How to Use the Hex Bar, Plus Strength-Building Exercises to Try

Learn the average hex bar weight and the benefits of adding this barbell alternative to your routine.

How Much Does a Hex Bar Weigh?
Getty Images.

Ask any lifting newbie to name the most intimidating contraption in the gym, and the hex bar — with its massive proportions and multiple handle options — likely tops the list.

Despite its fear factor, the hex bar is can be a valuable tool for beginners and experienced lifters alike. Ahead, find out the key benefits of using the hex bar at any stage in your fitness journey, the answer to "how much does a hex bar weigh?" and tips on how to incorporate the equipment into your strength-training program.

What Is a Hex Bar?

Also known as a trap bar, a hex bar is a strength-training tool that’s essentially a hexagon-shaped barbell, says Christina Myers, M.S., a certified personal trainer, NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist, and NASM-certified performance enhancement specialist. Instead of standing behind the bar, as you would with a straight bar, you’ll stand in the center of it. And the weight plates will be positioned directly at your sides, rather than slightly in front of your body, she explains. 

Most hex bars have two handle options (one level with the center of the weight plates, another raised slightly above them), though they’ll always require a neutral grip, with your palms facing one another, says Myers. To make the equipment more versatile, some models also have an open back, allowing you to do exercises such as reverse lunges or Bulgarian split squats, she adds. 

Hex Bar
Courtesy of Rep Fitness.

How Much Does a Hex Bar Weigh?

The weight of a straight bar is pretty standardized; a women’s bar is typically 35 pounds, while a men’s is usually 45 pounds with a thicker circumference, the latter of which most gyms stock, says Myers. But it’s a different story for the hex bar. 

“Hex bars can come in all kinds of sizes, and the most common are 45, 65, and 85 pounds,” she says. You can usually estimate a trap bar’s weight by looking at its sheer size, as a 45-pound version is physically much smaller than an 85-pound bar. But if you’ve never seen the equipment before, there’s no simple way to determine the hex bar weight. Instead, you’ll need to ask an employee at your gym or search for the brand’s specs online, says Myers. 

The Benefits of Training with a Hex Bar

While it may be difficult to answer “how much does a hex bar weigh?” there are clear-cut benefits to using the tool in your strength-training routine. Here’s what the piece of lifting equipment has to offer. 

Allows You to Train with Heavier Loads

The trap bar is an ideal tool to heavily load exercises you’d traditionally perform with a dumbbell or kettlebell, such as farmer’s carries, shrugs, and bent-over rows, says Myers. Since the bar will evenly distribute the load around your body, “it’s a really good way to use more weight than you’re able to hold onto with just one hand,” says Myers. In other words, if you don’t have the grip strength to hold two 40-pound kettlebells during a 30-second carry, you'll likely be able to get the job done by using a hex bar loaded with about 35 pounds of weight plates (depending on the weight of your bar).

Thanks to the hexagonal shape, which is large enough for you to stand within it, a trap bar is also useful for loading jump squats, says Myers. ICYDK, plyometric exercises, such as the jump squat, are traditionally bodyweight-only, but performing the moves with additional weight can increase the intensity. That said, you generally shouldn't amp up the load unless you're advanced and injury-free, as Shape previously reported.

Reduces Stress On the Back and Shoulders

When performing, say, deadlifts with a straight bar, you’ll typically use either a pronated (aka overhand) grip or a mixed grip (one hand pronated, one hand supinated), says Myers. With these hand positionings, your latissimus dorsi (a muscle that sits below your shoulder blades and helps extend and rotate the shoulder and arm) are fully activated throughout the movement, she says. (P.S. the lat pulldown will help you build serious back strength. Here's how to do it.)

While recruiting your lats can generally help you deadlift more weight, it could cause discomfort if you’re dealing with or recovering from a shoulder injury. Using a hex bar with a neutral grip, however, can help keep any pain in check, as the variation calls more heavily on the quads and glutes and eases the load on your lats, says Myers. And since the weight itself is positioned directly out at your sides, your body won’t need to fight the forward gravitational pull throughout the movement, which can help reduce stress on the lower back, says Myers.

Makes Deadlifts Beginner-Friendly

A trap bar deadlift is more of a hybrid squat-and-deadlift than it is a normal deadlift,” says Myers. “It's going to use less back muscle and more quad compared to your conventional deadlift.” And this mash-up of exercises can be particularly beneficial for lifting newbies who haven’t quite mastered the hip hinge, says Myers. “It's the simpler way to learn a deadlift because it feels more natural to most people,” she explains. “People who haven't done a lot of lifting with a bar can just bend down and pick it up the way they would pick up groceries off the ground.” Translation: Deadlifting with a hex bar mimics IRL movement patterns, helping make the exercise more accessible and achievable to beginners. 

The Drawbacks of Hex Bars

While a hex bar can be helpful for lifting rookies and folks with shoulder and back concerns, it’s not the most versatile piece of equipment, admits Myers. “If you were going to buy one piece of equipment, this is not the one you buy,” she says. “It’s a specialty piece that you would maybe see in your gym and use maybe once a week because you are definitely limited in what exercises you can do with it.” Many upper-body movements (think: shoulder and bench presses) are out of the cards with hex bars simply due to the injury risk that comes with lifting the chunky barbell above your head, she says. And performing back squats with a hex bar just isn’t practical, as you can’t rest the equipment against your upper back, she adds. 

Using a hex bar may also feel a tad uncomfortable if you’re on the petite side and have shorter arms or narrow shoulders, says Myers. Since your hand placement is largely fixed in one location, you may feel like you have to stretch to reach the grips at your sides, but there generally isn't additional injury risk, she adds.

How to Use a Hex Bar, Plus 4 Exercises to Try

Loading a hex bar is the same as a straight bar; you’ll add weight plates to the two sleeves at your sides, says Myers. But before you get into your workout, you’ll need to decide which handle you’ll be using. 

“If you're going to do a loaded carry or a loaded jump, then choose the higher handle — it's going to be more comfortable to get off the ground,” suggests Myers. “If you’re learning deadlifts, it can be easier to start from the higher handles and learn the top part of the movement, then work your way down to being able to use the lower handles [which increases the range of motion].” You’ll also want to use the lower handles if your goal is to focus on the hip hinge and more heavily target your hamstrings, says Myers. Ultimately, there’s no “right” handle to choose, so use whichever option feels most comfortable for you. 

When you’re ready to kickstart your lifting session, step into the center, grab onto both handles with that signature neutral grip, and try any of the following exercises. If you're planning to use the lower handle during your deadlift, simply "flip" the trap bar over before adding plates so the higher handle is pointing toward the ground. If you’re feeling lost, reach out to a certified trainer or strength coach to score personalized guidance that will help you get the most out of the hex bar. 

Hex Bar Deadlift

A squat-deadlift combo, the trap bar deadlift recruits the quads more than the standard deadlift and activates the upper back more than a back squat, says Myers.

A. Stand in the center of the hex bar with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Hinge at hips and bend knees slightly to lower arms and grasp each handle, palms facing in.

B. Engage core and pull shoulder blades down and back. Keeping chest up, push through feet to return to standing, squeezing glutes at the top.

C. Then, keeping arms straight, send hips back and bend knees to lower the hex bar to the floor. Continue lowering until hips are fully pushed back and the weight plates touch the floor.

D. Push through feet to return to standing.

Hex Bar Farmer's Carry

This upper-body trap bar exercise builds up core stability and grip strength, trains your coordination, and targets your upper back and traps, says Myers. "Start this movement just like the deadlift, [then] once you're standing upright, take controlled steps and focus on walking in a straight line while holding the bar as still as possible," she says.

A. Stand in the center of the hex bar with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Hinge at hips and bend knees slightly to lower arms and grasp each handle, palms facing in.

B. Engage core and pull shoulder blades down and back. Keeping chest up, push through feet to return to standing, squeezing glutes at the top. This is the starting position.

C. Keeping core braced, take small, controlled steps forward, walking in a straight line and moving weights as little as possible.

Hex Bar Loaded Jump

"Loaded jumps train the whole body, but rather than focusing solely on strength building, this option can increase power by improving the rate at which muscles can fire," says Myers. Just know that this move is more advanced, and you'll want to start off with a light weight (or no weight at all) and build up from there.

A. Stand in the center of the hex bar with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Hinge at hips and bend knees slightly to lower arms and grasp each handle, palms facing in.

B. Engage core and pull shoulder blades down and back. Keeping chest up and core braced, quickly push through feet and hop into the air.

C. Land softly with knees slightly bent, then hinge at hips to tap the hex bar to the ground before starting next rep, keeping back flat and shoulders engaged.

Hex Bar Bent-Over Row

"This is one of my favorite row variations, as it allows you to target the upper back as well as the lats while also being gentler on the shoulders, thanks to the neutral grip," says Myers. "The barbell will stop on the floor between each rep, eliminating the use of momentum and swinging that can sometimes stress the low back with bent-over row movements." Since you'll need to maintain a hip hinge throughout the movement, the trap bar exercise also strengthens the core and lower back, she adds.

A. Stand in the center of the hex bar with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Hinge at hips and bend knees slightly to lower arms and grasp each handle, palms facing in. Pull shoulders down and away from ears. This is the starting position, with the hex bar resting on the floor and arms fully extended.

B. Keeping core engaged and back flat, slowly bend elbows to pull the hex bar back toward hips. Keep elbows pulled tight next to body and pause once elbows are aligned with ribcage.

C. Slowly extend elbows to lower the hex bar back to the floor, tapping the weights to the floor and returning to the starting position.

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