Trap Bar vs. Shrug Bar


No matter how you refer to it, a trap bar is the same as a shrug bar. However, two different types of shoulder-shrug tools that can be compared are a trap bar and a barbell. The barbell is commonly used for the shoulder shrug exercise. Both bars provide progressive resistance for your strength-training exercises and can be added to your workout as your fitness level improves.

Bar Shapes

  • The trap bar is named for the muscle it strengthens and its shape. The original trap bar resembled the shape of a trapezoid with points at the top and bottom of the shape. Newer trap bars, however, are often referred to as hex-bars because the bars are welded into a shape resembling a hexagon; the center space is large enough for you to stand in. A barbell, typically used for shoulder shrugs, is a straight piece of metal that is between 5 and 7 feet in length.

Bar Weight

  • The weight of a trap bar varies depending on the manufacturer. The original trap bar weighs 30 pounds, and the traditional hex-bar weighs 45 pounds. An Olympic barbell weighs 45 pounds without any weight plates. Some barbells, such as the standard barbell, are thinner and weigh less, but the common bar you find on a bench press weighs 45 pounds. You increase the weight of any of these bars by sliding weight plates onto the ends.

Shoulder Shrug

  • The shoulder shrug exercise strengthens your upper trapezius muscle, which is located across your upper back and up the back of your neck. Stand when you perform the shrug and hold your arms straight down. The weights give resistance as you raise your shoulders and shrug them toward your ears to contract the trapezius. Slowly return your shoulders to a pulled-down position.

Ease of Use

  • You stand behind or in front of the barbell when doing the shoulder shrug exercise. You hold the barbell across the tops of your legs with your palms facing backward, or you hold the barbell across the backs of your legs with your palms facing forward. The barbell may scrape your legs or the fronts of your hips unless you hold the bar away from you -- but this can cause back discomfort. A shrug, or trap bar, provides a smoother exercise session. You stand inside the hexagon shape of a trap bar and hold onto the handles with your palms facing in. Your legs will not get scraped while you are standing in the center of the bar. The hand position also may be more comfortable than with the barbell.

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