Unlike the trap bar deadlift where your back is an afterthought, the trap bar row directly targets your entire back and is actually relatively easy to do. Thanks to the neutral grip, many people find that it actually easier to feel and engage their back than with the traditional barbell row. This guide will break down the proper form, benefits, and muscles used, and compare it to other rows and trap bar exercises.
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Why Should I Do The Hex Bar Row?
As the old saying goes, you need to row to grow. If you think about what really gives someone the appearance of being wide or big, the back plays a very large role. From getting that v-taper or just filling out t-shirts, adding muscles to your back will make a big difference to your look. Also, your back is the foundation for many lifts. A stronger back will translate to other lifts and serve to protect you from injuries down the line.
Trap Bar Row Benefits
In terms of rows, there are tons of options you could select from. Here is why should make the hex bar row your primary row:
Greater Range Of Motion
With a traditional barbell row, you are capped in terms of how much you can actually contract your back. You are unable to really drive your arms all the way back to get the most out of your lats because the bar runs into your stomach. Thanks to the design of the trap bar, you can really drive your elbows all the way back to get the best contraction possible during a trap bar bent over row.
As many people advance on the traditional barbell row, they find that their grip often becomes the limiting factor. From here they can either use lifting straps or switch over to an underhand grip. Either of these is not really ideal since lifting straps only perpetuates your grip weakness and the underhand grips are famous for leading to bicep tears. Dorian Yates himself tore his bicep with an underhand barbell row.
The neutral grips of the trap bar make grip strength a nonissue. Most people find that the neutral handles make handling heavy loads easier. Also, your wrists and biceps are in a much safer position minimizing the risk of injury.
With enough training, it is fairly common to see your trap bar row quickly outpace your regular barbell row. Since the trap bar puts you more in line with the center of gravity of the weight, you are in a stronger position. The stronger position combined with the neutral grips often leads to greater weight totals.
Aside from more muscular overload, the increased weight also means that you will get a deeper weighted stretch at the bottom of the rep.
Better Lat Activation
If you are looking to grow your lats, it really is hard to find a better row than the hex bar row for that need. The neutral grips mean that your arms and elbows will be tucked right by your side as you pull the weight. For lat activation, this has been shown to activate the lats the most.
More Shoulder And Wrist Friendly
Many people find that regular rows are quite harsh on the shoulders, especially at the bottom of the rep. It is not really hard to imagine why people with previous shoulder issues would encounter pain. When your shoulders are internally rotated with weight added on, it can be quite common for shoulder pain to flair.
Another benefit of the trap bar row is that the neutral grip put your shoulders in a safer position. During the trap bar row, they are in line with the handles and closer to your body.
Muscles Worked By Trap Bar Row
The trap bar will primarily target the muscles in your mid to upper back:
How To Do The Trap Bar Row
How To Do Trap Bar Row
Step into the bar
Step into the bar with your feet about shoulder-width apart
Get into a deadlift position
To get the bar into a rowing position, you will need to deadlift it up. So bend down and grab the neutral handles.
Lif the bar up
With your chest up, hips back, and core engaged lift the bar up.
Bend over at a 45-degree angle
Now slowly bend down so you are about a 45-degree angle. Your spine should be neutral and core tight.
Row the weight by pulling your elbows back and engaging your back. Control the weight on the way down and be sure to be going all the way down and up.
Use an open trap if possible, give you more space behind you if you are a larger person
Focus on pulling from your elbows to get the most back activation, your arms should be seen as hooks with your back doing most of the work
Try to limit swaying or jerking. You want to use your muscles not momentum to move the weight
Try to squeeze your back muscles when your elbows are all the way back. This will help improve your mind-muscle connection.
Barbell Row vs. Trap Bar Row
Both of these exercises are excellent mass builders, but there are a few differences you should be aware of:
More Upper Back Work
Thanks to the overhand grip of the barbell row, you will be getting more upper back activation in your rear delts and traps. With the trap bar row, you are still working these muscles just not to the same degree because the trap bar row tends to be more lat focused.
As we already touched on, your grip strength can quickly become a limiting factor on the barbell row. The trap bar tends to be easier for people to grip at heavier weights. The neutral grips also mean that people with shoulder pain or wrist pain will find the trap bar to be more comfortable.
You Will Be Stronger
As a general rule, you can expect to be stronger with a trap bar than you are with a regular barbell. The increased weight means you will be able to overload your muscles more and get more of a weighted stretch.
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
It is 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 straight bar 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 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.
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.
Other Trap Bar Exercises
Another point that I want to drive home, especially for home gym owners, is to not be afraid to try out different movements that perhaps are not conventional. Trap bars are great tools with tons of versatility. Whether it be to keep things fresh or to get more out of your equipment, try some of these other underutilized best trap bar exercises:
Trap Bar Squat (If you have an open trap bar)
Trap Bar Floor Press
Trap Bar Push Up
Trap Bar Suitcase Carry
The trap bar bent over row is a great exercise that can build serious mass in your back. Many people will find that it is more comfortable that the regular barbell row. Go ahead and give it a try. Your back will thank you. Likewise, take a look at our reverse hypertension guide for more lower back proof exercises.
Can you do rows with a hex bar?
Yes! Hex bar rows are a great back exercise. Many people find that they are more comfortable and easier than barbell rows thanks to the neutral grips.
What do trap bar rows work?
Trap bar rows work your entire back. So your lats, teres, rear delts, traps, biceps, and forearms