It's a fact - not everyone can deadlift a straight bar from the floor. Whether we're talking conventional or sumo deadlifts, not everyone can do them properly or safely. This could be a result of previous injuries or current mobility issues. Whatever the problem, I'm confident the vast majority of trainees can find a deadlift variation that suits their current level of ability.
When someone says "deadlift" this is typically what they're referring to as it's the most common variation; it's also known as a conventional deadlift.
And here's a demonstration of a sumo deadlift. Keep in mind not all sumo deadlift styles look the same. Some people have their feet much wider or even closer than I do in the video below.
But what should you do if you can't properly or safely perform a conventional or sumo deadlift but you still want to pull some heavy weight and work your back, hamstrings, and glutes? That's where variations like trap bar deadlifts come in handy.
These are my favorite deadlift variations for people who can't, or just don't want to, pull a straight bar from the floor. Typically these are easier to learn and still allow you to pull some heavy weight, so don't think you're missing out completely should you forgo the more common deadlift variations. If you've been having trouble with your deadlifts or you want to try some new variations, then give these a try.
Here's a video demonstration before we get into the details of how to perform trap bar deadlifts properly:
Notice in the video that I'm using the high handles. You can also use low handles which increases the range of motion, but most people do well with the higher handles when first using this deadlift variation.
Stand in the middle of the trap bar. The middle of your feet should be lined up with the sleeves of the bar (where the plates are loaded).
Stick your butt back as you go down to grab the handles, keep your chest up and arms straight while squeezing the bar tightly. Drive your feet into the ground while pulling up. Actively thrust your hips forward and squeeze your glutes hard at the top. Your butt and shoulders should rise at the same time. Don't let your butt shoot up before the weight comes off the floor.
For the most part I recommend trainees keep the reps around five to eight when just starting with trap bar deadifts. If you're an intermediate to advanced trainee and no stranger to deadlifts, then you can also do lower reps (one to three). I only recommend working in this rep range for individuals who are certain their form is spot on. Intermediates and advanced trainees can also experiment with higher rep sets (10+) for a tough physical and mental challenge. High rep trap bar deadlifts are one of my favorite challenges.