Trap Bar Deadlift vs Squat

by Kilo on December 30, 2010

This was a new one for me. “Josh, what’s better, deadlifting with a trap bar or squatting?” My mental response was immediately What do you mean by better?

My verbal response at the appearance of the great trap bar deadlift vs squat debate–which I didn’t know existed–was identical. “What do you mean by better?” The person asking the question wasn’t sure. He also asked me about hang clean vs power clean once. It was funny because our gym doesn’t even have a trap bar, and he doesn’t own one either. I guess that whatever question can possibly be conceived of…it’s on someone’s mind out there.

If you’ve never seen a trap bar, here’s a video.

I do really like the way it feels to pull on a trap bar. It can be a nice change of pace and gives some different sensations. The parallel grip is often easier on my biceps and my shoulder than the mixed grip I usually pull with.

But back to the word better. This gent and I talked and I gave my opinion, I didn’t tell him what to do or nto do. If you wanted to get better at the trap bar deadlift (or any variant of the deadlift movement pattern), and it was more important to you than getting better or stronger at squatting,  then it would make sense to me that you would spend more time pulling than back squatting, and vice versa.

If the goal was hypertrophy, I personally would go with the one that I enjoyed more.

If the goal was strength, I would acknowledge to myself that there are a lot of different ways to measure strength. The deadlift is my favorite way to demonstrate my strength, and I work it more than the squat. I know plenty of people who argue that the squat is THE lift. If they feel that way, then it’s true for them and I won’t argue.

Either way, for me it is a matter of preference. If I cannot ever, ever look forward to squatting, then anything I enjoy doing more is a higher priority. If my workouts are fun, I anticipate them with glee. If I’ve got glee in my scabby heart, then I’ll tear it up in the gym. That’s what creates training longevity for me.

I do not believe in better or best, only better or best for me, and for you. It’s a choice. If you’re going to compete you need to train specifically sometimes. Otherwise, it’s all about the fun.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick Tracy December 30, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I don’t see where trap bar, or any deadlift, is equated with a back squat. They’re different movements. Like you, I prefer to pull, rather than squat. This is primarily due to a knee that is at least one ligament down, and thus sketchy. It’s easier to drop/lower the weight than get squidgilated.

When I first did trap bar, I was a dyed-in-the-wool sumo deadlifter. I hated the trap bar for anything but light weight. Coming back to it around 19 years later, though, I find it really fun. At least to me, it clearly feels like a deadlift, not a squat.

You’re dead on when it comes to “better”, though. That’s a totally subjective assessment, and how much you like to do a movement is a factor.


Nick December 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I am a recreational lifter. I enjoy working towards strength and hypertrophy. I’ve always read and been told that one NEEDS to squat if you want to be big and strong. So I did for years even though I never felt I was built for it. Every time I would get up to decent poundages I would hurt my back or sometimes a knee. But I always loved the trapbar. Finally, now that I’m in my thirties, I said screw it I am not a powerlifter, why do I have do do lifts that I am not comfortable with? Ever since I dropped the squats and focused on the trapbar, my strength has gone through the roof, on all my lifts. Because I am not having to take weeks off for injuries. I look forward to leg day, and my legs have never looked bigger. So I urge anyone who hates squatting and loves deadlifting or trapbar lifting, to just try it for a couple of months. If your not competing in the squat what do you have to lose? Believe me, i wish someone would have told me this in my twenties, I would be a lot bigger and stronger today. Thanks for bringing this to peoples attention.


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