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Best Trap (Hex) Bar Exercises for Total Body Strength & Performance

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 15, 2021

In 1980, Al Gerard, a competitive lifter struggling with back pain, came up with the first trap/hex bar, and its popularity has only increased ever since.

In my years as an athlete and a coach in the fitness industry, I’ve found it reduces spine load, adds more variety to your training, and improves athletic performance.

The trap/hex bar is found in weight rooms everywhere, and it should be an essential part of your fitness regimen.

Here are the best trap bar exercises for you to try today.

1. Trap Bar Deadlift

leg view of a man lifting a trap bar

For clients who don’t have experience with using a trap bar, I recommend starting with the trap bar deadlift. It’s easier to do than the traditional deadlift because you don’t hold the load in front of you. Instead, you stand in the middle of the weight.

“I prefer it for many athletes and lifters due to the SHEER fact that they can execute the lift with better form, better musculature targeting, and in a far better position to take unwanted stress off the spinal column.” - John Rusin, Sports performance specialist, and injury prevention expert

Trap Bar Deadlift Benefits

  • Beginner-friendly — It helps beginners increase muscle-growth, understand hinging mechanics, and minimizes hyperextension (over-pulling).
  • Can help prevent back injuries — A coach can take precautionary measures with a tall or a beginner lifter because trap bar deadlifts limit the range of motion (ROM) and lumbar stress because of a more vertical back angle.
  • Diversify pulling strength — A variety of exercises can be used to diversify strength and enhance muscle growth.

How To Do It

  1. Step inside the trap bar with the feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Grip the handles so your hands are centered in the middle of the bar
  3. Pull the shoulders down, stick up the chest and flatten your back
  4. Push through the feet and stand up
  5. Lower it down and repeat

Pro Tip: To emphasize the glutes and hamstrings, when the bar comes up and your hands are at the knees, shoot the hips forward and shoulders back.

2. Trap Bar Floor Press

Floor Press exercise using trap bar

Doing a floor press limits ROM, which allows the lifter to move more weight without too much shoulder exertion.

With this trap bar exercise, the triceps, shoulders, and pecs all get a workout, with no risk of shoulder rotation.

Trap Bar Floor Press Benefits

  • A great option if you struggle with shoulder pain — Limited ROM will allow you to do the movement in a pain-free way.
  • Better lockout strength — You can handle heavier loads without too much strain on the rest of the body.
  • Chest and triceps builder — It’s a great exercise to add chest, shoulder, and triceps mass without overexerting the shoulders.

Trap bar training tips: do 3-5 and 6-15 reps to build chest and triceps.

How To Do It

  • Start by setting the trap bar on the squat rack
  • Lay underneath the rack flat on your back with the knees up and feet flat on the floor
  • First use flat handles, as D ones are more challenging
  • Press up the trap bar with wrists neutral
  • Lower until you feel the upper arm touch the floor and repeat

Do 4-5 sets of 3-6 reps. If muscle growth is what you’re going for, do 3 sets of 6-12 reps.

3. Trap Bar Overhead Press

Overhead press exercise using trap bar

One of my favorites for getting a more defined upper body and deltoid heads is the trap bar overhead or shoulder press. It’s the equivalent of doing a barbell deadlift shoulder press with no head.

One thing I warn my clients about — careful with the grip. If you’re narrow-shouldered it can be too wide.

Trap Bar Overhead Press Benefits

  • Targets shoulder muscles, triceps, and traps.
  • Great barbell substitution if you’re having shoulder pain — Neutral grip alleviates the tension.
  • Safer than the military press — With military press insult to the shoulder joint piles up over time. The overhead press is safer for the shoulder, as it puts it into a more natural position.

How To Do It

  • Put the barbell to below shoulder height and load the desired weight to it
  • Step inside the trap bar with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Place hands on the handles with a natural grip
  • Inhale and press the bar to lockout overhead until the arms are straight
  • Exhale and pause for a second at the top
  • Lower the bar down and repeat

If you’re doing the trap bar shoulder press for strength do 6-8 reps of 3-4 sets.

4. Trap Bar Bent Over Row

Bent over row exercise using trap bar

Trap bar bent over row is one of the most functional exercises for the back. It’s easier on the back because of the elevated handles.

This means the lifter doesn’t have to hinge over so far to support the weight.

The exercise has built-in autocorrect. Unless you bend over enough the bar will hit you in the ass. This is a great feature, as it limits the possibility of wrong body position.

Trap Bar Bent Over Row Benefits

  • Neutral-grip handles — You can challenge the biceps, traps, lats, and forearms with more weight than with a standard barbell
  • No stress on the lower back — The weight is moved from in front to the midline
  • Neutral grip brings the elbows closer to your sides, which is easier on the elbows
  • Great companion exercise for deadlifts and pull-ups because of the hinge position

How To Do It

  • Load up the bar and stand in the center
  • Hinge down and grab the high handles
  • Keep the chest up, neutral spine, and glutes pushed back
  • Lift the bar and hold it at the top for a second
  • Slowly lower the bar down to complete

Do 8-12 reps for 3 sets.

5. Trap Bar Farmers Walk

Farmers walk exercise using trap bar

Trap bar farmers walk is one of the best full-body trap bar exercises, and it’s a great tool if your purpose is building grip strength.

It’s a better choice compared to other weighted carries. Dumbbells can be clumsy to pick up, set down, and walk with, and can raise the risk of injury.

On the other hand, with the trap bar you can pack on the weight without hindering the execution.

Trap Bar Farmers Walk Benefits

  • It’s simple — Just walk carrying the weight
  • No weight limit as with the dumbbells
  • Better should stability
  • Improves posture
  • Helps with building glute and hamstring strength
  • Read world strength — Whenever you need to pick up something heavy and walk with it, such as several bags from the grocery store, you’ll be ready (1).

How To Do It

  • Load the trap bar and go to the center
  • Grab the high handles
  • Do a deadlift to pick the bar
  • Start walking. Don’t hurry, take small steps
  • Keep the chin in, shoulders back, and chest up
  • Walk for the chosen distance or until the time runs out

Do 3-4 sets, 30-60 seconds per set.

FAQs

Can You Do Squats With Trap Bars Exercise?

Yes, you can.

Trap bar squat and deadlift are often used interchangeably. The difference is that in a deadlift you lift the bar from the floor, while in a squat you hold up the bar to the chest and squat.

Is the Trap Bar Easier Than a Straight Bar?

Trap bars are easier to use when you’re first learning to lift. They’re user-friendly, help with the positioning and teach you about leg drive.

Is the trap bar worth it?

Yes, it is. A study found that people can lift more weight with the hex bar, and it’s better for reaching (2):

  • Velocity
  • Power
  • Peak force

Another great variation is the trap bar suitcase carry or trap bar squat.

Is a Trap Bar Better Than a Barbell Row?

Yes, it is. Although both variations target the posterior chain, they emphasize different muscle groups.

Switch from a barbell shoulder press to a trap bar, because barbell row limits ROM movements. More ROM equals more results.

Get in Shape Using the Trap Bar

Using the trap bar is more than just about increasing your muscle size. It'll help reduce back and shoulder strain.

It's perfect for people who have issues with the hip range of motion, as the trap bar's high handles keep them from getting injured.

I hope this selection of 5 trap bar exercises made you motivated to try it yourself. I promise you won't regret it.

Feel free to contact any of our highly skilled coaches for more training advice.


References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/farmers-walk-benefits
  2. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Abstract/2018/10000/Periodic_Fitness_Testing__Not_Just_for_Athletes.6.aspx

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