What Is A Trap Bar & How Can It Benefit You?
You’ve just wrapped up your exercise for the day and you head to the locker room to swap out your sweat-sopped gym clothes for a street-ready athleisure set. As you freshen up, you can’t help but overhear a few fellow gym-goers talking about how a hex trap bar helped them to level up their weightlifting game.
“What is a hex bar?” you think to yourself.
Hexagonal bars, trap bars, the gym gods’ gift to swole seekers like you—however you want to call them, they’re a need-to-know tool for your training techniques.
A trap bar is a piece of weight lifting equipment with a unique design that helps you perform different exercises–-everything from deadlifts to squats. In order to get a better grip on this powerlifting device, read on to learn more about the benefits of using a trap bar and how you can incorporate it into your exercise regimen.
Hex Bar 101
As it turns out, “What is a hex bar?” and “What is a trap bar?” are actually the same question. That’s because the two terms can be used interchangeably, despite having slightly different designs:
- Hex bar – Many models of this must-have gym equipment are designed with a hexagonal shape in the center of the bar. When performing a hex bar deadlift, this is where you’ll place your feet in order to get into the proper position.
- Trap bar – Same tool, different name—and an excuse to brush up on your geometry skills. In lieu of a hexagon, some bars are built with a trapezoid at the center. Plus, this piece of gym equipment puts your trapezius muscles (along with many others) to the test. For these reasons, some workout mavens may refer to it as a trap bar.1-2
What Is A Trap Bar Used For?
The most common— and most intended—use for a hex trap bar is the deadlift. But if you’re wondering “What are hex bars used for besides deadlifting?” there are a few other trap bar exercises to explore, including:
- Bench press
- Squat jump
- Overhead press
- Farmer’s walk
Essentially, you can modify several exercises to work with a trap bar — and the new exercises will use slightly different muscles, especially when used in conjunction with your regular weightlifting barbell exercises.
5 Benefits of Using a Trap Bar
Besides working slightly different muscle groups and adding important variety to your routine, there are a number of other ways trap bars come out on top in a head-to-head match-up with standard barbells.
From allowing you to lift heavier weights to alleviating pressure on your lower back, here’s a closer look at the five benefits of working out with a trap bar.
#1 Relieve Pressure on Your Lumbar Spine
One of the reasons trap bar users rave about this piece of equipment is because of its ability to reduce pain in your lower back when bearing heavy weight. When comparing the hex bar vs barbell deadlift, using a trap bar applies less pressure on your lumbar spine than a traditional barbell deadlift by helping to angle your chest upward. This, in turn, prevents your lower back from having to work as hard to maintain its position and, therefore, is less likely to sustain an injury.
#2 Prevent Lumbar Hyperextension
When you’re constantly increasing weight and cranking out reps at the gym, it can be a big ask for your back. It can even cause it to arch backward too far if you’re not paying close attention to form, sometimes resulting in lumbar hyperextension.
Spending time perfecting your form is a must, of course, but one of the reasons that lumbar hyperextension is often a problem boils down to simple physics: the weight is in front of your body.
The trap bar eliminates the problem of uneven weight distribution by allowing you to step into the bar, keeping the weight on your sides and evenly balanced around your center of gravity.
This way, physics is on your side, meaning that your trap bar deadlift is much more forgiving of imperfections in your form.
#3 Protect Your Shoulders and Biceps
The trap bar design includes handles that are perpendicular to the bar, which allows you to grab the bar with a neutral grip, mimicking the way that your hands naturally fall at your sides.
This neutral grip has a couple of clear benefits:
- The neutral grip allows your shoulders to stay externally rotated, which steeply reduces shoulder strain and the chances of shoulder injuries. For those who may be wary of bearing extra weight, the trap bar is an excellent choice in order to ensure shoulder protection.
- This grip also means that you don’t have to choose between the overhand grip or the mixed grip of the regular barbell, which can protect your biceps from tears.
You’ll always want to pay close attention to technique when lifting weight but trap bars are a tool that can work with you—not against you.
#4 Lift Heavier Weight
Trap bars do more than just minimize your risk of injury while at the gym. They may also be able to help you hit a new personal record when it comes to weight. The reason being? Simply put, the difference in weight distribution allows you to put more power into your lifting.
The long answer? That, once again, boils down to physics:
- As you know, lifting weights requires you to exert force.
- In a traditional barbell deadlift, a sizable amount of that force is channeled backwards, allowing you to counterbalance the torque that the barbell produces when you hold it in front of your body.
- Since the trap bar balances the weight better around your center of gravity, you’re able to use more of your force to lift the bar since you’ll, ultimately, need less force to stabilize it.
The reason you’re slashing your old records? Nope—not that protein shake or pre-workout smoothie (although it couldn’t hurt). More likely, it’s because you’re using a trap bar to help you exert force more efficiently.
#5 Learn to Correct Your Form
Another benefit of switching to a trap bar to help you hit your workout goals? It could help you to correct your form.
Now, let’s be clear: Purchasing a trap bar alone—without getting any training, doing any research, or consulting with friends, gym staff, or personal trainers—won’t magically correct your form overnight.
The trap bar is more intuitive than the standard barbell, but not that much more intuitive.
You’ll still have to study proper weight-lifting technique while using your trap bar as a helpful tool:
- The trap bar is gentler with your back than the standard barbell, so you don’t have to worry quite as much about injuries while you work to hinge your hips like a pro.
- Since the trap bar allows for a simple, neutral grip, you don’t have to worry about the bar feeling awkward while you’re getting used to practicing your deadlift. This will free up some brain space to focus on your back, your legs, and your hips, allowing you to master your form quicker.
Are Trap Bars Suitable for All Skill Levels?
Trap bars are for everyone who wants to deadlift, whether you started fifteen years ago, three weeks ago, or you plan to start next month. Here’s how weightlifters of all levels can use them to their advantage:
- For trap bar newbies – For those who may be new to weight training, the trap bar will likely be easier on your body while you’re still learning proper deadlifting form. It may allow you to add more weight sooner, and feel less awkward while you’re still working on perfecting your technique.
- For the seasoned pros – Trap bars aren’t just for beginners. It was actually invented by Al Gerard, a competitive powerlifter who conquered a 625-pound deadlift in a competition with the help of his innovative equipment. Gerard’s purpose in creating the trap bar was to allow him to practice those really heavy lifts with less strain on his back.3
For a healthy mix, take a page out of Gerard’s playbook. Practice with the barbell some days and the trap bar other days. That way, you’ll get all the gains by mastering the traditional barbell practices while protecting your back, shoulders, and biceps from possible injury.
How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting With a Trap Bar?
If you’re used to standard barbells, remember that trap bars often (but not always) have a different empty weight. You should take this weight difference into consideration when deciding how much weight to lift with a trap bar.
Many people can lift more weight with a trap bar than with a standard barbell. That said, if you’re new to the device, it may be safest to start with your usual barbell weight and build up from there.
Tru Grit: Where Beast Mode Meets Trap Bars
Whether you’re gearing up for leg day or shifting the focus to your upper body, trap bars take your workout—and endurance—to the next level. Give your back a well-deserved break and your hands a more intuitive grip so that you can optimize your gym session without overextending yourself.
Pick up a heavy-duty, long-lasting Olympic Hex Weight Trap Bar at Tru Grit to start working smarter—and harder.
Physical Culture Study. The History of the Trap Bar. https://physicalculturestudy.com/2017/09/28/the-history-of-the-trap-bar/
Strength Minded. Was the Trap Bar Originally Designed Just For Training Traps? https://www.strengthminded.com/was-the-trap-bar-originally-designed-just-for-training-traps/