What Is a Trap Bar?
To understand what a trap bar is, we should examine first what a deadlift is. The deadlift is one of the most common weight training exercises and uses a barbell or bar which is lifted from the ground to hip level while keeping the torso perpendicular to the floor, and then replaced back on the ground. The deadlift can work your quads, hip flexors, and your core, including your trapezoids, abs, and obliques.
However, despite the deadlift being well known, it’s often not done right. And doing it wrong can cause injury. Enter the trap bar.
The trap bar is a large, hexagonally shaped lifting tool (it’s also called a hex bar). It’s an alternative to a straight or “Olympic” style bar for lifting weights.
What Are the Benefits of a Hex Bar?
Because you place yourself in the open center of the bar, you are much more likely to perform the deadlift with proper motion, with what’s called the “hip hinge” movement; you push your hips back instead of being tempted to bend forward from the waist. A traditional barbell focuses the weight in front of your body, while the trap bar allows the weight to be aligned and balanced with your center of gravity.
Trap bar lifts put less shear force on the lower or lumbar spine. Using a trap or hex bar can reduce back as well as leg injuries. Another plus of the hex bar is that for doing an overhead press, when you use a trap bar, your shoulders will be in a better position, allowing you to press in a straighter line. Trap bars also prevent bicep tears.
As an added bonus, trap bar training can increase the power of your lifts more quickly.
How to Perform the Proper Trap Bar Deadlift
While using the trap bar, be sure to still be on the lookout to keep good form. Remember the following:
- Don’t start rounding your back and shoulders.
- Don’t lower your hips too far.
- Do keep your core engaged.
- Do get upward drive by focusing on pushing your hips forward rather than pulling the bar up.
- Do wear a weight belt when lifting to protect your back.
Other Essential Trap Bar Exercises
A trap bar can also be used for other exercises besides the deadlift. Some of these are:
The Trap Bar Carry
This is a variation of the loaded carry, or Farmer’s Walk, for loads over 200 pounds in which you use a trap bar with weight plates. For a demo of the trap bar carry, check out this YouTube video.
The Floor Press
This is a type of floor press that is recommended for experienced lifters. It calls for competent spotters. You lie horizontally on the mat and lift the trap bar over your chest, removing the leg element of raising the weight. To see it in action, this video will help.
The Overhead Press
The typical overhead press requires maneuvering the bar, so it goes past your face without hitting it. You perform it by standing in the middle of the trap bar and pressing it overhead like a regular overhead press. Watch this video for the visuals.
Here are some things to look for and consider before buying a trap bar:
Handles Are Important
See if you can test trap bars of different types before you buy them. Some handles can rotate, and others allow you to choose small, medium, or large handles. Check out descriptions to see if they offer knurling grips, which can improve your grip and be easier on your palms.
Look for Rubber Stoppers
They help to muffle noise and save your floor from scratches. Know the maximum you’ll want to lift. Some hex bars have a 750-lb. maximum weight, whereas others go up to 1,500 lbs. Try to get a feel on how much room you want inside the trap, as you don’t want to feel like you are going to hit your knees with each lift.
The Best Trap Bars to Buy Online
There is a lot of research available with opinions on the best trap bar to buy for your level of ability and your budget. Here is a sample of some of the favorite trap bars that you can order online. You may want to find out what options are available locally, as shipping can take a big bite out of your exercise budget.
Synergee Olympic Hex Trap Bar
This steel trap bar has non-slip grips with a 750 lb rating and weighs 55 lbs. It’s available in chrome or black phosphate. It has raised handles, making it easy to pick up from the ground, and can be found on Amazon for under $200, including free shipping.
Vulcan Prime Hex Trap Bar
This trap bar is long, at 7 feet, and weighs in at 60 lbs. It’s said to be invulnerable to chipping and rust, with its chrome-plated, solid steel sleeves, and is rackable. There are no weight limitations and can be yours for around $389, including shipping.
Bells of Steel Trap Bar 2.0
This trap bar gets good reviews for various reasons. It’s very reasonably priced at under $250, including shipping. It has a zinc finish and a 65 lb. frame. Unlike most trap bars, this model features rotating sleeves.
American Barbell Fat Grip Hex/Trap Bar
This trap bar’s handles are unusual in that they both have the same thick diameter of 1.91 inches, so you should be familiar with how that feels. It weighs 55 lbs. and costs $349 before shipping.
Trap or hex bars have been around since the 1980s when powerlifter Al Gerard designed the first models in his effort to reduce lower back injuries from deadlifting heavy weights. Due to their effectiveness, they have become a staple at serious gyms and are found in home gyms around the country. Not only do trap bars make deadlifts safer, but they also produce better force and velocity.