Strength and Size with Hanging Band Trap Bar Exercises

Improve Strength, Size, and Performance with Hanging Band Trap Bar Exercises

Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.

The hanging band technique or HBT protocol is one of my favorite methods for improving lifting mechanics and increasing proprioceptive feedback (Read more about HBT training here).  Trap bar exercises also represent some of my go-to movements as they provide unique variety and user-friendly positions.  Fortunately, you can combine these two methods into one protocol essentially performing trap bar movements in conjunction with the hanging band technique. 

There are several benefits of this method.

1. When it comes to the hanging band technique the unpredictable oscillations and perturbations force the muscles and stabilizers to work overtime to control the movement.  When applied to a standard barbell these erratic oscillations tend be somewhat subtle to the visible eye although the intramuscular stimulus is quite strong.  When applied to something a bit more obtuse like the trap bar, these oscillations become significantly more magnified.  In fact, these larger perturbations literally make the trap bar feel as though it wants to twist, rotate and shift throughout the movement. 

This effect is even more prevalent when mechanics are unsound or the lifter has any significant deviations in their lifting technique.  Besides producing heightened levels of proprioception and sensory feedback from muscle spindles, hanging band trap bar movements literally force the lifter to use perfectly dialed-in mechanics with exceptionally strict technique.  And yes, that means this is an advanced training strategy so use commonsense when programming these as the margin for error is quite small.

2. Trap bar movements represent some of the most natural positions for performing heavy strength training movements.  Whether it’s the squat or deadlift position that enables the load to be placed close to the center of mass, or the neutral grip that allows for a more packed and centrated shoulder joint, trap bar movements are some of the most joint friendly variations for overloading the muscles and ingraining sound body mechanics.  Applying the hanging band technique to trap bar exercises provides a novel stimulus that allows for more natural body positions to be applied to exercises that involve perturbations and oscillating kinetic energy.

3. Because of the increased difficulty, The HBT trap bar movements involve significantly lighter loads than even standard barbell HBT movements. As a result the lifter is required to use lighter loads to produce an intense training stimulus. Inevitably this makes the hanging band trap bar drills a very joint friendly training option.

4. Because of the necessary slower repetition tempo, the increased full body tension and the unusually strict mechanics needed to control HBT trap bar drills, they create a very high degree of intramuscular, metabolic stress, and mechanical tension.  These are very powerful mechanisms for triggering functional strength and hypertrophy adaptations.

5. If you’re looking for a unique way to crush your grip, hands, and forearms, HBT trap bar exercises are a must-try.   To maintain control of the movements you’ll literally need to squeeze and attempt to crush the bar with near max effort throughout each set.  As an added bonus, this intense grip activation helps to further pack and centrate the shoulder joint making these very therapeutic on the upper body joints and connective tissue.

6. Variations of the hanging band trap bar deadlift/squat are excellent for improving jump mechanics.  That’s because it teaches an incredibly high level of motor control in conjunction with a jump-stance or close-athletic stance position that’s incorporated during the trap bar deadlift/squat.  This does wonders not only for jump performance and power output but also for landing mechanics and force absorption as it teaches lifters to maintain a heightened level of core stability and muscle activation upon landing - a common problem for most athletes.

7. Yes, a traditional barbell obviously represents the most versatile method for using the hanging band technique, however the trap bar also provides quite a few unique variations that can be combined with the hanging band method.  These include deadlifts/squats, chest presses, overhead presses, loaded carries (i.e. farmers walks), rows, hinges, lunges, single leg squats, single leg RDLs, pullups (the hanging weight produces subtle yet still significant oscillations to the bar), and other unique movements.

Combining Methods

It’s important to note that these unique variations should never take the place of the basic foundational movements.  However, periodically incorporating some of these unique methods can help improve motor control and wake up new muscle fibers.  With that said you can also combine many of the variations I’ve recently laid out over the last year to further increase the difficulty and create a novel training stimulus. 

Here’s an example of an advanced bench press variation that incorporates 6 of my favorite training methods.  This includes, 1) eccentric isometric protocol, 2) trap bar press, 3) hanging band technique, 4) reverse grip/bottoms up, 5) hollow body leg raise, and 6) head off positioning.  You can check out my website to read various articles I’ve written about each of these methods and the benefits associated from each.  Also, 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.