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The Top 5 Most Effective Trap Bar Exercises To Build & Tone Muscle

When you’re crushing deadlift after deadlift, it’s easy to throw caution to the wind. You give it your all, refuse to quit, and you even hit a new personal record—we understand that energy.

But no matter the intensity of your workout, it’s important to protect yourself from injury. If you’re feeling the first signs of lower back strain (or just want to sweat in style), switch up your routine. Add trap bar exercises, also known as hex bar exercises, to your weightlifting arsenal. But, what is a trap bar exactly?

Trap bars, with a hexagon-shaped axel and two weights on the end, have a different weight distribution than traditional barbells, allowing you to build strength while giving specific muscles a break.1 You’ll come back to your trap bar deadlift better than before.

Keep reading for the top hex bar exercises to make every workout a win.

#1 Take It to the Floor

Out of the various trap bar workouts, you can’t go wrong by starting with the floor press, the shoulder-friendly version of the straight barbell bench press. The primary benefit of the floor press is that the grip rotates your shoulders outward, which can help prevent injury.2 

Whether you’re recovering from a tear, feeling pain, or wanting to go easy on your joints, turn to the floor press.

To perform this movement, set your hex trap bar on a lower setting of the power rack, load up the weights, and follow these steps:3

  • Step 1 – Lie down on the ground with your back flat and your knees bent.
  • Step 2 – Take the bar off the rack and fully extend your arms.
  • Step 3 – Bend your elbows, bringing the bar close to your chest, then straighten your arms again.

Similar to the bench press, the trap bar floor press is an important chest builder, helping to increase overall muscle mass. The pushing motion also works the following muscle groups:4 

  • The triceps
  • The shoulders

Opt for the weight you normally use for the bench press and adjust from there. If you’re using the floor press as a starting exercise at the beginning of your workout, perform three to four sets, each with eight to ten reps. This will help warm up your muscles so you’re ready for more.

#2 Do the Row

When it comes to hex bar workouts, the bent-over row is essential. It’s a general back builder designed to work the major back muscles, helping you add overall bulk and size. The bent over row can also serve as a solid foundation for other more targeted exercises. This move strengthens the following areas of the body:6

  • Upper back muscles, including the trapezius, teres major and rear deltoids
  • Middle back muscles, specifically the latissimus dorsi, or the lats

An effective bent over row starts with proper form. To isolate your back muscles, keep the following tips in mind:7

  • Engage your core to keep your back and torso straight.
  • Stand in a quarter squat position with a slight bend through the knees.
  • Hinge forward at the hips to a forty-five degree angle.

From there, perform the rowing motion by engaging your back muscles and pulling your elbows up.8 Stop when your elbows are at shoulder height.

With bent over rows, repetition is important to see results. Twelve to fifteen reps is a good rule of thumb, with a weight of about half your hex bar deadlift limit.9 That said, your ideal weight can change over time, depending on your lifting experience and muscle mass. Perform three sets with a rest in between.

#3 Shrug It Out

Big traps don’t just look good, they also help you move with confidence. Your trapezius muscles (traps for short) provide stability and strength in a diverse range of motions from straightening your back to throwing a jab at the punching bag.10

If you want to target your traps, look no further than the shrug. While you can perform this movement with a standard barbell as well, the trap bar helps set your workout apart from the rest due to the following differences:11 

  • The angle of the motion, allowing you to shrug higher and work those traps
  • The grip, isolating the target muscle group more so you’ll feel the burn

To perform a trap bar shrug, follow these steps:

  • Find your form – Bend down to grip the trap bar, then stand with your back and arms straight. Avoid rolling your shoulders forward and in.12 
  • Shrug, shrug – Engage your traps to lift your shoulders to your ears. Make sure to pause at the top before lowering your shoulders with control.13 Avoid dropping or relaxing your shoulders to activate your traps to the max.

Don’t be afraid to go heavy for this minute movement. Start with your normal trap bar deadlift weight and adjust as needed.

Volume is also important when it comes to seeing results. Begin with three sets of five reps each, with each rep consisting of three to five shrugs.14 As you find your flow, build up to a greater number of reps and sets.

#4 Shoulder On

Trap bar workouts are perfect for giving those shoulders some love, building out the muscle to create that broad, sloping silhouette. Looking for a great exercise specifically made to work the deltoids? The overhead press, or shoulder press, is the answer.

Consider these steps for an effective press:15 

  • Load the bar – Start the shoulder press with your trap bar on a rack. Loading the bar on the ground and attempting to bring it to shoulder height could result in injury.
  • Press up – Step inside the trap bar and hold the handles. Stand with an engaged core and upright back. Press the bar overhead until your arms are fully extended, and stay at the top for a breath.
  • Bring it down – Keep your shoulders engaged to lower the bar slowly. This will continue the burn and also help prevent injury from sudden movements.

Consider performing the overhead press at the beginning of your workouts when your deltoid muscles are fresh. This press is also excellent in promoting overall muscle growth in the upper body, activating a variety of muscle groups, including:16

  • The abdominals and obliques in the core
  • The triceps
  • The trapezius

Use it as a warm up for other muscle groups before you specifically target your traps or triceps.

Since you’ll be lifting the hexagonal bar overhead, start with a lighter weight and increase the load gradually. This will lower the risk for injury. For a standard shoulder press, aim for three sets of six to eight reps.17 

You can customize this workout according to your needs by:18 

  • Lowering the number of sets and reps while increasing the weight to build muscle mass
  • Increasing the number of reps while decreasing the weight to improve muscle endurance

#5 Embrace Leg Day

With the versatility of the hexagonal bar, there’s no excuse for skipping leg day. Incorporate the elevated split squat into your fitness routine to strengthen the major muscle groups in the lower body, including:19 

  • The glutes
  • The upper leg muscles, specifically the quads and hamstrings
  • The calves

While you can certainly perform the elevated split squat without a bar in your hands, the weight poses an added challenge, stimulating muscle growth and helping you avoid a fitness plateau.

Follow these steps to make the most out of this move:20 

  • Establish your form – Beginning the split squat requires just a bit of coordination. Step one leg into the ring of the trap bar, and place the other foot on an exercise bench about two feet behind your body. Keep a close eye on the leg in the ring, checking that your knee does not stretch beyond your toes when you perform the trap bar squat.21 
  • Commit to the squat – Grab the handles of the hex bar and lift. Keep your arms straight. Bend the leg in the ring to perform a trap bar squat, and press into your other foot on the bench for balance. With the trap bar, you may find yourself hinging slightly forward at the hips. This is the correct form, but remember to keep your core engaged and back straight.
  • Stand back up – Engage through your quads and hamstrings to propel yourself back to standing. Repeat the motion for the desired number of reps, and don’t forget to switch legs.

Because this move requires both balance and strength, it can be difficult to find your flow when you first begin. The weight of the trap bar may also pose an added challenge. That’s why it’s important to start with fewer reps (five or six) until you become comfortable with the form.  

As you get the hang of it, up your game by moving to three to five sets of eight reps. With the added weight of the trap bar, you’re sure to feel your muscles worked hard accompanied by a body-toughening burn.

Tru Grit: Give It Your All with Our Durable, No-Fuss Equipment

If you’re thinking about adding a trap bar to your weightlifting routine, we’ve got you covered. With our industrial-grade steel Olympic Hex Weight Trap Bar—complete with versatile two-tier handles and ample loading room—you’ll be lifting in luxury.

Even if you are invested in the hex bar vs barbell deadlift debate and aren’t completely sure which will fit your needs better, you are going to need the proper weight plates either way. Outfit your heavy-duty equipment with our durable, high-quality bumper weight plates. Featuring recessed collars and crafted from all-natural virgin rubber, our bumper plates will keep up with your workout, no matter how tough.

When you’re in the zone with your blood flowing, music blasting, and sweat dripping, you can be sure our equipment is right there with you—that’s the Tru Grit way.


Sources:

Generation Iron. 8 Joint-Friendly Trap Bar Exercises for Mass. https://generationiron.com/8-trap-bar-exercises-mass/ 

Shape. Should You Be Deadlifting with a Trap Bar? https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/how-to-deadlift-using-trap-bar-fitness-benefits 

The Workout Digest. The 9 Most Effective Trap Bar Exercises To Try Right Now. https://theworkoutdigest.com/trap-bar-exercises/ 

Coach Mag. How To Do The Barbell Shrug. https://www.coachmag.co.uk/barbell-exercises/7992/how-to-do-the-barbell-shrug 

T Nation. Tip: For Big Traps, Do the Deadlift-Shrug. https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-for-big-traps-do-the-deadlift-shrug/ 

Cleveland Clinic. Trapezius Muscle. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21563-trapezius-muscle#:~:text=The%20trapezius%20is%20a%20muscle,spine%20and%20helps%20with%20posture.

T Nation. Tip: The Trap Bar Exercise You Gotta Try. https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-the-trap-bar-exercise-you-gotta-try/ 

Barbend. 6 Unique Trap Bar Exercises For Muscle, Strength, And Conditioning. https://barbend.com/trap-bar-exercises/ 

BroBible. Exercise You Should Be Doing: Trap Bar Row. https://brobible.com/sports/article/trap-bar-row/ 

Steel. 7 Best Trap Bar Exercises for a Total Body Workout. https://steelsupplements.com/blogs/steel-blog/7-best-trap-bar-exercises-for-a-total-body-workout 

Outlift. The Overhead Press Hypertrophy Guide. https://outlift.com/overhead-press-for-size/#1-what-muscles-does-the-overhead-press-work 

Old School Labs. 8 Best Trap Bar Workouts & Exercises. https://www.oldschoollabs.com/best-trap-bar-workouts/#:~:text=Do%206%20%E2%80%93%208%20reps%20for,if%20needed%20between%20each%20set.

Greatist. Is It Better to Lift Heavier Weights or Do More Reps? https://greatist.com/move/strength-training-lift-heavier-weights-or-do-more-reps 

Healthline. How to Do a Bulgarian Split Squat the Right Way. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/bulgarian-split-squat 

Barbend. 3 Variations To Take Trap Bar Squats To The Next Level. https://barbend.com/trap-bar-squat-variations/ 

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