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The trap bar, sometimes called a hex bar, is not a common addition to most commercial gyms. It’s not as versatile as a standard or Olympic barbell, but it can certainly offer several benefits, especially for those of you who enjoy deadlifting.
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In this article we’ll discover more about this useful bar, how you can incorporate it into your training and even the how heavy a trap bar is.
What Is A Trap Bar?
A trap bar, often called a hex bar, is a barbell which has a diamond or hexagonal shape. It’s designed to allow the user to perform a deadlift exercise with a neutral grip whilst keeping the weight load either side of the body. There is less strain on the lumbar spine when deadlifting with a trap bar, making it safer when compared to deadlifting with a standard barbell.
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Performing a conventional deadlift is a technical exercise that requires good mechanics and correct form to prevent injury. Starting out with a trap bar deadlift is a good way to increase power output and learn how to properly engage the correct muscle groups before progressing to deadlifting with a standard straight barbell. However, it’s important to note that each type of bar will require a different form when executing the exercise.
Trap Bar vs Straight Bar Deadlift
The primary difference between a hex bar deadlift and a straight bar deadlift are how the muscles are activated. The hex bar deadlift will allow you to remain more vertical during the exercise, this means less activation of the erector spinae and hamstrings with more emphasis on the quads.
There is slightly greater power and force output during the hex bar deadlift, making it the best option for athletes such as sprinters and basketball players. This is because the motion when executing a hex bar deadlift betters mimics movement patterns sustained during those sports.
When executed correctly both the hex bar deadlift and straight bar deadlift are safe and effective. However, if you want to minimise any chance of injury to the lower back region, the trap bar deadlift is a little more forgiving. When performing a standard deadlift, your body has to tilt forward to a much greater degree in order to take hold of the barbell. Consequently, this puts more stress onto the lower back.
The weight load is more evenly distributed across the working joints during a trap bar deadlift, and it’s also positioned closer to the midline of the body. Because of this, not only will you be lifting with more power, but you’ll likely find you can pull more weight when compared to the straight bar deadlift.
When performing a trap bar deadlift, you’re pulling the weight load with a vertical plane of motion, simply straight up. Conversely, when executing a standard deadlift the weight load starts just in front of you, meaning you must pull it up and back. This is one of the reasons lower back injuries are more commonplace with standard deadlifts because your center of gravity is thrown off very slightly due to the initial position of the weight load.
Types of Trap Bar
There are several different types of trap bar, each with their own unique features and benefits. Let’s look at them below.
Conventional Trap Bar
A standard hex bar is basic in design and is a straightforward hexagonal shape with a pair of handles which sit flush with the bar, so they remain level with the weight plates. A relatively new concept, it was invented by a competitive powerlifter called Al Gerard back in the 1980’s. Back then, Al struggled to increase his deadlift numbers during competition due to lower back issues. His initial design allowed him to deadlift heavier weights with less stress to his lower spine.
Open Trap Bar
An open hex trap bar essentially forms the same hex shape but is open from the back. This allows the user to perform other functional exercises such as the farmer’s walks and walking lunges making it more versatile than a standard trap bar.
Elevated Handle Trap Bar
A trap bar with elevated handles typically has two sets of grips. Those which remain level with the plates and those which are slightly higher. These elevated handles mean you don’t have to squat down as low to take hold of the bar. Whilst this can be beneficial to someone new to the hex bar deadlift, it does decrease your range of motion.
How Heavy is a Trap Bar?
The weight of a trap bar can vary anywhere between 44lbs (20kg) up to 80lbs (36kg). The differences will lie in the materials used for manufacture and the type of trap bar.
Below we provide a breakdown of common trap bars on the market. We’ve also supplied their weight along with weight capacity. When these are compared, this give the average weight of a trap bar being 62lbs (28kg). This makes the trap bar heavier than a standard Olympic barbell which typically carries a weight of 45lbs (20kg).
|Weight of Product
|Titan Fitness Rackable Hex Trap Bar V3
|Hulk Fit Olympic 2″ Open Back Trap Bar
|Valor Fitness OB-Hex Multi Grip Trap Bar
|Rep Fitness Trap Bar
|Rogue TB-2 Trap Bar
|Force USA Walkthrough Trap Bar
|Bells of Steel Open Trap Bar 3.0
|Kabuki Trap Bar HD Standard
|Eleiko Oppen Deadlift Bar
|Kustom Kit Hex Trap Bar
|Prime Fitness Trap Bar
|Sorinex Diamond Bar
|Elite FTS Hex Combo Bar
|Iron Company Mega Hex Olympic Bar
|American Barbell Hex Bar
|Power Lift Deadlift / Trap Bar
|Texas Strength Systems Mega Hex Combo Bar
|Fringe Sport Hex Bar
|Intek Strength Modular Functional Bar
|Hammer Strength Hex Bar
As mentioned above, the weight of a hex bar will differ depending on the materials used during the manufacturing process. Some brands will manufacture their bars with thicker steel, others may have more component parts. For example, if they have adjustable handles or multi grip options this will increase the volume of material therefore potentially increase the overall weight of the bar.
You can expect heavy-duty trap bars to carry a higher weight capacity. Not only are they likely to be made from thicker steel, they’ll also probably have longer sleeves meaning you can load on more weight plates. Usually, these are preferred by advanced lifters who are capable of deadlifting heavy weights.
Another factor determining the final weight of the hex bar, will be in the design. Some bars are very simple by design with others featuring many handle options with some being adjustable. It’s not unusual to see a high weight capacity attributed to the simpler hex bars and this is because, if made from thick steel box section, they are a fully welded structure capable of holding more weight.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Trap Bar?
There are several benefits when comparing deadlifting with a trap bar vs the straight bar.
Due to the upright movement pattern when using a hex bar, this can help to increase speed & power. This makes it a good alternative for certain sports athletes.
As there is less loading onto the lumbar spine, this means there is much less potential for injury.
The location of the weight plates (either side and closer to the body) means you can likely lift more weight. This is especially true when making use of raised handles.
Is It Harder To Deadlift With A Trap Bar?
No. It’s easier to perform a trap bar deadlift when compared to a straight bar deadlift. When deadlifting with a trap bar, the bar is held with a neutral grip with arms down by your sides. This allows for a more even distribution of the weight load making it easier to execute.
With a conventional straight bar deadlift, the weight load starts in front of you meaning you must pull it in as well as up.
This shifts muscle activation more to the posterior chain and engages more of the hip extensors with less knee flexion.
A straight bar deadlift is more technically challenging than a hex bar deadlift. This means that there is a higher chance of injury when using a straight bar. However, it’s important to remember that both exercises should be viewed differently, and both can be a worthwhile addition as part of your strength training program.
How To Use A Trap Bar?
- Start by loading up the bar with an appropriate amount of weight for your ability.
- Step instead of the trap bar and ensure you remain central.
- Adopt a shoulder width stance. This is your starting position.
- Push back the glutes, bend the knees and squat down.
- Keeping your head and chest up, take hold of the handles.
- Push back up to the starting position and lock out at the hips.
If you’re new to this exercise and you have access to a trap bar with different handles, you can start with the raised handles. This reduces the range of motion but helps to encourage good form making it easier to perform.
What Exercises Can You Do With A Trap Bar?
The trap bar isn’t just for deadlifting. Whilst it’s not as versatile as a straight bar, there are still many exercises you can perform with a trap bar. There may be some slight modifications to form when substituting with a hex bar, but these exercise variations are just as effective.
- Overhead press
- Farmer’s walk
- Bent over row
- Trap bar shrug
- Deadlift jumps
- Romanian deadlift
There are many different types of trap bars on the market and if you don’t already make use of one, consider incorporating it into your training. When compared to deadlifting with a standard bar, it can allow to perform this exercise safely and improve your overall strength and power working multiple muscle groups across the body. Before investing in your very own hex bar, remember to consider their functionality, style and weight.