One of the most versatile pieces of gym equipment to come along in the last 30 years is the trap bar, also known as the hex bar. It is a great tool for beginners, but when utilized with a proper program design can be just as useful for the most experienced of lifters. We have utilized the trap bar deadlift regularly in our program designs and have seen great results from our clients as well as from personal experience. It allows any person, in particular the police officer whose lumbar spine is constantly being loaded unevenly due to equipment on their belt and long periods of time in a flexed (seated) position, to perform deadlifts in a safe but yet efficient manner without further aggravating the lower back. Any deadlift exercise is great for developing overall strength and power, along with packing on muscle and developing grip strength. As for the tactical athlete, the deadlift is one of the most functional exercises that you can add to your routine.
The trap bar was originally patented in 1985 by Al Gerard, a powerlifting practitioner, who was trying to find a way to train around a recurring lower back injury. It has since gained widespread support among many fitness professionals as a back-friendly alternative to both traditional straight-bar deadlifts and squats. The trap bar design allows you to “step inside” of it rather than loading it behind or in front of you as with a traditional Olympic barbell. This reduces the shear forces placed on the lumbar (lower) spine. Furthermore, the trap bar utilizes the best of the traditional squat and deadlift. A study conducted in 2011 by Winton et al. on the biomechanics of the hex bar deadlift versus the straight bar deadlift resulted in their findings of the trap bar deadlift being a more effective developer of maximum power than the traditional barbell deadlift.
Watch our video to see how to properly perform the trap bar deadlift: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv9TrcJqoPM
1. To setup for the trap bar deadlift, first step inside the perimeter of the bar, making sure your feet are positioned equidistant between the FITNESS ADVICE AND TIPS FROM MADE Fitness and Training Center front and back of the bar.
2. Grip the handles tightly on either side so that your middle finger is in horizontal alignment with the front of your shin, while rotating the insides of your elbows forward. This will help to pick up any slack at the shoulder capsule.
3. Squat your hips down with an arch in your back. Once in position, stand up by driving your feet into the ground, straightening your legs, and thrusting your hips forward. As you approach the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes together and brace your abdominals to finish the movement.
The following is a great program developed by Ben Bruno specifically for the trap bar deadlift. It’s a 10-week program, so once completed you will need to unload for 2-3 weeks before starting it again if you wish to continue with it. If you just need to add something new to your workout, try this a couple of times a year. I personally used this program and saw great gains in muscle and overall strength and power. However, do not substitute a traditional barbell utilizing this program as it will overtax your lumbar region.
The 100-Rep Trap Bar Workout by Ben Bruno
Some notes before attempting this workout:
- This progression does not include warm-up sets, so work up in weight intelligently until you reach the weight you plan on using for your working sets.
- All work sets are done with the same weight. As such, start out lighter than you think you need to. The first sets may feel easy but it’ll get hard in a hurry, so if you start too heavy you won’t be able to complete the workout.
- Think of the exercise as a squat as opposed to a deadlift. Get your hips down and your chest up.
- Use touch-and-go reps, but don’t bounce the weight. Think of it as a light “kiss” off the ground.
- Don’t overthink rest periods. Start out taking about two minutes between the first 3-5 sets and take up to 3-4 minutes between sets towards the end. Just don’t go overboard and let the workout drag out too long. Try to keep the rest periods somewhat consistent from workout to workout.
- Don’t do any other heavy deadlifting or squatting throughout the week. For more quad work, stick to single-leg work. For more posterior chain work, stick to glute-ham raises, leg curls, and hip thrusts.
- Once you’re at 10 sets of 10, stay with 10×10 and work on increasing the weight while still completing all 100 reps rather than continuing to increase the reps. Small jumps in weight really add up over the course of 100 reps.
Week 1: 6 sets of 8
Week 2: 6 sets of 10 (same weight as week 1)
Week 3: 7 sets of 8 (add 10-20 pounds to week 2 weight)
Week 4: 7 sets of 10 (same weight as week 3)
Week 5: 8 sets of 8 (add 10-20 pounds to week 4 weight)
Week 6: 8 sets of 10 (same weight as week 5)
Week 7: 9 sets of 8 (add 10-20 pounds to week 6 weight)
Week 8: 9 sets of 10 (same weight as week 7)
Week 9: 10 sets of 8 (add 10-20 pounds to week 8 weight)
Week 10: 10 sets of 10 (same weight as week 9)
LMPD MADE Fitness Team
1200 Truman Park Drive
Louisville, KY 40245
1. Swinton, PA, Stewart, A, Agouris, I, Keogh, JWL, and Lloyd, R. A biomechanical analysis of straight and hexagonal barbell deadlifts using submaximal loads. J Strength Cond Res 25(7): 2000-2009, 2011
2. Vogel, Adam. The Trap Bar Deadlift. T Nation 01/24/2012
3. Bruno, Ben. The 100-Rep Trap Bar Workout. T Nation 12/24/2014
MADE Fitness and Training Center can be contacted by any LMPD member for fitness assessments, advice, and programs free of charge. You can contact MADE by sending an email to LMPD Fitness in the Global Address Book.