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The Trap Bar Deadlift vs The Squat – Questions About Better

trap bar deadliftPeople continue to surprise, which I believe is usually a good thing. As long as they are asking questions, it means they are curious. If questions lead to action, then that’s great. If questions are merely a habit for someone and they never lead anywhere, that’s still not terrible. This has been on my mind because I was recently asked a question I never could have come up with: “Okay, the trap bar deadlift vs squat…which is better?”

The guy who asked me this has been training at the gym where I am a kettlebell instructor for a couple of years. He hasn’t made much progress–he is one of those who asks and asks and does relatively little.

My first response was to ask him a question. “What does better mean to you? Better for what?”

“You know, better…like, which one will make me stronger?”

To start with, that gym doesn’t even have a trap bar, so I have no idea why it was on his mind. Second, it’s a Crossfit gym, and barbell back squats only seem to enter the rotation about every other week, if that. But he asked as if it was weighing heavily on him, so I tried to answer.

“There is only what’s best for you and your goals,” I said. “What are your goals?”

Like most guys, he wanted to build muscle and lose fat.

“Either of these lifts will do that.”

“But which one is better?”

“We don’t have a trap bar,” I said.

Around and around we went. In the end, I doubt he liked my answers, which were:

  • If both movements can help you accomplish your goal, choose the one you enjoy more
  • If neither movement matches your goal, don’t do either one. Find something that you like, that is fun for you.

Along those lines, I would rather deadlift than squat any day of the week, trap bar or no, conventional or sumo, I don’t care. It is aligned with my goals of a bigger deadlift and bigger muscles and greater strength, and it is fun for me.

It is liberating to let go of anyone else’s expectations, whether it’s the guy training next to me or the fitness industry itself. I do what I want and I follow my body.

There is no best, only best for me and you. If you want to do the trap bar deadlift, that’s best. If you want to do barbell squats and you love them, then that is best. Nobody has to agree for everyone to make progress.


grip and rip adam glassPS: If you’re looking for the best possible progress, I recommend checking out Adam Glass’ Grip and Rip 2.1 DVD.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jay April 24, 2011, 9:55 am

    Like this quote:
    “It is liberating to let go of anyone else’s expectations, whether it’s the guy training next to me or the fitness industry itself. I do what I want and I follow my body.”

    I agree completely. For me it’s doing trap bar deadlifts and one-leg split squats rather than the conventional versions of the deadlift and squat. I’m not a powerlifter, and this is what works for me.

  • Gardner July 13, 2011, 1:47 pm

    Poor chap just wanted some advice! you could have told him in a nicer way,without sounding like a stuck up arrogant twat! why cant people just be nice.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 13, 2011, 1:53 pm

      Gardner, the man in question is a good friend of mine and would laugh his head off at your comment. I’m about as nice as they come, and the conversation was pretty tongue in cheek. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I thought someone felt like they couldn’t ask me a question. I’m just finding my way along like everyone else.

  • tyler November 16, 2011, 1:12 pm

    Yes well that’s all fine and good, but which one is *better*?

    Joking aside though, sumo deadlifts seem to target lower-back, glutes, etc — diff muscles than trapbar deads. But trapbar deadlifts seems to target the same muscles as barbell squat. I guess my question would be: are trapbar deads and bb squats effectively the same (unlike sumo deads vs squats)?

    • Josh Hanagarne November 16, 2011, 1:17 pm

      For me trapbar usually works better, but I’m 6’8″ and unless I’m pulling sumo, deadlifts with a barbell give me trouble at times. Re: your question, I just don’t know. A lot of powerlifters read this site. Hopefully someone will jump in and take a stab at that.