There's so many gadgets and accessories in the weight room, you probably won't ever get a chance to use them all. Some, though, like the trap bar, offer specific benefits that make it worth reaching outside your comfort zone and giving them a try. Even if you aren't a hard-core weightlifter, the variety of exercises you can use the trap bar for make it a useful addition to the equipment you typically use.
What is a Trap Bar?
A trap bar is similar to a barbell but with a design twist: rather than being a simple, straight bar, the trap bar has a diamond or hexagonal opening in the center. It allows you to stand right in the middle of the plates that are loaded on either side making for a better balance of the weight.
3 Top Exercises
The top three exercises that trap bars are useful for are ones that you'd typically use a barbell for: shrugs, squats and deadlifts. The shrugs and deadlifts are performed just like the version of the same exercises you'd do with a barbell, only you stand in the middle of the diamond or hexagon opening while you're performing the exercise. The trap bar squat doesn't require that you rest the bar along the back of your shoulders; instead you perform squats with a trap bar on a platform holding the bar just as you would for a deadlift, squatting down and then standing back up again. The difference between the trap bar squat and the deadlift is your posture. With the deadlift, you bend forward at the waist during the descending part of the move while with the squat, you look forward and keep your back straight just as you would during the descending part of a traditional squat.
Benefits of the Trap Bar
If a trap bar is so similar to a basic barbell you might wonder what the benefits are to using it. Because you stand with the weight at your sides, rather than behind it, you'll have less stress on your back from trying to balance against the weight. The bar won't be resting on your shins or any other part of your anatomy, meaning less chance of potential risks during exercises like deadlifts or squats. And because you can perform the exercises with your arms in a natural position at your sides, you'll be able to lift more weight than with a traditional barbell.
Importance of Building Trapezius Strength
Shrugs are the single best exercise you can do to strengthen your trapezoid muscles, an important consideration in view of the fact that the traps are one of the largest muscles in your body. Your trapezius muscles give your neck flexibility, moving it in different ways and directions, but they also assist with shoulder blade and arm movement for lifting, overhead and downward actions. If you have strong traps you can go about your normal day without a second thought to how they're helping you function, but you'll certainly notice the effects of weak traps as those symptoms include neck and shoulder pain and weakness in your arms.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.