The Trap Bar Deadlift

Here are two versions of the trap bar deadlift.

The only difference between the two videos is the starting position of the hips.

Hip Dominant Exercises

Any time an exercise is labeled hip dominant, it means that the movement involves the muscles that extend the hip (brings them forward), primarily the glutes and hamstrings.

The deadlift, and its many variations, has long been used as one of the basic hip strengthening exercises. But, In reality the deadlift works much more than just the hip musculature. Other major muscle groups targeted include the quads, low back, upper back and forearms.

Starting Position of the Hips

There is no one correct starting position for the hips. I have longer legs and shorter arms which will result in a different hip starting position than someone who has shorter legs and longer arms. Your genetics dictate your starting hip height.

No matter what position your hips start in, one indisputable fact remains: your lower back must stay neutral/arched/flat. All three terms are used to describe the same position–lordosis.

Your lower back has a natural inward curve, it’s called a lordosis. This natural inward curve, or lordosis, should be maintained at all times. This is possible to do because the range of motion is occurring at the hips and not in the lower back.

The only thing that will be the same for everyone is that the hips should be higher than the knees. The deadlift is not a squat. In a squat, the hips will end up parallel or slightly lower than the knees. The deadlift starts with hips higher.

Two Versions of the Trap Bar deadlift

In the videos, the only difference is the starting position of my hips.

In the first video below, my hips start a little lower.

In the second video, my hips are higher.

The higher hip height in the second video results in me feeling the exercise much more in my hamstrings than in the first video. In fact, in setting up for the lift, I feel more tension in the hamstrings with the second setup than in the first. The reason is that I’m pulling the hamstrings apart at both ends, thereby creating tension.

It’s like taking the slack out of a rope. If you envision my hips and knees as my hands, and my hamstrings as the rope, moving my hands further apart will tighten the rope. This is what the higher hip position does for me.

One thing that doesn’t change is that my lower back stays neutral. As long as your back stays neutral, you should be fine.

Random notes:
Although this is not a “how to deadlift” post, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the following:

– no matter what height your hips start at, your lower back needs to stay neutral. If you can’t stay neutral, you need to find a different exercise or work on your flexibility. You simply can’t let your back round and hope to remain free of pain.

– You don’t have to set up the way that I am. Different people teach different ways to set up. I like this method.

– Your hands should be behind your shoulders. They should not be directly under your shoulders. Having your hands slightly behind your shoulders will put your shoulder blades directly over the weight being lifted. This is proper.

– You initiate the lift by driving your feet/heals into the ground. You do not initiate by doing a low back extension. Lift the weight with your legs, not your back.

– A higher hip position will result in more torque on the lower back because your torso will be less upright. Conversely, the lower hip position results in less torque because your torso is more upright. There isn’t a huge difference, but it does exist. Any type of deadlift will result in some degree of torque.

– One mustn’t necessarily go real heavy with the weights. My thought process is that for people who just want to be in shape, the ability to do a good deadlift with a moderate amount of weight is more important than how much weight you can deadlift maximally. I feel the same way about squatting.

Proper deadlifting and squatting mechanics with a *moderate* amount of weight are indicative that your body has the proper amount of mobility and overall body strength to prosper in day to day living and result in an attractive physique.

* The term moderate will vary from person to person and situation to situation. What is moderate for a 25 year old who stands 5’11” 170 pounds will be different from what is moderate for a 65 year-old of the same height and weight with a history of injuries. I don’t get caught up in the how much someone “should” be able to deadlift and squat debate.

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