HomeAdvice & Guides7 Awesome Benefits of the Trap Bar

7 Awesome Benefits of the Trap Bar

The trap bar, or as some call it, the hex bar, is one of my favorite specialty bars for building strength and explosive power while also minimizing injury risk (when compared to a straight bar).

The trap bar is the first specialty bar I ever used at a local YMCA, and it's one that I come back to frequently in my training. You can use it in a number of ways, making it a very versatile piece that has carryover to general athletic performance.

Because of the unique design of the trap bar as compared to a traditional barbell, it has quite a few distinct benefits that I'll discuss in this article.

Let's have a look.

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#1: It's Safer For Your Back

By design, the trap bar is inherently different than a traditional barbell. It differs in two notable ways:

The first is that the weight is actually centered with the body. Because you actually step into the bar, the sleeves are situated directly to the sides. Where a traditional barbell has the weight placed in front of your body, the trap bar is actually much more aligned with your center of gravity. This creates a very balanced position that has a couple of key benefits when it comes to safety:

It puts less shear force on the lumbar spine

Trap Bar Deadlift Garage Gym Lab

With traditional straight bar deadlifts, the axis of rotation is further from the load, which creates increased shearing forces at and around the lumbar spine. The potential for injury in this position is greater, especially when fatigue and/or form breakdown occurs. When utilizing a trap bar to perform deadlifts, the axis of rotation is virtually in-line with the load, which reduces the amount of shearing force. Therefore, it's easier to maintain a neutral position and it's overall a safer position.

It prevents lumbar hyperextension

Rogue TB-2 Garage Gym Lab

I'm sure you've all seen the person performing straight bar deadlifts who dramatically leans back at lockout. Maybe you're that person – I'm not judging. Either way, it's not the safest position to be in. This hyperextension at lockout can be attributed to a few things, including form, poor bracing, weak upper back, etc… It can also be attributed to the fact the weight is in front of the body. It's essentially a counter-balance that makes the hyperextension possible in the first place. With a trap bar deadlift, there is no counterbalance. You naturally rise and extend the hips through to a vertical position… a safer position.

#2: It's Safer for Your Shoulders/Biceps

The second way the trap bar differs from a straight bar is that the handles are perpendicular to the sleeves. This allows for a neutral grip vs the pronated/supinated grip on a traditional barbell, which has a couple of notable benefits when it comes to safety:

Shoulders are externally rotated

trap bar press Garage Gym Lab

If you sit at a computer all day or you otherwise have insufficient shoulder mobility/stability, an internally rotated shoulder may cause discomfort. This is particularly true with pressing movements. For example, a lot of people press with a swiss bar because the neutral/angled handles are more comfortable.

The trap bar accomplishes something very similar. When doing an overhead press with a trap bar, for instance, your shoulders are in a better position, the weight is more centered with the mid-line, and it allows you to press in a straighter line. You can also work shoulder stability much like a bottoms-up kettlebell by using the high handles when pressing.

Biceps tears be damned

mixed grip Garage Gym Lab

When you're deadlifting with a straight bar, you basically have two options: overhand grip (including hook grip and straps) or a mixed grip. The issue with a mixed grip, aside from possibly leading to some imbalances, is that it puts the biceps of the supinated hand in a very susceptible position to tearing. You may have seen some videos of this happening – it's disturbing, to say the least, and it can derail your training while you recover.

With a trap bar, there is no need to use a mixed grip because your hands are in a neutral position. The risk of tearing your biceps is sharply reduced.

#3: You'll Build Serious Power

The Trap bar is extremely effective at building strength and explosive power. In fact, there have been numerous studies stating as much, and even comparing the trap bar deadlift favorably to the straight bar deadlift.

In one study at Robert Gordon University, they documented the performance of male powerlifters performing conventional straight bar deadlifts and trap bar deadlifts at various submaximal %s of their individual predetermined 1RM. Their findings were that there was significantly greater peak force, peak velocity, and peak power values with the trap bar deadlift than with the straight bar deadlift.

In another study by Cal State's Center for Sport Performance, they concluded also that the trap bar deadlift “demonstrated significantly greater peak force, peak power, and peak velocity values than those of the straight bar deadlift.” In other words, they found you could lift more weight, faster, than with a straight barbell.

Trap Bar Test Garage Gym Lab

Finally, in another study by the University of Chichester, they found that a trap bar deadlift facilitated significantly heavier loads than a conventional deadlift. They found that the weight was lifted significantly faster and the load was accelerated for significantly longer. The total work performed was higher than a straight bar and the power output was significantly higher with the trap bar.

#4: You Can Lift Heavier Weight

Heavy Trap Bar Deadlift

If you've ever performed trap bar deadlifts, you probably noticed that you were able to lift more weight compared to conventional barbell deadlifts. This is largely due to the weight placement being to the side instead of out in front as on a conventional barbell.

By being able to lift heavier weight, the trap bar can help develop bigger and stronger muscles. The trap bar can also be used as an overload training tool since it lets you hit big muscle groups hard without taxing the lower back as much as traditional deadlifts.

#5: Your Grip Strength Will Improve

Trap Bar Neutral Hands - Garage Gym Lab

Grip strength is an often underrated aspect of training. The trap bar can be a great grip strength builder in a few ways.

Firstly, you can use it for heavy isometric holds. Simply load the bar heavy and stand with it for a prescribed time/rep scheme. I like 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets at the end of deadlift training.

Secondly, you can perform heavy carries with the trap bar. It helps to have an open end trap bar, but some closed trap bars are large enough to allow for walking. Carries are great for the grip and also great for the core.

Thirdly, there are now several trap bars on the market that offer different handles. The Kabuki Strength Trap Bar, Prime Fitness Trap Bar, and Vulcan Strength Ox Bar are examples of this. By using handles of different diameters and shapes, you can train the grip in a variety of ways.

#6: It's Very Versatile

Trap Bar Versatility - Garage Gym Lab

The trap bar isn't just for deadlifts. It's actually an extremely versatile piece of equipment that can add a ton of variety to your training.

Some of this will depend on which trap bar you're using, but for the most part, you can get a good amount of variety out of all them. For instance, an open-ended trap bar like the Kabuki Trap Bar HD opens up a lot more optionality. Similarly, some trap bars are rackable, some have bigger spaces, some have two sets of handles, etc… All of this will play into what you can perform. That said, here is a list of movements you can do with a trap bar (I added an asterisk to those that are exclusive to an open-end design):

  • Deadlifts
  • Seated Deadlifts *
  • Single Leg Deadlifts
  • Jump deadlifts
  • Split Squats
  • Cambered Squats *
  • Zercher Squats *
  • Zercher carries *
  • Zercher lunges *
  • Normal/Walking Lunges
  • Farmers Walks
  • Step Ups
  • Overhead Press
  • Shoulder Shrugs
  • Heavy Isometric Holds
  • Back Rows
  • Floor Presses
  • Push Presses

There are certainly other creative and unconventional ways to use the trap bar, but as you can see, it has a lot of utility.

#7: It's Easy to Learn/Great for Beginners

When I first started getting into powerlifting and barbell lifting in general, the trap bar is where I started. I didn't really know what the hell I was doing at the time since I had been so pre-occupied with stupid bro-split workouts. Thankfully, the trap bar is very easy to use. It's a very intuitive piece of equipment. You don't need a great understanding of biomechanics to use a trap bar. You stand in it and you pick it up. It just makes sense… largely because of the design.

trap bar beginner Garage Gym Lab

What the trap bar helped me with tremendously was grooving the hip hinge pattern. Obviously, this is a key aspect of deadlifting, along with maintaining a healthy back in general. Once I was able to master the hip hinge, my confidence skyrocketed and I felt much more comfortable. Another confidence booster with the trap bar was that I felt really safe. Straight bar deadlifts can be very intimidating to a newbie. I know I was intimidated. The safety of the trap bar helped me remove those mental barriers.

Not only did it help my confidence/hip hinge, but the trap bar also allowed me to build a lot of strength that I was able to leverage when transitioning to the straight bar. Going into straight bar deadlifts with a stronger back and stronger legs made it a much more seamless transition.

I'm sure I could have learned just by using a straight bar, but the trap bar did make it easier… it's a fantastic bar for beginners.

Where to Buy

Kabuki Strength Trap Bar

Trap Bars have soared in popularity over the past few years. With this increase in demand has come a lot of innovation and more options for consumers. Nowadays, trap bars offer many features including open designs, adjustable handles, interchangeable handles, built-in deadlift jacks, etc…

They can range in price from $150 to over $1,000, so there's a trap bar out there for virtually everyone.

I like options. Options are good.

The downside to all of these options is that it can be overwhelming to pick the right one for you.

I have good news – I've made that a lot easier.

Check out my 10 Best Trap Bars article for an in-depth look at the best trap bars currently on the market. In addition to that, take the Garage Gym Lab barbell survey. It only takes about 30 seconds and it will narrow down the best trap bars based on YOUR needs. No emails, no funny business, just helpful information right inside your browser.

Still have questions? Drop a comment below and I'll help you pick one.

Trap Bar Benefits – Conclusion

If you're looking for a specialty bar that will get you strong, keep you safe(r), and add a ton of variety to your training, the trap bar is a great choice.

It was the first specialty bar I've ever used, and I continue to use it regularly.

If you have any questions on trap bars in general, please leave a comment below. Likewise, if you want to chime in with your own thoughts, please do so!

As always, I appreciate any feedback.

The bar is loaded,

Adam

Adam
Adam
Adam is the founder of Garage Gym Lab. He serves as the chief content creator with over two decades of training experience. When he's not testing equipment and writing about all things fitness, Adam loves spending time with his wife and two children.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I enjoyed reading your article on the trap bar. I have lower back issues, but love to deadlift. All my plates have 1 inch diameter holes and I didn’t want to invest a ton of money in olympic plates and a store – bought trap bar, so I built my own. It serves me well even though it isn’t pretty. I made it from 2X6 framing lumber and plumbing pipes and flanges. I’m trying to lift conservatively to avoid injury, but my home made trap bar has survived a load of over 400 lbs.

  2. thanks for the article. I’ve enjoyed lifting for a lot of years but never gave any attention to dead lifts & very little to squats. now that i’m nearing 70 i figured it’s about time i put effort into both. bought a strong man cage {rectangular trap bar} @ New York Barbell & have been putting in the sweat equity. It’s a great workout & the strength gains are coming along nicely. it benefits some of the machine leg work @ the gym, like the leg press & hack squat. glad i came across this, better late than never.

  3. Yo Adam, DVO from the forums. Just found this article, solid points in favor of the trap bar!

    I’m one of the owners of the Biotest Dead-Squat Bar and I’m totally satisfied with the build quality and especially the weight capacity it holds!!!

    The Intek looks awesome and if there’s perhaps one thing left to be desired on the Biotest it would be to have the extra handles included on it for variety purposes.

    I’m gonna be dedicating a station just for the trap bar and might try and get some Fat Gripz to try out on it at some point.

    • Hey Tony/DVO – thanks for reading, my friend. I would LOVE to get my hands on a Dead-Squat bar one day. Good idea on using the fat grips too – I’m going to try that myself.

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