The deadlift is one of the best lifts anyone can do to help strengthen virtually all muscles in the body, along with the posterior chain. It is also, however, a lift that has the potential to cause injury if not performed correctly.
We’ve previously discussed the best deadlift you’ve never done as one that can help to minimise the risk of injury, but it will take a little bit of time to adapt to. A far easier and more common deadlift variation that is incredibly effective and one that helps to reduce the risk of injury is the trap bar deadlift. If you’ve not seen or heard of the trap bar deadlift before, then allow Conor McGregor to show you how it’s done.
Taking to Instagram recently to perform a “post paddy’s day workout” in his “ma’s kitchen,” Conor can be seen performing the trap bar deadlift, followed by an incline dumbbell chest press and some barbell bicep curls. While those second two movements are great for building the chest, shoulders and biceps, we’re focusing on the trap bar deadlift.
What is a trap bar deadlift?
The trap bar deadlift is a deadlift variation that commonly uses a hexagonal bar that the lifter stands inside. There is a handle on either side of the trap bar, which you grip with a neutral grip (palms facing inwards). You then lift in a very similar fashion to a barbell deadlift, i.e. hinge at the hips, bend the knees slightly, lock down your shoulders and push up through your feet.
According to Mirafit, the trap bar deadlift is just as good as the conventional barbell deadlift at strengthening your posterior chain. However, because the weight is more centred, due to your positioning standing inside the bar, it reduces the strain on your lower back and can actually place greater emphasis on your quad muscles.
If you’re already experienced with performing both trap bar deadlifts and barbell deadlifts, you would have likely found you can lift a heavier load with the trap bar than the barbell, highlighting the fact your quads play a bigger role in the lift.
How to perform a trap bar deadlift
There are a few different trap bar deadlift variations, which are determined by the type of trap bar you use. The most common is the conventional hex bar, which you’ll likely find in most gyms. Conor McGregor, however, is using an open-back trap bar. This will likely have a heavier starting weight (before you add any plate weights) and can be used to perform a range of other exercises, such as Romanian Deadlifts.
Whichever trap bar type you use, the lifting technique will be the same. To perform a trap bar deadlift, stand inside your trap bar of choice with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and squat down to grab the trap bar handles (this part of the movement is similar to a squat, in that you want to imagine you’re sitting down on a chair, aiming to prevent your knees from going too far over your toes).
Raise your chest and look out in front of you. Lock down your shoulders and keep your back flat, before pushing up through your feet to lift the trap bar off the floor. Lift until you’re standing straight and squeeze your glutes when you reach the top of the movement.
Lower the trap bar back down slowly in an exact reverse, i.e. maintaining your forward gaze and squatting back down. As Conor McGregor shows in his video, he doesn’t allow the trap bar to touch the floor before lifting again. You can let it touch the floor if you wish, although getting it close to the floor, without letting it touch, will increase the tension on your quads and hamstrings.
The trap bar deadlift is a perfect variation for those who have long wanted to try the conventional barbell deadlift but have been worried about injury. As is the case for most lifting exercises, it’s also always good to start off with a lighter weight so that you can get the technique right, before attempting to increase the weight.
Try the trap bar deadlift next time you’re in the gym and feel the burn in your legs the next day.