What is a Hex Bar Deadlift
The hex bar deadlift–or trap bar deadlift–is a deadlift alternative that may be better for athletes and for building more explosive strength and power. This lift uses a hex bar which is in the shape of a hexagon. In this case, you stand inside the bar as it surrounds you. It also has parallel handles on the inside as opposed to using an overhand, or hook grip, like you would with a traditional deadlift.
This is a great compound movement that can help build coordinated strength and power and can be performed more explosively than a traditional deadlift. This has a lot of carryover to sports and improvements in jumping and sprinting.
The hex bar deadlift is becoming a staple of strength testing for athletes. Traditional means of strength testing always used max bench press reps at a specific weight, but hex bar deadlifts are becoming a better indicator of true strength.
Even the army is now turning to hex bar deadlifts as a way to assess soldiers’ strength.
Benefits of the Hex Bar Deadlift
Studies show that you will be able to build greater force, bar speed, and peak power outputs compared to regular deadlifts. It is also easier for a person to learn compared to the traditional deadlift which is great for new lifters. It is a less technical lift and reduces strain on the spine as the weight is more concentrated on the lifter’s center of gravity.
One of the biggest benefits of the hex bar deadlift is the ability to lift heavier weight than with traditional deadlifts. Not only that, but you are also able to lift the weight in a more explosive manner which is ideal for athletes looking to generate more speed and power.
An interesting thing with the hex bar deadlifts are studies that show that they recruit more of the muscles through the quadricep, making it a great choice for those who sprint, or need improved jumping power from the legs while still building overall explosive power.
In regards to leg power, the unique shape of the hex bar–and the neutral grip– is what lends itself to developing lower body power better than the conventional deadlift.
Hex Bar Deadlift Muscles Worked
Muscle usage will be similar to a conventional deadlift, but a little more emphasis is directed to certain areas due to the positioning of the body and the grip. The main muscles worked include:
- Vastus lateralis
- Erector spinae
- Lattisimus dorsi
Hex Bar Deadlift vs Conventional Deadlift
The first main difference starts with the bar itself. The conventional deadlift uses the longer, straight Olympic bar, compared to the hexagon-shaped bar. The grip will also be a major difference with the barbell requiring an overhand or mixed grip compared to the neutral grip f the hex bar.
The conventional deadlift is still a superior exercise choice and should be included in any strength and conditioning program. One big area that it differs is in muscle recruitment. Studies from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning show that there is more bicep recruitment from a conventional deadlift compared to the hex bar deadlift. There also might be more overall muscle activation too.
If you’re looking for more overall muscle development, you may want to focus on conventional deadlifts, but the hex bar deadlift is the ideal choice to increase power output, bar speed, and force as mentioned earlier.
The conventional deadlift will also target your posterior chain more effectively, specifically the hamstring muscles.
Hex Bar Deadlift Alternative
An easy alternative to the hex bar deadlift is to do the dumbbell deadlift. You won’t be able to lift as much weight, but you can easily copy the body and grip positioning. You will start with the dumbbells on the ground sitting parallel to your body. The starting position will be in a lower squat with the spine neutral and head up and forward.
You will be gripping the dumbbells with a parallel grip making sure to keep them close to the body. Next, exhale as you drive yourself upward making sure to keep the back straight and the core tight. Push through your feet which should be shoulder-length apart until you reach the upper position. As you get to the top of the movement, keep your glutes tight and drive your hips forward. Lower back down under control making sure the dumbbells aren’t swaying away from your body.
It’s important to keep the spine as straight as possible as the dumbbell grips will be closer to the ground than the hex bar grip. Depending on the length of your arms, you may want to stop before the weights touch the ground. This is also the reason you don’t want to lift an excessive amount of weight as it could leave you prone to injury. Engaging the core is key to keeping coordinated and limiting the risk of injury.
Hex Bar Deadlift Workout
During a hex bar deadlift workout, you want to start with a warmup set or two using just the bar. This is to get the muscles properly engaged for the heavier loads. It may help to perform one set with half the weight you normally lift as this will give you an indicator for how your strength is on that day.
It helps to figure out your one-rep max for the hex bar, as you can structure your workouts properly from there. Here is a good progression to follow for a straight forward hex bar deadlift workout:
- Just the bar x 8 reps for 2 sets
- 30% of your 1RM x 8 reps
- 50% x 8 reps
- 60% x 8 reps
You can then do a few working sets using 75% of your one-rep max. This would still be 8 reps for 3-5 sets. Make sure to rest around two minutes between sets as this is a full-body/compound lift that requires proper recovery between each set for maximum strength.
Personal Trainer Tips
Life a traditional deadlift, you will want to perform hex bar deadlifts earlier in your workout when your strength, power, and energy are at their peak. Doing them later in a workout could result in muscle fatigue, sloppy form, and risk of injury.
Warm-up will be key here starting with a light cardio warm-up to increase blood flow to the working muscles. Some dynamic stretching is beneficial, but the warm-up sets using just the bar will be the most advantageous. Your muscles need to become familiar with the movement before moving up to heavier loads.
A good tip is to not forget to warm up and activate the legs and quads. We normally don’t think about this with regular deadlifts as the quads are not engaged as much. But with the hex bar deadlift, they become more active so it’s a good idea to get them activated with some bodyweight squats, or using a stationary bike for warmup.