Make Pullovers Better With The Trap Bar
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
Pull overs are one of the best exercises for targeting your entire upper body and core. If you want to ramp up the intensity a step further try performing these two unique pullover variations using a trap bar as demonstrated by one of my awesome clients Ben Lai and myself.
Besides providing a unique and novel stimulus to the upper back, shoulders, chest, triceps, and abs, there are 7 reasons why performing pullovers with the trap bar are so effective
1. One of the most common mistakes when performing pullovers is to overstretch at the bottom of the movement. The unique and semi-awkward leverage incorporated when performing pullovers with the trap bar however, with much of the weight hanging behind the lifter, forces the individual to terminate the range of motion at the ideal stopping point. If you overstretch you’ll lose control of the weight due to the disadvantageous leverage.
2. Pullovers performed with the trap bar allow the lifter to use a wide neutral grip thereby placing enormous tension and stretch on the lats particularly in the stretched position. While you can perform traditional barbell pullovers with a similar width, the combination of a pronated grip in conjunction with a wide hand placement can spell disaster on the shoulders during pullovers. The trap bar provides the best of both worlds allowing a neutral grip that’s shoulder friendly while also providing a wide hand placement for a large stretch. In other words you maximize growth while saving your shoulders.
3, Because of the hanging nature of the weight and the challenging leverage that’s pulling away and against the lifter, each repetition requires at least double the time to complete particularly in the stretched position. Essentially the trap bar exaggerates the arching motion of the movement. This is especially true for the longitudinal version shown in the video. In other words the time it takes to move into and out of the stretched position is exponentially greater due to the size, awkward nature and overall positioning of the load. Besides increasing time under tension there’s also significant micro trauma, muscle damage and mechanical tension in the bottom position thereby creating a strong hypertrophy stimulus.
4. Because the lifter is forced to slow down the movement particularly in the stretched position this also takes additional stress off the shoulder joint while providing incredible stress to the surrounding musculature.
5. The level of grip and forearm strength required during trap bar pullovers is incredibly high. In fact to control the trap bar and ensure it does not twist in the hands, the lifter will have to use near max effort crushing and squeezing grip strength. Besides acting as an effective stimulus for strengthening grip and forearms the intense grip activation also ensures a more packed and centrated shoulder joint due to concurrent activation potentiation. In other words a tight grip helps to eliminate energy leaks throughout the kinetic chain including the shoulder joint, scapula, and rotator cuff.
6. Due to the excessive pulling force particularly at the bottom stretched position the stimulus to the core and abs is higher than almost any pullover variation you'll ever perform. In fact it feels like you're about to be flipped over by the load unless you fire the daylights out of your core and remain incredibly tight throughout your entire body
7. The trap bar also provides a more unstable version of pullovers in comparison to other variations. As a result it improves motor control by forcing the lifter to hone in on their mechanics. This also produces a greater stimulus to the targeted musculature.
Trap bar pullovers can be performed using the standard grip or with a longitudinal method using the outside frame for handles. Although they are somewhat similar, the longitudinal method is more challenging and more unstable due to the length of the loading instrument and more challenging leverage.
Because of the increased time under tension involved in these I typically recommend slightly lower repetitions usually several sets of 5 to 8 reps.
Just in case you were wondering, yes, you can also perform tricep extensions/skull crushers with the trap bar.
These are incredibly intense as the degree of tension and activation in the stretched position is unusually high making them very effective for stimulating strength and hypertrophy in the upper arms.
If you’re looking for a training program and instructional guide that teaches you how to incorporate different movements such as these into your training routine, check out my Complete Templates Series