The Trap Bar Carry- An Exercise You Have Likely Never Tried, But Should
In the past, I’ve looked at the trap bar mostly as an annoyance in the gym. Kids who use them are typically weak as kittens, leave the bar wherever the hell they want and rarely unload the two to four massive plates they load on it. Additionally, the vast majority of trap bars can’t hold enough weight to make their use worthwhile, so they’ve simply been a speedbump to my workouts because they’re in the goddamned way. I have, however, fallen in love with precisely one exercise that can be done with a trap bar in a variety of ways, and it rules harder than than Vlad the Impaler in his forest of impaled bums- the Trap Bar Carry.
Don’t be this guy. Put some weight on the goddamned bar.
Unlike the methodology espoused by Stuart McRobert, which encourages people to deadlift on the trap bar because they’re great for people too weak to actually lift weights (like the super tactical toughguy pictured above), my thought process on the trap bar goes like this- if you’re strong, you’re likely too strong for most trap bars. In spite of this fact, there’s got to be some way to make the giant hunk of metal darkening the corner of your gym and providing spiders with an ideal breeding ground useful. So, when bored and sick of doing the same basic stuff day in and day out 8 to 12 times a week for the last few months, I loaded that bad boy up and started walking around with it, and I discovered something- it was a hell of a lot of fun.
We’re not talking orgy with midgets, porn stars, midget porn stars, and a circus freaks fun, but it was a damn sight more fun than doing whatever the hell it is most people do in the gym.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s come to the conclusion that this is the only truly useful purpose for Stuart McRobert’s masturbatory fantasy about a 400 lb deadlift. Author Craig Weller recommends these as well, though I think he’d take issue with my form- he recommends doing these considerably lighter than I do (doesn’t everyone?), and with extremely strict form. It’s just about the most primitive movement one could imagine, however, so primitive form works for me. Bob Peoples in all of his round-backed glory would agree with me, I believe, so eff Craig Weller. Actually, Weller’s article is pretty good- I stumbled across it while looking for Dan John’s article on the same topic, and he’s the only other person who seems to have written about the trap bar walk. Unlike Weller, I actually loaded the thing with weights, but he’s got some great ideas for other loaded carries if you’re inclined to use small weights and wear Vibrams, such as:
This saddens me.
The Underwater Rock Carry– “Take your rock, carry it as far as you can into the water from the beach, and then sprint with it under water while your partner swims on the surface. Once you’re out of oxygen, come up to the surface and switch out with your partner. Alternate in this fashion until you reach a set distance, like a depth of water you no longer feel like diving to, and then return” (Weller).
How else would you carry a yak carcass up a mountain?
Sherpa Skull Carry-“While backpacking in Nepal, I spent quite a bit of time with the Himalayan Sherpas, and they have an interesting means of carrying double (and sometimes more) their bodyweight up the mountain. Their packs are so heavy that they couldn’t use standard shoulder straps because the weight would pull them over backward. Instead, they run a strap from the bottom of their pack up that loops around the head, and allows them to carry the brunt of the weight using the skull and neck. This helps them to keep the weight centered well enough forward to balance and maintain a steady pace up the mountain” (Weller)
Brutal as those suggestions are, they’re about as practical as wearing a cotton candy condom at an all-anal gangbang in Swaziland. Instead, I suggest doing one of the following, which are my favorite ways to do trap bar carries:
Beast Mode- Load the bar with an appreciable percentage of your one rep max on the deadlift. I ended up working up to 600 and doing a number of these. I’d venture to guess my 1RM on the trap bar deadlift is at or around 650-660, so 600 was about 90% of my 1RM. Walk as far as you can with it, which is probably not going to be all that far. Rest and repeat until you feel like you might crap out your guts- this was about 90 minutes for me, including all of my lighter, longer distance reps.
Rocky Mode- If you train with a partner and want to ramp up the intensity Rocky and Apollo style, this is for you. Doing this exercise with a lighter weight than you would for beast mode and a partner lets you do a bit of metabolic conditioning, as you can do carries for distance and rest only the amount of time it takes for your partner to go the distance, as it were. If you happen to have a partner not quite on the same superhuman level as yourself, it’s no skin off your upper lip- just adapt and overcome. The guy with whom I’ve done these in my gym can get across the gym, Beast mode style, with 315. As such, I carry the bar in a 3:1 to 4:1 ratio in terms of gym lengths to his- I’ll go down and back twice to his single trip. This gives him an opportunity to recover and me the opportunity to get in a decent amount of time under tension.
“So why do them?”, you might be asking yourself. If “because they’re awesome isn’t compelling enough for you, perhaps this is: weighted carries like the trap bar deadlift carry can have a profound carryover effect to your deadlift, due in large part to the fact that the deadlift is a show movement that doesn’t rely on a stretch reflex (unlike the squat). According to Mike Tuscherer, isometrics are excellent for this sort of an exercise, and given the fact that the carry portion of this movement is, for all intents and purposes, an isometric, it should help your deadlift considerably (Tuscherer 34). The fact that it combines a variety of movements just adds icing to this awesome cake.
It’s a poor man’s farmer’s walk, if you need more reason to do it.
Weighted carries also have the benefit of increasing the amount of muscular tension over your entire body, the quality of which “determines how big and strong you can become”, according to Charles Poliquin (Poliquin 47). Lifting weights at 90% or more of your 1RM results in the maximum hypertrophy in Type IIb muscle fibers, as does slowing down the tempo of your repetitions, both of which occurs when you’re doing an exercise along the lines of a weighted carry with extremely heavy weights (Poliquin 48-50). According to Dan John, loaded carries will allow you to “build more muscle faster, drop fat quicker, and kick any ass on any field of play” and recommends doing them three times per week.
In short, trap bar carries are awesome, and you should start working them into your workouts, stat.
Bondarchuk, Anatoliy. Transfer of Training In Sports. Michigan: Ultimate Athlete Concepts, 2007.
John, Dan. The Secret of Loaded Carries. 31 Jan 2001. Web. 29 Jun 2018. http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/the_secret_of_loaded_carries
Tuscherer, Mike. The Reactive Training Manual.
Weller, Craig. Weighted Carries for Size and Strength. 20 Oct 2010. Web. 29 Jun 2018. https://atlargenutrition.com/weighted-carries-for-size-and-strength/