The trap bar — or hex bar, as some people refer to it — is a diamond-shaped lifting tool that was invented to work around a weightlifter’s lower-back injury. Sounds like an As Seen On TV gimmick, right? Not this time. The trap bar has become a go-to for lifters and athletes who want to go heavy with compound movements like deadlifts with added safety of more structure. One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that performing a trap bar deadlift was not only safer than the standard straight bar variation, it was also more effective for building power.
Now that you know how to identify the equipment — it’s that weird hexagon at your gym you rarely see people use — here are three exercises to try out …
Many athletes refrain from doing heavy deads because the exercise is easy to mess up in terms of form, which raises the risk of injury. But the deadlift, along with the squat, is often atop the list of the best all-around moves someone can do to build strength. As mentioned, using a trap bar is safer and reduces the risk of injury; here’s how to do it:
Step into the trap bar. With your feet shoulder-width apart and your feet squarely on the floor, squat down and grasp the handles. Lift the bar using force from your lower body. Do not round your back as you ascend to the upright position. At the apex of the movement, draw your shoulders back, pause for a beat, and slowly return to the start position.
You’re essentially picking the trap bar up and walking. Sounds easy enough. But the movement will tax your core and legs, and it’ll train your grip and work on your conditioning. Stand inside of the trap bar, grasp the handles and deadlift it off of the floor. Pull your shoulders back as you walk as quickly as possible to and from point A to point B for a set time or distance.
Trap Bar Shrug
Using a standard Olympic bar for shrugs is a solid way to target the traps. Except when the bar hits your thighs it prevents you from achieving a full range of motion. That problem vanishes when you use a trap bar. Step inside of the trap bar, bend down and grasp the handles. Stand tall with a slight bend in your knees; elevate your shoulders as high as possible, hold for one second, and return them to the start position. Repeat for reps.
Image source: https://www.t-nation.com/training/trap-bar-deadlift