The Best Trap Bar Exercises You Should Be Doing
Trap bars are becoming more popular among athletes and lift professionals. Exercises like trap bar deadlifts, the squat, and RDL are key lifting performances now among professionals.
Read on to learn how to use it and exercises for the hex bar that you can put to work right away on your next trip to the gym.
Al Gerard invented the trap bar around the mid-1980s. It was created to avoid typical barbell injuries such as back strain. Instead of lifting using the barbell, he used dumbbells instead. He could avoid further injuring his back still reach his goal weight of a 500-pound deadlift.
Lifting dumbbells helped relieve his lower back pain because he was able to bring the weight closer to his body. The trap bar improves the efficiency of each lift for this reason.
The trap bar was discontinued from the early 2000s to the early 2010s due to licensing. John Wood was able to repeat the device. Since then, professional sports players in the NFL and beyond have trusted the hex bar for training and conditioning.
There are several benefits to choosing a trap bar over a barbell. In addition to lower back support here are a few more:
- Avoids hyperextension at the top of the lift
- Straightforward to learn
- Does not require a mixed grip
- Safely promotes explosive power lifts
- Increased range of motion for most exercises
- Focuses on the same muscle groups as a dumbbell
Convinced yet? Brigham Young University did a study on the differences in jumping height and strength between working with a barbell and a hex bar. They found that there was no difference at all.
If you’re torn between using either, save yourself and your back the pressure. Switch between the two or opt for one or the other. They are both excellent ways to increase strength in your legs, back, abs, and shoulders.
There are a million different ways to use the trap bar so here are a few of the essentials to get you started, get you moving, and seeing results.
The Best Trap Bar Exercises You Should be Doing
The trap bar, or hex bar, is just one way to do all of these different exercises. If you’re new to the lifting scene, experiencing pain in your joints or back, or simply over six feet tall, these are all great alternatives.
You will still see the same results, target the same muscles, and maximize your muscle strength.
Trap Bar Deadlifts
To execute trap bar deadlifts, place your feet in the hip-width distance on the inside of the hex bar, squat back as if sitting in a chair, grab the handles, and lift directly up. Squeeze at the top to protect your low back, pause, and place the bar back on the ground.
These are the fundamentals of using a trap bar. It encourages greater alignment ad grip strength. The trap bar deadlifts, like the barbell deadlift, strengthens the hips, glutes, and hamstrings.
Instead of holding the weight in front of you like you would a barbell, you will feel the weight evening distributed around you. This is was encourages greater alignment.
Trap Bar Jump Squat
Similarly to trap bar deadlifts, step your feet in the middle of the hex bar hip-width distance. Squat low so that your shoulders are in line with your knees and your knees are behind your toes. While holding onto the handles, burst into the air with your shoulder relaxed and lightly touch back down into the original squat position.
Use the equal distribution of weight here so that you can burst into the air and land with ease in the same position. Build explosiveness while defining greater leg strength.
Trap Bar Farmers Carry
Begin like the other exercises with your feet in the center. Squat down to grab hold of the handles and stand up straight. Keeping your shoulders away from your ears walk forward twenty-five yards then turn around and come back.
The hex bar is the perfect machine to use for this exercise. It puts the weight between you as intended and avoids needing to use dumbbells.
Here, you can focus on grip strength, leg strength, upper back, and develops your muscle memory for a deadlift – strong back, core, and relaxed shoulders.
Trap Bar Overhead Press
Place the bar on a lifted platform that is level with your shoulders. Ensure it is rotated so that the handlebars are facing upward. Step under the bar so that you’re standing in the center of the machine.
The grip on each hand is in the middle with the center knuckle in line with the plate loading bars are on each side. From here lift directly up over your head and shoulders, keep your wrists strong. Squeeze your low score to avoid arching your lower back.
Once the bar is overhead, slowly lower the bar back down so that your hands are in line with your shoulders to prep for the next rep.
This exercise is more beneficial for your wrists as it avoids unnecessary crunching and weight is distributed away from your bone. There is more fluid motion using the trap bar here so that your spine can stay neutral.
Trap Bar Romanian Deadlifts (RDL)
Set up by standing in the middle of the machine. Stack shoulders over hips, and knees over ankles. Tilt forward and pick up the trap bar. At the top of the motion, “lockout” your upper shoulders and push your chest out while keeping a neutral pelvis.
Hinge forward and push your hips back with your back straight. Keep a slight bend in your knees. Lower until your shoulders are in line with your hips.
Extend back to the top and squeeze your glutes at the top before beginning the next rep.
After mastering these basics consider amping up your exercise with these pointers:
To make this exercise harder, use a high handle set up and add weights. This allows you to modify the range of motion easily and limit yourself by how low you can move.
Use a band around your waist. Attach it to a bar behind you that is level with your hips. As the band will try to pull you backward, use your ab and glutes strength to stay in position.
Trap Bar Push-Ups
Place the bar on the floor with the handles facing up so that it is flush to the ground. Start with your knees on the ground. Continue as if a wide-armed push up by placing your hands on the handlebars. Extend both feet towards the back of your space, push up from your shoulder blades and maintain a long neck.
Slowly lower your body down towards the ground without your elbows passing your shoulders. Keep your elbows close to the body. Explode upwards and avoid locking out your elbows.
Using the hex bar here is better for your wrists in a neutral grip. Having an elevated push-up allows for more range of motion.
One drawback here is that there is not an option to change your arm width.
Trap Bar Floor Press
Lay flat on your back and place your feet on the ground so that your knees are bent. With a resting rack available, lift the bar off of the rack and hold overhead with your fists aligned with your shoulders. Continue with the floor press by lowering towards you slowly and exploding upwards.
The trap bar is in place of the swiss bar here. A floor press opens up the press even more and allows for more extension with each rep.
Trap Bar Shrug
Targeting your back with this movement, step in the middle of the bar, grab the handlebars and stand straight. Shrug only your shoulders and ensure you have a neutral spine and pelvis.
This is where the hex bar gets its name and is famous for the accessibility of this movement.
One Bar, So Many Options
While most of these could be used with a barbell, using the trap bar is endlessly more beneficial. There is a host of opportunities for utilizing it for single-leg RDL, split squats, and more.
If there was ever an era for the home gym it is now. Instead of expensive machines and memberships, the trap bar could be your one-stop-shop for hip mobility, strength, and overall wrist health.
For more ideas and training help check out our website! I’d love to hear from anyone who has switched to using the hex bar.