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Straight Bar Vs Trap Bar Deadlift

What Sets Them Apart & Which Is Best For You?

Posted by paulvandykenz - March 24th, 2017

If you’re new to deadlifts, you might be confused between a straight bar deadlift and a trap bar deadlift. To the untrained eye, it might look the same, but there is actually a difference in terms of technique and equipment. Let’s take a look at those differences, so you know which variation you should be doing!

Straight Bar Deadlift

If you have the right flexibility to hinge with an almost vertical shin, you can use the straight bar. Compared to the trap bar, you’ll have great accessibility because most gyms have a barbell and weights. You also get to focus more on your posterior chain including hamstrings, lower back and glutes. You can also improve your grip strength and mobility.

What You’ll Need – Straight Barbell

A straight barbell is what you usually see in gyms. As what its name suggests, a straight barbell is a straight cylindrical rod. It’s normally 7 feet long and relatively rigid. The average weight of the bar is 45 pounds but some bars with thicker grips can go as heavy as 55 pounds.

Most bars are created from American steel and if you want the bar to bend slightly and rebound, look for the bar’s whip. A deadlift bar may have a little more whip to hasten the speed when you pull it off the floor. For a secure grip, look for a knurled part.

Step-By-Step Instructions

1. Starting Position

To set up for the straight bar deadlift, step up to the bar with the balls of your feet lining up under the bar. Make sure that your feet are shoulder-width apart and your toes are pointing out slightly (in the same direction as your knees). You want your shins to be as close as possible to the bar without touching it. Before you pull the bar, make sure you take in a breath and flex your core as much as possible for a stable foundation.

2. Pull The Bar

With your knees slightly bent, grab the bar using a double overhand or mixed grip. A double overhand is great for improving grip strength, while a mixed grip gives a stronger grip as your hands are facing in opposite directions.

Pull the bar into your body by hinging your hips forward. With the bar close to your shins, keep your head up, chest out, back flat, and eyes forward.

3. Lockout

Drive your heels from the ground as you work to straighten your legs. Bring the bar past your knees by keeping your core engaged and finish by aligning your hips with your feet. To lock them at the top firmly, squeeze your glutes. Once you stand tall, exhale.

4. Bring The Bar Down

To finish the deadlift, bring the bar down by hinging your hips first. While keeping a neutral spine, put your hips back then break at the knees directing the back to the start position. That completes one rep.

Straight Bar Deadlift Variations

Rack Pulls

If you prefer the traditional deadlift but lack the mobility to pull from the floor with proper technique, then the rack pull is great for you. In this variation, the bar will be slightly raised off the ground.

You’ll be set in a power rack with the bar securely placed on the pins. With the proper deadlift position, pull the bar up and lockout with your shoulders back. Instead of bringing the bar back to the floor, return the weight to the pins.

Wide-Grip Deadlift

To increase the resistance on your upper back and forearms, you can do the wide-grip deadlift. The form and technique are similar to the traditional deadlift except that the gripping position is different. As its name suggests, the grip of the bar should be slightly wider than shoulder width. Imagine creating a V-shape in your torso.

Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is a great variation for tall people or those with limited flexibility. As compared to the traditional deadlift, the stance is wider, than shoulder width. This reduces the distance to grab the bar. The more you bend your knees, the more your quads and glutes are trained.

Trap Bar Deadlift

 The trap bar deadlift is ideal if you’re still working on your flexibility to hinge properly. A trap bar is a great option for focusing on your quadriceps and calves. Since this requires a smaller learning curve, this is better suited for beginners. Compared to the straight bar, the trap bar may allow you to lift more load without as much strain on your lower back.

What You’ll Need – Trap Bar

A trap bar is another variation of weight lifting equipment that’s typically hexagonal in shape. It’s built with parallel handles at the sides for better stability and balance. Some trap bars have raised handles on the bottom side to give you better depth on your exercises.

Compared to the straight bar, the trap bar enables you to bend your knees more while still keeping the weight in the right position respective to your body. You can’t bend your knees this much with a straight bar because you’ll end up with a stressed lower back and poor leverage.

Step-By-Step Instructions

1. Starting Position

Stand inside the trap bar with your knees pointing out. Your feet should be positioned at equal distances between the back and front of the bar. Squat down and grab the handles at the sides.

The main difference that you’ll possibly notice is the hands are beside the body and not in front. The neutral grip at the sides puts the bar closer to your centre of gravity, making it easier to pull. The handle bars are also slightly higher so lifting weights can be a little easier on the lower back.

2. Pull The Trap Bar Up

Lower your hips, keep your eyes forward, and keep your chest up. Start the movement by driving through your heels. As the trap bar goes past your knees, shoot your hips forward and shoulders back.

As you approach the tall position, give your glutes a squeeze. Fully extended your hips and as you pull the bar up.

3. Come Back Down

Once you are at a full extension, return the weight back to the ground by bending your knees slightly forward. Your knees should be pointed in the same direction as your feet with your back straight. That completes one rep.

Trap Bar Deadlift Variations

Band Resisted Deads

To add some intensity to your conventional trap bar deadlifts, you can use resistance bands. The bands allow you to exert maximum power throughout the full range of motion. Simply attach a stretch band at both ends of the bar and anchor it to a squat rack, or a pair of heavy dumbbells.

Jump Deads

For advanced weightlifters, you can try the jump deads. As its name suggests, you’ll be jumping while lifting the trap bar. If you ever decide to do this exercise, make sure that you only do 3-6 reps and try to utilize rubber plates instead of metal plates for a good rebound.

Tips From The Experts

1. Breath From Your Diaphragm

As you already know, you should inhale before you perform the lift, and exhale as you come down. Elitefts suggests breathing into your diaphragm to draw in as much air as possible. Hold the air while you pull and when you reach the point when you start to battle with the weight, exhale small bursts of air. Never let all the air out at once, or you’ll lose the tightness of your torso which may cause your bar to drop down.

2. Chin Up

Most experts suggest keeping a neutral spine, but T Nation stresses the importance of keeping your chin up. The main reason to look up is to help the muscles in your trunk, specifically the posterior muscles, contract well. By keeping your neck extended, you help keep your back straight, hence allowing for a safer lockout.

3. Deadlift More

If you want to enhance your deadlift, Muscle And Fitness suggests increasing your frequency. When you deadlift more, you increase your capacity to deadlift. When possible, increase your frequency to deadlifting 2-3 times weekly for better technique and improved muscle recovery.


Both trap bar and straight bar deadlifts are great lifts, but if you want less strain on your lower back, then the trap bar deadlift may be your better option. However, if you want to work on your back extensors and hamstrings, then the straight bar is a superior choice. Therefore, choosing which is a better deadlift boils down to your goals.

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Solid article Paul! Keep them coming!