Rack Chat: Trap Bar or Barbell Deadlift?

We all know the deadlift is a great strength building exercise, there is no argument there. But, I do understand why people avoid the exercise either while coaching or performing in their own routine. It is a somewhat difficult exercise to teach/learn, and if done incorrectly could pose potential problems with the lumbar spine area. With that said, if a coach does not teach deadlifts because of the potential learning curve than they are just being lazy. Not every exercise is going to be picked up in the first day, and the deadlift is no exception. I have been teaching the deadlift long enough to know it may take over a month to get your athlete to perform the deadlift in “acceptable” mode, acceptable meaning not perfect but also not injury inducing. The NSCA Journal did a research study on doing deadlifts with the trap bar, as well as the traditional barbell deadlfit. Much of the information was somewhat predictable, and somewhat known already, but I still enjoy reading studies to reaffirm what we all have been teaching to others.

Here is an exerpt from the NSCA article, precise and to the point:

“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.”

“Strength and conditioning coaches searching for an alternative to the squat may find the deadlift performed with the hexagonal barbell to be an effective alternative. For individuals with a history of lower back pain or currently in the final stages of rehabilitation, performing the deadlift with the hexagonal barbell rather than the straight barbell may be a more prudent strategy to target the lumbar area while more evenly distributing the load between the joints of the body.”


Posted on February 19, 2014, in Rack Chat and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. interesting. I haven’t coached the deadlift. However, my initial suggestion would be to learn the barbell deadlift first. whether that be conventional or sumo. I have never used a trap bar but i am assuming that some people wont be able to use it to deadlift. that is just my guess.

  2. Nice article Eric! I usually teach the trap bar first, just because I find it harder for people to do wrong, and then move onto the barbell once they have mastered the trap bar. I do love trap bar deadlifts in my own training though and do them a LOT!

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