How Do You Use the Trap Bar?


For those gym-goers that are looking to build the most size and muscle possible, a good plan is to turn to the so-called big three lifts. These three major movements are the bench press, deadlift, and squat. With just these three exercises a relative novice could become an absolute monster with enough dedication and time. And the nice thing about these mass-builders is that you don’t need much by way of equipment, usually just a basic Olympic style barbell and a rack or bench-combo system of some sort.

But did you know there’s another often-overlooked apparatus you could be incorporating into your training?  The trap bar. Most gyms I’ve belonged to had one, though it was usually pushed off into a corner somewhere and only occasionally used by someone – and usually the wrong way.  Let’s try to better understand how to use the trap bar, and you may find that it’s a tremendously useful way to switch up the motor patterns you’re engaging with your weight routine.

trap bar

The Deadlift


With a modified trap bar deadlift, you’re engaging several different parts of your thoracic chain that otherwise wouldn’t get worked by the traditional deadlift. While the deadlift is an amazing exercise, it is more or less primarily geared for those looking to powerlift (and maybe a few masochists who just like the lift). If you’re someone that is an athlete, soldier, or law enforcement officer, you need an exercise that is not only going to engage the back and lower body, but you want to ensure that it’s capable of really putting in the work that will translate to usable skills. Form is massively important with this movement but by keeping an eye on it, you’ll be able to see that with the trap bar deadlift, you’re tackling the lift with a slightly different range of motion.


With a traditional deadlift the bar is in front of you and the goal is to minimize that by dragging the bar against your legs on the move upwards. With the trap bar deadlift the bar is basically aligned with your spine and you’re able to stand straight up with it instead of leaning over the bar so much.

trap bar dead lift

Unlike the deadlift, you’re going to be engaging your low back less and your quads and hamstrings more, especially your quads. So instead of getting a primary glute or hamstring-oriented stretch when doing the exercise, it’s going to really emphasize your front of your legs . So essentially, the trap bar deadlift is taking the traditional deadlift range of motion and enabling you to follow more of a dynamic, sports-oriented pathway. This is a unique exercise and if you stick with it, it can even carry over and improve your numbers on the squat and regular deadlift, while possibly sparing your back from too much compression.


And without a doubt, it’s the most popular exercise people do with the trap bar. Aside from that, there are other great ways to get in shape via the trap bar.


Trap Bar Press


Most people’s chest training often suffers from lack of variety.  A great way to mix it up and stimulate new growth is to engage your pecs via the trap bar. Most have only ever bench pressed with either dumbbells or a straight Olympic barbell, and while this is a classic and effective exercise, with the trap bar you can attack your muscles from new angles. Because of the shape and length of the bar, you’re getting a very dynamic and unique stretch on the shoulder capsule and the triceps. This will enable you to not only press more weight if you do the exercises consistently, but you’re truly exposing your muscles and body to new stimuli that will result in much greater muscle hypertrophy.


So whether it’s just a basic press or the classic deadlift, with the trap bar you can incorporate new muscle emphasis to break up the monotony of your routine and even improve upon your time-tested, big three lifts.