Modified Trap Bar Exercises with Horizontal Band Resistance
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
Performing movements such as deadlifts, rows, RDL’s, bench press, and pushups with horizontal band resistance is one of my favorite methods for improving body mechanics and enhancing lifting technique. I was first turned on to this technique seeing Tony Gentilcore incorporate it on traditional deadlifts.
Fortunately this same horizontal-band loading protocol can be applied to a number of movement variations. In fact using a trap bar in conjunction with the horizontal band technique is even more versatile than using a traditional barbell as many of the movements can incorporate both anterior and posterior band tension. Each variation has its unique benefits. Here are several of my favorite trap bar variations involving horizontal band resistance as well as a few reasons why each movement combination is so effective.
Side Note: For this article, anterior horizontal band resistance will refer to a setup where the lifter is facing the anchor point of the band with the band in front of them. The posterior band resistance refers to the opposite setup where the band is behind the lifter as they are facing away from the anchor point. In addition, each movement will be discussed in the order they appear in the above video.
Trap Bar Deadlift with Anterior Horizontal Band Resistance
Performing trap bar deadlifts with the band tension pulling anteriorly against the lifter provides several unique benefits. First it forces the lifter to engage their lats, keep the shoulders pinned back, and maintain a neutrally-arched spinal position. Anything less will cause the lifter to lose control of the bar as well as well their body as the band tension will pull them over. In addition, this method requires the lifter to maintain a more upright position while still keeping the hips pushed back.
Many lifters perform trap bar deadlifts with an overly bent-over position without setting their spine tight before the lift. This variation helps eliminate that and requires a very precise and exact pre-lift setup while keeping the chest out. Lastly, the slightly more upright position tends to the target the quads to a slightly greater degree than traditional variations.
Trap Bar Deadlift with Posterior Band Resistance
Performing deadlifts with posterior band resistance is only practical when applied to the trap bar. With traditional barbell variations, the bar will scrape and rub into the shins throughout making it an undesirable training option.
This specific trap bar method has 2 distinct benefits. First and foremost it helps eliminate another common problem on trap bar deadlifts which is excessive anterior knee drift. Although many lifters struggle to keep a semi-upright position during trap bar deadlifts (i.e. they’re excessively bent over), those that are able to keep the chest from excessively dropping over often fail to incorporate ample hip hinge mechanics.
Using posterior resistance forces the lifter to hinge at the hips and keep the hips set back throughout in order to resist the posterior band tension. If have you have trouble engaging the glutes and setting the hips back on deadlifts or squats, this is a surefire quick-fix. This method also provides a slightly greater stimulus to the glutes and hamstrings due to the hip hinge emphasis and slightly more bent-over torso.
Trap Bar Lunge with Anterior Band Resistance
Performing trap bar lunges with anterior band resistance helps to ingrain the cue of pushing through the heel of the front foot which is a critical component of any proper lunge or split squat. Here’s NFL athlete Jonathan Woodard showing how it’s done.
Placing too much tension onto the front of the foot (which typically leads to anterior knee drift) will cause the lifter to lose their balance and get pulled over until he or she learns to push through the heel of the front leg.
Trap Bar Rows with Anterior Band Resistance
If you’re looking to annihilate your lats and upper back, trap bar rows with anterior horizontal band resistance will fit the bill as shown here by NFL athlete Mykel Bennet.
In addition these are excellent for correcting bent over row mechanics particularly because the lifter is using a neutral grip with the arms to the sides of the torso rather than in front. Combined with horizontal band resistance, this combination requires the lifter to depress and retract the scapula throughout. The stimulus this produces on the lats is difficult to replicate with any other rowing variation. However it also does wonders for improving shoulder function and centration/packing of the glenohumeral joint.
In addition this rowing variation requires greater postural control and spinal positioning than most rows. Any spinal flexion will result in the weight pulling the body out of position ultimately causing a loss of balance. Finally, the lats are forced to work overtime as there are two force vectors working against your lat muscles, one that wants to protract them and pull the arms down (the total load), and one that wants to elevate them and pull the arms forward (the band resistance). Essentially you’ll feel like you’re performing a combination row and pulldown/pullover motion – a potent combo for upper back growth and functional hypertrophy.
As an added bonus, the RDL or hip hinge position involved with this exercise, forces the lifter to sit back into the hips and keep a soft-knee position (rather than an overly-stiff leg position) both of which are vital for correct hip hinge mechanics.
Trap Bar Pushups with Horizontal Band Resistance
This is one of the single most effective variations I’ve used to help correct pushup mechanics in my clients and athletes. This pushup protocol literally forces the lifter to keep the hips tall by activating the hips flexors (not the hip extensors). As a result this helps to hollow out the core and fire the deep musculature around the abs. It also helps to instill proper rotational pushup mechanics (i.e. the body pivots and rotates around the axis of rotation of the feet) rather than linear pushup technique which is incorrect.
It also requires intense lat activation, shoulder depression, and scapular retraction, which further ingrains ideal pushup mechanics as the elbows are forced to stay close to the body rather than flare out. Lastly, the lifter must remain tall on the toes rather than sagging back onto their heels. This is one of the most underrated yet critical components of proper pushup mechanics as it helps to hollow the core and keep the lifter over and on top of the bar rather than behind it.
Trap Bar Chest Press with Horizontal Band Resistance
Similar to the pushups, the chest press version of the trap bar with horizontal band resistance helps ingrain proper horizontal pressing technique as it requires the lifter to depress the shoulders and scapula, tuck the elbows, and fire the lats. Besides teaching proper bench press technique and pectoral activation, this is a game changer for improving shoulder health when performing chest pressing exercises.
Trap Bar Rows with Posterior Band Resistance
Performing bent over trap bar rows with posterior band resistance (the band anchored behind you) is a bit unique but it provides two specific benefits. First the bar is literally pulled back into the proper position to row from as it teaches the lifter what proper depression and shoulder positioning should feel like. With that said the band tension should be slightly less than other variations (don’t walk forward as far) to avoid feeling like the front deltoids have to over-activate to resist shoulder extension.
The goal is to provide just enough tension so that the bar and arms are automatically placed into the proper position and the lifter can get a feel for these mechanics. This variation should feel similar to a machine row as the lifter is almost guided into the proper bar path and correct position. As a result the lifter doesn’t need to worry as much about technique or stability and can simply focus on rowing the load while gaining a feel for his or her position.
Lastly, this variation helps to eliminate excessive top rock and overly-upright positioning. If you try to over-extend the low back at the top and pull too upright with your torso it feels like the bands will pull you back and cause a loss of balance. In order to remain locked in throughout, the lifter must maintain a proper hip hinge and forward lean while keeping a strong bent over position.
Trap Bar Lunge with Posterior Band Resistance
This particular lunge protocol is semi-unique and even a tad awkward however it provides one primary benefit for improving lunge technique. Essentially it forces the lifter to lean over and maintain ample hip hinge mechanics throughout. Most lifters are too upright when lunging. This variation eliminates this issue and requires a significant hip hinge throughout the movement in order to resist the posterior force vector produced from the band. Just expect to feel some serious tension in the posterior chain.