So the other day a friend of mine, Micky, who is also a trainer, came over to my facility to catch up and train. He hasn’t been at my place for a while so he felt like he was at the wrong address when he rocked up due to the equipment upgrade and recent renovation.
We greet each other, I show him around the new place and we start to chat about everything under the sun…
Micky: ”dude, did you notice that skin on your elbow kinda feels like the same as your nut sack?”
Me: “yeah, it occupies my mind every day. It feels weird, but awesome at the same time”.
After playing around with our elbows for the next 10 minutes (note: he played with his and I played with mine, there was no swapsies goin on) we decided to move on and train.
Following the warm up I pull out the straight bar, whacked a couple 10s on each side and told Micky that we’re going to deadlift.
Micky stops me and yells “whoa dude where’s your trap bars? I can’t deadlift with the straight bar”.
(You see, I used to have trap bars and only used them with deadlifts. Last time Micky was down we used them but after 6 months I decided they were no good and sold them to some suckers before I posted this blog post
I asked Mickey why…
He said well it takes the stress off the lower back and for those that have flexibility issues it allows them to get down to the bar.
Micky looks at me weird, kinda like this…
So I go on and explain…
Why The Trap Bar Sucks #1: It Allows You to Deadlift When You Shouldn’t Be
The first reason why most people jump on the trap bar band wagon is because it takes the stress off the lower back, or in other words – they experience lower back pain when they deadlift.
Pain is a great feedback to tell you something isn’t right i.e. you shouldn’t be deadlifting right now.
If you throw in the towel on your straight bar deads and move over to the trap bar you’re not fixing anything. You’re actually just making matters worse by continuing to deadlift with the trap bar even when your body told you that you’re not ready for it.
Reason For Lower Back Pain #1
You’ve got crappy technique – more than likely when you start your deadlift your hips shoot up in the air first before your shoulders. You want both (shoulders and hips) to rise at the same time.
Reason For Lower Back Pain #2
Your core (including glutes and hammies) aren’t firing so the lower back is just doin all the work.
Reason For Lower Back Pain #3
You have a desk job and already experience lower back pain so again your core (including glutes and hammies) aren’t firing so the lower
back is just doin all the work.
Why The Trap Bar Sucks #2: It Allows You to Deadlift With Flexibility Issues
This ties in with #1 – even when you think about it just doesn’t make sense because in reality this is what you’re saying…
“The trap bar allows me to deadlift when I shouldn’t be deadlifting because I’m too tight”.
Here’s your answer…
Throw out your trap bar and go do some flexibility work. When you have EARNT your flexibility then you will deadlift.
Why The Trap Bar Sucks #3: Turns It Into A Squat
Due to sitting on your but all day you become very quad dominant (your quads want to do everything) so when it comes to the trap bar, because there is no bar infront of your shins you are able to shift your weight around and turn it into a squat without realizing.
“If you want to squat go squat” – Andrew Read, said this when we were discussing trap bar deadlits a couple months ago.
The last thing you need is more quad work, you need more glute work to balance things out.
Why The Trap Bar Sucks #4: You Can’t Hump The Bar
When I can’t hump something, I don’t like it.
At the top of the deadlift you want to lock it out by contracting your glutes and pushing your hips all the way through to the bar. Or as I cue my clients at my gym… “hump the bar”.
You can’t do that with the trap bar because there is no bar there to give you feedback of when to stop. You’re just flapping around in the wind so to speak, and if you’re not careful, you can hyper extend your hips and injure yourself.
Back To The Story and How to Fix Your Deadlift…
After getting through to Micky I popped him on the straight bar and noticed that his deadlift wasn’t the best. So I ran him through the following sequences to get him to a decent deadlift position.
Tip #1 – Deadlift Barefoot
By taking off your shoes a few things happen.
- You’re closer to the ground so you don’t have to reach so far for the bar.
- Your foot receives greater feedback of its position therefore certain muscles in the legs that are connected to the foot will switch on.
- It allows you to keep the weight on your heels. Runners place your centre of gravity forward which re-directs the stress onto your quads.
Tip #2 – Stretch Hamstrings
If you cannot get down to the bar without rounding your back like hunchback of notre dame then try stretching your hamstrings.
Tip #3 – Stretch Hip Flexors
You can never do enough hip flexor stretching.
Tip #4 – Fire Glutes
If your glutes don’t turn during the deadlift there is a fair chance your lower back will do the work instead. I like performing fire hydrants before I DL.
Tip #5 – Pull Your Self Down Into The Whole
Instead of just falling down into the bottom position of the deadlift you want to actively pull yourself down to the bar – It’s kind like compressing a spring. This will create more tension in your body, the more tension the stronger and safer you’ll be.
Tip #6 – Keep Weight Over the Bar
Remember your aren’t squatting the weight. If you were, then you would be behind the bar. A good general rule is to have your hip crease higher than your knees.
Tip #7 – Rise as One
When you do have your weight over the bar there is a fair chance you’re to lift your butt in the air first and then your shoulders. This is great way to injure your back so don’t allow this to happen. Instead you want both the hips and shoulders to rise as one.
Tip #8 – Big Chest
Keeping a big ches during the entire deadlift will help you with tip #7 and keeping a neutral spine.
Tip #9 – Take Out the Clink
You’ll notice before you lift the weight off the ground there is a bit of give in the bar. It will ‘clink’ a little bit. I tell all my clients to “take the clink out” before you lift the weight. This creates more tension in the body.
*It’s also referred to “taking out the slack”.
After this sequence Micky was straight bar deadlifting pain free. Not a lot of weight but at least it was pain free.
If you follow the same sequence above you too will be able to straight bar deadlift pain free and be able to throw out your trap bar and laugh at those that still do it.