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The trap bar, also known as a hex bar, is a piece of exercise equipment that has become a staple in many home and commercial gyms over the past few decades. But if you’re new to strength training, you may find yourself wondering – what is a trap bar? What exercises can you do with it? And what are the benefits of training with this unique barbell variation?
In this complete beginner’s guide, we’ll dig into everything you need to know about this versatile strength training tool to help you decide if adding trap bar training to your routine is right for your fitness goals.
What is a Trap Bar?
A trap bar is a specialty barbell that is shaped in a hexagonal (“trap”) pattern with handles on each side that allow you to stand inside the bar rather than behind it like a traditional straight barbell.
The most common exercise performed with a trap bar is the trap bar deadlift. Since the handles allow you to stand within the bar, it provides a more neutral grip compared to a straight bar deadlift while also keeping the load centered closely to your body’s center of mass.
Trap bars were originally invented in the 1980s by Al Gerard, a powerlifter who wanted to find a way to train the deadlift movement pattern in a squatted position to reduce strain off his back. After years of tinkering in his homemade workshop, the first commercial trap bar was born.
Since its inception, the trap bar has grown in popularity thanks to the variety of unique exercises it allows that build full-body power and strength with reduced injury risk compared to straight bar training.
We have also written a post called “Trap Bar Deadlift vs Conventional Deadlift” to let you know the difference between the two. You should check it out if you are confused too like most of the trap bar beginners!
Key Features of a Trap Bar
While trap bars may look similar at first glance, they can vary in specific design features. Some key aspects to look for include:
1. Weight Capacity
Most standard trap bars accommodate 300-400 lbs though some support over 700 lbs. Make sure to get one rated for your strength levels.
Standard height bars allow deadlifting and shrug. High-handle models are better for cleans and snatches.
3. Handle Types
Open triggers provide free movement. Closed handles are more secure. Neutral handles reduce wrist strain.
4. Center Loading
Allows even weight distribution or off-centered loading for more stability challenges.
5. Adjustment Settings
Some trap bars allow changing handle height and width. Good for accommodating different exercises.
6. Grip Surface
Bars with a grippy texture allow for secure handling with heavy weights. Important safety feature.
Look for solid steel construction to handle max loads and frequent use. Avoid cheap low-quality materials.
What Exercises Can You Do With a Trap Bar?
This video showcases 39 best trap bar exercises to try. However, if you’re new to this, it’s wise to initiate your training with these 9 key exercises described below.
1. Trap Bar Deadlift
The top trap bar exercise. Builds quad, hamstring, glutes, and back strength. A great deadlift alternative.
Engage traps and rhomboids by lifting the bar as high as possible through shoulder elevation. Can use a double overhand or alternating grip.
3. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
Hinge at the hips to target the hamstrings and glutes while building deadlift strength off the floor. Keep a flat back.
4. Farmer’s Walks
Test grip strength and full body endurance by carrying heavy loads for distance or time. Promotes stability.
5. Overhead Press
Powerful shoulder pressing variation that allows pushing from a squat position. Safer than a barbell.
6. Front Squat
Hold the bar against your chest to keep an upright squat position. Builds quad strength.
7. Bent Over Row
Stand inside the trap bar gripping handles while bent over to perform inverted rows targeting the back and biceps.
Explosive total body move combining front squats with a shoulder press. Very taxing on conditioning.
Jump vertically or horizontally over the trap bar to develop explosive power in the legs and glutes. Use lightweight only.
The versatility of the trap bar allows you to train in the same movement patterns as popular barbell exercises but with reduced injury risk and technique learning curve. It’s a very beginner-friendly way to build full body strength. For more exercises alternative to trap bar deadlift, we have reviewed 11 top trap bar exercises with video representation. Checkout Now!
Muscle Groups Trained by The Trap Bar
Due to the diverse exercise options, the trap bar allows you to stimulate just about every major muscle group in the body:
- Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves
- Lats, trapezius, rhomboids, rear delts
- Rectus abdominus, internal/external obliques, erector spinae
- Biceps, triceps, forearms
Deltoids, rotator cuff
Depending on your specific exercise selection, you can target the lower body, upper body, or total body musculature with a properly programmed trap bar routine.
Benefits of Using a Trap Bar for Strength Training
Now that you know what a trap bar is and the wide range of exercises you can perform with it, let’s discuss the main advantages it offers:
1. Beginner Friendly
The neutral grip and centered load point reduce the learning curve for major lifts like deadlifts, rows, and squats versus free weights.
2. Enhanced Safety
Keeping the weight close to your center of mass decreases injury risk, especially for the lower back. Allows lifting heavier loads with better form.
3. Total Body Training
Hit every major muscle group with a single piece of equipment. An efficient way to build overall power and strength.
4. Sport Specificity
The balanced loading and explosive power development transfer well to athletic performance for sports like football, wrestling, or hockey.
5. Grip and Posture Training
Carrying heavy loads with a trap bar strengthens grips while promoting a chest up, shoulders back posture.
6. More Muscle Activation
Research shows greater overall muscle recruitment in trap bar lifts than in comparable free-weight moves.
7. Versatile Progressions
Many ways to progress by adding weight, changing handles, altering the range of motion, tempo, and unilateral work.
For any beginner looking to build a strength foundation or athlete seeking better sports performance, the trap bar offers advantages over straight barbells and dumbbells while remaining simple to use. We’ve also written a comprehensive post that discusses “Why It Should Be in Your Strength Training Routine” Checkout Now!
Correct Setup and Form for The Trap Bar Deadlift
Now that you understand the benefits of the trap bar, let’s go through the proper setup and form:
Stand inside the trap bar with feet about hip-width apart. Grip the handles with palms facing in and arms hanging straight down.
Push hips back and bend knees to lower down while keeping back flat. Head and chest up. Do not round the lower back.
Descend until handles reach just below the knees. Shins should be close to the bar with weight on heels.
Drive through heels and extend hips forward to stand up. Fully lock out hips and knees at the top. Squeeze glutes.
Control weight back to the floor by sending hips backward again. Do not squat down. Use a hip hinge.
Repeat for reps without letting back round or hips rise before the bar leaves the floor. Keep the bar path as vertical as possible.
Focus on using leg drive to lift rather than straining the lower back. Keep the chest up and the shoulders retracted throughout the movement.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
While the trap bar deadlift is generally safer than a straight bar version, some technique errors can still lead to injury:
1. Starting Too Low
This causes the back to round excessively under heavy loads. Only lower to just below the knees.
2. Not Engaging Lats
Poor upper back tightness shifts the load to the lower back. Set up with shoulder blades pulled down and back.
3. Too Wide or Narrow Stance
Find the optimal hip-width stance for the best leverage. Feet too wide or narrow increase injury risk.
4. Jerking the Weight
Always control the eccentric and concentrate on smooth execution. No bouncing or jerking.
5. Squatting Down
Do not squat. Initiate the lift by driving your hips back and then up. Maintain a flat back angle.
6. Overextending At Lockout
Finish standing tall but avoid overarching back too far. Can place extra stress on the lower spine.
Master safe technique before increasing load. Poor form with heavy trap bar lifts can still result in strains and disc injuries over time.
Beginner-Friendly Trap Bar Training Programs
As a beginner, where do you start programming trap bar exercises into your strength routine? Here are two sample weekly templates:
1. Workout A (Upper Body Focus)
|Day||Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|Monday||Trap Bar Deadlift||4 sets x 6-10 reps|
|Trap Bar Bent Over Row||3 sets x 8-12 reps|
|Trap Bar Shoulder Press||3 sets x 10-15 reps|
|Wednesday||Trap Bar Deadlift||3 sets x 3-5 reps (heavy)|
|Trap Bar Shrugs||3 sets x 12-15 reps|
|Dumbbell Chest Press||3 sets x 10-12 reps|
|Friday||Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift||3 sets x 8-10 reps|
|Chin Ups||3 sets x max reps|
|Ab Wheel Rollout||3 sets x 10-15 reps|
2. Workout B (Lower Body Focus)
|Day||Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|Monday||Trap Bar Deadlift||4 sets x 4-6 reps|
|Goblet Squats||3 sets x 10-12 reps|
|Calf Raises||3 sets x 15-20 reps|
|Wednesday||Trap Bar Sumo Deadlift||3 sets x 6-8 reps|
|Front Squats||3 sets x 8-10 reps|
|Walking Lunges||3 sets x 20 steps/leg|
|Friday||Trap Bar Deadlift||3 sets x 2-4 reps (very heavy)|
|Trap Bar Jump Shrugs||3 sets x 6-8 reps|
|Hanging Leg Raises||3 sets x 10-15 reps|
These sample programs focus on Mastering the trap bar deadlift and rows alongside other foundational strength movements. Train 2-4 days per week based on your recovery abilities as a beginner.
Adding Variety with Advanced Trap Bar Exercises
Once you build significant strength levels, the trap bar allows for more advanced movements to keep challenging your full body:
1. Deficit Deadlifts
Stand on a platform to increase your range of motion. Builds strength off the floor.
2. Zercher Squats
Hold the bar in crooks of elbows against the chest. Greater demand on core stability.
3. Behind the Back Deadlift
Bar starts behind the back to emphasize the hip hinge. Reduces quad involvement.
4. Overhead Carry
Improve upper body and grip endurance by walking with a bar overhead.
5. Lunge Jumps
Explosive plyometric lunges with a trap bar on the back to boost power.
6. Clean and Jerk
Transition bar rapidly from floor to overhead. Ultimate explosiveness and shoulder strength.
Varying your trap bar training will help bust through strength plateaus as you advance. Just make sure to master safe techniques on basic moves first before adding complexity.
Is a Trap Bar Worth Getting?
If you’re ready to incorporate this versatile piece of strength equipment into your training, the next question becomes – is a trap bar worth getting for my home gym or fitness facility?
For most lifters focused on safely building full body strength and power, the benefits of a trap bar absolutely justify the investment:
- Allows progressing main lifts like deadlifts with reduced injury risk
- Unlocks a wider range of exercise options not possible with barbells alone
- Provides a new training stimulus to maximize strength and size gains
- Gives an efficient way to train legs, back, and grip in one movement
- Saves space versus needing multiple pieces of equipment
- Highly durable to withstand frequent hardcore training
For those reasons, we consider a quality trap bar one of the most useful additions you can make to any home or garage gym. The return on investment will be well worth it!
Choosing the Best Trap Bar for You
If you’re sold on getting a trap bar, the last step is finding the right option for your needs and budget. Here are the key factors to consider:
1. Weight Capacity
Make sure to get one rated for 20-50% more than your current 1 rep max lift. Aim high for room to grow. 600-800+ lbs is ideal for most. Moreover, the weight of trap bar itself should also be considered. For getting deep insights into how much should a trap weigh, checkout our detailed analysis now!
2. Handle Types
Neutral, open, and closed handles allow swapping grips for different exercises. Some bars offer all three in one.
Being able to change handle height and width offers more versatility long term.
4. Quality and Durability
Withstands daily max lifting without bending or breaking. Good warranties provide peace of mind.
Prices range from under $150 to over $500. Determine how much you can invest upfront into a higher-end bar that will last vs. saving on a more basic option.
Some top-rated trap bar brands to look at include Rogue, Kabuki Strength, Titan Fitness, and Sorinex. Do some research to find the best model for your specific needs and budget.
There you have it – a comprehensive beginner’s guide to the trap bar and how to incorporate it into your training for maximum strength and muscle building.
- Trap bars allow performing deadlifts, rows, presses, and more in a neutral grip and close to the body
- Full body power and muscle development can be achieved with just a trap bar
- Benefits include enhanced safety, beginner-friendly learning, and increased muscle activation
- Focus on mastering trap bar deadlift form before advancing to other exercises
- Program trap bar training 2-4 days per week alongside other major lifts
- Advanced options like deficit deadlifts provide new challenges as you progress
- Getting a quality trap bar is a worthwhile investment for any garage or home gym
So don’t be afraid to step inside and start harnessing the unique benefits of trap bar training. Your body will respond with new strength and physique gains!