Hex Bar Shrugs
The trap bar, also known as the hex bar has become a bit more common in gyms over the past few years and for good reason, it is an awesome piece of equipment. This is not a required piece of equipment, but it does allow you to do several compound exercises that are great muscle builders.
Main Advantages of Hex Bar Shrugs
The hex bar shrugs allow you to use a neutral grip which is the best hand position for performing shrugs. Furthermore, your arms are spaced wider apart. While it is true that you use a neutral grip with the dumbbell shrug and you can use a wide grip with barbell shrugs, the hex bar shrugs combine the neutral grip and wide hand spacing that you can’t mimic with anything else. That’s why the hex bar shrug is probably one of the best exercises for for developing the trapezius muscle. So give a try to this exercise. You won’t regret it.
How To Do Trap Bar Shrugs?
- Set the hex bar on the floor and load it with weight plates. Place the same amount of weight on each end of the bar.
- Step into the middle (inside) of the hex bar with parallel handles at your sides. You will grab the bar just like you grab a pair of dumbbells due to the neutral grip handles on the trap bar. In other words, your palms will be facing one another.
- Push your hips back and bend your knees to squat down and grab the handles.
- Push through your heels, extend your knees and hips and stand up. Your arms should be fully extended with the bar resting around your hips or upper thighs. This is the starting position.
- Exhale and elevate your shoulders toward your ears. In other words, keeping a smooth motion, raise the shoulders up to the point where further elevation is impossible.
- Pause for one count at the top, inhale and slowly lower your shoulders. Make sure you lower the weight right down to the lowest point possible. It should feel like it’s “hanging” on the traps at the bottom.
Additional Tips For Hex Bar Shrugs
While doing the hex bar shrugs keep in mind the following tips:
- Avoid tilting your head in any direction, bending your elbows, or jutting your chin forwards.
- Stop rolling your shoulders during shrugs. In other words, raise your shoulders straight up towards your ears (don’t roll them back or forward), keeping your arms straight. Rotating your shoulders backwards at the top of the movement increases the risk of injury to the shoulder and places no further work on the trapezius.
- Always raise your shoulders as high as possible, as if you were trying to touch your trapezius muscles to your ears. The stretch should be at its maximum without causing any cracking noises in your neck (these noises happen when the cervical vertebrae move slightly).
- As you lower the trap bar, allow your shoulders to drop down (to sink) as far as possible – this stretches the trapezius and increases the ROM (range of motion).
- Stabilise by keeping your head up and your chest high, keeping your spine in a neutral position and your hips and knees slightly bent.
Muscles Involved in Hex Bar Shrug
The primary and secondary muscles used during each movement of the hex bar shrug:
- Main muscles: trapezius (upper), levator scapulae
- Secondary muscles: rhomboids, trapezius (middle), deltoid, supraspinatus
- Antagonists: pectoralis minor, trapezius (lower), pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi
Replacement Exercises for the Hex Bar Shrugs – Substitutes
The most common substitution is barbell shrug and dumbbell shrug. You can perform the shrug with a barbell held in an overhand grip across the front of your thighs or behind your butt. The movement pathway is vertical, as with the dumbbell variant.
Performing shrugs using a pair of dumbbells gives you several possibilities. Firstly, just like with the barbell variant you can hold the dumbbells behind your butt, palms facing backwards (palms facing away from your body). This unusual angle forces your traps to work with the bottoms of your scapulae rotated toward each other. Secondly, to ensure you don’t use your legs to help get the weight up, you can perform dumbbell shrugs while seated on a bench or seat. This is something you can’t achieve using barbells.
So, to add variety to your trapezius workout, replace the hex bar shrugs with a different exercise that works the same muscles (trapezius, levator scapulae). Use the barbell, cables, or even a gym machine to perform the shrugging motion without the trap bar.
- Barbell shrug
- Dumbbell shrug
- Smith machine shrug
- Cable shrug
- Retracting shrug
- Behind-the-back barbell shrug (rear shrug)
- Prone incline dumbbell shrug
Closing Thoughts About Hex Bar Shrugs
The hex bar shrugs are a great way to work the traps differently than with a barbell or with dumbbells. The traps need heavy weights to develop any kind of size. The hex bar is therefore designed for working your traps by doing shrugs with heavy weight.
This is close to the same way you shrug a dumbbell, however, you can load this bar up more than you can usually individually grip in each hand with dumbbells. Furthermore, the trap bar is designed to eliminate any contact with the upper thighs in order to provide greater range of muscle contraction and deep tissue development.
And on the very end, one useful tip for women. Overly developed upper traps (trapezius muscles) are not aesthetically pleasing on women. Therefore, women are counseled to avoid exercises such as shrugs, which directly stimulate the upper part of the trapezius. Indirect work provided by shoulder exercises such as lateral raises and upright rows are more than enough to tone the upper traps on women.