5 Trap Bar Exercises You Should Be Doing And Why
Enter, The Trap Bar.
I love the trap bar. It is one of the most beneficial pieces of equipment that any gym can have. Not only is versatile, but it opens up many more training options for a variety of different populations.
When this new piece of equipment it first made it’s way onto the scene, I was hesitant. What’s wrong with traditional barbell deadlifts? What possible benefits does this weird shaped contraption have when it comes to performance? What other things could this be used for besides the deadlift?
The answer is plenty, and the rest of this article will be breaking down some of my favorite movements to use the trap bar for with both myself and my clients.
What Is A Trap Bar?
A trap bar, or hex bar, is one that is shaped quite differently than a regular barbell. Instead of a straight bar that rests on the floor in front of you, the trap bar is formed into a hexagonal shape that the lifter stands in the middle of. The handles are to the side, allowing the load to be centered over the middle of the foot which has a variety of benefits that will be mentioned shortly.
Years ago, it was quite difficult to find these in most gyms. You would have to travel to a more specialty sports performance gym if you were interested in checking one out. Now, just about every gym I’ve worked in has one available. Even commercial gyms are making them a standard piece of equipment, and for good reason.
My favorite part about the trap bar is that it allows for better biomechanical positions when loading. This leads to less shear forces on the spine, less stress on the joints, and potentially less injury. It also allows many people who would not have been able to deadlift without pain or injury on a straight bar perform the movement. Thats a huge win in my book.
While I don’t have the studies to back this up, I have trained hundreds if not thousands of clients using both straight bars and trap bars. It is FAR less common for me to have someone experience pain or an injury when using the trap bar as opposed to a straight bar.
Even if we aren’t talking about preventing injuries, the positions of the trap bar allow to better displace stress on the targeted tissues for muscle growth. The slightly more upright position of the torso and displacement of load over the center of the foot allows better leverages.This allows you to better engage the muscles of the legs and provides a slight sparing effect to the muscles of the lower back.
While we do want a strong lower back and need to train it, this implement makes it much easier to better distribute volume across different muscle groups when organizing a program.
5 Trap Bar Exercises You Should Be Doing:
1)Trap Bar Deadlifts:
Although obvious, this is my favorite of the bunch. The main reason being that it allows people with limited range of motion or mechanics to deadlift in a much more manageable manner.
I’ll be honest, as a coach who works mostly with gen pop clients, most of my clients use the trap bar instead of the barbell. Unless they have aspirations to compete in a barbell sport, or just really want to use the straight bar, the trap bar is a better option 99% of the time.
The same mechanics of a good hip hinge apply, we’re just making things A LOT more user friendly. If you only use the trap bar for one thing, make it be this.
2)Trap Bar Carry:
Carries can be a great training movement for many people and can also be pretty damn fun. However, many gyms don’t have heavy enough dumbbells to truly train this movement, and even fewer have true farmer carry handles. Convincing the owner to buy a pair would be tough too, as they only serve a single purpose. This makes a set tough to justify in an environment that is already tight for space.
Enter the trap bar.
The trap bar offers far greater loading capabilities than dumbbells and also can perform a long list of other exercises. Your gym is also much more likely to have one of these laying around. Make sure to work these into your program during a GPP phase.
3)Elevated Trap Bar Jumps:
This is my favorite movement when training athletes. Just like the trap bar makes the deadlift more accessible, it also makes training triple extension (think the snatch and the clean) more accessible as well. Elevated on blocks makes the starting position much more manageable, and takes away the eccentric stress of absorbing all that force on the way back down.
If you are looking for a substitute to the olympic lifts that builds explosive power and strength, then look no further.
4)Trap Bar Overhead Press:
Just like we talked about before, you are going to be hard pressed to find specialty bars at most gyms. This is especially true for any sort of specialty pressing bar. Its a shame too, because if there was a better option for pressing available to more people we may have less shoulder pain and injury when increasing volume in the bench press and overhead press.
Instead, use the handles on the trap bar to keep a neutral grip and have things stay more friendly for the shoulder. Not all trap bars will fit into a squat rack, so if you buy one make sure you include that as a feature. The link to the bar I listed below is one of the ones that is rack-able which makes it much more versatile and opens up a lot more options.
5)Trap Bar RFESS:
This one can be tricky to master, but is one of my absolute favorite ways to train the hamstrings. Not sure how it could possibly be hamstrings? Just try it and let me know!
And Thats A Wrap!
And there you have it. Five trap bar exercises you should try if you haven’t already. Whether it is for the positional advantages that it offers or simply for some variation, make sure you don’t sleep on the many benefits of this implement. And now that it is becoming a staple among most gyms it will be much easier for you to work it into your long term programming.
As a short term goal, set your sights on a double bodyweight deadlift with the trap bar! That is a damn good foundation of strength to build and one that will carry over to many other aspects of life and training.
Already have a double bodyweight trap bar deadlift? See if you can work yourself up to 2.5x bodyweight. That’s an impressive feat of strength for sure. If you do hit it, make sure to tag me in the video on social media @chasingstr3ngth. Let’s see those trap bar PRs!
I’m Sold, Where Do I get One?
Interested in picking up a trap bar of your own? I’ve used a lot of different trap bars, but in terms of bang for your buck you can’t go wrong with the Rogue Fitness TB-1 2.0. I’ve attached a link below if you are interested in checking it out!
I benefit in no way from you ordering this bar, but if you do let me know how you like it! Thanks for taking the time to read this, and make sure to share with a friend and spread the good word of the trap bar!