Muscles Worked in a Hex Bar Squat

Studio shot of a woman's legs

Hex bars may look unwieldy: These modified barbells feature open hexagonal centers, in which you stand in the middle, with handles on either side, but they allow you to do exercises you may not be able to otherwise. Hex bars let those with back problems perform squats without putting strain on the back and shoulders. Because hex bar squats use the same motion as standard barbell squats, they work the same muscle groups.

Hex Bar Benefits

Unlike standard barbell squats, hex bars place the distribution of weight at hip-level. This lessens the stress on your back, reduces spinal compression, helps you maintain a straight back throughout the exercise and may reduce the risk of injury. Hex bar squats cater to those with back and joint issues, notes certified personal trainer Peter Jackson in a 2012 article for "South Florida Gay News." Even for those without these issues, the hex bar may allow lifters to use more weight due to its focus on stability and balance, as pointed out by strength coach Paul Gagne in a 2004 issue of "Bigger, Faster, Stronger."

Lower Body Muscles

Squats have a well-earned reputation as a lower-body building exercise, and hex bar squats are no exception. While virtually any type of squat focuses on the thighs, Olympic weightlifting coach Charles Poliquin says on his official website that the hex bar puts an even greater emphasis on the quadriceps. Hex bar squats also engage the gluteus maximus and minimus, adductor magnus thigh muscles and soleus calf muscles as synergists, or muscles that help other muscles complete a movement. The hamstrings and calves serve as stabilizers, or muscles that help your body maintain a certain posture.

Core Muscles

As proper squatting form requires you to keep your core muscles engaged throughout the movement, hex bar squats work these muscle groups. Core muscles involved include the rectus abdominis – commonly known as the “abs,” this muscle group forms the coveted “six pack” – and the transverse abdominis, the “deep abs” that lie under the rectus abdominis.

Other Muscles

Squats work the erector spinae, the back muscles that run from the top of the neck to the tailbone, as a stabilizer. Likewise, standard squats and hex bar squats engage the obliques, the torso muscles that stretch from your upper rips to your pelvis. The hex bar overhead squat, an Olympic-style exercise for experienced lifters, especially encourages hip flexibility.