The trap bar has been around since the 80s, when powerlifter Al Gerard invented it to reduce the stress on his back during deadlifts.
The barbell is shaped like a hexagon in the middle, allowing you to stand inside it rather than holding the weight out in front of you as you would a straight barbell, theoretically reducing the torque on your back.
Trap Bar Deads v.s Straight Bar Deads
The trap bar activates your back muscles less than the straight bar does. It shifts the load from your back and hamstring muscles to your quads.
When you do a straight-bar deadlift, the barbell is in front of you. Even if you keep the bar close to your shins, your arms extend slightly forward in order to grab the bar and pull on it.
With the trap bar, you’re literally standing inside it so you’re able to grasp the barbell right where your lower limb is. It puts the bar closer to your center of gravity. You’re in a better position to pull where you don’t have the same torque around the lower back.
Studies have also found that when using the trap bar, you are able to generate more peak force and peak power during the deadlift.
That’s for the same reason that it puts less stress on your back. With the load closer to your center of gravity, your body is mechanically better positioned to perform the lift.
Generating more force and power during each rep could theoretically translate to improved athletic performance and muscle gains.
That doesn’t mean you should ditch the straight bar, though.
So Which Deadlift should you choose?
Your deadlift choice should depend on what you want to accomplish in the gym.
If you want to target your back muscles and hamstrings and you have no lower back pain or injuries then the straight bar will be more effective.
Want to relieve stress on your back, without skipping deadlifts? Grab a trap bar.
The trap bar is also a great choice for athletes who want to develop more explosive movements. Trap bar jumps are also great for this!
For most, mixing up the two will lead to best results.
At the end of the day.. doing a variety of exercises over time is good, so it’d be good just for variety no matter what your training goal is.