Gym Equipment

A Guide To The Hex Trap Bar

a guide to the hex trap bar

WHAT IS A HEX TRAP BAR

A trap bar, sometimes referred to as a hex bar, is a speciality barbell designed for executing a deadlift movement.   It’s recognised due to its hexagonal design and, when compared to a conventional barbell, will recruit both anterior and posterior muscles with less stress on spinal extensors. 

During the execution of a deadlift movement, you should feel your glutes and hamstring muscles activate.  If not, your technique is likely to be off.  A poorly executed deadlift can result in lower back injury.  However, by swapping out your regular deadlift bar for a hex bar, you’ll be performing the exercise with the weight closer to the centre of your body.  This puts your body in much better alignment for pulling weight from the ground.

The main difference between the hex bar deadlift and conventional deadlift is where the weight load is positioned.  The weight is located immediately in front of you during a standard deadlift whereas when using a trap bar, the load is positioned either side.  This results in different movement patterns with the trap bar deadlift being more of a squat / hip hinge with the straight bar deadlift being a solely hip hinge exercise.

If you think about performing a standard barbell deadlift, you need to pull the weight up and back to lock out at the hips.  This is due to the weight being in front of you, which means you are slightly off centre of gravity before you even begin.  This backwards motion at the top of the exercise is one of the causes of lower back injuries.

By comparison, a trap bar deadlift allows you to pull the weight from an improved sagittal plane of motion so it’s easier to build more strength and increase your pulling power.  A straight bar deadlift is a very technical exercise to learn and the risks for injury are greater than if you were to use a trap bar.

It’s important to note, that deadlifting with a straight bar versus deadlifting with a trap bar are both different movements and one is not necessarily better than the other.  A conventional deadlift will work more of the posterior chain whereas a trap bar deadlift will be much more quad dominant.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE HEX BAR

The main function of a hex bar is to allow a lifter to deadlift with minimal stress to the lower back.  As the weight is located at the centre of gravity, it’s a great option for beginners as it will allow them to perfect their form and engage the correct muscles before moving across to a conventional deadlift.

A trap bar should not be viewed as a replacement to the straight bar, but rather as complementary that can allow a lifter to deadlift, albeit differently, whilst taking advantage of similar benefits.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF HEX BAR

There are a variety of different trap bars on the market and depending on your needs, you’ll want to consider a few things before you invest in one.  Aside from the style of the bar, be sure to check things such as the dimensions, especially if space is an issue.  Also think about how many plates you want to load on the bar and find out the length of the sleeves so you know all the weight can be accommodated.  So what are the different styles of trap bar?

Standard Trap Bar

This will be hexagonal in shape with at least one grip option.  They typically lie flush on the ground and you are required to step into the hexagon to undertake the deadlift.

Open Ended Trap Bar

This style of trap bar will be completely open from the back and allows a user to increase its versatility so movements such as the lunge and split squats can be performed.

Tri Grip Trap Bar

As its name suggest, the tri grip trap bar is manufactured with three grip variations each of which is a different thickness.

HEX BAR BENEFITS

If you’re tempted to switch from using a deadlift bar to that of a hex trap bar, or indeed if you fancy incorporating both variations of deadlift into your training, there are a number of benefits to be had from working with a trap bar compared to a straight bar.

  • It’s easier to deadlift with a hex bar.
  • Better biomechanics will allow you to lift more.
  • There is a reduction in lower back stress.
  • More quad engagement.
  • Useful for teaching the squat movement pattern.
  • The neutral grip makes it more comfortable.
  • Good for beginners who are looking to progress to a straight bar deadlift.
  • Many hex bars offer different grip options, usually high bar and low bar.
  • Better for building explosive power making it a good alternative for athletes such as sprinters and football players.

HOW TO USE A HEX BAR

When using a trap bar your hands will be positioned in a neutral position (palms facing each other).  It’s not uncommon for the bar to have two different grip options allowing you to choose the start height of the bar.

The range of motion when undertaking the trap bar deadlift is a little different when compared to a regular deadlift as there is less hinge but more knee flexion and extension.  This results in more of a squat deadlift combination as opposed to a true deadlift.  Below is a guide on how to use a standard trap bar:

  1. Step inside of the bar and assume a hip wide foot placement.
  2. Brace your core and keep your spine neutral.
  3. Push back your hips and bend the knees until your can grab the handles.
  4. Push through your feet whilst keeping your head and chest up and back straight.
  5. Return back to the starting position and repeat.

The great thing about the trap bar is that it’s incredibly versatile.  So, if you’d prefer to replicate more of a standard deadlift by removing knee flexion, simply follow the above steps but without bending at the knees.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE TRAP BAR WORK

During a trap bar deadlift the muscles engaged include the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps along with the upper and lower back muscles for stabilising the weight.  This variation of deadlift is much more challenging to the quads when compared to a conventional deadlift.

Even though the muscles used are very similar between the two deadlift variations, a straight bar deadlift is more of a functional exercise.  This means it typically follows similar movement patterns to those undertaken within day-to-day activities.

WHAT IS THE WEIGHT OF A TRAP BAR

The weight of a trap bar can vary anywhere from 20kg/44llbs up to 50kg/110lbs.  The difference in weight will depend on factors such as the material used in the manufacturing process and the style of the bar itself.

If you have a preference for a trap bar that is similar to the weight of an Olympic barbell, look to invest in one that weighs around 20kg/44lbs.

CONCLUSION

If you are not a competing powerlifter, where it is a necessary requirement to perform a deadlift with a standard barbell, the hex trap bar would be a perfect alternative for building power and strength to your posterior chain muscles.

Whilst the primary purpose of the hex barbell is to undertake the deadlift movement, they are more versatile than you may realise.   You can perform a wide variety of exercises with this barbell making them a worthwhile addition to your bar collection.  If you’d like to know how else you can make use of your trap bar, have of a read of our article Exercises You Can Perform With Your Hex Trap Barbell

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