The trap bar also known as the hex bar, is a specialty barbell, commonly known for its power and injury mitigation benefits.
Although many people simply associate the trap bar with the trap bar deadlifts, it is much more than that. It is one of the most popular specialty barbells that you will commonly find in even the smallest commercial gyms. If you’re building a home gym, the trap bar is something that you should definitely look into for its various benefits that we’re going to discuss here.
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What Is The Diffrence Between a Trap Bar and a Hex Bar?
There is NO diffrence between a trap bar and a hex bar, they are different names for the thing.
This is an understandable point of confusion since you will hear trainers, influencers, and manufacturers all refer to it by different names. But, there is no difference.
The term trap bar comes from the fact that the handles on a trap bar or to your side. This hand positioning makes the bar very effective for shrugs to work your trap muscles. Likewise, even in movements that are not meant to directly target the traps, you will get much more trap activation than with a regular barbell.
The hex bar name comes from the bar’s hexagonal shape in the middle where you stand inside.
Benefits of Hex Bars
Many gym purists will argue that the standard straight barbell is the pinnacle of all exercise equipment. While the barbell may be an immensely useful tool, the hex bar has some unique benefits to take into consideration
Easier On Your Lower Back
In terms of trap bar deadlift benefits, the primary one is injury prevention for your lower back, When you are doing a deadlift with a hex bar, the weights are situated directly at your sides as opposed to in front of you during barbell deadlifts. This means that the trap bar allows the weight to be more in line with your own center of gravity.
In practice, this means that there will be less sheer force on your lumbar spine when you are moving the weight. Also, trap bars tend to offer a higher starting position so you do not have to bend down as much.
I am a large proponent of the straight bar deadlift but will be the first to admit that lower back injuries are common especially if proper form is not used. The trap bar relieves some of the risks by putting you in a much safer position.
Neutral Grip Position
Unlike traditional barbells where you either have to be pronated or supinated, the trap bar has a neutral grip.
This will make the biggest diffrence in injury prevention when it comes to your shoulders and biceps:
Shoulders Are Externally Rotated
Many people have extremely limited shoulder mobility due to a sedentary lifestyle. This lack of mobility can lead to pain during pressing movements.
Comparatively, a trap bar allows you to take a neutral grip which externally rotates your shoulders. This externally rotated position removes lots of strain from the shoulder joint and is more comfortable.
No More Bicep Tears
When you are doing a barbell deadlift, you can either take an overhand grip or a mixed grip.
The overhand grip is fairly safe for your biceps. The problem is that the overhand grip often becomes the weakest link in someone’s deadlift. Meaning that their grip strength caps their deadlift.
Advanced lifters find that a mixed grip allows them to lift more weight. However, if you use a mixed grip, you are putting your bicep in a very vulnerable position. Bicep tears are not uncommon using this grip and should be a cause for concern.
There is no need to use a mixed grip with a trap bar. In a neutral position, your biceps are much safer.
Less Technique To Learn
If you are a serious lifter, you will know that lifting is NOT as easy as it looks. To master a lift you need to spend time learning the movement power and acquiring the needed mobility.
And while the same could be said for a trap bar, it is much easier to learn. You do not really need a whole lot of mobility to technique.
For the most part, you can really just get inside it and lift it up. This makes it a great choice for beginners or anyone who does not want to worry too much about their form.
You Can Lift More Weight
Due to the weight being at your sides during a hex bar deadlift, you will find that you easily lift more weight than you with a regular bar.
Simply put, trap bars allow you to put more total weight on your muscles. This can lead to more muscle growth and stimulus.
Furthermore, the gains you see on trap bar lifts will almost certainly translate to your other lifts as well. I know for a fact that when my trap bar deadlift goes up, my conventional deadlift and squat have gone up as well.
There is a reason that hex bars are used a lot by professional sports teams and that is because they build explosiveness and power like nothing else.
A study conducted at Robert Gordon University concluded that the use of a trap bar resulted in significantly greater peak force, velocity, and power during deadlifts compared to a regular straight bar.
Most people look at trap bars and just see deadlifts. But the truth is that trap bars are very versatile pieces of equipment that can be used for a number of exercises. Here are just a few:
Single Leg Deadlifts
Trap Bar Deadlifts
This benefit is not as clear as the other ones but I’ve found that many people especially have found that the trap bar does wonders for your grip strength.
Simply put the neutral grip allows you to focus much more on the way you hold the bar and grip it.
Not to mention that the trap bar makes it very easy to do. grip strength-based exercises like farmers’ walks or shrugs that are also heavily worth the forearms.
What Are The Different Types of Trap Bars?
As you may have taken note, trap bars come in all sorts of sizes and weights. There are two basic designs that you need to be aware of for your home gym:
Traditional Trap Bar: This is the standard trap bar that you will find at most commercial gyms. It will come in a variety of shapes and sizes and work great for most lifts
Open Trap Bar: An open trap bar is like a trap bar except for one side, either the front or back is missing. The benefit of this is that you can do additional exercises since your shins will not bump into the bar. Unlike a traditional trap bar, you can perform walking lunges and RDLs. Open hex bars also tend to be more expensive.
Why Not To Get A Trap Bar
Now in terms of reasons why not to buy a trap bar, there are a few that you should take into consideration.
Less Emphasis On Hips and Lower Back
The first one is that the trap bar does not have as much stimulus provided to your hips and overall lower back musculature.
In essence, while there are a straight bar and regular bar deadlifts, work many of the same muscles as the trap bar. There are some key differences in terms of the muscles that are worked.
Many people, including myself, described the trap bar deadlift as incredibly similar to a squat. The majority of the load during a trap bar deadlift is actually placed on your legs, especially your hamstrings, quads, and glutes.
Now, this is a lot different from a straight bar deadlift, where a lot more load is placed on the back and lower back especially. So if you’re somebody that’s trying to target that area for one reason or another it’s something to take into consideration.
Secondly, the trap bar is just less stable. If you think about it from a simple point of view, the trap bar is a lot larger in terms of its footprint due to its hexagonal shape.
It’s a lot harder to balance a bar that big way especially when you have weight on it.
When you first do a trap bar deadlift, it may seem incredibly easy to lift the weight up and it may seem all-natural once you go to the top of the lock opposition, you will notice that the bar may sway a little bit.
This is because the space within the bar itself that allows you to stand in it means that there is no place for the bar to rest. It is up to you to stabilize the bar completely.
In comparison with a straight bar when you do a deadlift, the bar rests against your thighs, and everything feels nice, tight, and stable.
So those that have balanced issues or are perhaps not looking for this type of stimulus may be may prefer the straight bar deadlift as a whole.
You Do Not NEED One To Make Gains
The last reason why you may perhaps not want a trap bar is that it is simply not required. I think that it is a great addition to any home gym and definitely something that those with the means should look into if it piques their interest but it is definitely not required.
That trap bar just like any other piece of gym equipment is a tool to allow you to improve your fitness goals but there are 1000s upon 1000s of gym tools that can help you achieve this goal.
Just because the trap bar has a unique shape, pattern form and feeling does not mean can’t emulate the same stimulus using other things like a barbell or dumbbell machines, etc.
I know many people including myself that have built a great physique and overall fitness base, using very minimal equipment and no specialty bars at all.
The bottom line is that the trap bar is this incredible piece of equipment that has become extremely popular for good reason.
The benefit to this popularity is that trap bars are now so mainstream in common that they become extremely affordable almost comparable to regular barbells I think that it would be a great addition to your home gym or commercial gym if you can afford it.
The benefits of the trap bar are primarily centered around injury prevention and training versatility.
That being said, even though it is a great piece of equipment, it’s still just a tool. And there are many tools within the context of a home gym and regular gym which can help you accomplish your goals.