Functional Mass With The Longitudinal Hanging Barbell Protocol
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
Recently I highlighted the use of the hanging trap bar protocol for blasting your legs and upper back with safe and effective deadlifts, squats, hinges, and bent over rows. However, the same protocol can be applied to a standard barbell by employing what I refer to as the longitudinal hanging barbell protocol. While it holds many of the same benefits and attributes as the trap bar version there are several unique characteristics that also make this distinct from the hanging trap bar method. In addition, several of the benefits are tough if not impossible to replicate with any other training modality. I know it looks odd, but here’s why the longitudinal hanging barbell protocol is so effective.
Squat and Deadlift Protocol
Performing deadlifts and squats using the longitudinal hanging barbell protocol not only hammers the entire musculature of the legs including the quads, glutes and hamstrings but it’s also incredibly low back friendly. In addition, it represents a more symmetrical, safe, and natural variation of the Jefferson deadlift.
I’ve stated numerous times over the last several years that the squat stance deadlift is the most natural and joint-friendly deadlift position. Well it just so happens that this variation forces the lifter to employ those exact mechanics as the lift feels very similar to performing a kettlebell deadlift or kettlebell squat. Because the weight hangs directly under your center of mass rather than in front of it (as would be the case with traditional deadlifts), the tension to the low back and spine is markedly less. In addition, the legs receive more direct stimulation as the movement feels quite similar to something like a belt squat.
Unlike the hanging trap bar variation which requires a bit more of an elaborate setup with boxes, the longitudinal hanging trap bar variation involves an incredibly simple and user-friendly setup. Simply load a bar with as much weight as desired, straddle the bar, place a T-bar v-grip handle in the center of that bar, then grip and rip.
In the video below I’m demonstrating the deadlift /dead stop version while my awesome client Leslie is demonstrating the eccentric isometric squat version. Besides the fact that you don’t need to use a trap bar, the longitudinal hanging barbell method provides a few additional benefits over the trap bar variation.
1. There is a significant instability and volatility component involved as the bar must sit perfectly in the v-grip handle without tilting. Any deviations in form, shifting, excessive momentum, loss of motor control, or postural deviations will cause the bar to tilt out of control. For instance if the lifter allows their shoulders to round over or shifts their weight towards their toes rather than driving through the heels, the bar will tilt forward towards the ground. In contrast, if the lifter hyperextends their spine or uses cervical hyperextension to help lift the weight (i.e. tilts their head up excessively) this will cause the rear portion of the barbell to tilt back and down towards the floor with the front end tilting up towards the ceiling. In other words the lifter is required to find the perfect balance of weight distribution and postural alignment in order to maintain balance of the barbell.
2. This is perhaps the single most effective deadlift variation I’ve ever used for teaching the lifter to use strict and rigid pulling mechanics during the first few inches off the floor. If the lifter tries to muscle or yank the weight off the floor rather than smoothly and patiently driving with their legs and hips, the bar will tilt in an almost uncontrollable fashion. In fact, if you watch the very first rep on my deadlift set, you’ll notice I used a bit too much momentum and wasn’t patient enough with my lower body. As a result of slightly muscling the weight off the floor you could see the barbell begin to tilt. However, this provided immediate feedback which I could use on subsequent reps to clean up my form and hone in on my deadlift mechanics for the remainder of the set. This setup also helps to reinforce the idea of pulling slack out of the barbell as failing to do so will also result in loss of barbell control.
3. The longitudinal hanging barbell squat and deadlift also provides one of the best methods for performing deadlifts with a more low-back friendly range of motion. For instance, performing deadlifts from the floor oftentimes represents an overly-large range of motion for many lifters as the individual has to sit down much lower than they naturally would choose to (oftentimes greater than 90 degree joint angles) to pull a heavy load off the floor. Elevating the load 2-3 inches higher typically places the athlete at just the right height where the range of motion feels more ideal and produces joint angles more closely resembling 90 degree joint angles. While you could simply place the weight onto smaller blocks or weight plates, using the longitudinal hanging barbell method (by hooking a v-grip onto the bar) requires a much less complex setup not to mention one where the athlete doesn’t have to worry about the barbell rolling off the boxes/plates each time they place the weight down.
Longitudinal Hanging Barbell Rows: The Ultimate T-Bar Row and Bent over Barbell Row Replacement
No landmine, no problem. Besides providing an incredibly effective rowing variation that obliterates your entire upper back and lats, the longitudinal hanging barbell bent over row eliminates the need for the landmine station.
Now this is not to say that I’m not a huge fan of the landmine station particularly when it comes to performing T-bar rows and other unique exercises. Unfortunately, body positioning and foot placement can become quite significant issues when performing T-bar rows on the landmine station. Not sure what I mean? Allow me to elaborate in more detail.
The single most common issue lifters have when performing T-bar rows is knowing exactly how far from or close to their body and torso they should position their hands on the bar. That’s because the landmine station is not free to move in the anterior or posterior direction but can only move up and down and side to side. For instance, if a lifter begins a set of rows and discovers while in the middle of his or her set that he or she is standing too far away or too close to the handle, they’ll be forced to resort to one of two options;
1) They can simply move their feet up or back while holding the heavy load which can place undue stress on the spine and hips not to mention the shoulders.
2) They can set the weight back down to the floor and adjust their feet and/or slide the handle bar to a different position on the bar.
In other words once the set starts the lifter has little if any control over the anteroposterior bar path as they simply can’t move their hands or arms more anteriorly or posteriorly in the middle of the set to adjust their mechanics and find the ideal bent over row position. And yes there is a perfectly ideal slot position the arms should move through relative to torso position during rows. If the arms are too far in front of the torso, this will place undue strain on the low back and also make it very difficult to depress the shoulders and activate the lats. In contrast, if the arms are too close to the lifter's torso this can crowd the shoulders, and cause the shoulder joint to move into internal rotation which can place undue stress on the glenohumeral joint and rotator cuff.
Additionally, the angled nature of the landmine station can make it a bit tricky to find the ideal hip hinge mechanics necessary for performing proper bent over rowing technique. This can cause further degradation to optimal rowing mechanics, shoulder positioning, and spinal alignment.
So what’s the solution to this debacle when performing T-bar rows? Simply use the longitudinal hanging barbell rowing method as it allows the lifter to move the bar in exactly the right path in terms of anteroposterior placement. This is primarily because neither end is anchored to a fixed point but instead the bar is free to move in response to the lifters preferred bar path. In other words the lifter has complete control of the path the arms and hands follow throughout the duration of the lift.
The hanging barbell row also provides greater range of motion than most T-bar rowing variations. That’s because during most T-bar rows, the angled nature of the landmine station combined with the more upright-cheating torso position employed by various lifters significantly reduces the optimal range of motion making the movement resemble more of a spastic shrug than a row. The hanging barbell variation on the other hand allows greater range of motion due to the elimination of the angular bar path.
Lastly, the longitudinal hanging barbell row resolves any issue lifters commonly struggle with in terms of the large plates running into their torso during traditional T-bar rows. That’s because the weight plates are not only placed much lower in relation to the torso but are placed in front of and behind the body rather than directly under it (a result of simply loading the plates onto the barbell).
Oh and just in case you were wondering, yes these are also excellent substitutes for traditional bent over barbell rows. That’s because the longitudinal hanging barbell method is much more low back friendly due to the nature of the load hanging right under the center of mass. As a result, the upper back and lats get pummeled all while saving the low back and spine. Additionally, the lifter is forced to use strict and controlled rowing mechanics as any deviations, shifting, or excessive use of momentum will cause the barbell to tilt on the v-grip. To lock the movement in and avoid tilting, the lifter will be required to use textbook rowing mechanics similar to the squat and deadlift variations.
To learn more about programming longitudinal hanging barbell deadlifts, squats, bent over rows, and hinges into your training routine check out my Complete Templates.