Also known as a hex bar, a trap bar is a hexagonally-shaped barbell that is typically used for deadlift training.
This bar is a very versatile piece of equipment used by athletes from different sports disciplines like football (soccer), basketball, martial arts, etc.
Useful not only for deadlifts but also for exercises like squat jumps, Romanian deadlift, barbell rows, etc. However, today we will mainly focus on the benefits of doing hex bar deadlifts versus barbell deadlifts.
WHY SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TRAP BAR for your deadlift sessions?
Compared to the traditional barbell deadlifts, doing deadlifts with a trap bar will help you achieve greater weight loads on the bar. It will help you develop explosiveness, strength, and acceleration.
Practicing deadlifts with this interesting tool is one of the most underrated exercises. Why?
In most commercial gyms this piece of equipment is hard to find.
It is snubbed (in part with good reason) by powerlifters.
Hex bar deadlifts are seen as the scaled version of the deadlift.
Although it may be looked down on, it is in fact, a great solution for the majority of people training in the gym.
It is the perfect tool for learning deadlifts as it is easier to learn the technique and is safer to use than the classic barbell.
It has a neutral grip which is more comfortable for the user. That position will keep your shoulders and hips at a more optimal angle.
Doing hex bar deadlifts instead of the traditional barbell deadlifts reduces the strain on athletes’ lumbar region.
Why is it easier to use?
The central point of the trap bar sleeves is in line with your center of gravity and does not pull you off barbell as the classic barbell does.
Because of its shape, there is nothing in the way when doing deadlifts. No barbell scraping your knees or tibia bone like with classical deadlifts.
The trap bar has two options of handles, one higher from the ground and one lower. You just have to flip the bar to change from one option to the other.
Like with your traditional barbell you load the weight from the sides. But the handles are positioned perpendicular to the bar. This natural position allows for a stronger grip and prevents shoulder and hip rotations.
DO WE CALL IT A TRAP BAR DEADLIFT or A TRAP BAR SQUAT?
The trap bar deadlift is different from the traditional deadlift with the barbell. It is a hybrid between deadlifts and squats (in the same way the Power-building is a fusion of bodybuilding and powerlifting).
The exercise starts from the ground up as does the deadlift, but at the extended position, it is more reminiscent of a barbell front squat.
That is why many debate if this hybrid exercise is more a deadlift or more a squat. Some call this exercise a Squat-Lift or a Hybrid squat.
But looking at the exercise as a whole it is more similar to the deadlift than the squat, with some crucial differences.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT?
The majority of athletes will increase their deadlift weight by 10% to 15% in comparison to their barbell deadlift weight. This happens mainly because of two factors:
Greater engagement of the quadriceps.
The exercise is easier to execute (favorable grip).
Why is deadlift with a hex bar more similar to the regular deadlift than to the squat? As with the regular deadlift, the primary focus of the movement is the rear kinetic chain, with slightly greater activation of the quadriceps compared to the traditional deadlift.
The technique of the hex bar deadlift is easier to learn and safer to execute. It does not demand so much coordination and barbell as the regular barbell deadlift.
One of the main difficulties the beginners have when learning the traditional deadlift is the extra weight in front that drags you forward which increases the strain on the lower back. You have to pull much harder to compensate for the resistance of the barbell’s weight.
When doing deadlifts with a trap bar there are no obstructions and you can pull the bar vertically without the obstruction of hitting your knees. Having your center of gravity in line with your shoulders gives you better control of the lift.
Also, having the option of higher handles means that the athlete starts the exercise from a higher position, this puts less strain on their joints and muscles.
TRAP BAR AND POWERLIFTING
Hex bar is rarely used by powerlifters, especially not for deadlifts. But it can be used in the offseason or when recovering from a back injury. It can also be used for exercises like barbell rows, Romanian deadlifts, trapeze shrugs, etc.
TRAP BAR AND BODYBUILDING
It can be used for strength training when targeting posterior kinetic chain muscles. Deadlift may not be the essential exercise for increasing your body muscle but can be used for exercises like rows, Romanian deadlifts, trapeze shrugs, etc.
HEX BAR AND ATHLETIC PREPARATIONS – Jackpot!
Here is where the trap bar shines the most. It is probably the best barbell that can be used for accessory training in football, basketball, MMA, boxing and many more.
Without excessive strain on the lower back of the athletes, they can train for greater strength and explosive force, which is essential when training strength and conditioning.
FITNESS TRAINING AND TRAP BARS
I am not talking about a 50-year-old woman who comes to the gym to move two pink haltèress at random. I am talking of the general public that visits the gym with the main goal to become stronger and more muscular. They don’t want to spend too much time learning the technique. They would rather spend time training muscles, taking as few risks as possible.
For this group of people, the trap bar is the optimal choice for doing an alternative, safer, version of the traditional deadlifts.
If I would have to choose to do only one exercise for the rest of my life, there would not be any doubt. It would be the hex bar deadlift.
This exercise targets the most important muscles of the body: your glutes, core, quadriceps, hamstrings, stabilizers, trapezius, back muscles and forearms.
It can completely replace the regular deadlift for the average gym-goer and can be a valid alternative to the traditional deadlift for both powerlifters and bodybuilders.
The trap bar is one of the tools that every gym should own.
About the author:
Nicholas Rubini is a PTC Strength Coach and Personal Trainer.
Bachelor’s Degree in Science, Strength & Conditioning at Setanta College, Ireland.
NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist.
ISSA Corrective Exercise Specialist.
NESTA Sports Nutrition Specialist.
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