photo you posted, the handles are raised a few inches from where a straight bar would be, so it’s kind of like a rack pull off of mats/pins, so I figure if that’s what someone wants, just do that instead of buying a whole new piece of equipment…but everyone has to do what’s best for their anatomy…

    And maybe I just feel a little more bad ass with a straight bar :)

    Thanks for your time and wisdom…how you liking California so far?…I’m just down south of you in Huntington Beach…been here yet?

  20. Danny McLarty July 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    I believe the trap bar is safer than conventional deadlifts. That’s not to say that conventional can’t be safe if the person has adequate mobility etc. But as mentioned, it is easier to get into position and as Bret said, the load can be shifted to the center of mass to help prevent rounding.

    Jason, I too have seen that “flapping in the breeze” thing with some people when doing TBDLs. But I really think it is just like anything else; you have to cue, practice, and focus on NOT doing that. The TB makes us a little more vulnerable to this flapping thing happening, but in can be prevented. IMO, there are so many benefits of TBDLs, that it is worth working on (preventing the flapping in the breeze).

    Also, I think this flapping happens because most of us are used to EXPLOSIVELY extending our hips to finish off the lift (like with conventional deads, RDLs, goodmornings). When doing this will a TB, the momentum from the bar can throw off the COG, contributing to us hyperextending. So, I try to “ease” into hip extension while using the TB (I don’t “pop” the hips as much at top to finish the lift).

    Although there are benefits to explosively finishing off a movement, again, I think there are still plenty of benefits with the TBDL even know we aren’t popping our hips at the top of the movement.

    Just my thoughts,

    Danny

  21. Grant July 11, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    Great stuff Jay,

    I like the trap bar except you do tend to “squat it” more than deadlift it if you don’t have someone pull you up on your technique.

    Again i have a ton of clients have problems with the straight bar.

    But I’ve actually found great success with deadlifting kettlebells for my beginner and intermediate lifters.

  22. Chris July 11, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    I’ve never used a trap bar, actually. But I’m up to 350lb on a straight bar, after a year and a half of proper deadlifting (cycled on and off) and a couple of years of only ‘going through the motions’ with weights previous to that. I like the straight bar a lot, and I can immediately see your point about the trap bar, even though I haven’t used one.

  23. Will July 11, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    @Aaron: Jason’s readiness to admit his mistakes only increases his credibility. Stop whining. Use your trap bar to hang your washing on.

  24. BVL July 12, 2011 at 1:50 am #

    Hey Jason,
    In Jan. this past year I suffered a pretty serious back injury using the trap bar. I was going for a set of 5 and had perfromed 4 good reps. On the last rep I experianced something similar to what you’ve explained. The bar shifted forward, I rounded out a bit and before I had time to correct I heard a pop in my low back. I had to take 2 days off work and lay on the floor. Not very good.
    Now, I know I can’t blame it all on the Trap Bar. I shouldn’t have tried to grind the 5th rep. I now know when to pull up trumps in a set.
    I am now back Deadlifting and using the Trap Bar but with much less weight but looking to build back up. Although my weights are down my technique has improved which I am happy with. It has been good to get the reinforcment from Jason to “take it slow” from his articles.
    So yes, this was a very interesting article as it spoke straight to me. I had a pretty serious wake up call but with the right rehab and corrections there is no reasons you can’t come back smarter, healthier and stronger than before.
    Cheers, BVL

  25. John July 12, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    Hey Jay,
    Are sumo deads easier to perform than conventional deads for guys who do not have that thin long-limbed shape of ectomorph? And do they hit the hamstrings harder than ordinary deads?
    Nice article, but I’m sure you would agree that there is still a place for it for a bit of variation for guys who grow stale very quickly with their routine.

  26. Paul July 12, 2011 at 6:18 am #

    Jay,

    Great article! Here are some thoughts I had on the subject:

    I purchased a trap bar at the suggestion of your material. It has helped me out tremendously to get started with DL movements as I was failing with the standard DL. I’m now at 265lb lifts and have started to do both the regular DL and the trap deadlift. So, from a beginners perspective I see a lot of good that can come from using a trap bar.

    As for Aaron’s thoughts on credibility, some constructive feedback would be to make sure any material going out from this point forward shares your new views on the subject or any subject that you have changed your views on.

    I too, am a loyal reader/follower due to the fact that you are ever growing and changing. To prove my point, I’m now in the middle of the Fungus Link diet(mandatory reading material), just walked all over Europe in the Merrell shoes you wrote about and have gained 20lbs of muscle since I started reading your material.

    Keep up the great work Jay. Your efforts “HAVE” made a difference in my life!

  27. Brandon Cook July 12, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    I bought the super deadlift bar (that’s pictured above) and I love that thing! I did notice right away that you have to be more aware of your form when locking out at the top since the bar isn’t there to stop you. You also have to be more conscious to push your hips back to keep the exercise a deadlift versus squatting it up.

    However, I like that my shins no longer bleed and my lower back has less shearing forces than with the straight bar. Personally, I’ll probably alternate and spend some time with the straight bar as well since they both have their positives and negatives. Hope your summer is rockin!

  28. Ryan McKane July 12, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    I think with the deadlift, like some other exercises, you almost have to figure out which variation to use based on the client. In my brief experience I have found that most new clients want to turn the deadlift into a squat or back exercise, I have been using the “flat iron” deadlift with this demographic to reinforce correct motor pattern and to learn to use their glutes/hamstrings. Once again, great article!

  29. Brad July 12, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    If mobility is an issue, I prefer deadlifting from pins set at an appropriate height. Progress until lifting from the floor. I don’t see a huge need for the trapbar IMO. Thanks for the insight Jason.

  30. Dave July 12, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    I use the trap bar on occasion for some dynamic deadlifts, but stick to the straight bar (conventional & sumo) for the real heavy work.

  31. Gary Deagle July 12, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    I tried trap bar deadlifts once and did not like them for that main reason. The “swaying” and difference from straight bar threw me off a lot.

  32. David July 12, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    While not an expert my personal opinion would be that any lift regardless of apparatus where the lifter is grinding to get the last rep has a certain element of danger. If you’re struggling to move the weight from A-Z there’s a good chance you’ll reduce focus on the points in between (form). Obviously some lifts are safer than others but I can’t think of many that when using maximum weight don’t pose some risk. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve finished many lifts with a, “WTF was I thinking?” — Great article!! I always keep these nuggets of wisdom in the back of my mind when setting up for a lift

  33. Tomek July 12, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Let me throw my opinion into the pot: deadlift is NOT squat. Diffrent muscles worked, diffrent positions, diffrent excercise. One of the challenges for me personally when trying to master the technique of DL is trying to root out the squat elements out of my DL. Now, trap bar DL sort of has squat movements by definition. So as far as I understand it, trap bar DL prevents you from rooting out the mistakes of inproper DL technique. That’s why it’s straight bar for me only, but not necessarily from the floor – usually not lower than 2-3 inches below knee cap (I don’t compete with anybody but myself). Also, as far as injuries go, I can’t imagine a safer lift than DL (that’s from a guy who got shoulder problems from too heavy… curls!), as long as you know your weight limits and increase the weight slowly.

  34. Todd B July 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    I probably use a little different technique with the trap bar. I don’t pull back like a normal DL but push straight up more like a suitcase squat or as if I’m leg pressing, using more leg than back and it feels more stable that way. I use it to add more to leg training with front squats, since I train alone and don’t have safety equipment to back squat. I do deadlifts on another day. Btw, the sumo DL seems to feel safer for me than the conventional DL.

  35. Luke H July 13, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    Cheers for the article, I live in New Zealand and I don’t think the trap bar has made it over here (lol). I would have been no the wiser without the article so thanks for that.

  36. Adam July 13, 2011 at 1:24 am #

    I ended up buying a trap bar and I must say its helped heaps and Ive made pretty steady progress on it. I found it to be a lot easier on my lower back and I haven’t experienced any swaying of sorts although my deadlift is no way near anything resembling power lifting records.

    That said your spot on about setting the pins a little bit higher, or in my case using carpet tiles to bring the bar up a couple of inches

  37. E.J. July 13, 2011 at 5:20 am #

    Good article Jay, I have been using a Trap Bar for the last 6 months, before that I was doing rack pulls from about mid shin. In the 6 months that I have used the Trap Bar my DL has gone from 310 lbs. to a 405 lb. pull, I’m 175 lbs. You do have to concentrate and focus on keepin good form & not allowing the over extension of your hips, but this is good practice for any lift with any weight…hell it’s even a good idea to focus & respect the weight if you are only putting a 25 lb plate back on the weight rack. I do find it is best to keep the reps low when using the Trap Bar, I like to use the 5 – 3 – 1 method with it. If doing higher reps I did find that it was more difficult to keep a tight form.

    Now that I have broken 400 lbs. I am going back to traditional DL’s from the floor to start bringing that weight up. Variety is the spicy of life & I think the Trap Bar has a place in your arsenal to keep things fresh…just always practice safety first. I’ll be back to the Trap Bar after I crush a 405 lb staright bar DL from the floor.

  38. E.J. July 14, 2011 at 5:31 am #

    I also use my Trap Bar for Farmer Walks as well as shrugs, it is a multi-purpose tool.

  39. John July 15, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    Hey can anyone comment on the modified straddle lift which can be seen on Stuart McRobert’s Weight Training Technique book? Is it any good as an alternative to barbell deadlifts?

  40. Abdiel Rodriguez July 17, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    Some Partials movements may be of more benefit to athletes than complete ROM on every exercise. We have to consider that they are already taxing their system with a lot of practice and they don’t really need full ROM on every movement pattern (less stress to those joints!). The problem is that we tend to confuse athletes in the weight room with power lifters.

    This is a smart post Jay! Keep it up.

  41. Brad Gatens July 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    This issue has just been reviewed in the new NSCA Journal. If any one needs it, let me know. Some interesting points take from it;

    “The enhanced mechanical stimulus obtained with the hexagonal barbell suggests that in general the HBD is a more effective exercise than the SBD.”

    “Subjects were able to lift a heavier 1RM load in the hexagonal barbell deadlift (HBD) than the straight barbell deadlift” (really???)

    “It has been theorized that performing the deadlift with the hexagonal barbell reduces lumbar stress (13,27).”

    “If the goal is to maximize recruitment of the erector spinae muscles and specifically target the lumbar area, the results of this study suggest that the deadlift should be performed with the straight barbell.”

  42. F&P July 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    The trap bar deadlift is a good replacement for squats and it works the legs better, while the barbell deadlift is more a “back” exercise.IMO there should be no comparison between the two.

  43. Dale November 9, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    I’m surprised you think that the instability of a trap bar (which makes one succeptible to “flapping in the breeze” at the top) is a disadvantage. I thought the advantage of using free weights was that it forces the lifter to balance and control unstable movements. Picture someone who always used a machine bench press, for example, barbell bench pressing for the first time. He’ll likely be swaying all over the place — and learning how to recruit important stabilizer muscles. Same thing with the trap bar. If you really want to be “locked in” to a movement, do leg presses!

  44. Mark June 18, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    I just used a trap bar for deadlifts for the first time and loved it. I’ve been doing straight bar deadlifts for about 6 months and got up to 315. But every time I get around 300 I feel my form start to go bad so I stop. I did 325 first day with a trap bar and form felt so much better. Ultimately I don’t think the discussion should be about which is better, instead I think using both and understanding both is the way to go. Good article, great comments.

  45. Rick July 21, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    “What often happens is when pulling out of the bottom, they’ll roll the bar. I’ve seen it go forwards and I’ve seen it go backwards. Neither direction is good.”

    I’ve been working out for 37 years. I’m 56 now. I started using the Trap bar in the last four or five months. Before that, I never tried it. I really like it overall, but I found that when I get close to 400lbs, it starts to roll in the hands, and it seems to want to do it more, the heavier the load. I’ve thought if was just me, and might have been because I’ve been getting my sea legs with the trap bar, but I see it is a common

    One thing I’ve found that helps is that I “stagger” my grip on the horizontal handles. By that I mean that I place one hand forward of center on the parallel bar, and the other hand behind center on the parallel bar. I also use straps on my one max set to failure after warming up.

    One more thing I like about it is that I can accentuate the eccentric part of the lift a bit, by slowing down my decent somewhat; something that is not so easy on a straight bar dead lift. And by looking in the mirror I can blast off again just before touching the floor, thereby keeping the load on the muscles throughout the set.

    I use Rest/Pause on most all my exercises, but not for deadlifts of any kind. I think the grip thing is the primary reason, next to it just being brutally hard and taxing. I prefer to just do as many reps (2-6) as I can to failure and be done with it.

  46. BTB November 1, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    I support trap bar 100%. great article you make some very good points because i have seen some of those things happen the straight bar is in my opion not safe for deadlifting first you grind the bar on your shin bone when i was at a compitetion one of the guys told me to put baby powder on my shins so it would be less friction second the grip you have to use its tough on your rists that could very well cause rist injury third the most important it puts more pressure on your spine a back which is a big problem if you get that kind of injuryfourth when you get past your knees when your pulling and you cant get it up anymore iv seen guy lean back and start rocking back and forth i sure hope nobody loses there footing and that weight crushes them. it dosent matter what kind of lift your doing techniqe is the key to safety and performance when your stand what is the position of your wrists the same postition they would be in if you were going to do trap bar deadlift with the trap bar your shins will not grind on the bar and you can lift way much more weight with the trap bar. both of these bars are benefical in ways i know guys that cant fit in a trap bar and the straight bar is the traditional way i train with both but support the trap bar

  47. CC November 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    I personally support the trapbar, but hear you on the precautions. Obviously lifting anything without proper form is not going to do any good.
    I am a female and fairly new to deadlifting. I also had an extreme foot injury that gives me a barely noticeable, but permanent limp, and makes all the muscles in my hip tight. The trapbar is much easier for me to maintain form and prevent injury. It’s also a more comfortable and familiar lift for me in life.
    Ultimately, I would like to be able to do both the trapbar and the straight bar deadlift safely, but after some bad straight bar experiences (specifically tight hip muscles leads to sciatica even working with a trainer) I will be working with the trapbar for now.

  48. Jon January 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    I have been rotating trap bar with regular deadlifts for a while and like them both but lately I have been having a lot of trouble getting my groove back with the trap bar. Now part of the problem was having to take a month off from training and general inconsistency due to being too busy to train as much as I would like.

    The main thing is I just can’t seem to get comfortable with the trap bar version anymore, at the bottom I feel loose and like I can’t lock in and I feel a very shaken spot in my lower back a little ways up then after getting to the top something keeps giving me a strange pain or pop on the lowering portion on some reps and I can’t tell if it’s a strain or just a disc being herniated.

    I guess I may have a chronic injury that I did not know I had or I just suck at these anymore, they used to be one of my favorite movements for mass and strength and I was very good at them but now I feel like I totally forgot how to do them and I am struggling with weights 50 pounds lighter than my old work sets.

    Part of the problem is that I do feel very unstable and like I am flapping in the breeze where I used to feel very locked in, this does seem to have happened after doing straight bar dreads for a lengthy period, could it be that I have screwed up my recruitment patterns and my body is just confided?

    I know a lot of what was said by the author of the first post is really applying to me right now and I am going to switch back to regular deads and see how that goes, have not squatted in awhile as I usually rotate trap deads with regular and squats just doing one of them for a few months but have skipped the squats cause I love deadlifts and don’t have the time or energy at this point in my life to do both in the same workout phase but I think it’s time to do some squats and regular deads then maybe go back to trap bar and see how it goes.

    • steve January 28, 2013 at 9:10 am #

      A lot of the tipping problem can be eliminated with an offset grip/

      One hand slightly forward of centre. one hand slightly behind.

      Dunno if this raises other issues, I have been doing this with 200k weights for ages.

  49. Sifter March 2, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    Would your recommendations change for an over 50 lifter? RDL’s? Maxwell’s flatiron dead with bands and dowel? Curious…..

  50. Alex April 13, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Great article. I always though trap bar was safer, however, I hurt my knee yesterday doing the trap bar deadlift. I think it’s because I bend my knees too much at the starting position of the trap bar deadlift . I will no longer go heavy with this exercise.

  51. Moogles April 23, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Very interesting. Am considering purchasing a hex bar as I just don’t have space / money right now for a power rack.

    After reading this, my question is: does this ‘flapping in the breeze’ only happen at higher weights? I’m a skinny dude and might take a while to put even 200lb on there! So at that kind of weight I should be okay? (all other safety considerations accounted for… )

  52. Alex Lawrence September 11, 2013 at 3:06 am #

    You can easily fix the bar roll by adjusting your grip. Hold one side of the bar slightly to the front, and hold the other side slightly to the back. This will increase the “pivot point” area on the horizontal plane, therefore stopping the bar from rolling. It will also hit your back muscles from different angles, giving you a better overall coverage of recruitment; just be sure to alternate your hand placement between sets.

  53. Nick September 15, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    I own a trap bar and have not had trouble with swaying ,but there again I am probably not lifting any where near as much as Jasons clients .As soon as I lift it up I am on the way down again .
    I never lift from the floor either ,the bar is elevated about 6 inches ,not much but it makes it feel a lot safer.