Use This Trap Bar Deadlift Variation to Increase Your Jump and Sprint Performance
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
Post Activation Potentiation is one of the coolest training methods you can use to create temporary spikes in torque and power that ultimately transfer to long-term improvements in performance. Although there are many protocols that can be used, with the most common being heavy squats performed several minutes prior to sprinting or jumping, the research shows that overcoming isometrics produce even greater levels of post activation potentiation (read more about post activation potentiation here). That’s because overcoming isometrics involve pressing/pulling against an immovable object which allows temporal summation (gradual ramping up of motor unit recruitment and firing frequency) to occur over time. With that said, I’ve commonly employed barbell back squats under safety pins to produce this effect in my athletes.
However, over the last several months I’ve been combining the overcoming isometric protocol with trap bar deadlifts and the results have been incredible. That’s most likely because the trap bar deadlifts mimic jumping mechanics and athletic positions more closely than traditional squats due to the closer stance and jump-style hip position. Here’s one of my NFL athletes Bryce Jones showing how it’s done.
On a side note, big shoutout to Bryce for getting picked up by the Houston Texans. I worked with Bryce for several months this year prepping him for the NFL combine and I’m ultra proud of this guy for making his dream of playing in the NFL a reality. His work ethic and talent are truly remarkable and I know we’re going to see big things for this young man in the coming years.
Besides being one of the most potent post activation potentiation methods you can use to improve jump height, sprint performance, speed, and overall power, the overcoming isometric trap bar deadlift is also incredibly effective as a functional hypertrophy movement. In fact the levels of intramuscular tension produced in the quads, glutes, and hamstrings is through the roof. As you push against the pins you should feel the entire lower body musculature activate to a greater and greater extent each passing second until it finally peaks at 3-5 seconds. In addition, the amount of mechanical tension and overload placed on the upper back, traps, grip, and lats is also extremely high as these muscles must work overtime to lock the spine in under inordinately high levels of tension and force. As a result it’s also a great mass and hypertrophy protocol for the upper body.
I typically recommend 3-4 sets of 2-4 reps with each rep lasting approximately 2-5 seconds. In addition, you’ll notice I have Bryce using a lighter load (20-25% of his 1RM) rather than an empty bar while also incorporating a eccentric isometric on the negative phase. This helps to ensure that there’s a degree of eccentric overload, pre stretch, and muscle spindle activation that normally wouldn't occur if you simply used a fixed load such as a pre-set smith machine (without negative resistance). As a result the lifter is able to maintain higher quality of movement and higher power output on subsequent reps without deterioration of form or excessive fatigue. Lastly, try pairing the overcoming isometric with a jump movement such as a box jump, plyometric, or trap bar squat jump as the jumps will be even more powerful than normal due to the potentiation response.
If you don’t have a trap bar the same protocol can also be applied to the traditional barbell squat as previously described.
In fact I typically like to alternate between the two loading methods as they each have their own unique attributes. However in terms of having the greatest transfer to athletic performance my top choice would be the trap bar variation.
Lastly, overcoming isometrics can be combined with a variety of trap bar exercises (as well as standard barbell movements) including chest presses, rows, RDL's, overhead presses, and more.