Most of you have seen hex deadlift bars (also called shrug bars or trap bars) by now.
The movement is much like dumbbell deadlifts with your hands at your sides, also called dumbbell squats.
The primary thing to look out for is the “high” or “low” handles. “Low” handles are handles flush with the height of the rest of the bar. So if the bar is sitting 8″ off the ground, that’s where you’re gripping. This would be the same height you would grip with straight-bar deadlifts.
“High” handles are raised a few inches. This has two effects. First, it means your starting body position is a little higher, so your range of motion is a little smaller as you don’t squat as deep. But the second effect isn’t so obvious until you use it. When the handles are raised it means the bar balances itself as long as you grip it reasonably in the middle. With flush handles, the bar is tougher to balance and can tip forward or back on you if you don’t grip it perfectly in the center.
Many of the hex bars available now come with both high and low handles, so you can simply flip the bar over to use the other ones.
So aside from the handles, the other major issue is weight capacity. It’s mainly about how long the sleeves are and hence how many plates you can fit, depending on your plates’s thickness. The bar itself usually weighs around 40-60 lbs, depending on the model. The strength of the bar isn’t an issue as much as it is with straight bars, because the shape of it creates reinforcement and prevents it from bending much. As long as the welds are good, you shouldn’t ever manage to bend one with normal use.
The Titan hex bar is a popular inexpensive choice for a hex bar with high and low handles.
A good upgrade is the Torque 7ft hex bar, which has longer 16″ sleeves. It’s long enough to fit inside a power rack, such as if you’re doing shrugs or rack pulls on the safety bars.
For other specialty bars, see Gopher Performance’s article on the top 5 types of bars, which includes hex deadlift bars.