Using a shrug bar, or often called a trap bar, to perform deadlifts has several advantages over using an Olympic style bar. Because the lifter is standing in the center of the load the line of pull is centered on the body. This greatly decreases the forward leverage of having the bar in front of your legs as with a straight bar, otherwise known as a “moment arm”, which diminishes the shear forces placed on the lumbar spine..

One of the main causes of injury in a deadlift is having a rounded back. The handles are elevated above the bar so that the lifter can more easily keep a flat back while in the starting position.

Because the handles are at a 90 degree angle to the bar the lifters hands are in the natural hanging position with the palms facing each other. This allows for a much better grip. I find that people can lift much heavier weights without using hooks or straps.

Shrug Bar Deadlift Technique

  1. Step inside of the bar so that your feet are centered front to back and side to side.
  2. Place your feet shoulder width apart.
  3. Bend at the hips and knees so your hands can reach the bar.
  4. Bend at the hips and knees so that your thighs are at about a 60 degree angle and your back is in a neutral position.
  5. Pushing through your heels, lift the weight from the floor by straightening your legs and hips at the same time. It should feel like you are uncoiling your body evenly at the knees and hips simultaneously.
  6. Squeeze your glutes as you begin to reach the upright position.
  7. Once you are standing fully erect reverse the action so that you follow the same path at all of your joints and return the weight to the floor under control.


Common Mistake
People often try and lift using only their legs in order to protect their spine. This actually takes the large gluteal muscles out of play and in turn places more stress on your spine. You will also reach a point in the lift were your legs will be straight and you are leaning forward with your back.

At that point you will have to straighten your trunk using only your low back muscles. That is a surefire way to herniate a disc in you lumbar spine. Your knees and your hips should reach a straight position at the same time.


I find the shrug bar deadlift to be a great alternative to traditional free weight exercises. It’s a nice medium between squatting with dumbbells and using a leg press machine. There is a decent amount of coordination needed to maintain form. Yet not so much freedom that risk of injury is high.


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John Rutnik

John Rutnik is a NFPT Certified Personal Trainer. He holds an AAS in Electrical Technology and has been a certified personal trainer since 2008. John has been involved in physical fitness and weight training since the late 70’s and is an avid outdoors man. He became a personal trainer after rehabilitating himself from a spinal injury he sustained in a car accident and losing 70 pounds. John later obtained ISSA Certifications as both a Fitness Trainer and Specialist in Sports Nutrition and became Lead Fitness Trainer at Anytime Fitness in Schenectady NY. His training philosophy is “no man left behind,” everyone deserves a chance to succeed.