October 08 2019

Mark’s Favorite Exercise: Trap-Bar Deadlift

By Mark Sisson
14 Comments

As you might have noticed, I’ve been doing more mini-videos about my daily routines, training regimens, and other thoughts on health. After some initial trepidation and a lot of demand from readers, I find I actually really enjoy doing them. They’re a great way to get a quick take on a topic and give a visual representation of all this stuff I talk about on the blog. They don’t take that long to make. People like them, find them helpful. It’s actually the perfect medium to complement my writing.

In the past, I’ve done videos on a broad range of topics: active workstations, standup paddling, Ultimate Frisbee, the evolution of my fitness routine and outlook, microworkouts, slacklining, and my coffee routine. Today, I’m showing a video about my favorite exercise: the trap-bar deadlift.

Why Do I Love the Trap-Bar (AKA Hex Bar) Deadlift?

It’s a good balance between quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, and glutes—the anterior and posterior chain, in other words. And, you can accentuate each muscle group by making slight variations with your technique.

You can do them with more knee flexion bias—this hits the quads a bit more.

You can do them with posterior bias, keeping your knees straighter—this hits the glutes and hams better.

You can do both in one workout. First one bias, then the other.

You can increase the weight and use the higher grips, allowing you to increase the intensity and shorten the range of motion for safety.

You can decrease the weight and use the lower grips, giving you a deep range of motion.

You can stack weights and stand on them inside the trap bar, giving you an even deeper range of motion. Stack them high enough, and you can turn the lift into a near-squat.

That’s a ton of variation and customization with just one basic movement.

And if I’m feeling like doing some other stuff, it’s right there ready to go. I can do farmer’s walks with the trap bar. Load it up, pick it up, and walk around under load.

I can do bent-over trap bar rows.

I can do shoulder shrugs. Sometimes I’ll even combine the deadlift with the shrug: lift it up, shrug at the top, repeat.

Most of all, the trap-bar feels comfortable in my hands. It feels right when I lift it. It feels like exercise should feel: like I’m stressing my body but not endangering it.

How I Do It

Check out how I do my deadlift session and how I use the handle options for different weight loads.

It’s safe to say the trap-bar is going to be in my arsenal for life. I suggest you get yourself one, or try it out the next time you hit the gym.

What’s your favorite exercise? Have you tried the trap-bar? What’d you think? Got any other trap-bar exercise variations you’d recommend?

Take care, everyone, and thanks for reading.

TAGS:  mobility, videos

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14 thoughts on “Mark’s Favorite Exercise: Trap-Bar Deadlift”

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  1. Love this video, Mark. Hex bar dead lifts are my favorite exercise because it feels right.

    I’m wondering what fitness advice you have for young parents. I know the situation is ripe for microworkouts, but I’m curious about how heavy lifting fits into a routine for those of us who can never count on a night’s sleep. My schedule is such that I don’t really have time for the gym during the week without really sacrificing sleep, so if I want to lift heavy it’s on the weekend. If my sleep gets messed up on the weekend because of sick kids or just…kids, I’m either in a position of not lifting heavy for a couple of weeks (at least) or lifting heavy while tired. Neither feel really good to me.

    Any thoughts would be great.

  2. Mark, this is totally unrelated to this post, but could you do a thorough review of the side effects of female sterilization? I’ve read some terrible stories of women going through early menopause as a side effect and many who even got pregnant again many years later. I considered it deeply, but was deterred after reading the horror stories and wondering about the long term health effects of permanently changing the way an organ in your body works.

    1. You don’t have to worry about the permanent effects. There’s a nasal spray form of Lupron now which will turn off the ovaries and it’s reversible (GNRH agonist, there are antagonists too, used in IVF and perimenopause). I used to get the monthly injections because my gyno situation is pretty harsh. This is my first time using the spray, and so far so good.

      Surprising the doc didn’t mention it to you since it would give you a “tryout” to see if the surgery would help you. I’ve always advocated for the surgery for myself but as i get older I fear abdominal surgery (and resulting adhesions) more than I fear forgetting the spray. Hope that helps.

  3. I’ve been giving a hex bar purchase serious consideration. I have some lower back issues that make me hesitant about doing barbell deadlifts.
    Since all I have are a barbell and plates, a hex bar would allow me to take the heavy plates off my barbell and just use it for pressing.

  4. Using the hex/trap bar in a squat rack for overhead press has been my other go-to, besides using it primarily to deadlift. The position the neutral grip allows one to press from, in addition to not having to worry about the bar traveling up and around the face is fantastic. Very strange feeling at first but my shoulders love it and it’s become my main pressing movement as a result.

  5. The rack pull is also safer than the regular dead lift because you can control how low the bar goes BUT you need to have access to a squat rack.

  6. Trap bar deadlifts are one of my favorite movements. So much safer than traditional deadlifts and such a functional movement for pure strength. Great post!

  7. Love this. Squats feel good. They lead to good posture, strength and confidence. I’m going to try a hex bar – they look more comfortable and safer in the long run than a standard bar.

  8. Nice! And what a great workout room. There’s a wonderful diverse and surprisingly cheap gym near me where people don’t gawk even at a middle aged woman, or interrupt me to show me how to do it. Huge difference from the ones that are supposedly woman friendly. Even so I keep some of the more um, not safe looking exercises to myself at home. Like the full range of motion ones I use to break up adhesions in my shoulders. That would probably get people running to tell me not to do that, lol.

    There are exercises I would like to see more about, like neck strengthening (even without weights, there’s next to nothing about that). And calves and forearms. Those are really boring for me because I only know a few exercises for them. I think my body makes adhesions often, because if I neglect my calves especially, I get a pop when I get back to it. Different places. They hurt but only for a day. Not like a strain.

    I’d love to see more ideas for erector spinae. Good mornings are effective, but I get dizzzy with migraines on some days and the bending over is hard. Maybe there’s an isometric I’ve missed.

  9. Love the trap bar! Definitely going to be one of the first purchases when we kit out a home gym. I have a fairly long torso, so the more upright position and the shift in centre of gravity puts way less strain on my lower back compared to conventional!

  10. There was no mention of how many sets and reps done. I would like to know what Mark does or recommends depending on the exercise goals. – Thanks

  11. I’ve tried free weights, but I keep going back to my bodyweight exercises, as the ones I do on a regular basis. Chin-ups and squats are the two that I do most often, and then I add some sprints every few days as well. It seems to work for me. At my age (60s), I’m not trying to add new muscle anymore……….just maintain most of what I have.

  12. Kickass video Mark, I love the trap barbell too. what you said about hitting different muscle groups made sense too!

  13. Mark,
    Great post as I am a fan of hex bar dead lifts also. Feels safer for my back and with limited mobility, easier to keep good. form. Not always able to get to gym though. What is your opinion on the same movement but with large resistance bands under feet and over shoulders while gripping the bands. Same stimulus and effect? Considering incorporating bands into some micro workouts throughout the week.