My dad use to tell me that the right tool for the job makes all the difference and working out with a trap bar is no exception, this is a versatile piece of equipment that has a place in your fitness routine.
We’ve all been in the gym and shook our head at someone using a piece of equipment knowing they didn’t take the time to learn or ask how to properly use it. And we laugh are asses off at them, I don’t want that to be you, so in this article I’m going to teach you step by step how to perform each exercise and give you a video to show you a visual example.
What Is A Trap Bar
A trap or hex bar has a frame shaped like a hexagon with straight bars coming out from either side commonly known as stubs, this is where the weights are placed. The ergonomic handles are positioned in between the hexagon and the stubs.
It was invented by a power lifter by the name of Al Gerard, he designed it to work the trapezius muscles in the upper shoulders by doing shoulder shrugs.
It didn’t take long for people to realize that the bar is great for doing deadlifts, shrugs due to the fact that you stand in the middle of the hexagon making the weight evenly distributed through your body’s midline.
This is incredibly effective at reducing the stress to your lower back and preventing you from injuring or straining yourself, this gives you a great alternative to the barbell but doesn’t take away the results you will receive.
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Specifications Of A Trap Bar
There are many different brands and manufacturers of trap bars so, I’m going to go over the average size, weight and dimensions of the average olympic and standard bar.
If you’re looking for different brands or dimensions search Amazon or Dick’s, you’ll be able to find what you want just as long as you’re not changing the below specs dramatically.
Standard Trap Bar
- Total Length 56″
- Stubs 10″ and 1″ wide
- Handle Length 12″
- Distance In Between Handles 23″
- Hexagon Frame Is 20″ wide
- Total Weight 55 pounds or 25 KG
- Max Weight Capacity 700 pounds or 317 KG
Olympic Trap Bar
- Total Length 65″
- Stubs 10″ and 2″ wide (can only use olympic weights)
- Handle Length 7″
- Distance In Between Handles 26″
- Hexagon Frame Is 31″ wide
- Total Weight 60 pound or 27 KG
- Max Weight Capacity 775 pounds or 351 KG
Trap Bar Weight
Depending on your fitness level and body type you may want a heavier or lighter bar so here are some different brands that weigh in differently.
- Titan Fitness – 44 pounds
- X Mark – 60 pounds
- Cap – 52 pounds
- Hulk Fit – 45 pounds
- Synergy – 55 pounds
- Cap Barbell olympic trap bar -28 pounds
The bars range from 28 to 60 pounds, in the end it doesn’t matter though, if you already have a bar at home that’s on the heavy side just put less weight on it and vice versa if you own a lighter bar.
The benefits of using a Trap Bar
1. Less strain on your joints
Standing inside the hexagon frame keeps your center of gravity aligned while performing the lift, this makes it less stressful on your lower back, knees and shoulders. Next time you’re at the gym and you see someone doing a deadlift with a barbell notice how close they keep it to their body, this is because their trying to limit the strain to their back.
2. An Overall Safer Tool
Everyone has at some point watched gym fails on You Tube and there is always that one video with someone awkwardly performing a deadlift with a straight bar and falls on there ass or face.
This won’t happen if you’re using the trap bar, at no point during the move are you in an awkward position where the weight in front of you is trying to pull you off balance.
Always having your center of gravity in line with your shoulders gives you complete control.
3. Allows An Ergonomic Grip
The handles on a trap bar are perpendicular to the stubs or weight sleeves allowing you to perform the exercise with a neutral grip instead of a supinated grip, this puts less strain on your shoulders and biceps.
4. Easier for people to learn
To execute a squat or deadlift with proper form takes practice and experience, the technique involved with a trap bar squat or deadlift is a lot ore fluid and easier for beginners to execute.
5. Increases Power And Speed
A study done by Journal of physical education research split 50 adolescents into two groups, one group trained with the leg press machine and the other trained with the trap bar and the conclusions showed that the group that used the trap bar had less strain and higher power and speed results in the end.
6. Works Different Muscles
When you’re training angles play a big role in how you hit certain muscles, deadlifts with a straight bar or trap bar technically work the same muscles but you’re moving in a different direction which allows you to train different muscle fibers than if you only did one type of move.
7. High Or Low Handles
This will be a benefit if you’re a taller individual, having the higher handles means you won’t have to put as much strain on your joints and ligaments as you stand up from a lower position to start the exercise.
Trap Bar Exercises
In this section I’m going to explain step by step how to perform each exercise and also include a video for those of you who are like me and learn easier through visual examples.
Trap Bar Deadlift
How To Perform A Trap Bar Deadlift
- Place a trap or hex bar at your feet and load it with the desired amount of weight.
- Next you want to stand in the middle of the hexagon frame, bend down by lowering your hips and grab the handles.
- As you lower yourself down make sure to keep your head up and your chest out. (it helps to stare at a fixed position to keep your head from moving)
- Stand up by pushing with your feet flat on the floor and raising your hips and knees, make sure to never arch your back always keep it straight.
- Pause at the top and in a slow controlled manner lower the weight back down.
Muscles used during a deadlift
- Gluteus Maximus (Butt)
- Quadriceps (Upper Front Legs)
- Adductor Magnus (Inner Thigh)
- Hamstrings (Upper Back Of Legs)
- Erector Spinae (Lower Back)
- Trapezius Upper (Upper Neck Muscles)
Trap Bar Deadlift Form
You start with your feet shoulder width apart, as you lower your body down you will keep your hips higher rather than lowering them as if you’re doing a squat. I spoke earlier about angles affecting which muscles are worked and this is a perfect example. If you bring your hips down you’ll be working the quads more.
Trap Bar Deadlift Benefits
- Burn more fat – Deadlifts are multi joint or compound exercises, these types of moves use more muscles and energy than an isolation move does, this means the body needs to find a fuel source to make up for the loss of energy and this is why a higher amount of calories are burnt resulting in fat loss.
- An underrated core exercise – If you don’t feel the burn in your abs when doing deadlifts this is an indication that you aren’t using the proper form. It has direct positive effects on core strength and stability which also helps with posture.
- A well balanced exercise – Swimming is the only exercise that you can do that works more muscles at one time, with one deadlift you are stimulating the muscles from your feet up to your neck. Scientifically broken down the deadlift is one of the most beneficial exercises you can incorporate into your routine.
- Compare to everyday movements – The muscles associated with the deadlift are commonly used by people everyday, picking up a box at work, helping a friend move, carrying your tool bag or even picking your kids up. Training these muscles will actually help you become better at doing what you do on a regular basis.
- One of the safest and easiest exercises – The form of a deadlift is not complicated and you don’t need a spotter, if at any moment you feel like you can’t handle the weight you simply drop it. The move actually becomes even safer when using a trap bar since you take a lot of the strain off of your lower back.
Trap Bar Squats
The first thing I need to point out here is that when people talk about the trap bar squat they are normally referring to a deadlift and just wording it the wrong way.
For it to be a true squat the weight would have to be racked like this demo video below.
I want to point out that I don’t recommend performing a squat like you just watched in the above video, there are safer alternatives that will give you a great workout with positive results.
Now that I made that clear there is a minor tweak you can make to your deadlift form that will change the muscles that are worked so that you can receive a more dominant leg workout rather than a back workout.
For those of you who are more visual this video explains it perfectly.
How To Do Trap Bar Squats
- You want to go through the starting steps as if you were going to do a deadlift.
- Where you want to differ is when you lower yourself down you want to keep your hips low rather than high like you do during a deadlift.
- Keeping your hips low will activate your quads, glutes and hamstrings, giving you the benefit of a leg dominant exercise instead of a back dominant move
Muscles Used During A Squat
- Gluteus Maximus (Butt)
- Quadriceps (Front Of The Thigh)
- Hamstring (Back Of The Thigh)
- Calves (Back Of Lower Leg)
- Core (Abs)
Benefits Of Doing A Trap Bar Squat
Just like the deadlift, squats are a compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups promoting the loss of fat. Most obvious they’re an exceptional tool to build your legs and other muscles throughout your body.
- Development of the Gluteus Maximus – Many people don’t know that the Butt is actually the biggest muscle in the body and squats are great at toning and strengthening the Gluteus Maximus, Medius and Minimus which will help in overall strength and stability of your body
- Importance of your Quadriceps – Healthy strong Quads are a direct link to knee stability, speed, leg strength and stability, and squats are one of the best exercises to quickly strengthen them.
- Stronger Hamstrings – Hamstrings are like the springs in your car, every time you walk, run or jump you put a tremendous amount of force on your legs and your hamstring help absorb it. the stronger your hamstrings the more force you can apply without worrying about injury.
Are Trap Bar Squats Effective
You can successfully engage the leg muscles using a trap bar especially if you roll the trap bar over top of an elevated platform while you stand on top of the platform giving you more range of motion.
Personally, I feel like I receive a better leg workout doing a traditional squat with a racked barbell or straight bar.
I do enjoy using a trap bar once in a while to change the angle of my movement and for the sake of changing things up once in a while. It all comes down to what you like and are more comfortable doing.
Other Trap Bar Exercises You Should Do
While the deadlift is the most popular trap bar exercise, there are many more that you need to try and add to your weekly fitness regimen. Here are a few including video tutorials on how to do them.
Trap Bar Row
A strong developed back is a must to become a stronger well rounded lifter and one of the best exercises for the back is a row. When done with a barbell a lot of people lack the strength and coordination to hold the proper technique to perform the exercise correctly.
Using the trap bar fixes this since you are once again aligning your center of gravity and also getting your knees out of the way.
How To Perform A Trap Bar Row
- Load a trap bar up with the amount of weight you want and then step inside the hex frame.
- You’re going to lift the bar up just like you would a deadlift and then push your hips back keeping your back parallel to the ground as if you were doing a dumbbell row.
- Now raise the bar up until your elbows are about midway with your body, as you’re doing this contract your lats.
- Now slowly lower it back down to the starting position and repeat until desired number of reps are done.
What Muscles Are Worked during A Row
- Latissimus Dorsi (Back)
- Posterior Shoulders (Back Of Shoulders)
- Rhomboids (Muscles That Flank Your Upper Back)
- Forearms (Bottom Of Arm Between Fist And Elbow)
- Bicep (Upper Part Of Arm)
- Hamstrings (Back Upper Leg)
- Glutes (Butt)
Trap Bar Farmers Lift
There is a lot more going on then it looks like when you do a farmers walk, from strengthening your grip, forearms, core stabilization and developing your back this is an exercise that is highly underrated.
How To Perform A Farmers Lift
- Walk up to a loaded trap bar and step inside
- Lower yourself down keeping your chest up and your back flat
- Grab the handles and push yourself up while looking straight ahead
- Now that you’re standing straight up holding the trap bar take a second to make sure you’re balanced properly and proceed to walk in a straight line turn around at the end and come back to your starting position.
- Drop the weight down take a minimal break and repeat until desired amount of reps are done.
What Muscles Are Used During A Farmers Walk
- Upper Back
- shoulder Muscles
- Core Muscles
- Calf muscles
- Do you now see how it’s a fantastic full body workout (if you’re not doing this, start now)
Trap Bar Overhead Press
This is probably one of the best shoulder exercises you can do, it gives you a full body workout while building your upper body for mass and strength. Increases your lockout strength and safeguards your shoulders.
How To Perform A Trap Bar Overhead Press
- In order to do this move you will have to rack the trap bar on the pegs of a power or squat rack. You’ll want to adjust the height to shoulder height. Then load the desired weight onto the bar.
- Step inside of the hex frame, move your feet to shoulder width and grab the handles of the trap bar.
- Next you’re going to unrack the bar, slowly take a step or two back then in a controlled manner push the bar up until your elbows are locked out.
- Once you’re at full extension exhale then and slowly lower the bar back to chest height and repeat until desired amount of reps are done.
What Muscles Are Used During An Overhead Press
- Pectorals (Lower and Upper Chest)
- Triceps (Upper Side Of Arms)
- Trapezius (Upper Back)
- Deltoids (Shoulders)
Trap Bar Jumps
These are a fun, intense exercise that are easy to learn and do. With one move you’ll build an explosive lower body, become quicker and strengthen your back and grip.
How To Perform Trap Bar Jumps
- Load a trap bar with the desired amount of weight and step inside the hex frame
- You’re going to set up like you’re doing a deadlift, lower yourself down, grab the handles with your hips raised, back straight and your head looking straight ahead.
- Then you’re going to explosively push yourself up so that your feet leave the ground and then come back down into the starting position.
- Repeat as many as you can without a break.
What Muscles Are Used During A Trap Bar Jump
- Lower Back
Trap Bar rack pulls
You’re going to notice that the rack pull is very similar to the deadlift but there is one main advantage, since the bar is elevated off the ground this decreases the range of motion needed to lift it allowing you to lift much heavier weights.
How To Perform Trap Bar Rack Pulls
- You’re going to start by adjusting your bar height to right below your knees.
- Next load your bar with the desired weight and step inside of the hex frame
- Keep a hip width stance and bend down grabbing the handle with a neutral grip.
- Push up through your feet as if you were pushing the floor down until you lock out the hips then slowly drop the weight back down and reset.
- Repeat until desired amount of reps are completed.
What Muscles Are Used during Rack Pulls
- Hamstrings (Back Of Leg)
- Glutes (Butt)
- Quadriceps (Front Upper Legs)
- Erector Spinae (Lower Back)
- Trapezius (Shoulder Muscles)
- Back Muscles
The below video shows a rack pull demonstrated with a barbell, I picked this video because the personal trainer does an excellent job explaining how and why to do a rack pull.
The other videos I saw weren’t done well and would’ve been a waste of your time, just take what he teaches and apply it to the trap bar.
Trap Bar Shrugs
Shrugs are a great way to isolate your traps and I’m sure you have done dumbbell shrugs, but the one advantage you get from a trap bar is you can lift more weight to receive a more intense workout with quicker results.
How To Perform Trap Bar Shrugs
- Load a trap bar with your desired amount of weight and step inside the hex frame.
- Bend over and grab the handles and lift it up until your standing straight up, remember to keep your back straight, chest out and head up when you lift the initial weight up.
- Make sure you’re feet are shoulder width apart and move the bar up using just your shoulders, you want to make sure you aren’t using your arms at all.
- You want to pause at the top of each shrug. How long will depend on you, but I prefer to lift heavier and take longer pauses.
- This motion should be strictly vertical, straight up and down. Do not go in a circular motion, if you find yourself doing this you’re probably using too much weight.
- Continue this until your desired reps are done, place the bar back on the ground and repeat.
What Muscles Are Used During Shrugs
- Trapezius (Shoulder)
- Levator Scapulae (Muscle On The Side Of Your Neck)
- Upper Back
- Erector spinae (Muscle From The Tailbone To Lower Neck)
Trap Bar Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
If you’re familiar with the dumbbell bulgarian squat than you’ll learn this move quickly, if not your about to have a new favorite leg exercise. It improves your balance, core and blasts your quads.
How To Perform Rear Foot Elevated Foot Squats
- There are many things you can rest your foot on while doing this but I prefer a bench.
- Set a bench up behind you and a trap bar loaded with your desired amount of weight in front of you on the floor.
- You want the trap bar and bench to be close enough that when you step inside the trap bar frame that the bench is close enough that you can lift your leg behind you and rest the top of your leg on top of the bench.
- Once your in position and properly balanced lower yourself down as low as you can go then push back up to the starting position.
- Repeat until desired reps are done.
What Muscles Are Used During Split Squats
- Gluteus Maximus (Butt)
- Quadriceps (Upper Front Leg Muscles)
- Hamstrings (Upper Back Leg Muscles)
Trap Bar Floor Press
What makes this exercise so effective is when you lay on the floor it takes your legs out of the move and your triceps and shoulder muscles are relied on more so then your chest muscles. Giving your push muscles a great workout and it’s much easier on the shoulder joint then the bench press, so if you have shoulder problems this move will be perfect for you.
How To Perform The Floor Press
- There are a couple different ways you can hold the bar up so that you can get underneath it, I like to set the bar holder on a power rack on the outside just high enough that I can lay under it and push the weight up safely.
- Adjust your bar holder to the correct position for you, then place the trap bar on top and add the desired amount of weight to it.
- Lay under the bar, when you reach up to grab the bar you want your arms to have to angle a little behind your head. This is so that when you push the weight up the bar is now directly above you and in front of the bar holder.
- Once you’re in position, push the weight up while exhaling and lock your elbows out, pause for a second or two then bring the weight back down to your chest in a slow controlled manner. Inhale and repeat until reps are completed.
What Muscles Are Used During The Floor Press
- Chest muscles
I may be bias since the trap bar is one of my favorite tools in my gym but between the versatility and isolation moves it brings to your workouts I don’t understand why it hasn’t caught on more with people that take their workouts serious.
Try at least one of these exercises and leave me a comment telling me if you liked it, hated it or if you just have some questions feel free to reach out I personally respond to every message.