Is Trap Bar Deadlift Safer Than a Straight Bar Deadlift? 

Trap Bar Deadlift

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast, a crossfitter, your average Joe at the gym looking to lift heavier weight, or someone who plans on entering powerlifting competitions, the trap bar deadlift is an exercise you must add to your gym routine ASAP!

The hexagonal bar, or hex bar, is a beneficial deadlift training tool for lifting heavier weights, kickstarting muscle growth, and improving explosive power.

Trap bar deadlifts are often compared with straight bar deadlift in matters of effectiveness and safety. The purpose of this article is to discuss the differences between the two so you can determine which is safest for you. 

You probably already know the basic technique for trap bar deadlifts but if you’re looking to increase muscle mass, lift more weight and keep your back safe, let’s break down the difference between trap bar deadlifts vs. straight bar deadlifts.

Trap Bar Deadlift vs. Straight Bar Deadlift: How The Hex Bar Deadlift Wins With Safety 

So, how do the safety risks differ between the straight bar deadlift and the trap bar deadlift? The conventional deadlift, with quality form, isn’t precisely dangerous to perform, but it has more safety concerns than the trap bar deadlift. Let’s dive into why the trap bar is safer than the straight bar deadlift below! 

Two illustrations of a person performing a trap bar deadlift and a straight bar deadlift, respectively.
https://www.facebook.com/thephysiofix/photos/a.708856245972758/1243827522475625/?type=3

Easy to Lift With Good Form

Minimizing injury risk is greater with trap bar deadlifts than with conventional barbell deadlifts. This is doable by prioritizing proper form while performing trap bar deadlifts. 

Compared to conventional barbell deadlifts, hex bar deadlifts are a much safer alternative. This is because it is easier to lift with good form with the trap bar, thanks to the neutral position for grip placement on the low and high handlebars. It is visually easier for beginners to see where they need to go inside the trap bar and where to place their hands to perform a quality trap bar deadlift. 

Altogether, the trap bar deadlift is easy to adjust your form to avoid injury in the long run.  

Less Stress on Your Lumbar Spine

Back pain is a common issue with a majority of people in the world. Poor form and technique with exercises can cause unnecessary stress to the lumbar spine. Some exercises can also aggravate pre-existing injuries in the lower back. 

The good news is that the trap bar deadlift is a safe exercise for the back. This is because there is no hyperextension of the lumbar spine, which can cause imbalances or strain in the lower back. Of course, if proper form is incorporated when performing the trap bar deadlift, the risk of injury is significantly decreased. 

On the other hand, in comparison to the trap bar deadlift, the conventional barbell deadlift was shown to cause spinal alignment adjustments in the lumbar spine. Researchers are still evaluating the risks. Still, this natural adjustment in the body while performing the straight bar deadlift can be a cause of concern for individuals with pre-existing lumbar spine issues. 

Lower Risk of Bicep Tears

A lower risk of bicep tears is another excellent aspect of the hex bar deadlift compared to a conventional barbell deadlift. 

The biggest reason why this is a limited concern is because the straight bar deadlift uses the biceps significantly more than the trap bar deadlift. This means there is a greater risk of biceps tears with the conventional barbell deadlift than with a trap bar. 

One study observed distal biceps brachii tendon rupture rates in the straight bar deadlift. The rates are significant enough that an alternative form to prevent this injury concern is being further studied.

Conventional Deadlifts Can Scratch The Shins

The placement of the barbell for straight bar deadlifts makes it quite common to succumb to scratched shins and legs when performing this exercise. This is because the weight is at the front of the body, and proper form requires the barbell to be as close as possible to the legs for a quality lift. 

In contrast, using the trap bar is easy to deter this problem. The placement of the bar while performing a trap bar deadlift is far enough away from the shins to avoid contact if one’s grip is appropriately placed in the center of the handlebars. 

Trap Bar Deadlift: Common Mistakes & Drawbacks

The trap bar is an excellent tool to incorporate in the gym, with variations of deadlifts and squats that can actively engage the muscles to increase strength and power. However, like any exercise, there are common mistakes and drawbacks to the trap bar deadlift to be aware of. Find out what they are below! 

Image of a man doing a trap bar deadlift
Image from https://jacktylerperformance.com/a-case-for-the-trap-bar-deadlift-athletes/

Executing With Poor Form 

As with any exercise, there is a precise form to follow to actively engage the targeted muscles and to avoid potential injury. By prioritizing form when performing the trap bar deadlift, you can increase targeted muscle activation productively while deterring injuries or aggravating old ones. 

Common mistakes with trap bar deadlift form include:

  • Hunch back
  • Hips rising too fast
  • Leaning back at the top of the repetition
  • Poor foot placement

Minimal Customization 

The trap bar has less variation with grip than the traditional barbell, which offers a variety of grip and stance width opportunities. Customization with the trap bar is practically nonexistent with a one-size-fits-all design that can be limiting for some individuals who are larger or smaller in frame. 

Who Can Benefit from Performing Trap Bar Deadlifts?

The trap bar deadlift can benefit people with specific personal goals, pre-existing injuries, or fitness levels. Let’s dive into who the trap bar deadlift can benefit overall below! 

Athletes

Unsurprisingly, the trap bar is consistently incorporated into athlete training programs, and one of the most popular exercises using the trap bar with athletes is the trap bar deadlift. 

Studies have discovered that, compared to the straight barbell deadlift, lifters can access greater loads, power, and shear force with the trap bar deadlift. For athletes looking to improve vertical jump, explosiveness, peak power output, or sports-specific movements, the trap bar deadlift is an incredibly efficient exercise to prioritize in athlete-focused training programs. 

Beginners

The trap bar deadlift is an excellent exercise for beginners and much easier to learn than the barbell deadlift. 

The design of the trap bar makes it visually simple for beginners to adjust to the form of the exercise. Beginners can step inside the center of the hexagonal bar and quickly find their neutral grip position on the low or high handlebars. 

In comparison, the straight barbell deadlift can be challenging for beginners as the position of the hands doesn’t have enough visual guidelines, and the forward grip placement on the barbell can feel unnatural for some due to the weight placement. 

Tall Individuals

The traditional barbell deadlift may limit taller individuals with goals of building strength or improving power output. This is because taller people need to adjust to a wider range of motion to complete the deadlift than an average or shorter-sized person. 

Even with the ability to incorporate a mixed grip, overhand grip, or hook grip, the barbell stays at the same height and, therefore, has the same deep range of motion that can be challenging for some taller people who have mobility issues or are beginners. Thankfully, the trap bar deadlift can be the answer for taller people looking to work through a normal range of motion in a deadlift. 

The trap bar has two options for a neutral grip placement for the deadlift, the low and high handlebars. The high handlebars are perfect for taller people, establishing a typical range of motion for performing the deadlift. The low handlebars are typical of a traditional barbell deadlift, with a broader range of motion, which is more challenging and requires adequate mobility. 

People With Preexisting Injuries

As previously discussed, lifting with proper form with trap bars is easier, meaning fewer chances of injury or aggravating pre-existing injuries in the lower back. The trap bar deadlift is an excellent alternative for people looking to avoid injury altogether. Although keep this in mind, this can only be possible by exercising with good form. 

Trap Bar Deadlift: Programming Recommendations

Now that you know the trap bar deadlift is safer than the straight bar deadlift and offers many benefits, it’s time to start incorporating this exercise into your fitness regimen. Here are some programming recommendations to get started depending on your fitness goals! 

Improve Strength

The trap bar deadlift is ideal for beginners and experienced gym-goers seeking to develop strength. This is especially so because the trap bar deadlift is easy to perform with good form to avoid potential injury risks. 

Individuals seeking improvements in strength are recommended to perform 3-5 sets at 3-5 repetitions at a heavy weight load for the trap bar deadlift. 

Hypertrophy Goals

It’s recommended to perform 3-5 sets of 6-10 repetitions when performing an exercise to improve hypertrophy. The same goes for the trap bar deadlift. The load when lifting the trap bar should be moderate to heavy. 

Keep rest periods in between sets less than 90 seconds to maintain intensity. 

One study determined that individuals desiring improvements in muscle growth should utilize a range of 3-6 sets and 6-12 repetitions at moderate intensity—about 60-80% of one rep max (1RM)—with a training volume of 12-28 sets per muscle per week. 

Wrap Up

The trap bar deadlift offers a safer alternative with less injury risk than the conventional barbell deadlift. For individuals looking to avoid injury and downtime recovering, this is an ideal exercise to continue hitting power, strength, and fitness goals. 

You don’t want to miss out on the many trap bar benefits to upgrade your fitness routine, so we recommend giving this exercise a go the next time you hit the gym! 

Kaelyn Buzzo | ISSA CPT & Nutrition Coach

Kaelyn Buzzo | ISSA CPT & Nutrition Coach

I am an ISSA-certified CPT and Nutrition Coach with a BA in Creative Writing and a Minor in Nutrition.

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