Can Trap Bar Deadlifts Replace Squats? (5 Factors to Consider)

A question I see asked repeatedly is “Can Trap Bar Deadlifts Replace Squats?”

For whatever reason, many of us simply don’t like squatting.

Whether this is due to issues with flexibility, mobility, or injury history.

The trap bar definitely offers the ability to perform a hybrid squat/deadlift.

However, is this really enough to completely abandon the traditional squat?

Here’s what you need to know.

Can Trap Bar Deadlifts Replace Squats?

Trap bar deadlifts, or any other movement for that matter, can never perfectly replace squats. Your shin and torso angle will mimic the back squat at certain points during the lift. However, squats are one of the most functional movements for strength and hypertrophy you can do. Trap bar deadlifts will certainly minimize lower back stress if this is an issue. That said, there are other better options, such as front squats, safety bar squats, or even unilateral movements which don’t involve a barbell.

1. No Movement Can Truly Replace Squats

A Man Preparing to do a Barbell Back Squat

Firstly, I think it’s important to say that from a personal perspective I’m definitely not one of these, “You have to squat” people.

You know the ones I mean.

I’ve seen many fitness and exercise forums where members categorically state that you have to back squat, otherwise you’ll never be seen as a “real lifter”.

Plus, you won’t be respected by other “real lifters”.

I’ve never heard so much BS in my life.

We are all perfectly capable of producing a strong, muscular, and awesome physique without the back squat.

With that being said, squatting is one of the basic human movement patterns.

Furthermore, there are few exercises (if any) that offer as much functionality, total body strength, and hypertrophy benefits.

Squats are a fantastic exercise and you can never truly replace them.

Yes, there are many alternative exercises that will work the same muscles just as well, if not individually better.

However, there is no “perfect” replacement for the squat.

2. Trap Bar Deadlifts Don’t Offer as Much Knee & Hip Flexion

As I’ve mentioned, trap bar deadlifts are more of a hybrid squat/deadlift movement.

So, you will receive many of the benefits of both exercises.

But, you cannot totally replace either movement with the trap bar deadlift alone.

In terms of squats, you will find that at times during the lift that your shin and torso angle will be very similar.

This is not something that you’ll get with the conventional deadlift.

By this I mean that the conventional deadlift is a straight out hip-hinge exercise.

So, it is completely different from the squat.

However, the trap bar deadlift mimics many of the movement patterns of the squat, and it does offer some knee flexion which can help to develop the quads.

But, this is nowhere near as much knee flexion as the squat offers.

Plus, as there isn’t as much hip flexion as conventional deadlifts, you won’t be truly developing the hamstrings.

In other words, neither your quads nor hamstrings will go through their full range of motion.

Trap bar deadlifts are great for working the glutes, the mid-back, and traps.

But you simply won’t be getting as much quad and even hamstrings work as you would with squats.

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3. Trap Bar Deadlifts Can Minimize Lower Back Stress

I would hazard a guess that the main reason you’re looking to replace squats is because you’re having issues with performing them.

Okay, perhaps you simply don’t like them.

However, barbell back squats do require a certain amount of flexibility and mobility.

Plus, they are notorious for placing stress on the lower back.

I will say that if you’re feeling squats in your lower back then you’re not performing them correctly.

But, once again this will usually come down to a lack of mobility.

The same can be said if you feel squats anywhere else rather than the target muscles.

This could also be due to using too much weight.

Personally, I think if you’re struggling with aches and pains with any exercise you’re better off scaling back on the weight and relearning proper form.

With that being said, this is also why people turn to trap bar deadlifts as a possible alternative to squats.

I will say that there is some form of spinal loading with trap bar deadlifts, but this nowhere near as much as with barbell back squats.

So, if squats are causing you lower back problems then yes you could use trap bar deadlifts instead.

But, remember you aren’t going to get the same type of quad and hamstring development.

Additionally, I would say that learning to squat correctly, even with the higher degree of spinal loading, will have more benefits in the long run.

The Trap Bar Deadlift

4. There Are Other Squatting Options

There are of course a wide variety of squats you can use if you’re struggling with the traditional barbell back squat.

And all of these will provide better knee and hip flexion than trap bar deadlifts.

A personal favourite of mine is the front squat.

Firstly, front squats provide a completely different loading pattern.

So, if you are feeling traditional squats in your lower back, front squats could be a far better alternative.

Additionally, front squats are a fantastic quad-builder.

So, in effect, you are getting all the benefits of the squatting movement pattern, but without as much stress on the lower back.

Another great option is the safety-bar squat.

This places less stress on the lower back, hips, and knees.

Plus, it offers better core stability and is ideal if you have issues with shoulder mobility.

5. Unilateral Movements Are Better If You Can’t Squat

It’s almost sounds as though I have something against trap bar deadlifts.

This is definitely not the case.

I think it’s a fantastic exercise, and it has its place in any workout program.

I just don’t think you can compare it as a like-for-like, or even as a replacement, for squats.

The main point I’ve been making is that there simply isn’t enough knee flexion to work the quads anywhere near as much as you would with squats.

If you simply don’t want to back squat anymore, or even use a barbell, there are definitely alternatives.

And most of these alternatives will be a better replacement for squats than trap bar deadlifts.

I’m a huge fan of unilateral training, whether for the upper or lower body.

Personally, I think there are some fantastic unilateral leg exercises that can definitely replace squats.

I actually think you can build a strong and muscular set of wheels with just a pair of dumbbells.

Some of my favourite unilateral leg exercises include Bulgarian split squats, lunges (especially reverse and walking), step ups, single-leg hip thrusts, and single leg Romanian deadlifts.

All fantastic exercises which won’t place (barbell) stress on the lower back if this is an issue.

And they are certainly a better alternative to squats (and many other lower body exercises) than trap bar deadlifts.

Top 6 Single Leg Exercises

Final Thoughts

I’ll say that trap bar deadlifts can’t replace squats.

Trap bar deadlifts are definitely a great exercise, but they won’t offer as much knee and hip flexion.

So, realistically you will be working the glutes and mid-back to great effect, but there isn’t much stimulation for the quads and hamstrings.

Ideally, you should focus on front squats and safety-bar squats if you don’t wish to barbell back squat.

Then again, you could simply dump the barbell and perform unilateral leg exercises with dumbbells.

With that being said, trap bar deadlifts can still form an integral part of your overall training program.

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