Labeling the hex bar (aka trap bar) as just the latest fad would be a fitness fallacy. With its origins tracing back to training’s golden era of Hulkamania and Zubaz pants, the hex bar has been adopted by powerlifters and pro athletes to help set PRs and prevent injuries. Even Hollywood has caught on, incorporating it into their training sessions. Yet, walk into your local gym and, other than an occasional deadlifter, the hex bar may be noticed only when you trip over it reaching for an EZ-curl bar.
Science has explained its advantages, those in the know swear by it, yet still the hex bar doesn’t get the love it deserves from the mainstream muscle masses. It’s been shown to help reduce lumbar pressure during deadlifts. Its hand-positioning grips allow lifters to lift heavier weights more comfortably. It’s versatile enough to be used not only for deadlifts and shrugs but also for pressing movements and rows. And its hexagonal shape all but eliminates the bloody and painful shin scraping every deadlifter has experienced at least once.
Jason Walsh, owner of Los Angeles’ Rise Nation VersaClimber studio and trainer to some of Hollywood’s finest and fittest, considers the hex bar a muscle-building must and employs it with the majority of his client list. For you, he’s designed an efficiently effective hex-bar workout that’ll hit all muscle groups, add strength and size, and help spare your joints any unnecessary strain or discomfort.
“I prefer the trap bar because of the way that it distributes the weight and also because of the neutral grip position, which is easier on the joints,” says Walsh. “And it’s also great for accessory work.”
So why—and how—would you base an entire workout on this underused and underappreciated piece of equipment? For starters, it’s gonna kick your ass. Secondly, all those hex-bar nonbelievers scoping out your unconventional routine will watch it kick your ass.
The hex bar’s creator, Al Gerard, a former powerlifter, designed the contraption in the ’80s after suffering numerous back injuries in competition. He began setting personal records after making the switch. Today, log on to YouTube and watch athletes such as Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker and notorious weightroom warrior James Harrison repping out with close to 700 pounds with hex-bar deadlifts. Even former NFL QB Johnny Manziel, currently trying to resuscitate his career, was recently deadlifting 405 pounds with the trap bar.
Walsh trained actor Bradley Cooper for his 2014 Oscar-nominated performance in American Sniper, which included a scene in which he was hex-bar deadlifting 425 pounds for reps.
“I’ve just started doing lots andlots of work with the hex bar,” says Walsh. “I like the way that one can overload with it. I used it in training with just about every single client I have for any type of movie. And I actually use it a lot with my female clients, too.”
Walsh’s routine consists of three exercises: partial deadlift, split-stance Romanian deadlift, and the floor press, which provide a full body workout. Walsh suggests a rack-ready hex bar, such as the Sorinex Diamond Bar, but if your gym isn’t so lucky, a standard trap bar should get the job done.
“If you learn how to position your body correctly, you’re going to feel a little more at ease with the bar,” Walsh says. “I use the trap bar typically when I start getting heavy weight in a client’s hands and teach them how to pull.”