Maximizing your core strength and lower body strength begins with a trap bar, a level of determination, and these five exercises.
The trap bar is a great tool for anyone looking to build muscle, whether an athlete or just someone working to get stronger and look better. It can be used for a variety of exercises, as its unique design allows for a natural, and shoulder-friendly, position that places much less stress on your spine than a straight bar does (as the trap bar enables you to get directly in the center of the bar). So while you may have never done the exercises below, trying them will give you a taste of just how effective the trap bar can be for building strength and putting on lean muscle mass.
The Trap Bar Deadlift
The trap bar deadlift is the most popular use of the trap bar as it builds leg, hip and back strength. It’s a very basic exercise and can be loaded quite heavily, making it a great choice for really packing on muscle and strength. If doing these for the first time, use the high handle settings for stiff legged deadlifts at a slow tempo. This will put an emphasis on the hamstrings, and is great for increasing speed, strength, and overall explosiveness. Start with 5 sets of 5 and report back on how you feel the next day.
Low Handle Trap Bar
Many trap bar models offer a high and low handle setting. If your trap bar doesn’t have multiple grip options, try standing on small boxes to create a lower set up. The lower the handles, the more the knees and ankles will need to move, thus making the trap bar deadlift more similar to the squat.
Personally, I prefer the high handle setting, as the low setting can be difficult to maintain form with, particularly if there are any limitations in hip or ankle mobility as well as core strength. However, the low setting is a good option for those with shoulder limitations or low back problems, as it’ll allow them to still do some heavy bilateral lifting to strength their legs, back and hips.
Trap Bar Deadlift vs Chains
If you really want to spice up your workout plan, try using the trap bar with chains. Just drape the chains evenly over the back and front of the trap bar and let it rip! One of the limitations for stronger athletes is that on some models, the trap bar can only hold up to six 45 pound plates each side. Adding chains will allow you to overload the top portion of the lift to sustain the challenge.
Trap Bar Jumps
Without access to chains, trap bar jumps are a fantastic exercise to help build explosive strength, and are a great alternative to a traditional jump squat. These can be done continuously for more reactive ability, or can help improve starting strength by starting each jump from a dead stop. Take a look at the video as this underutilized exercise can really help take your gains to the next level.
One of the biggest benefits of the trap bar is that it can be loaded up pretty heavy. This is a big plus when it comes to farmers walks, as the trap bar is a much better option than dumbbells, especially at gyms lacking in the heavy dumbbell department. These loaded carries are great for core strength, grip strength, and overall conditioning. A word to the wise, I’d recommend walking slowly to avoid banging your shins on the front handles when doing them…
Suitcase holds are great core exercise to train both your obliques and your grip. They can be done for time, or for reps instead. To get the most out of this movement though, you really want to try to resist any side bending. Focusing on this aspect will help you maximize the core stability effect, leading to greater core strength.
The fifth and final exercise can be done with or without weights on the bar. It’s an extremely advanced core exercise that requires a lot of relative body weight strength, mobility and core stability to perform. So if you’re at the end of your workout and looking for a great substitute to hanging leg raises, these will quickly become your go-to.
The main takeaway here is the trap bar is a great addition to your workout plan, and can help reduce some shoulder and low back pain caused by some more traditional straight bar variations. While the straight bar is still the king for getting strong and ripped, the trap bar is a great way to switch things up to keep your body guessing in order to get bigger and gain strength.
To maximize your gains with these exercises 1R would recommend the following supplements: