Hex Bar / Trap Bar – A Complete Guide [2022]

Rather confusingly, known by two names:

  • Hex Bar
  • Trap Bar

The erm, hex/trap bar is a controversial bit of kit.

Pros of the Hex Bar

  • Easier to learn key exercises like the deadlift
  • Better for beginners
  • Less compression on the discs in the lower back/spine
  • Hex bar deadlift often resembles more of a squat with less lower back recruitment
  • Beginners can progress quicker
  • Beginners can lift more weight which motivates them (good for PTs etc)
  • The neutral grip is easier for most & puts less stress on the wrists
  • Hex bar deadlifts are better for those with lower back pain
  • Greater peak power & velocity (see 2011 study here)
  • No banging your shins on the bar
  • May develop quads more effectively than barbell deadlifts

Cons of the Hex Bar

  • Shorter range of motion
  • Less bicep and back muscles activation/used
  • Less core engagement
  • Less functional – you normally pick up objects etc in front of you
  • Less posterior chain engagement – less development of glutes, hamstrings and back
  • Limited back angle – harder to train with a more horizontal back angle
  • Difficult to reproduce the exact same technique on different training days*

*more info in the video below:

How much do trap bars weigh?

Unlike Olympic barbells, trap bars vary in weight according to the manufacturer. Trap bars weigh between20kg and 30kg (44lbs – 66lbs.

How much does a hex bar weigh kg?

Trap bars generally weigh between 20kg and 30kg.

Hex Bar Exercises

Hex bars are pretty versatile. Below are some of the more popular exercises that you can perform with a hex/trap bar.

Exercise at your own risk

Hex Bar Deadlift

Hex Bar Deadlift Form

  • Stand directly in the centre of the hex bar/trap bar (or whatever you want to call it!)
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Keep your shoulders above your hips and neck & head in a neutral position looking forwards

  • Keep looking forwards/ahead and bend your knees
  • Grip the handles
  • Pre-tense your shoulders, hips and especially your core with a large inhale of air
  • “Take the weight off the bar” by lifting taking “some of the weight off the bar” by extending your legs very slightly whilst maintaining a straight back and looking ahead
  • Keep a neutral spine and lift the bar by extending your legs (keep your arms straight at all times)
  • Extend your legs (don’t lock your knees fully, or at speed) and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement
  • Lower the bar under control by bending your legs and “hinging” at your hips – keep looking ahead

Split Stance Trap Bar Deadlift

Providing some of the uni-lateral loading benefits of single-leg RDLs, the split stance deadlift is popular with athletes.

  • Place one foot in front of the other
  • Load the front foot with your body weight by standing on the ball of your foot with the rear foot:

Trap Bar RDL (Romanian Deadlifts)

  • Similar to a standard deadlift but the knees only bend 10 – 15 degrees
  • Emphasis is put on the downward, eccentric phase
  • Focus is on the hip/hinge pattern of movement

Image Source

Banded Trap Bar Deadlift

Great for ascending strength and power development (or if you just don’t have enough weight plates), trap bar deadlifts with bands are popular with athletes.

  • Wrap the ends of the band around the barbell collars at each end
  • Stand on the band with the middle of your feet/sole of your feet

Trap Bar Overhead Press

The overhead press, is a great exercise for shoulder development and core strength. Using a trap bar to perform the overhead press enables you to perform the exercise with a neutral grip (generally better for your wrists).

Set the trap bar up in a rack, just below shoulder height.

Stand underneath the bar

Make sure to grip the bar in the centre – not too far back or too far forwards or the bar will be tricky to balance

Brace your core and lift the bar up and into position to perform presses.

Try and keep your elbows in, rather than flaring them outwards when pressing

Be mindful of the balance of the bar – it can tilt forwards or backwards very easily and fall.

Trap Bar Jumps

A great exercise for building explosive power, trap bar jumps are essentially a deadlift with a jump.

Trap bar jumps, are much easier to learn than other Olympic-style lifts such as cleans and snatches.

Start with a light weight, do sets of two or three, to begin with, focussing on technique.

Do the exercise with speed – you don’t want to be fatigued or tired, as the technique will fail and you’ll be training endurance, not power.

Keep the weight below 50% of your max hex bar deadlift.

Press through your heels, lift the weight up a few inches, and then explode up into a jump.

Trap Bar Shrugs

Stand in the middle of the bar

Grip the handles and ‘deadlift’ the bar up into the starting/ standing position for shrugs

Keep your arms straight and in a controlled movement, move your shoulders upwards as much as possible

Squeeze your traps for a second or two at the top of the movement, then lower it back down by lowering your shoulders

Other Hex Bar FAQS

What’s with the 20 rep trap bar deadlift?

20 reps deadlifts and squats have been used by bodybuilders for years to build muscle and really tax the body (and the CNS) with a compound movement for high reps. 20 rep trap bar deadlifts have become a challenge on Reddit. Great for all-round fitness and strength, be careful in terms of technique and overtraining. If your technique begins to fail, you could well injure your back.

What’s a half hex bar?

Half hex bars are open-ended trap/hex bars. With a half hex bar you can also perform exercises such as lunges.

What muscles do hex bar deadlifts work?

What muscles don’t hex bar deadlifts work!?

The main muscles used when performing a hex bar deadlift include:

  • Traps
  • Lats
  • Spinal erectors
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Quads

Further info



About Drew

MMA, Fitness & Marketing enthusiast from North Wales, UK. A Stoic Hippy with no hair. Not to boast but - 1st Class Degree in Sports Science from Loughborough, MSc in Nutrition from the University of Liverpool. 20 years experience of weight & fitness training.
This entry was posted in Bodybuilding, Fitness, MMA and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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