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Trap bar deadlift vs deadlift, which one is right for you?

The deadlift can improve full-body strength and power for athletes, especially for those competing in Boxing and Combat Sports.

The Trap Bar Deadlift (or Hex Bar Deadlift) has become a popular variation within athletic populations, and we often get asked at Boxing Science on our preferred tool for developing our athletes.

In this article, we will…

  • Compare the trap bar deadlift vs deadlift
  • Share the benefits of the Deadlift for Boxing performance
  • Explain why we prefer the Trap Bar Deadlift
  • How to optimally perform the Trap Bar Deadlift
  • How to manipulate volume and intensity to target different physiological adaptations

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WHY DO WE DEADLIFT?

The lower-body needs to be strong to transfer this energy to the hips, through the core and to the fist to deliver forceful punches. This is what we call the kinetic chain. In our data analysis, we discovered strong relationships between jump height and medicine ball throw distance.

This suggests the higher you can jump, the harder you can punch. The ability to jump is reliant on the amount of impulse produced from the lower body.

This means that lower body strength training can have a huge impact on punch force.

Additionally, the ability to produce force in the lower-body is important to run at high speeds during your conditioning. The faster you can run, the more strain you can put your muscular and cardiovascular system to improve fitness.

The deadlift can be beneficial in developing maximal strength as these require a static start means that it demands a large amount of concentric force to perform heavy and fast lifting action.

This is really beneficial for the increasing rate of force development of the lower body.

The Deadlift also develops the posterior chain, this is important to improve the function of glutes and hamstrings, as well as strengthening the lower back and core.

This is important for athletes as the posterior chain is not strengthened through traditional boxing methods, therefore Deadlift variations can also reduce the likelihood of injury.

However, utilising the conventional deadlift in boxing can have its limitations…

Problems with Conventional Deadlifts for Boxing

Movement assessments show that boxers are quad-dominant athletes and find it difficult to hinge at the hips, this means that the glutes can become underactive. As shown in the graphic below.

Due to tight shoulders and hips, many combat athletes find the Conventional Deadlift difficult to perform. This can affect technique, especially rounding of the back! This can increase the risk of injury, and limit the amount of load lifted.

Powerlifting athletes often use ‘lifting belts’ to help protect their back during heavy lifting. However, this reduces engagement of the core and moving away from the purpose of why we use compound lifts.

We use compound lifts to improve RFD and overload the core muscles. We focus on adaptation, not the exercise or hitting new ‘PB’S’

We still use the conventional deadlift to develop this foundational movement that can transfer into Olympic Lifting variations. We also adapt the straight-bar deadlift to increase the safety and effectiveness of the exercise.

SUMO DEADLIFTS – This allows a boxer to utilise the posterior chain more effectively, more upright posture to alleviate pressure on the lower back muscles.

ROMANIAN DEADLIFTS – This target the athlete’s posterior chain with less range of motion and less weight load.

ROMANIAN FROM BLOCKS – This allows an athlete to lift more weight at a partial range, improving concentric force without being at high risk.

Trap Bar Deadlift for Boxing

At Boxing Science, we prefer the Trap Bar Deadlift. The handles on the Trap Bar (Hex Bar) are in a neutral position and higher than the straight bar.

This allows for a better and easier scapula retraction, as well as making it easier to achieve a stronger hip position. This will help promote a more forceful hip extension and requires good core strength. These are important for transferring force generated from floor to the hips and core through to the fist.

These modifications help improve the lifting technique, reducing loading through the spine and allowing higher weight loads to be lifted. This can lead to increased gains in strength, speed and explosiveness whilst reducing the risk for injury. 

The Trap-Bar deadlift is a great tool to learn the hip-hinge pattern, and boxers will execute the technique quite quickly. This means that the trap bar deadlift can be loaded up quicker, and increased physiological adaptations can be achieved.

TRAP BAR DEADLIFTS = FAST IMPROVEMENTS IN STRENGTH

Male trap bar deadlifting

Manipulating Volumes and Intensities

The volume and intensity of Trap Bar Deadlifts can be easily adapted for different physiological adaptations. This means that this exercise can be trained consistently over the training camp, allowing more time for greater physiological adaptations for strength, speed and explosiveness.

Determine One-Rep Max

One rep max testing methods have been used for many years, traditionally building the weight up steadily until an athlete is unable to perform a weight load for a single repetition.

The safety of this has been questioned over the years, especially with athletes with little strength training backgrounds. Boxing falls into this category, especially with known limitations in mobility around the hips and shoulders.

Load-velocity profiling can help estimate an athlete’s one-rep max without going to extreme measures to assess their maximal strength capabilities. Furthermore, the profile can provide more detail on how an athlete can produce force and speed at different loads. This helps us define programmes with detailed targets and track their progress.

Check out the video below to see how we used it with amateur boxers on the programme.

Trap Bar Deadlifts for Max Strength

Increasing maximal strength is an integral part of our training at Boxing Science as we know that the stronger an athlete is, the higher RFD values they are likely to produce.

We can achieve some massive gains in maximum force production through heavy trap bar deadlifts as athletes find it easy to perform safely and effectively.

In the initial stages, we use 5 repetitions at 75-85% 1RM to develop the strength training foundations.

When an athlete becomes more experienced at strength and conditioning (12 months – 2 years, 1.7-2 x BW on TBD), we can target max strength further.

We look to perform 2-3 reps x 3-6 sets at 87-92% 1RM when developing maximal strength.

Partial Range Deadlifts

At Boxing Science, we use partial range lifts to help unlock gains in maximum strength. We have seen some fantastic changes in strength performance from overloading our athletes by performing beyond their 1RM through partial range variations.

Partial Range lifts are when the range of motion of a compound lift is REDUCED. This can help an athlete perform compound lifts with increased load and better technique. 

We perform Trap Bar Deadlifts from 6-9 inch blocks for 2-3 repetitions x 3-6 sets. We introduce athletes to partial range lifts by lifting 100% 1RM.

When an athlete becomes accustomed to partial range lifts, we aim to lift between 110-120% of their 1RM.

Developing Strength-Speed

Strength-Speed (sometimes referred to as explosive strength) is a classification of strength training where athletes are required to produce large magnitudes of force in a short timeframe.

This makes strength-speed is a favourable adaptation for Boxing, along with a range of other benefits such as the reduced likelihood of muscular hypertrophy, increases in the speed of motor unit recruitment, enhanced intramuscular coordination and increased activation of type II muscle fibres and high-threshold motor units.

We can target strength-speed adaptations using the Trap Bar Deadlift at between 75-85% 1RM. However, this needs to be performed with speed and maximal intent.

To help this, we utilise Velocity Based Training (VBT) to encourage maximal efforts that can help improve strength-speed.

We aim for between 0.55 – 0.8 m/s during various loads on the trap bar.

We can also use accommodated resistance training when using the trap bar, as demonstrated in the video below.

Trap Bar Jumps

Trap Bar Jumps are an explosive, dynamic version of Trap Bar Deadlifts. Instead of stopping at the top of the movement, the athlete carries on accelerating through the motion to leave the floor and jump as high as possible.⁣

The jumping action allows the movement to be performed at higher forces and velocities.⁣

SUMMARY

This article has highlighted the benefits of deadlifts to boxing performance. However, strength and conditioning coaches should approach with caution as athletes may not have the movement capabilities to perform Deadlifts safely and effectively.

Coaches may opt for straight-bar variations such as Sumo and Romanian deadlifts. Boxing Science prefers to utilise the Trap Bar Deadlift vs deadlift as the position of the handles allows for better postural stability throughout the movement.

This makes the lift safer and enables more load to be lifted to overload the athlete to stimulate adaptations for maximal strength.

The volumes and intensities of Trap Bar Deadlifts can be manipulated to target a wide range of physiological adaptations.