What’s the best bar for deadlift?
It’s not an easy question and you’ll definitely never find unanimous agreement.
The best deadlift bar has always been a dream for lifters, spawning everything from the Texas deadlift bar to the trap bar. Today we’re discussing the latter and how a hex bar (or not, as you’ll see) can be used for deadlifts and more.
Today, we’re going to be discussing the elements of the trap bar – what it’s for and when to use it – and the best hex bar on the market. Read on if you’re looking to upgrade your own home gym, or just want to understand the trap bar better.
- What Is the Trap Bar?
- What Does a Trap Bar Do?
- Top Trap Bars of 2021
- How to Use the Trap Bar?
- Benefits of Using a Trap Bar?
- How to Do a Trap Bar Workout?
- Final Thoughts
What Is the Trap Bar?
The trap bar, sometimes referred to as the hex bar, is a dedicated barbell for performing deadlifts in a very unique position. The trap bar adjusts the movement significantly and the ‘trap bar deadlift’ (or hex bar deadlift) is so unique that it has its own name.
There are other uses to this barbell that are designed for, which we’ll talk about in more detail later on in this article.
For the meantime, however, the main intention of the trap bar is to take the back stress out of the deadlift to a certain degree. The conventional deadlift as it’s usually performed is a difficult movement to perfect and can stress the lower back in a way you might want to avoid.
The trap bar allows you to train the hamstrings, legs, glutes, and core primarily. Achieving all of this without excessive strain in the lower back is a great benefit if you don’t have the time to train the deadlift with precision. This is especially true when we consider its versatility later on!
What Does a Trap Bar Do?
The trap bar deadlift is the clear and obvious main intention of the trap bar. This movement is synonymous with the piece of equipment and has a strong history in sports, as well as strength and conditioning.
It’s also possible to perform power training with the trap bar since the design makes jumps possible. The research tells us that this kind of power training is effective for building athleticism and is well-regarded among sports and power coaches.
There are some really interesting variations on these movements. A trap bar also provides access to some cool neutral-shoulder shrugs and farmers walks, which are difficult to perform with other forms of barbell, dumbbell, or objects.
For this reason, the hex or trap bar has a lot of uses and can really change the possibilities of your own training.
Top Trap Bars of 2021
1. Rogue TB-2 Trap Bar
The Rogue TB-2 trap bar is an absolute tank of a barbell, weighing in at 60lbs with a variety of additional heavy-duty joints.
The barbell itself is well made and the overall construction is incredibly reliable. This is pretty standard from Rogue and the overall quality is very high – which is a great sign! If you’re going to buy a trap bar you should ensure it will work for the next decade or two.
The price is pretty reasonable for this barbell, especially considering the construction and its relation to other products on the market.
The pair of handles are well-spaced and offer a great variety for your own training. This can reduce the amount of lower back stress, while still offering a deeper setup position. This also allows a really clear and simple way of progressing your trap bar deadlift to the low bars.
It’s also great to see that both sets of handles on this barbell are equipped with high-quality knurling to support grip. There are some inconsistent knurling designs on the market, but Rogue has nailed this one and we’re big fans.
Overall, we think Rogue have once again set a great precedent and standard. This product is a great balance between economy and quality, being relatively strong on both aspects!
2. Synergee Olympic Trap Bar
There’s very little reliable content on this barbell since the images are all pre-modeled and don’t provide a clear and honest representation of the product.
Even in this context, it’s clear that there’s no comparison with the Rogue barbell when it comes to the heavy-duty build. This product seems fine, but the joining isn’t as strong and durable as in the Rogue model.
However, this is a significantly cheaper product so there’s a significant economic benefit. This product foregoes the build quality in order to chop a significant amount off of the price tag, though this is questionable if you’re going to be using the trap bar consistently for years to come.
The production quality and finish are lower quality on this product, which is often exacerbated by the poor shipping choices. The finish is cheap and will scratch/dull through use, so be aware of that before purchasing.
The durability of the function is good – the bar works as a trap bar – but the cosmetic finish is very unreliable. This can be fine if you’re not too bothered, but this makes us think you’d likely be better off buying a second-hand trap bar.
3. HulkFit Olympic Trap Bar (Open or Closed)
The open hex bar is a real mystery to us, since it doesn’t achieve much while making the product far more confusing to use. The imbalance in the product is one of our biggest gripes from the start: it’s an odd design choice.
The idea is, perhaps, to free up more space within the hex bar for the knees. The problem is that this defeats the point of the barbell and would be better served by just increasing the size of the inside space.
The regular, closed hexagon trap bar is a much more serviceable product and we’d recommend it over the open design. The hex bar itself weighs 50lbs, with a lighter design than the Rogue bar, and relatively short collars for loading.
There are also some quality assurance issues with occasional rusting and chipping of products, which can really feel like a waste of money. Again, buying a brand new product isn’t much better than second-hand if it’s already scuffed and damaged.
This is paired with the same shipping issues seen with the Synergee bar, which can really pair up to result in a low-quality result. This can be pretty disappointing, even with the economy price tag!
4. Titan Fitness Hex Bar
This is a pretty small trap bar that is visibly and historically lower-quality than the standard set by the Rogue TB-2. There are various areas where it struggles to compare, so it’s more comparable with Synergee or HulkFit models.
Unfortunately, the comparison with these products doesn’t speak to the quality of this product. There are concerns from the very start of some poor quality issues that are harder to see – such as the possibility of rusting you can’t see.
This is the lowest price we’ve seen for a hex bar so far, with a lower weight-rating and a lighter construction at only 44lbs. This is theoretically okay, but the weight rating for 500lbs produces a rather flimsy build and isn’t likely to last well.
You might not think you need 500lbs of rating, but that’s false. A product with a better weight rating is going to handle better and wear slower when using submaximal weights – not to mention that you’re not aware of how strong you are able to get in the years to come.
The hex bar is much easier than the conventional deadlift and it’s totally possible for a normal man to perform a conventional deadlift at 400-500lbs in a few years of training. Among particularly talented/driven female trainees, this is also a very low ceiling.
You want a product you can grow into, as well as use from day one. This product might be accessible, but you should buy for the strength you want – not the strength you have.
If you ever plan on lifting over 400lbs in a trap bar deadlift (very easy with time), this isn’t the product for you.
5. CAP Barbell Olympic Trap Bar
CAP are a pretty well-established brand with decades of experience sitting firmly in the middle of the pack when it comes to economy strength equipment. This is clear from their trap bar which out-competes some others, while still failing to stand out.
There are some occasional construction problems, but these seem to be isolated, from what we can tell. The severity ranges from cosmetic markings to improperly aligned handles – the latter being a serious problem if it happens to you.
Meanwhile, other complaints include rusted joints which, again, is consistent with other products around this price. The economy is great, but it does leave you with a poorly cared-for product.
There are some complaints about aggressive knurling, but this is part and parcel of use. As this bar is not going to rest against skin elsewhere, this can easily be sanded down or just tolerated (unlike on, say, an Olympic barbell).
Be diligent checking your product when it arrives, as these issues should be resolved by the manufacturer. Overall, a product that wears its price-tag too clearly on its quality.
6. Xmark Fitness Deadlift Trap Bar
The issue here is, once again, quality assurance and finish quality. There are serious concerns with the finish and storage of this product, which consistently arrives with heavily rusted joints. While rust is familiar, this barbell is clearly the worst so far.
The welds need to be improved markedly to compete effectively with other products. Economy is a good thing for many of us, but it doesn’t make sense when it’s a clear trade-off for a product looking and moving like new.
The specifications for the product are fine, but the significant risk of getting a bunk product with markings and damage aren’t worthwhile.
7. Valor Fitness OB-HEX Hex Trap Bars with Multiple Grip
The OB-HEX looks a bit like a spaceship, and there are some really cool features that we like about it. This is a good start since the design is both well-made and aesthetically pleasing: the joinery and finish are both high-quality.
The rubber stoppers are an amazing addition – though made necessary by the many edges of this bar. A regular trap bar wouldn’t have this feature, but we love it as a mechanism for keeping the bar scuff-free and easier to load.
The positioning of the weight sleeves is higher than you’d expect from most trap bars and make it far less cumbersome to load/unload. The different grip widths are great – women’s standard, men’s standard, and Axle (fat) grips.
However, this does give up the opportunity to change the height of the pull. This is present in most standard-design models. This is something of an issue since this trap bar is lower than most and feels more like a strongman frame than a regular trap bar.
Also, you’re going to struggle to get more than 500lbs onto the sleeves of this trap bar. It sounds like a lot, but this is not an abnormally large weight, so it’s totally possible that you may need to upgrade a few years down the line.
This is a mixed bag: some great improvements while also compromising some of the more conventional features. Overall, we like this product, but it’s not going to function like a traditional hex/trap bar.
How to Use the Trap Bar?
The point of the trap bar is that it can be used instead of a conventional deadlift, even just as an alternative for lighter days, to reduce lower back stress. This is great if you’re just training for strength and health, but don’t want to dabble in the classic powerlifts (squat/bench/deadlift).
The trap bar allows you to train the hamstrings and glutes, primarily, while shifting some of the movement towards the quads. It also reduces shoulder stress by using handles, and is an easier movement overall when comparing at the same weight.
If you’re already deadlifting, you can use the trap bar as an alternative to allow the lower back to rest. You can totally replace the deadlift with the trap bar deadlift if you aren’t bothered by putting up a big deadlift number.
The trap bar can also be used as an alternative implement for shrugs, again due to the neutral hand position. It’s better positioned for shrugs, too, as the weight sits in-line with the natural movement of the trap muscles.
For every movement using the trap bar, focus on keeping the core tight, big chest, and shoulder blades tucked back and down. The neutral grip position allows you to really retract the lats and keeps the bar in the right position.
Benefits of Using a Trap Bar?
We’ve written a complete guide to using the trap bar, so we’re only going to cover the basics here. For the average gym-goer or athlete, the main uses of the trap bar are simple:
A Less Back-Intense Pull From the Floor
Reducing volume in the lower back is a great way to manage your training. You can train through sore legs or shoulders, but a fatigued lower back can really be a problem for your performance and injury risk.
Keeping it fresh can be tough but the trap bar deadlift may be a good alternative for a deadlift – either as a replacement or a gentler option. This can make programming more suitable.
A More Sport-Specific Movement for Strength and Power Output
If you’re training for something like rugby, there’s value to breaking up your training into hinging and pushing. The Trap bar is a great option for building leg and back strength specific to sports like rugby, sprinting, etc.
If you’re performing trap bar deadlifts, it’s also useful to involve a hinging movement somewhere in training. The combination of trap bar deadlifts and walking single-leg RDLs (lovingly referred to as the death march) work perfectly together.
Great Tool for Getting Your Quads Into the Deadlift!
At a technical level, the trap bar can be a great tool for developing better movement. If you want to build up a better deadlift, the trap bar deadlift is a good learning tool.
The quad-dominance requires you to push the floor with the legs more than a regular deadlift, which can help cue better movement. This carries over to the conventional deadlift – especially the first portion – as well as the movement out of the bottom of a squat.
You need to perform the trap bar deadlift properly to get these benefits, so be sure to pay attention to the details:
Trains Hamstrings at Middle-Lengths
Beating injuries and staying healthy is often just a matter of being stronger in all the positions that you’re going to put your body through.
The hamstrings are one of the most commonly injured areas of the body. This is even more important when you consider how they tie to the knee and hip, two other common areas for injury. Getting the hamstrings strong, flexible, and healthy is a key player in longevity and strength.
The hamstring is a great “middle length” movement. It strengthens the hamstrings somewhere in the middle of their range, without moving to the absolute extremes seen in the RDL or death march, nor the short ranges of a hamstring curl.
If used properly, the trap bar deadlift can be a great choice for this mid-range, as well as strengthening and protecting the joints. Strength in the core, hamstrings, glutes, and quads all add up to better performance and longevity.
How to Do a Trap Bar Workout?
The best way to use the trap bar is in combination with other exercises in your program. We don’t mean supersets, but rather to make sure that the trap bar is only one tool in your toolkit.
The trap bar deadlift’s shift towards the quads means you need to combine it with other hamstring/hip exercises to cover the things you’re missing out from a conventional deadlift.
We’ve mentioned the death march above, but any long-range movement that stretches the hamstrings/hips is a great choice. We love combining it with single-legged or hip-hinging movements (often both at once, in the case of the death march).
For example, a workout that uses trap bar deadlifts could also use a Bulgarian split squat for the quads/hips, as well as a Romanian deadlift for long-range hamstring/glute work. These are examples, with alternatives like the stiff-legged deadlift, rack pull, hip thrust, and countless others.
Equally, when performing shrugs with the trap bar, you’re performing a very vertical trap movement. This is great, but it neglects the lower traps, so you will want to perform trap bar shrugs after a rowing or pull-up movement. We really like fat grip cable rows, dumbbell rows, or pull ups.
So, now you know what a trap bar is for, how/when to use it, and what you’re getting on the market. There is a clear winner for this list – which is refreshing (since it’s very rare). The market is starting to show some interesting innovation but there’s clearly some dumb innovation, as well as some old bad habits from lower-quality products.
Rogue have gained a lot of popularity through their affiliation with CrossFit and their products often sit in the middle of the pack. On this product, however, they stand head and shoulders above most of the competition.
The Rogue TB-2 is clearly the best pick with enormous quality and considered design. The finish is durable and rust-free, the product is well designed with sufficient space and weight-rating, and it embodies everything we want to see in a hex bar.
There’s a balance between economy and quality, with Rogue walking the line perfectly. It might be the most expensive product on our list but the eternal rule here is still true: invest in a better bar and save money on everything else!