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The Hex Squat Magic: Crafting Stronger and Sculpted Legs!

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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Ever wonder why fitness enthusiasts rave about Hex Squats? If you are even slightly into fitness, you know that squats are an essential exercise. They build strong legs, a sculpted posterior, and an overall powerful physique.

But, traditional squats can sometimes feel like they wreak havoc on your back and joints. The pain in your spine, shoulders, and knees is enough to make you want to drop the squats altogether.

Blond woman does a hex squat
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Thankfully, there’s a solution that comes from the hex bar squat.

Is it possible to perform a squat exercise using a hex bar?

The hex bar squat is one of the best and most effective squat variations that you can use.

If you struggle with traditional squats due to discomfort in your back, shoulders, or knees, the hex bar squat is a great solution. This squat variation mimics the squat movement pattern of traditional squats in a more comfortable and effective way using a hex bar. This way, you can still get that muscle activation without putting excessive strain on your spine.

The hex bar squat explained

The hex bar, also known as a trap bar, is a unique piece of gym equipment that resembles a hexagonal frame with two handles on either side. Unlike a standard barbell, which you typically squat with on your back, the hex bar surrounds you when you step inside it.

Here’s how it works:

  1. To begin, stand in the center of the hexagonal frame, with the bar surrounding you. The handles should be at your sides.
  2. Bend your hips and knees to reach down and grip the handles. Your palms should be facing you, and your back should be straight. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart like a conventional deadlift, as this will help stabilize you.
  3. Keep your back straight and your chest up, and lift the hex bar with your hips and knees. This is similar to the initial motion of a traditional deadlift—however, it places less strain on your hip flexion and knee flexion.
  4. With the hex bar lifted, you’re now in a loaded position. To lower your body bend at the hips and knees, just like in a barbell squat. Keep your chest up and your back straight throughout the movement.
  5. Once you reach the limit of your squat position, push through your heels and extend your hips and knees to stand back up, and return to the starting position.

What sets it apart from a standard barbell squat?

The primary difference lies in the range of motion. In a traditional barbell squat, the barbell rests on your upper back, which means you have a shorter range of motion. Conversely, the hex bar squat has a less limited range of motion (meaning you can use the entire range to get more muscle activation).

When you step inside the hexagonal frame and grip the handles at your sides, your body assumes a more upright position. Consequently, you can squat deeper with less strain on your back and shoulders (there’s a reduced risk for injury).

A woman performs a hex squat
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The equipment itself also sets the hex bar apart. The hexagonal frame design helps maintain better posture during the exercise and also evenly distributes the weight. With a standard barbell squat, the weight is positioned on your upper back, which often leads to a forward lean and increases the risk of injury.

It also has a different impact on your muscles. Both target similar muscle groups, including quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and the lower back. However, due to the larger range of motion and body positioning in the hex bar squat, it can engage these muscles more effectively.

Arguably the most crucial distinction for those grappling with joint issues or discomfort. Traditional barbell squats can sometimes exert substantial stress on your knees and hips, particularly if your form isn’t impeccable. This also sometimes happens with conventional barbell deadlifts. With the hex bar squat and hex bar deadlift, the movement pattern is more forgiving. 

How do you do this workout properly?

To reap the most benefits and avoid any injuries, you need to make sure you do this workout properly.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Your foot placement: should be shoulder-width apart or slightly wider.
  • Grip: the handles with your palms facing you at an overhand grip. This neutral grip orientation helps maintain control of the bar.
  • Core stability and core strength: are going to support you when you lift the hex bar. Think about bracing your core muscles as if you were preparing to take a punch.
  • Lift smoothly: as you lift the hex bar off the ground—remember that it’s not a rapid jerking motion. 
  • Maintain proper posture: throughout the exercise. Avoid rounding your back or letting your shoulders slump forward.
  • The depth: of your squat should be until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly below.
  • Focus on the heel push: as you ascend from the squat position.

What muscles does it work ?

The hex bar squat targets several key muscle groups.

Here are the muscles it works the most:

  • Quadriceps: are your front thigh muscles, and this workout helps with building strength and definition for those muscles.
  • Hamstrings: which are at the back of your thighs, work very hard. This helps build hamstring strength and balance in your leg muscles.
  • The glutes (abductor muscles): work with the hip extension and to maintain an upright posture.
  • Abdominal muscles (core muscles): are active throughout the movement and aid stability.
  • Lower back muscles: are the stabilizer muscles for your spine throughout the exercise.
  • Calves muscles: assist in the upward movement back to the starting position.
  • Trapezius muscles: are used throughout the entire exercise. This helps with your overall upper body strength.

Benefits of the Hex Squat

The hex bar squat offers a plethora of advantages.

Here’s a quick summary of the 5 main benefits:

  • The hex bar squat is gentler on your knees, hips, and back compared to traditional squats.
  • Due to the unique design of the hexagonal frame, this exercise encourages better posture.
  • The increased range of motion and biomechanics of the hex bar squat help with better muscle activation.
  • You can adapt the hex bar squat to various fitness levels with a heavier weight.
  • This exercise mimics movements used in daily activities, which helps with your overall functional strength. It also helps with your grip strength, leg strength and full body strength.
Muscular man does a hex squat
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What variations can you try?

Next, let’s dig into some alternative exercises.

Lifted hex bar squat with boxes

In this compound exercise, you’ll start with the hex bar slightly lifted and resting on a pair of boxes at each side of the bar (where the weights are),. Doing the exercise like this changes the amount of tension you put on your knee flexion.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Begin standing inside the hexagonal frame, same as a normal hex squat.
  2. Grip the handles with your palms facing your body, similar to an overhand grip.
  3. Keep an upright torso position and straight back.
  4. Bend at your hips and knees to lower your body while maintaining proper posture.
  5. Descend until your thighs are parallel to the ground (at a 90-degree angle) or slightly lower.
  6. Push through your heels and extend your hips and knees to stand back up and return to the starting position.

The lifted hex bar squat primarily targets your quadriceps, but it also uses your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

High handles hex bar squat

The hex bar squat with the high handles is another great trap bar exercise that alters the way you perform the squat. Here you use the same stance but with your grip on the upper handles, which places less stress on your leg muscles and joints.

Here’s how to perform the narrow hex bar squat:

  1. Stand inside the hexagonal frame with your feet closer together than in the traditional stance.
  2. Grip the high handles with your palms facing you.
  3. Maintain a straight back and an upright chest.
  4. Bend at your hips and knees to lower your body, just like in the traditional squat.
  5. Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly below.
  6. Push through your heels and extend your hips and knees to stand back up and return to the starting position.

The higher grip hex bar squat primarily targets your quadriceps, but it also places a lot of emphasis on your inner thigh muscles (adductor muscles).

FAQs

What is hex squat good for?

Hex squats benefit your lower body muscles, such as your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Hex squats are gentle on the knees, hips, and back compared to traditional squats, which makes them suitable for overall lower body fitness or those with injuries.

What are hex squats?

Hex squats, also called hex bar squats or trap bar squats, involve using a hexagonal-shaped barbell with handles. Unlike traditional squats, where the barbell rests on your upper back, hex squats require stepping inside the hexagonal frame and gripping the handles.

How much should I hex squat?

The appropriate weight for hex squats depends on your fitness level and objectives. Start with a weight that you can lift with proper form and control. Novice lifters should begin with lighter weights and gradually increase as they become more comfortable. Experienced lifters can handle heavier loads. Prioritize correct form and safety when you determine the weight.

About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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