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9 Trap Bar Exercises For Mass & Strength

If you want to get stronger and build muscle, strength training is a must. Strength training overloads your muscles, and they respond by getting bigger and more powerful. There are lots of different ways to overload your muscles, including resistance training machines, resistance bands, bodyweight exercises, and freeweights.

Of all these methods, freeweights are one of the best choices. That’s because lifting free weights closely replicates many of the movements of everyday life, making exercises more “functional” than most machine exercises. Also, free weights are relatively cheap and don’t take up much space, so they’re ideal for home use too.

Free weights include things like kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbells. But, did you know there is more than one type of barbell?

As well as the standard straight bar, there are yoke-shaped bars for squats, cambered EZ bars, which are ideal for arms training, and thick bars that you can use to strengthen your grip. While you don’t HAVE to use these specialist bars to get a great workout, they can provide a convenient way to add variety to your workouts and prevent training boredom.

In this article, we’re going to look at another type of barbell – trap bars. As well as explaining what trap bars are, we’re also going to reveal the nine best trap bar exercises.

Trap Bar Exercises

What Is A Trap Bar?

Trap bars, also known as hex bars, shrug bars, or Gerard bars, are hexagonal so that you can stand between the handles. Some have high and low handles so that you can easily adjust your range of motion. Most trap bars are made for Olympic weightlifting plates and can be loaded with anything from light to very heavyweights.

Trap bars were originally invented by American powerlifter Al Gerard as a way to do shrugs to work the upper trapezius muscle. While trap bars are ideal for this exercise, they can be used for so much more! You can use a trap bar to train both your upper and lower body.

9 Best Trap Bar Exercises

Not sure what to do with a trap bar? No problem! Try these nine tried and tested trap bar exercises.

Trap Bar Deadlifts

Muscles worked: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae, upper traps, forearms.

Trap bar deadlifts are easier on your lower back than regular barbell deadlifts. Standing between theTrap bar deadlift weights instead of behind puts the load directly in line with your feet, making this a much more spine-friendly exercise.

The position of the weight means that trap bar deadlifts actually feel a lot like squats, which is why some people call them squat lifts.

How to do it:

  1. Stand between the handles with your feet shoulder-to-hip-width apart. Squat down and grab the handles with your hands facing inward. Straighten your arms, drop your hips, lift your chest, and brace your abs.
  2. Without rounding your lower back, drive your feet into the floor and stand up straight. Make sure your hips do not rise faster than the weight.
  3. Pause at the top of the rep and then put the weight back down on the floor.
  4. Reset your core and grip and repeat.

Trap Bar Shrugs

Muscles worked: Upper trapezius, forearms.

The trapezius is the diamond-shaped muscle that covers much of your upper back. This trap bar exercise works your upper traps, which is the part that runs from the base of your skull down to your scapulae or shoulder blades.

How to do it:

  1. Lift the bar as described for exercise #1.
  2. With your arms straight and your core tight, shrug your shoulders up to your ears and then lower them again.
  3. Without rounding your lower back, put the bar down when you are finished.

Trap Bar Farmer’s Walk

Muscles worked: Upper trapezius, forearms, core, legs, heart, and lungs.Farmer’s walks

You can do farmer’s walks with dumbbells, but they’re much more comfortable with a trap bar. Using a trap bar means the weights won’t bump against your legs, leaving you free to focus on walking as far as you can.

How to do it:

  1. Lift the bar as described for exercise #1.
  2. Keeping your core braced and arms straight, walk around your training area until your grip starts to fail.
  3. Set the bar down on the floor, rest, and then repeat.

Trap Bar Floor Press

Muscles worked: Pectoralis major, triceps, deltoids.

The floor press is a useful chest exercise when you don’t have a bench and bar for bench presses, or need a more shoulder-friendly way to train your chest, triceps, and shoulders. The parallel handles put your shoulders in an anatomically-friendly position, making this a very comfortable exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back beneath your trap bar. Grab the handles. You may need to raise the bar on blocks or weight plates to do this. Your upper arms should be resting on the floor.
  2. Extend your arms and press the trap bar up until your elbows are straight and the weight is over your chest.
  3. Bend your arms and lower the bar until your triceps lightly touch the floor.
  4. Press the bar back up and repeat.

Trap Bar Overhead Press

Muscles worked: Deltoids and triceps.

This is a useful alternative to barbell and dumbbell overhead presses. In fact, it’s sort of a hybrid of theseOverhead press two exercises. You will, however, need a squat rack for this trap bar exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Place your trap bar in a squat rack set to about chest-height. Duck under the bar and stand between the handles. Hold them using a neutral (palms in) grip.
  2. Unrack the bar, brace your abs and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  3. Press the trap bar up and overhead to arms’ length.
  4. Lower the weight to shoulder-height and repeat.

Trap Bar Reverse Lunges

Muscles worked: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae, upper traps, forearms.

Reverse lunges are a lot more knee-friendly than regular forward lunges. They’re an excellent exercise for building stronger, more muscular legs and identifying left to right strength imbalances. Lunges are also useful for improving hip mobility.

  1. Lift the bar as described for exercise #1.
  2. Keeping your torso upright, step back and bend both legs, lowering your rear knee down to within an inch of the floor. Keep your torso upright.
  3. Push off your back leg and stand up.
  4. Switch legs and repeat.

Trap Bar Bent Over Rows

Muscles worked: Latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius and rhomboids, posterior deltoids, and biceps.Bent-Over Row

Usually done with a barbell, bent-over rows are a great way to strengthen your upper back and biceps. However, they can be hard on your lower back too. Using a trap bar keeps the weight in line with your feet, making it a whole lot more lower back-friendly than the barbell version.

How to do it:

  1. Lift the bar as described for exercise #1.
  2. Bend your knees slightly, and then lean forward until your upper body is inclined to about 45 degrees. Do not round your lower back.
  3. Bend your arms and pull your hands into your upper ribs.
  4. Extend your arms and repeat.

Trap Bar Squat Jumps

Muscles worked: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae, upper traps, forearms.

While you can do weighted squat jumps with a barbell on your back, doing so puts a lot of stress on your spine. You can also do squat jumps with dumbbells, but invariably the weights will bang painfully against your legs. Using a trap bar avoids all these issues.

How to do it:

  1. Lift the bar as described for exercise #1.
  2. Bend your knees and descend into a half-squat.
  3. Extend your legs explosively and jump into the air.
  4. Land on slightly bent knees, reset your core and grip, and repeat.

Trap Bar Romanian Deadlifts

Muscles worked: Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae, upper traps, forearms.woman-romanian-deadlifting

Romanian deadlifts work your posterior chain, which is the collective term for the muscles on the back of your body. You can do Romanian deadlifts with a standard barbell or dumbbells, but you could also use a trap bar for even more workout variety.

  1. Lift the bar as described for exercise #1.
  2. Bend your knees slightly, and then keep them rigid.
  3. Push your hips back and lean forward, lowering the weight down as far as you can without rounding your lower back.
  4. Push your hips forward, stand back up, and repeat.

Is A Trap Bar Worth It?

Trap bars are useful, but they can also be expensive. While there are quite a few exercises you can do with a trap bar, you can do more with a regular barbell. That said, using a trap bar will add some useful variety to your workouts.

The main advantage of trap bars is that you can do trap bar deadlifts instead of barbell squats. To do barbell squats, you need a squat rack, and you also need to take care when using heavy weights so that you don’t end up pinned under the bar if you are unable to complete a rep.

With trap bar deadlifts, you work the same muscles but don’t need a squat rack. Also, if you get stuck at the bottom of a rep, you can just let go of the bar and escape unscathed.

If you have access to a trap bar, or you don’t mind the expense of buying your own, using a trap bar can add a new dimension to your workouts and may even offer some significant advantages. But, if buying one is beyond your means, or your gym doesn’t have one, there is no need to worry; your workouts will still be just as productive.

Bottom Line

While you don’t need to rush out and buy a trap bar, there are lots of benefits to using one of these hexagonal barbells. While they were originally designed for shrugs, you can use a trap bar to work virtually every muscle in your body – upper AND lower.

One of the best exercises you can do with a trap bar is deadlifts. Standing between the weights means that trap bar deadlifts are much easier on your lower back than regular barbell deadlifts, and they also work your quadriceps more too.

In addition, trap bar deadlifts are the perfect at-home alternative to barbell squats, as you can just put the bar down on the floor if you get stuck midway through a rep, and you don’t need a squat rack either.

It’s not just your legs you can train with a trap bar; there are exercises for your chest, back, and shoulders too. In many cases, using a neutral grip, where your hands face one another, takes stress off your shoulders and elbows, making your workouts more comfortable.

While you don’t HAVE to use a trap bar to get a good strength training workout, this useful training tool could add some variety to your training. And you can definitely use it for a whole lot more than shrugs!

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Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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