Top 5 Trap Bar Exercises (Hex Bar)
Named after its unique hexagonal shape, the trap bar is great for all athletes & lifters by offering a safe, effective way to execute various compound exercises while still moving some serious weight.
Here are the top 5 trap exercises you can incorporate into your routine for an extra edge!
The Two Different Handles
There are a couple of ways to hold the bar, so it is important to understand how they relate to the variations we’re going to show you.
Using the top handles (the higher ones) recruits more of your posterior chain, encompassing predominantly your calves, hamstrings, glutes, and low back.
Flipping the bar over and using the lower handles places increases the range-of-motion leading to greater quad and hip flexion.
Those who are new to the movement should begin with the high handles then progress from there.
Hex Bar Deadlift
Before you lift, make a conscious effort to slightly push your knees outwards laterally. Feel as if you are spreading the floor with your feet. By doing this, you are subtly creating torque in your hips and knees to activate the proper musculature to execute the lift.
Grip the bar, sink into the lift and while pushing your chest out and pulling your shoulders down & back then, stand up. Keep your form locked in and your core tight as you drive your feet through the floor.
This is a fundamental weightlifting movement for overall health because you are training yourself to properly hinge at the hips, load your poster chain and put your body, under load, safely through a full range of motion.
Romanian Hex Bar Deadlift
A variation of the standard barbell lift, this version maintains the same focus on hinging at the hips while maintaining a slight flex in the knee and a braced, neutral spine. It hammers your posterior chain hard and is one of the best movements you can do for your hamstrings!
Remember, 100lb is and always will be 100lb, but how one adapts his or her body to move the weight will determine how the load is distributed throughout the muscles and joints.
Start the movement from the top of the lift then lower the bar to slightly below your knees/mid shin. Execute this by actively pushing your butt back, keeping a slight flex in your knee and keeping your core tight. Your back should never round at any points during the exercise.
For an indepth look into how to execute the proper RDL/hip hinge, please read this piece: Hip Hinge Coaching Points
You can do this lift as a primary or secondary mover. Just remember to adjust the volume (sets and reps) accordingly.
Hex Bar Row
The hex bar row is a thoroughly underrated exercise for your back. If you’re not convinced, try it for yourself - the squeeze and engagement you’re going to get in your upper back will turn you into a believer!
Using the lower handle to increase the range of motion, set up as you would do a standard barbell row - hinging at the hips, a slight bend in the knees and a braced, neutral spine. Now, row the weight in towards your waist as opposed to vertically towards your chest. The aim is to pull with your lats and squeeze as you reach the top of the lift, slowly lowering down on the concentric.
Again, feel as if you are pulling the bar back into you versus pulling vertically.
Make sure you’re not using momentum to get the bar up and to keep your movements controlled.
The movement as a whole is similar to skiing or rowing a boat - you’re predominantly using your lats to pull the weight and it helps to visualize them engaging in this way. Use your grip and forearms to grip and brace the weight only; the lats should be doing the work!
Hex Bar Shoulder Press
The hex bar can even be used for upper body movements, such as the hex bar shoulder press. One of the best ways to remove some of the joint stress related with heavy pressing movements is to use a neutral grip, making the hex bar’s low handles perfect for the job.
Standing within the center of the bar with it racked with the weights on the inside of the stand, press the weight straight up, ensuring a tight core and a stable stance at just wider than shoulder width.
Hex Bar Farmer’s Walk
The hex bar is excellently suited to the farmers walk exercise, a lift perfect for strengthening your grip which will directly carry over to the other movements.
To perform the farmers walk, safely deadlift the weight from the floor then walk with your chest up, head looking straight ahead, core tight and maintain proper posture.
You’ll feel the intensity of the lift throughout your legs, abs, glutes, lower and upper back, making it a true full-body movement.
You can do these in stages if you like, gradually adding weight, or simply go for sets that terminate at grip failure.
Considering virtually all of these exercises punish your grip hard, you might want to use straps if you feel your grip giving out before your muscles do. Make sure that for the farmer’s walk, though, you use your own grip. With this exercise being specifically used to build grip gains, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you used straps!
The Hex bare is truly an underrated, versatile tool that every lifter should become accustomed with. Taking a lot of the awkwardness out of the standard variants of these lifts, the bar enables you to keep the focus on what matters!