Jan 6, 2017
A Valuable Addition

Squats and deadlifts are popular exercises to train the leg and lower back muscles needed for explosiveness. These types of motions are essential to the demands of almost any sport and should be part of any athlete’s workout routine. But there is also another simple lift that has been shown to combine the benefits of both these exercises: the trap bar deadlift.

Trap bar deadlifts target the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, while also developing the traps, back, grip, and core muscles. It’s not easy to target so many muscles in one motion, making this lift a valuable addition to any athlete’s work in the weightroom. Squats and regular barbell deadlifts should still be utilized based on the goals of the athlete and the demands of their sport, but the trap bar deadlift will help take an athlete’s weight training to the next level.

Researchers at Cal State Fullerton recently conducted a study to determine the best exercises for improving athletic performance. The study was published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, and compared the trap bar deadlift with the conventional barbell deadlift.

Three separate deadlift sessions were involved: one-rep max using a trap bar; one-rep max using a barbell; and three explosive reps at 65 and 85 percent of their max. Twenty people participated in the study, which is a small sample size but the results were clear: the trap bar lift required more power production.

Participants posted similar maxes with the barbell and trap bar. As the researchers expected, the barbell caused greater muscle activity in the lower-back muscle and hamstrings, while the trap bar more effectively activated the quadriceps. When performing the barbell variation, a greater amount of muscle activation on the backside of the body is required because the barbell is pulled from the front. But when using the trap bar, the weight is closer to the lifter’s center of gravity, which allows for a more vertical movement, making it similar to performing a squat.

This small shift in position was significant because the researchers found that it has a noticeable impact on power production. When the participants performed the 65- and 85-percent max sets with the trap bar, they were able to produce more power by moving the weight faster than they could with a barbell. More power means quicker and more explosive movements, which is essential to the success of any athlete.

By lifting more weight in a shorter amount of time, athletes are able to significantly improve their quickness and speed. This builds on the foundation of virtually every sports skill, including sprinting, jumping, and throwing a ball. When an athlete is more powerful, he or she will have an edge over their opponent.

Ryan Flaherty, CEO of Prolific Athletes (Carlsbad, Calif.) and trainer of elite athletes such as Marcus Mariota and Russell Wilson knows firsthand the value of producing more power in the weight room. “I can determine with 99.7 percent accuracy what your 40-yard dash time is based on your strength-to-weight ratio,” he says. “How much force your body creates compared to your body mass determines how fast you are.”

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