Trap And Hex Bar Shrugs: How To, Benefits,…

Photo of author
Last Updated On

Trap bars aka hex bars can make many exercises slightly different. Find out the effects and benefits of doing trap and hex bar shrugs.

Doing shrugs with a trap/hex bar is a great idea. The main goal is still training your trapezius and grip muscles but there are a few differences with other variations.

Compared to something like dumbbells, the trap/hex bar shrug follows the direction of the trapezius muscle fibers better. This is generally beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress.

Additionally, the trap bar requires less shoulder stabilization muscle engagement than dumbbells which is typically preferred in an isolation exercise like shrugs.

Trap bars are also easier to load heavy compared to the typical dumbbells available and the bar does not bump against your body.

Most people will also find trap/hex bar shrugs more comfortable on their wrists than the barbell version.

The main downsides are that trap and hex bars do require an extra investment and that a double pulley cable machine is generally even better for shrugs.

How to do a trap bar shrug

To do a trap bar shrug you will need a good trap/hex bar and weight plates, preferably bumper plates.

Once you have the equipment, take the following steps to do a trap/hex bar shrug:

  1. Load the trap bar with the desired number of weight plates, stand in the middle of it, and bend forward and through your knees to grab the handles.
  2. Lift the hex bar with a straight back by tilting your upper body back and straightening your legs. Stand up straight, let your shoulders hang down for now, and look straight forward.
  3. Slowly raise your shoulders straight up towards your ears. Keep your arms stretched and the rest of your body in the same position.
  4. Lower your shoulders back into starting position in a controlled motion.

If your forearm grip muscles fatigue too fast to get in a good trapezius workout, you can also do trap bar shrugs with weight lifting straps.

Besides that, keep in mind that the average trap/hex bar weight is slightly heavier than a regular barbell when loading the bar.

Shrugs are a somewhat heavier lift but you don’t want to overdo it either.

Trap bar shrugs muscles worked

Trap and hex bar shrugs mainly work your upper trapezius (upper shoulder) and forearm grip strength muscles. If you use lifting straps, the focus will mainly be on the trapezius muscles.

In resistance training exercises you generally want to move in the same direction as the muscle fibers you are trying to target. For the upper trapezius muscles that means upwards and inwards.

The handles of trap and hex bars are somewhat away from your body. When holding these, your arms are more abducted (out to the sides) during shrugs.

This is generally beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress and thus more effective than using dumbbells.

Next, pressuring your muscles enough is an important resistance training principle. Trap and hex bars can offer more resistance than most dumbbell pairs.

Additionally, trap and hex bars require less shoulder stabilizing muscle engagement because your hands are connected to each other through the bar.

This can make it easier to focus on working your trapezius muscles.

Lastly, the trap bar does not bump against your body. This allows you to go through one smooth range of motion without interruptions.

In short, the trap bar is a good choice for training your traps with shrugs.

One thing to keep in mind is that a double pulley cable machine can offer a better arm position than hex bars for shrugs. If you have that piece of fitness equipment available it may be a better choice.

Trap bar shrug benefits

By now it is likely clear that trap and hex bars can be great for the shrug exercise. A few of the main benefits of using this specialty barbell are:

  1. More muscle growth: Compared to dumbbell shrugs, trap and hex bar shrugs put your arms in a position that is slightly more effective for growing and strengthening the trapezius muscles.
  2. Wrist comfort: Compared to barbell shrugs, most people will find the neutral (horizontal to each other) grips of trap and hex bars more comfortable on their wrists.
  3. Less stabilization required: Because the handles are connected trap and hex bar shrugs work your shoulder stabilization muscles to a lesser extent. For isolation exercises like shrugs, this is typically considered a benefit.
  4. High weight capacity: Trap and hex bars have relatively high weight capacities that are definitely bigger than the typical dumbbell pairs. This can be a valuable benefit for stronger lifters.
  5. Less bumping around: In dumbbell shrugs, the weights can bump around and against your body. With the steel frame of trap and hex bars you don’t have this issue.

Shrugs are a movement where this type of fitness equipment positively stands out.

You can also consider one of the many other trap and hex bar exercises that offer a variety of benefits too.

Potential risks

Trap and hex bar shrugs can be great but like any resistance training exercise, there is some form of injury risk too.

Some people will find weighted shrugs uncomfortable on their shoulders and wrists.

If you have any issues in these areas you want to be careful when doing trap and hex bar shrugs. It can also be a good idea to start with light weights and keep an eye out for signs of overtraining.

Trap bar shrug alternatives

You can get nice results from trap and hex bar shrugs but at the same time, this exercise variation is not completely unique.

There are trap and hex bar shrug alternatives that can improve similar areas of your fitness. A few of these include:

  • Shrugs with other equipment for example cables
  • (Trap bar) farmer’s walk
  • (Trap bar) deadlifts
  • (Trap bar) rack pulls
  • (Trap bar) overhead carry
  • Upright rows

Why you are interested in trap and hex bar shrugs and why you don’t find these ideal will play a role in what alternatives are the best for you.

Are trap and hex bar shrugs good?

Trap and hex bar shrugs are very good for growing and strengthening the upper trapezius and forearm grip muscles.

The trap and hex bars help you do the exercise in the direction of the trapezius muscle fibers, can hold a lot of weight, offer neutral grips, and require a relatively small amount of shoulder muscle stabilization.

While shrugs are not the most interesting, trap and hex bars allow you to add at least some form of variation. You could enjoy this enough to find sticking to your exercise plan easier.

One potential downside is that you do have to invest extra in trap and hex bars. Additionally, a double cable pulley machine is generally even more effective for shrugs.


Is a trap bar good for shrugs?

A trap bar is very good for shrugs since it aligns the movement with the trapezius muscle fibers, can hold a lot of weight, has neutral grips, and requires less shoulder stabilization than certain popular alternatives.

Photo of author


Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.