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Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

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Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Dave on Tue Nov 11, 2014 9:56 pm

I am going to argue that the trap bar is better than the straight bar for deadlifts.  Why would I say something so radical, you ask?  Because all of the pros you can think of for straight bar deadlifts (namely that it hits the posterior chain and lower back better because the bar starts more forward of your body), are also applicable to the trap bar if you just place your feet a little further back and perform the deadlift as you would a straight bar deadlift.  It's not like using a trap bar forces anybody to lift using perfect leverage and center of gravity.  It only allows one to do so.  And this is the versatility of the trap bar, that you can perform not only conventional, posterior chain oriented deadlifts on it, but also low hipped lifts using perfect leverage (trap bar squats, if you will) or any variation in between, providing any stimulation you could possibly want, from quad dominant to pc dominant, not to mention the incredible potential for safe, heavy and progressive single leg training.

When you add in trap bar farmer's walks, shrugs, rows and presses which keep the shoulders in the healthy neutral position for the avoidance of injury, you are looking at a complete solution for full body training with one piece of equipment and a heap of plates.

So if I ever had to choose just one piece of equipment for overall strength training, it would be the trap bar hands down... and while I would still cry myself to sleep every night because I will have kissed my beloved Clean & Jerk and Snatch goodbye, I would quickly get over it at the prospect of doing super heavy jump squats within the safety of my trap bar.  :mrgreen:

Any thoughts?
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Journeyman on Wed Nov 12, 2014 1:16 am

The trap bar cannot replace the straight bar for deadlifts. 'Standing further back' isn't possible because as long as your hands are in the center of the handles, the bar will still re-orient to that same straight line directly centered on your body as you lift it. You might be able to set up with less than perfect leverages, but the bar path will always revert to that centered position. (Try taking a video and see what it looks like.)
And, if you tried to hold the handles themselves further back, the entire bar would tilt forward. Anyhow, the trap bar does indeed force you to use that perfect leverage position. Unless maybe you use a ridiculously light weight.

You can indeed alter your hip position which is quite useful. Between that and two handle heights the trap bar can be a useful accessory lift for barbell DL; but I know of guys who've trap bar deadlifted 600lb+ (football players who never pulled on a straight bar) and could not do nearly as much with a straight bar even after acclimating to the new technique, thus proving the trap bar an inferior substitute.

Also, you can't do sumo deadlifts, snatch DL, jefferson lifts, hack lifts, one arm deadlifts, zerchers, etc. Nor can you properly train pulls including a 'second pull' (cleans, snatches, clean and snatch pulls, etc.) again because the bar's leverage is too good. You can't lean back and get your hips through.
One of the strengths of the barbell is that you can alter the leverages of a lift so easily. Specialty bars like the trap bar simply can't do that.

The advantages of the trap bar:
-more ergonomically sound hand position for carries
-ability to do a squatting sort of movement for those whose backs cannot take it
-potential overload tool
-as a teaching device for using proper leg drive in the DL
-the aforementioned hip positioning variances

Other stuff....
-It's actually somewhat awkward for single leg work unless you have a bar with a super wide frame, or something.
-If you want a neutral grip, the swiss/football/log bars are more useful for upper body work due to their not having that awkward frame.
-For carries, the neutral grip does feel better but there's plenty of carryover from normal straight bar DL to carries with a neutral grip... not so sure about the other way around, because the neutral grip is easier. I did over bodyweight per hand on farmer's carries for 20+ yards for multiple sets; the very first time I tried the movement. Just from straight bar DL.
-put a trap bar on a power rack (if the width works) and you have a great adjustable, wrist-friendly pushup station.
-The trap bar is easier to load into a vehicle than a barbell. A 7+ foot bar has to go in lengthwise, the trap bar can go across a back seat fairly easily. Maybe even in a single seat.


There is a reason the trap bar has not replaced the barbell. Just sayin'!
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Dave on Wed Nov 12, 2014 2:56 am

Journeyman wrote:There is a reason the trap bar has not replaced the barbell. Just sayin'!

No worries man, that was exactly what I was looking for. I figured a little controversial gung ho for the trap bar would make it prove its worth once you saw the post. And worthy it is, but your arguments are convinving, so thanks. :hatsoff:
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Journeyman on Wed Nov 12, 2014 4:16 am

Dave wrote:a little controversial gung ho for the trap bar would make it prove its worth once you saw the post.

thought so :mrgreen:
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Fatman on Wed Nov 12, 2014 1:36 pm

Not to play Devil's advocate to your Devil's advocate, but:

Dave wrote:I am going to argue that the trap bar is better than the straight bar for deadlifts.

In powerlifting competition, definitely not. For all other purposes (general strength training), probably yes.

People with poor deadlifting leverages can do heavy trap bar lifts safely because the starting position is more favorable. Or so I'm told. Zero trap bar deadlifting experience here. People with great deadlifting leverages can haul up even greater weights on a trap bar. I'd say that's a win/win right there.

The only disadvantage I can think of is grip width - can't adjust that on a trap bar.

Journeyman wrote:I know of guys who've trap bar deadlifted 600lb+ (football players who never pulled on a straight bar) and could not do nearly as much with a straight bar even after acclimating to the new technique, thus proving the trap bar an inferior substitute.

I wouldn't say this necessarily proves anything, except that you can use more weight on a trap bar lift.

Also not to pick nits, but the original argument had to do with deadlifts, not with Olympic lifts, Zerchers, Jeffersons or any other exercise that went out of favor in the strength training community along with the Prohibition :mrgreen: All these would obviously be impossible to do with a trap bar.
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Journeyman on Wed Nov 12, 2014 3:35 pm

Grip width or foot position.

And actually, the main advantage of the trap bar (in advertising I've seen) is for people with good deadlift leverages to have some sort of squat substitute... which it isn't, really.

That you can lift more on a trap bar but (given the weights in that instance) also that the carryover is mostly one-sided.

Dave's point #1 was deadlifts (which would include other deadlift variants; just like if you said 'squat' I would also think of front squats etc.). Point #2 was that he'd choose it as a single training tool over the barbell as a whole.

Anyhow, that 'ideal leverage point', even if you are only addressing the conventional barbell deadlift (and again, ignoring sumo even if you want to define 'deadlift' as a powerlifting-competition legal movement) is still a huge disadvantage. It's basically a leg press if you go heavy enough to require usage of the most efficient form (which you should)... as Pavel's said 'the leverage on the trap bar is too perfect to get really strong with it' and I agree with him.
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Journeyman on Wed Nov 12, 2014 3:36 pm

Also, Fatman are you doing something VVestside!!1!-ish right now?
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Dave on Wed Nov 12, 2014 3:43 pm

Fatman wrote:Not to play Devil's advocate to your Devil's advocate, but:

Haha, great line! I'll see you avocado and raise you a guacamole.
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Fatman on Wed Nov 12, 2014 4:40 pm

Journeyman wrote:as Pavel's said 'the leverage on the trap bar is too perfect to get really strong with it' and I agree with him.

Like a lot of Pavel's statements, that one is really neither here nor there. If you define "strong" by "max straight-bar deadlift", then it's absolutely correct. Training trap bar deads to improve conventional or sumo deads would be a waste of time.

Journeyman wrote:Anyhow, that 'ideal leverage point', even if you are only addressing the conventional barbell deadlift (and again, ignoring sumo even if you want to define 'deadlift' as a powerlifting-competition legal movement) is still a huge disadvantage.

Still not convinced that it's a disadvantage, so, as Pavel would say, "let's agree to disagree". :D

I do agree that a trap bar makes sumo deadlifts impossible, and sumo DLs are (for better or worse) still legal in competition. But again, I'm not trying to make an argument for trap bar DLs being superior for comp deadlift training, only for general strength training.

Journeyman wrote:Also, Fatman are you doing something VVestside!!1!-ish right now?

I thought it was more inspired by teh Texican Method, but with speed days instead of volume days? The speed work was inspired by a squatting article on the Elite FTS site (Scott Yard?) who varies the percentages and goes up to 80% for speed work. So it's all a bit too haphazard right now to really be any "method".
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Journeyman on Wed Nov 12, 2014 7:53 pm

And I'd argue that (again, kinda like a leg press) you might be able to load up a trap bar with a lot of weight but it wouldn't have as much carryover to other stuff as a 'normal' squat or deadlift. Carryover from A to B but not vice versa to me means that A will be more useful in general--or at least more efficient in training.

You don't like sumo deadlifts? If anything, the sumo is what the trap bar is closer to, if anything. More vertical bar path, hips closer to (or for the trap bar, directly in the center of) the center of gravity, more leg drive.
The difference is that you need a powerful hip drive (heeeepp.... drahhhhhhveee) to lock out a sumo or conventional deadlift and that is simply not necessary in a trap bar DL. That's kind of a big deal, I think.

I only took a quick glance--saw the ME and speed days and multiple DL singles after squats, haha.

How'd you get to what it is now, and is it working?
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Fatman on Wed Nov 12, 2014 8:32 pm

Journeyman wrote:And I'd argue that (again, kinda like a leg press) you might be able to load up a trap bar with a lot of weight but it wouldn't have as much carryover to other stuff as a 'normal' squat or deadlift.

I don't think that the normal squat and deadlift really have that much carryover to other stuff (squatting is probably important for Olympic lifts). Speaking of which, you could just squat in addition to trap bar lifting and cover the heeeup draaaahve aspect, if that's what you're concerned about.

Journeyman wrote:How'd you get to what it is now, and is it working?

I started out with the Texas Method (split), but only for the squat and DL. For bench, I did have a volume and a heavy day (like TM), but followed a different heavy day progression than TM. So volume bench - volume squat - heavy bench - heavy squat (deadlift every other week). Bench program hasn't changed (except instead of volume I do this weird speed press with a 2-second pause an inch or two above the chest). Splitting squats and deads worked for a while on both, then my deadlift started to stall, as usual. So I now combine both in a massive heavy lower body day and do multiple singles with limited rest for the DL.

I did hit a modest squat PR recently, will see how the deadlift goes (only 4 weeks in and weight is pretty light).
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Journeyman on Wed Nov 12, 2014 10:01 pm

I dunno about that dude. I know that personally when my deadlift is stronger, most everything else gets stronger; and when my squat gets stronger (any variety, really) I feel more powerful/athletic in general. I can maintain any pull (even bent arm pulling) pretty well just with deadlifts at least for moderate amounts of time. I've done some pretty heavy farmer's carries, weird/odd deadlift variants, TBDL, etc. just from being fairly strong in the conventional deadlift.

My past internship coordinator, arguably the smartest trainer of mma athletes in the world right now, prefers the deadlift (semi sumo) and squat (back, full, high bar) to the trap bar or anything else for his fighters. And the same for his high school/college/semi pro athletes in various sports. And he for one definitely isn't being held back by tradition or whatnot.
The WSM competitor I've met prefers the normal squat and deadlift to other variants for event strength. Every high end powerlifter I've met has lauded the straight bar squat and deadlift (not necessarily with their own competition form) as being the absolute best lifts for lower body development....

They obviously aren't the only answer but there's a reason they're held in such high regard and used so often; above the trap bar/SSB/one leg work/machines by most athletic coaches, trainers, and strength athletes even those who compete in basically unilateral sports.

Anyhow, if you squatted in addition to the TBDL that wouldn't really be using it as a stand alone tool....
And, yeah I'd be concerned about losing that hinge pattern overload. It's arguably the most important movement there is.

Of course, the reasonable answer is to do both, if you want to. Like I said the trap bar has some definite benefits but it is at best an accessory. Having to choose one for deadlifts--I know which one I'm going with. Having to choose one for lower body work in general--same choice. Having to choose one for overall training--definitely not the trap bar, once you bring upper body work into the equation.

Have you ever tried rogozhnikov? Seems like a logical progression from where you're at now.
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Dave on Thu Nov 13, 2014 1:47 am

I was thinking about all this, and it seems that, basically, the entire argument that favors a trap bar over the straight bar for deadlifts, if we are talking strictly conventional, relies on this:

Dave wrote:It's not like using a trap bar forces anybody to lift using perfect leverage and center of gravity.  It only allows one to do so.

Journeyman wrote:'Standing further back' isn't possible because as long as your hands are in the center of the handles, the bar will still re-orient to that same straight line directly centered on your body as you lift it. You might be able to set up with less than perfect leverages, but the bar path will always revert to that centered position.

Yeah, at the very top of the movement, i.e. lockout.  There is enough room even in my small trap bar that I can do a high hipped, lower back dominant start and finish with my "heeeeups" as prescribed by "reeeeeeup", and as I do with my staright bar.  Saying that it will necessarily always revert to the centered position, as if to imply it will do so right after the bar clears the floor, thus negating the need for hip drive or a meaningful stimulus on the posterior chain, seems, well, contrary to what I felt in trying to do a standard conventional DL with my trap bar.  Perhaps I shall have to take a video of it when I try it next to see for sure.
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Journeyman on Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:19 am

Ok, so if we are indeed narrowing it down to trap bar compared to conventional straight bar DL:

1. I do think that the bar will automatically have to center as you pull it off the ground. Again, because your hands are in the middle of the handles and the handles are in the middle of the bar... unless you can hold your hands out in front (i.e. a partial front raise) the path of the trap bar will always be a straight vertical line.

2. This central loading does basically negate the need for meaningful hip drive. In effect, you can either 'leg press' or 'hitch' (in terms of pattern) a trap bar to lockout without requiring as much force to push your hips through. And where your hips are at the start of the pull doesn't matter, really, because the bar is directly in line with your center of gravity either way. Make sense?

This is also a big advantage in terms of strength development of the conventional/sumo deadlift over some other DL variants (hack, jefferson, kettlebell--if one were big enough). In those other variants, your body mechanics can conform to the bar without having to exert as much force because the bar path will always be directly in line with your center of gravity. This is also why a super wide sumo stance is the next best thing to the aforementioned variants and drastically more efficient than a standard conventional pull... because the bar is basically under your center and very little force is required to direct it. You just have to stand straight up.
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Fatman on Thu Nov 13, 2014 10:21 am

Journeyman wrote:I know that personally when my deadlift is stronger, most everything else gets stronger

I haven't seen any improvement to my bench press, OH press or squat from getting stronger in the deadlift. I guess if you do a lot of other stuff that sort of relies on the same muscle groups/movement patterns (carries and deadlift variations), you'll see improvement.

Journeyman wrote:Have you ever tried rogozhnikov? Seems like a logical progression from where you're at now.

Unfortunately, the most comprehensive writeup on Rogozhnikov's system I found was on IronGarm (I still read it tho :eyebrows: ). Looks interesting, maybe a bit too minimalist for my taste (2 days per week?). Also there is talk of RPE, which is a concept I don't feel comfortable with. I'll have to get out my PTTP book, I think there's a detailed outline in there. The Garm post does point out some stuff misinterpreted in PTTP.

I did find this:

"Rogozhnikov specifically recommends that sometimes you do speed triples with a 2-second pause." (on bench)

So I guess my training is unconsciously evolving in that direction, LOL.
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Journeyman on Thu Nov 13, 2014 2:18 pm

I have, just from midsection/posterior chain strength. I know that several strength writers in the 1900-1940 period actually said that you were unlikely to successfully press a weight unless you could "deadweight-lift" a certain percentage heavier. I believe it was 250 or 275% or something.
Obviously I'm not going to set a bench PR just by squatting or deadlifting, but yeah, strength around your torso and hips where it matters helps just about everything else ime.

The pttp pro summary of rogozhnikov is pretty lame (the best thing about that book is the pressing section. So much cool stuff.) The IGX one is awesome.

Why don't you feel comfortable with using RPEs?
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Fatman on Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:07 pm

Journeyman wrote:Why don't you feel comfortable with using RPEs?

Way too subjective for lazy people like myself. For me, every squat above like 60% is like a RPE 8 or more, every deadlift over 315 pounds an automatic RPE 9. On the bench press, the same weight for the same reps could be RPE 7 through 10 in different weeks. So I believe that, given an excuse to slack off, I'd definitely do it. I like percentages or numerical progressions.

I know RPE is considered the next big revelation for getting stronger and I recognize that many great lifters are using it with success. But I also believe you get much better results from picking a program that suits your individual mentality and following it consistently than from picking the best program ever and half-assing it.
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Re: Trap Bar Vs Straight Bar for Deadlifts and Squats

Post by Journeyman on Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:08 pm

I hear you on that. I've never done a strictly RPE-only program before, but I did keep tabs on RPEs on my top set of DL on the last program I ran. Worked pretty well--when I design cycles for myself in the future I'm probably always going to take them into consideration.

Definitely isn't a revelation (imo), endurance athletes have been using it for years. But, for a more experienced lifter (who isn't a pro athlete who can control other variables) who can tell how much he's got in the tank it can be pretty darn useful tool; especially in any autoreg-focused program.
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