MIGHTY FIT

The ACFT: The Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar deadlift is crushing soldiers.

It's a completely new element of any PT test for the armed forces. Strength hasn't been tested in a three rep max before, let alone all the other novel elements of the new ACFT.

I'm not so concerned with potential low back injuries like some other critics of the trap bar deadlift have voiced.

I'm a fan. This type of test actually tests something many soldiers do nearly every day.

Picking something heavy up off the ground.

Of course, picking things up should be tested.

Here's the skinny on the trap bar deadlift and how you can properly train for it so that you can max out the event.


It’s not a true deadlift

The trap bar deadlift isn't a true deadlift. It's somewhere between a squat and a deadlift. As a hip hinge stickler. it's hard to watch just about every video I've seen of soldiers conducting this movement. There's too much knee flexion most of the time.

The trap bar deadlift DOES use more knee flexion than a traditional deadlift. BUT it doesn't need all the hip flexion you guys are giving it.

The reason there's more knee flexion is because the handles on the trap bar are closer to your center of gravity than the bar is during a conventional deadlift. This means you don't need to hip hinge as far forward with a trap bar.

But you still need to hinge.

You should only be bending at your knees, and hips for that matter, as far as you have to in order to reach the ground. If any part of your body is moving, but the bar isn't, you're wrong.

It’s not a true squat

ACFT: MAX The Trap Bar Deadlift

It's a little bit like a squat and a little bit like a deadlift.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)

This may seem like a weird statement. It's called a deadlift, not a squat so obviously, the trap bar deadlift isn't a true squat. Hear me out though.

Lower body movements are generally broken into two main groups:

  • Knee dominant movements
  • Hip dominant movements

The king hip dominant movement is the deadlift. The king knee dominant movement is the squat. The trap bar deadlift isn't wholly a hip hinge like the conventional deadlift, and it isn't wholly knee dominant like the back squat.

It's somewhere in between the two.

Which if we're being honest is how you should ideally pick something up. The trap bar deadlift assumes that you're getting the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible, and you're recruiting the most amount of muscle as possible (quads, hamstrings, and glutes).

SO...It’s a hybrid

ACFT: MAX The Trap Bar Deadlift

Your hips should be lower and your knee angle should be smaller.

This is actually good. It means you can get more quad involved in the movement than a conventional deadlift. It also means you can get more hamstring involved than a traditional squat. This means you can be stronger in the trap bar deadlift...if you train for it properly with correct form.

Proper form: The handcuff hinge

The handcuff hinge is the go-to movement to teach a hip hinge. We are taught by people who don't know what they're talking about to fear lifting with our hips, often because lifting with the hips is confused with lifting with the back.

Your hips AKA your hamstrings and glutes can be the strongest muscles in your body if you train them using hip hinge movements like the deadlift or good mornings.

Use the handcuff hinge to help you commit the hip hinge pattern to your neural matrix. Check out the video above for specifics on how to perform it.

How to train: 3 MONTH PLAN

ACFT: MAX The Trap Bar Deadlift

This is a really basic way to prep for this test.

(I made this.)

Because the trap bar deadlift is a hybrid between the squat and the deadlift, it's super easy to train for. You should simply break up your strength days into three main lower-body movements. It can look something like this:

  • Monday: Conventional or Sumo Deadlift 3 sets of 3-10 reps at RPE 8
  • Wednesday: Back Squat 3 sets of 3-10 reps at RPE 8
  • Friday: Trap bar Deadlift 3 sets of 3-10

Your rep scheme should change every 4-6 weeks. Let's say your ACFT is Jan. 1, I would break up your rep scheme to something like this leading up to the event.

  • Oct 7- Nov. 2: Sets of 10 reps
  • Nov. 3-30: Sets of 6 reps
  • Dec. 1-28; Sets of 3 reps

You're busy; don't waste your time doing Alternate Staggered Squat Jumps or Forward Lunges. They lack the ability to load heavy enough and are unilateral movements that require a balance component that's completely irrelevant to the trap bar deadlift. If you have a plan that uses these movements, throw it in the garbage.

ACFT: MAX The Trap Bar Deadlift

Being strong doesn't necessarily mean you're cool.

This article is intended to give you some basic information on the trap bar deadlift. It is by no means exhaustive. Respond in the comments of this article on Facebook or send me a direct message at michael@composurefitness.com with your sticking points, comments, or concerns on the trap bar deadlift.

I'm also making a push to keep the conversation going over at the Mighty Fit Facebook Group. If you haven't yet joined the group, do so. It's where I spend the most time answering questions and helping people get the most out of their training.

If you just want someone to do all the work for you so that you can just get in the gym and train. Here's the exact plan you need to be doing to get your Trap Bar Deadlift up! It's fully supported in the Composure Fit app. All the info you need is in that link and this link.