How To Use The Trap Bar: Best Exercises, Weights, Deadlifts, And More

The trap bar, also called the hex bar, can make barbell exercises like deadlifts more comfortable and easier for tall people with good shape.

Credit: Image source: Getty Images / Pekic

If you’ve ever seen gym goers in odd-shaped barbells (known as trap or hex bars) and wondered what the big deal was, you’ve come to the right place.

Here we give you the facts about the trap bar – plus some of the best trap bar exercises to get you started.

What is a trap bar anyway?

Synergee Olympic Hex Barbell

A trap bar – also called a hex bar – is a little different from the traditional barbells you usually see in the gym. While a standard or Olympic barbell is a long, straight bar, the aptly named Hex Bar (HB) is a six-sided hexagonal barbell with a raised handle on each side.

The hexagonal shape creates a gap to stand in while lifting. This brings the weight closer to your center of gravity. Meanwhile, the placement of the handle also changes the position of your hands during trap bar exercises, says Kasey Kotarak, CPT, certified personal trainer and coach at Fit Body Boot Camp in Michigan.

“When you’re using a hex bar, your hands are on either side of you, your grip is neutral, with your palms facing in,” she says. However, with a traditional barbell, your hands are in front of you, palms facing you (overhand / pronated grip), those away from you (underhand / supinated grip), or both (mixed grip).

How much does a trap bar weigh?

Like barbells, trap bars (TBs) come in a variety of types and weights. The three main types are the Gerard Trap Bar, the Conventional Trap Bar and the Extra Large (XL) Trap Bar.

Most gym TBs are Gerard bars and weigh 45 pounds, but don’t assume them. Ask your gym staff what type of hex bars they have. This is how much each guy weighs:

kilogram

lb

Gerard

20th

45

Conventional

13.3

30th

XL

25th

55

The hex bar is a great tool for barbell exercises like deadlifting or bent over row because it allows you to work and move your body in slightly different ways than with a straight barbell, says Caroline Juster, CPT, a Chicago-based certified personal trainer .

For example, when you do standing exercises with a hex, you are surrounded by the bar – so the weight you are lifting is closer to your center of gravity. This means you can lift more weight and put less stress on your back and spine. This can be especially helpful when learning exercises like deadlifts, since traditional barbells are usually less forgiving of form errors, says Kotarak.

Also, many people find that the TB is simply more comfortable than a traditional barbell. Its hexagonal shape ensures that it won’t rub against your shins when you deadlift. And the high, neutral handles of the bar make it easier to reach, grasp and stabilize.

All in all, TB is usually the more convenient option for people who are tall, have long legs, or have shoulder discomfort from regular deadlifts and barbell squats.

According to William P. Kelley, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and owner of Aries Physical Therapy, the HB is best for floor and hip lifts such as deadlifts, farmer’s walk, floor press, and shoulder lifts. . (FYI, they are often referred to as “trap bars” because people like to use them to shrug their upper traps.)

For most of the other exercises, there are better options. For example, overhead exercises (such as overhead presses) with an HB can be risky. “When you use the hex bar, you are in a small space and surrounded by metal,” he says. “Throwing it over your head is trouble.” Stick to dumbbells, straight bars, and kettlebells when working overhead. It’s easier to avoid them should they fall.

The best trap bars for your home gym

Using a hex bar is not that different from using a traditional barbell. That said, if you are new to this type of bar you might appreciate a few pointers. Namely the best method of loading ..

If you’re having trouble rubbing weight plates onto a bar, try this trick: place a weight plate on the bar, then roll that side up onto a 5 pound plate. Repeat on the other side. “Now you can lift the rest of your plates up slightly so they don’t rub against the bottom,” says Kelley.

To prevent the weight plates from falling or moving while using the TB, secure them with collars (most gyms have these near power racks). It is now safe to roll the bar off the 5 pound plates and continue lifting.

When you’re done, just roll the bar back onto the plates and reverse the process to unload, he says.

Just also recommends always loading bumper panels first. These are usually made of high density rubber so you can drop them on the floor of a gym without noise or damage. “Bumper plates are big and round, as opposed to plates with flat edges and corners, which makes it easier to roll the bar on the floor and load or unload additional plates,” she says.

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As with any new exercise or piece of equipment, it’s important to start slowly, says Kotarak. So opt for a lighter weight than usual and spend some time getting used to the HB.

As you become familiar with the bar’s lighter weight, it is important to focus on your form. “Every exercise has certain things to look out for,” she says. Get help from a certified personal trainer if necessary.

And be careful not to trip or bump your shin when entering and exiting the bar.

The 4 best trap bar exercises

Now that you know what the bar is and why you should be using it, you are probably wondering what to do with it. Here are some basic trap bar exercises – demonstrated by Juster – to get you started.

For a complete workout, just do the exercises in sequence. Kotarak recommends doing 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of deadlifts, stooped rows, and floor presses, and carrying the bar for 3 to 4 60-second walks.

Move 1: Deadlift with trap bar

JW Player placeholder image

body part

[
“Legs”,
“Butt”,
“Abs”,
“Shoulders”
]

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward in the middle of a trap / hex bar.
  2. Keeping your back as flat as possible, bend your knees slightly, push your hips back, and bend forward from your hips to reach down and grab the handles. Keep your shoulders back and down and your neck neutral.
  3. Push through your feet and squeeze your glutes together as you stand up with the weight as high as you can. Hold your gaze a few meters in front of you.
  4. Bring the weight to the floor and repeat the process.

Show instructions

Train 2: Trap Bar Bent-Over Row

JW Player placeholder image

body part

[
“Back”,
“Shoulders”,
“Arms”,
“Abs”
]

  1. Stand in the middle of a trap / hex bar with your feet hip and shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward.
  2. Keeping your back as flat as possible, bend your knees slightly, push your hips back, and bend forward from your hips to reach down and grab the handles. Keep your shoulders back and down and your neck neutral.
  3. While still in a hip joint position, lift the weight off the floor and pull your elbows back over your rib cage. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top.
  4. Release your shoulder blades and extend your arms to return to the starting position. Repeat.
  5. Keep your back flat with your shoulders back and your eyes facing the floor so your head and neck stay in line with your spine.

Show instructions

Train 3: Trap bar floor press

JW Player placeholder image

body part

[
“Chest”,
“Shoulders”,
“Arms”,
“Abs”
]

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart on the floor. Place the lightly charged trap / hex bar next to you.
  2. Grab the bar (you can grab the handles that line up with the bar or the raised handles) and hold the bar just above your chest. Support your core.
  3. Then push the bar across your chest until your arms are fully extended. Don’t lock out your elbows.
  4. Lower the bar until the backs of your arms touch the floor. Repeat.

Show instructions

Move 4: Farmer’s Walk of the Trap Bar

JW Player placeholder image

body part

[
“Abs”,
“Butt”,
“Shoulders”,
“Arms”
]

  1. Stand in the middle of a trap / hex bar with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend forward with your back flat and lift the weight off the floor.
  3. Start walking by keeping your core tense and your steps controlled.
  4. If your back is rounded or you sway from side to side as you walk, choose a lighter weight.

Show instructions