Hex Bar vs Barbell Lift: Is One Method Better?
Hex bars and barbells—some of your friends swear by the barbell for maximum gains and others trust the trap bar for maximum lumbar protection.
Well, you want gains and lumbar protection—so, what’s the best option for your deadlifting game?
When it comes to the hex bar vs barbell deadlift debate, the short answer is that both methods have their perks and drawbacks. The final decision, ultimately, comes down to your personal preference based on your body, your reasons for lifting, and your gains goals.
To help you handle some of the heavy lifting associated with this decision, trust the exercise experts. In this guide, we’ll walk you through which deadlifting method—hex bar or barbell—is best for you.
If You’re New To Lifting
Which bar to start with depends on which school of lifting thought you follow. Whether you want to start with a beginner-friendly option or prepare yourself for a fast progression of your fitness journey will affect how you approach your decision.
For those who are new to the lifting game and are posing questions like “What is a trap bar?” and “What is a barbell?”, let’s take a look at how these two forms of weightlifting equipment match up.
The Trap Bar
The rumors are true: It can definitely be easier to start lifting with the trap bar.
Since this bar tends to put less strain on your lower back and has a more intuitive grip, you may be less likely to sustain an injury when you’re learning the basics of deadlifting techniques, namely the hip hinge.
Of course, the hex trap bar, or hexagonal bar, is not a magic solution. You’ll have to slowly build strength, exert the right amount of energy, and study hip hinge movements alongside a trainer—even with this beginner-friendly bar in your arsenal.
Because the barbell is the standard, it’s at the core of many other powerlifting exercises that you’ll encounter if you plan to pursue the sport competitively. That’s why some people are of the opinion that it’s best to start with the equipment that you’ll need to use the majority of the time.
Whether this approach makes sense for you depends on a few factors, including:
- Your intentions – If you intend to lift competitively, starting with a standard weightlifting barbell might be a good idea. If you’re lifting simply to stay in shape, it might be less frustrating to start with the trap bar.
- How good you are at multi-tasking – If keeping track of lots of new things and small details (with respect to form) is fun for you, you may want to start with the barbell. If it makes you want to cry it out in the locker room, the trap bar is probably the bar for you.
- How injury-prone your body is – If you’re recovering from an injury or know you may be more susceptible to back injuries, you may want to start with the trap bar until you’re certain you’ve got the form down.
If You’re Only Going to Buy One Bar For Your Home Gym
You’ve closed the door on your gym membership and have decided that you’re ready to start building a spot where you can work out—right at home. You’ve ordered a set of rubber coated dumbbells, a flat utility bench, and, of course, some weight room flooring to fit your space—but you can’t decide if you want a trap bar or a standard barbell to perform your deadlifts.
The standard wisdom is to go for the barbell since it’s the most versatile, but there are arguments for the trap bar too.
The Trap Bar
If you’re a firm proponent of the trap bar, you could make it work as your one-size-fits-all gym bar. That’s because you can do modified versions of most barbell exercises with a trap bar.
You would, however, have to do some extra research in order to make sure that your workouts incorporate trap bar exercises that target all of the important muscles. Even so, you might struggle to be ready for any powerlifting competitions without practicing your lifts with a barbell first.
If you’re going to have only one bar in your home gym, you’ll probably want to focus less on the trap bar deadlift vs conventional debate and more on the overall versatility of your bar. If you plan to include bench presses, overhead presses, and other non-deadlift exercises into your repertoire, many of those are traditionally performed using a barbell.
Beyond that, the barbell is the standard. So, if your spouse, partner, or lifting buddies are going to be using your home gym as well, it might be best to have a bar that everyone is familiar with.
If You Have Trouble With Your Back Or Your Shoulders
Whether it’s chronic back pain, a recent strain, or your back just doesn’t appreciate the heavier load, the hex bar definitely wins out in the hex bar deadlift vs barbell deadlift competition.
Here are just a few ways hex bars help to alleviate back and shoulder pain:
- Since the hexagonal bar channels the weight around your center of gravity, it puts a lot less pressure on your back to stabilize your body against forward weight.
- The trap bar also minimizes the risk of shoulder injury or strain, since it allows you to grasp the bar with a neutral grip, keeping your shoulders externally rotated.
- Beyond that, the hex bar can protect your biceps from tears, since the neutral grip is much easier on your biceps than either an overhand grip or a mixed grip.
Remember, taking care of your body is never synonymous with cutting corners. In fact, all of the best athletes know that when their body needs a rest day or some cross-training exercises, it’s important to adjust their regimen.
Listen to your body. If your back or shoulders would do better with the hex bar deadlift, there’s absolutely no shame in making the switch. If you must go with the standard straight barbell option despite back or shoulder pain, be sure to spend time optimizing your form.
If You Want Maximum Muscle Activation
The levels of muscle activation during a straight bar deadlift vs a trap bar deadlift are actually about the same.
The difference is where the muscle activation happens. The conventional barbell deadlift shows higher levels of muscle activation in the hamstrings and the spinal erector, while the trap bar deadlift benefits include considerably more muscle activation in the quads.
For maximum activation of each of these muscles, try lifting half your reps with a regular straight barbell and the other half with a trap bar.
If You Want Maximum Hypertrophy (Or Muscle Gains)
The truth about hypertrophy is this: performing a conventional bar deadlift vs trap bar deadlift doesn’t make much difference.
The barbell and the trap bar activate slightly different muscles and, therefore, result in hypertrophy in slightly different places. That said, both deadlifts are excellent for building muscle on the lower body.
The key to maximum hypertrophy is to do the right number of reps with your bar of choice.
For maximum gains, follow these general tips:1
- Use whichever bar you feel better with, or whichever bar best aligns with your other fitness goals.
- Reduce your lifting weight to fifty to seventy percent of your max weight for one rep.
- Perform six to twelve reps.
If You’re Training For a Deadlifting Competition
You’ve been training in the gym for a while now and you think you might be ready to take it to the next level.But you’re not quite sure where to start, or which equipment you should use to practice your deadlift.
In most cases, the traditional deadlift segment of powerlifting competitions requires that you lift a barbell. So, even if every other metric would point you toward the trap bar deadlift, the barbell triumphs in the trap bar vs conventional deadlift debate when it comes to powerlifting.
To check off all the boxes in preparation for competition day, focus on perfecting your form and efficiency with a barbell. Nevertheless, keeping a trap bar handy to add some variety to your training circuit is never a bad idea.
If You Want to Switch Up Your Routine
Having a go-to workout is an excellent way to measure your progress over time. But if your ready-made routine is starting to feel a bit blah, it may be time to switch up your routine. Not only does working different muscles on different days give your muscles a chance to rest and recover, but working slightly different muscles each time you deadlift can help your body stay stronger overall and less prone to injuries.
Because variety is good for your overall health and your gains, it can be ideal to have both a trap bar and a barbell in your rotation. This way, you’ll blend technique, muscle activation, and lower back protection, offering you the best of both worlds.
Go Forth and Get Gains with Tru Grit
Whether you’ve decided that the barbell is right for your training regimen or that the hex trap bar is best for your sore back, Tru Grit is here to support you.
Beyond the barbell and the trap bar, we have all of the bumper plates, kettlebells, dumbbells, and other accessories that you might need to diversify—and energize—your fitness journey.
Get out there and practice your deadlift with the equipment that feels right for you. Need a hype team to help get you started? Explode into your new exercise routine with Tru Grit.
Men’s Health. Which Rep Range You Should Choose For Your Fitness Goals. https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a38866422/best-rep-ranges-workouts/
OrthoInfo. Cross Training. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/cross-training/