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Daniel Mesa

Trap Bar Squat: Benefits and How-To

If for some reason you find that the trap bar deadlift does not work your legs enough or are simply looking for more cool ways to use and abuse your trap bar, the trap bar squat is the lift for you. In this guide, we are going to discuss the benefits of this lift as well as how to do it with proper form.

trap bar squat

What Is A Trap Bar Squat?

When people hear the term trap bar squat, they often get confused. This is likely because many people draw comparisons between the muscle recruitment of a trap bar deadlift and a barbell squat. While it is true that the trap bar deadlift is more comparable to a squat than a regular deadlift, it is still not a real squat.

A trap bar squat is done by placing one of the long sides of the trap bar on your back and squatting with the weight. This is most commonly done with an open trap bar.

Trap Bar Squat Benefits

Here is why you should add this exercise to your routine:

Fewer Bars And More Money

In the home gym world, any piece of equipment that can be used in more than one way is exactly what people are looking for. With limited space and money, versatile bars that can be useful for several different types of lifts are always preferred. Considering that the trap bar is one of the more common specialty bars, it makes sense to find other ways to use it besides trap bar deadlifts. With the right trap bar, there is no need to go and spend more money on special squat bars.

Leg Isolation

As we already touched on, many people like to describe the trap bar deadlift as a squat/deadlift hybrid. This is true in many ways if you look at muscular activation patterns. But we all know that if you really want to grow a pair of tree trunk legs, then you need to squat and isolate those legs. With the trap bar, you can squat for real and really put an emphasis on your legs.

Basically A Cambered Bar

Thanks to the trap bar having a hexagonal shape, you are effectively squatting with a cambered bar when you use a trap bar. Cambered bars have many benefits of their own:

  • More emphasis on quads

  • Helps with shoulder pain

  • Different muscular stimulus

  • More versatility

Do I Need An Open Trap Bar For Trap Bar Squats?

Technically, you do not need an open trap bar to do trap bar squats. I have seen plenty of people do it with a hex bar. However, the added space and balance provided by an open trap bar are preferable. Open trap bars are often also designed to be squatted with so most are rackable and some even have knurling on the frame to keep the bar on your back.

How To Trap Bar Squats

Video Guide

Rack your trap bar

Place your rack bar in the squat rack and load the weight

Get into a squat postion

Step into the frame of the trap bar and position it on top of your back

Unrack the bar

Unrack the bar and take a few steps to give yourself room

Squat down

Take a deep breath and squat down

Squat up

Explode up by driving through your legs


  • The camber of the bar will cause you to lean forward but you have to fight against it to ensure a neutral spine

  • Do not allow your knees to cave in

  • When you are squatting up, imagine that you are driving your feet through the ground

  • Start out with light weight until you get a feel more of the movement


Find The Best Trap Bar

After years of testing, we assembled a master list with the best trap bars for every home gym owner

Other Trap Bar Squat Variations

The variation shown above is the closest thing to the barbell squat that you can do with the trap bar. However, there exist other variations that mimic the squat in terms of knee flexion:

Trap Bar Elevated Squats

In many ways, this is just an extra deficit trap bar deadlift but it will allow you to get a very good contraction in your quads. To make it more of a squat, just make sure to bring your hips down and keep a neutral spine.

Trap Bar Split Squats

This is another variation that tends to be easier with an open trap bar. To do these, just lift the bar and then place your back on a platform. This can be a bench, block, etc. Then slowly squat down and drive through your front leg.

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.

hex bar press

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.

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.

heavy trap bar deadlift

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.

Build Explosivity

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:

  • Farmers Walks

  • Shrugs

  • Iso Holds

  • Back Rows

  • Walking Lunges

  • Jump Deadlifts

  • Single Leg Deadlifts

  • Trap Bar Deadlifts

Grip Strength

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.

Bottom Line

The trap bar squat is a great way to add even more use to your trap bar. While an open trap bar is preferable, you can still do this with a closed hex bar. The leg isolation and training benefits make it a worthy exercise of including in your leg days.


Find The Best Trap Bar

After years of testing, we assembled a master list with the best trap bars for every home gym owner


Is the trap bar good for squats?

You can use the trap for squats and it will feel very nice. The trap bar is cambered meaning that you will feel the squat more in your quads.

Can you do squats with hex bar?

Yes, you can either place the bar on your back and do squats or simply start with your hips further down to emulate a squat.