Weak back and you still want to do deadlifts? Try using a trap bar
Athletes who have a weak back but who still want to do deadlifts might be able to do them by using a trap bar instead of a straight barbell. This way of doing deadlifts protects the lower back, reports American sports scientist Kevin Camara in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. According to his research, the trap bar deadlift is also a useful exercise for athletes who want to develop speed in their lower body.
The researchers got twenty men, all of whom were experienced deadlifters, to perform deadlifts with a straight barbell and with a trap bar. How the deadlift is performed with a trap bar is shown in the photo on the right.
The researchers attached electrodes to the leg and lower back muscles of the subjects, so that they could see how much they worked during the movement.
They also measured how fast the men were able to lift the weights.
When they did the deadlift with the trap bar the participants had to work the upper leg muscles - the vastus lateralis to be precise - harder than they did when they used the straight barbell. The 'leg biceps' - femoris biceps - and the erector spinae in the lower back worked less hard during the trap bar deadlift.
When doing the trap bar deadlift the subjects developed more peak power [PP] and more peak velocity [PV] than they did doing the deadlift with the straight barbell. That meant that the subjects performed the trap bar deadlift faster than the regular deadlift.
"The conventional, straight bar deadlift is a common exercise that is frequently performed within athletic and recreational weight rooms", the researchers wrote. "However, when performed with heavy loads it can be the most taxing exercise on the lumbar region."
"For individuals with lower back injuries or pain, the results of this study suggest that the trap bar may be the better choice for barbell selection, due to its ability to evenly distribute the load among all joints and reduce the moment at the lumbar spine."
"Conversely, if the goal of the training session is to emphasize strengthening of the lumbar region and hamstrings, the straight barbell appears to be the appropriate choice."
"Lastly, the rap bar may be a more effective method for maximizing force, power, and velocity during the deadlift."
J Strength Cond Res. 2016 May;30(5):1183-8.
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