4 Hex Bar Deadlift Benefits
We all know that barbell deadlifts are the King exercise for full body workouts, building posterior chain and increasing functional strength.
But what are the hex bar deadlift benefits over "traditional deadlifts"?
Well, hex bars (or trap bars) are a relatively young innovation that come with a number of inherent advantages over the traditional barbell. When it comes to deadlifting, this can mean lifting more weight, relieving the pressure on your lower back, and adding new exercises to your routine that were otherwise impossible.
If you’re wondering what a hex bar is and why you should use one, you’ve landed in the right place. This post will tell you what a hex bar is; give you 4 reasons to deadlift with a hex bar; and list some circumstances where you might consider using a hex bar over a traditional barbell.
Hex Bar Deadlift Benefits vs Barbells
A summary of the major difference between hex bar and barbell deadlifts can be put like this:
- Hex bars let you stand in line with the weight, instead of behind it;
- Hex bars are easier for beginners, technically and biomechanically;
- Barbells place more strain on your lower back, making it unsafe for individuals with lower back pain or injury; and
- Hex bars let you bend deeper into the movement, activating muscles that make it more similar to a squat than a deadlift at the bottom of the movement.
What is a Hex Bar?
Unlike traditional barbells, hexagonal bars, also called ‘trap bars’ (trapezoidal bars), are a relatively recent innovation to lifting. Originally designed by American powerlifter, Al Gerard, the purpose of the hex bar was to increase lifting weights without putting more stress on existing injuries. The bar is shaped into a six-sided space in the middle, with a sleeve for adding plates on either side, and handles to hold the weight by your sides.
It turns out, Al Gerard was onto something. Hex bars actually make a lot of sense for how the human body is put together. When you do a barbell deadlift, the weight is always slightly out of line with your body. This is what makes it such a great posterior chain workout, but it’s also slightly less efficient when it comes to lifting pure loads from the floor.
Hex bars allow the user to stand directly in line with the weight being lifted.
#1 Lift Heavier Immediately
The first consequence of this is that most people will be able to lift more weight: almost instantly. Seasoned deadlifters and beginners alike will usually find that within a week of hex bar deadlifts, they’ll be able stack on more plates than they can lift with a barbell.
This has to do with some biomechanical advantages of the hex bar. The first was touched on above: hex bars allow you to stand directly in line with the weight being lifted. This allows you to leverage the load more efficiently, recruiting muscle groups from both anterior and posterior chains.
Secondly, hex bars are much more generous on range of movement. The hexagonal space allows you to bend deeper at the knees without hitting your kneecaps on the bar. A deeper knee bend will activate your quads and thighs, much like a back squat, which also correlates with lifting heavier loads.
#2 Great for beginners
Most beginners are told about the importance of deadlifts, but that doesn’t mean they get to see these benefits immediately. Lifting heavy with a barbell takes some technique and training, and beginners often have the leg strength to lift heavier, but lack the lower back strength needed to perform a safe deadlift.
Hex bar deadlifts offer a safe way to bypass this obstacle. Most beginners are shocked at how much weight they are able to lift with hex bar deadlifts, and this boost to confidence also serves as a great reward and motivator to keep building strength. The hex bar deadlift is also intuitively simple. Just squat down, grab the handles, and try to lift the load off the floor--no stressing about good form or banging your knees on the barbell.
#3 Change things up
While I mostly recommend hex bar deadlifts as a gateway exercise for beginners (and recovering lifters), there’s one reason I keep telling experienced lifters to add in some hex bar deadlifts, too. While the ceiling on strength capacities is always climbing higher, it’s easy to hit a wall in your routine. Changing things up isn’t just about staying sane; it’s what your body needs to stimulate the growth hormones involved in protein synthesis. Routines are great for building efficiency and raising loads on exercises we are familiar with. However, one of the fastest ways to promote muscle growth is to give your body new stimuli.
If you’re a seasoned barbell deadlifter, going through a four week hex bar deadlifting phase can stimulate new growth in your lower body strength.
Firstly, it will let you lift heavier weights. While this won’t immediately translate to your barbell deadlift, it has its perks. For example, just standing at the top of the deadlift movement with a larger load can encourage your body to lift its game. Adding variety to your workout, without sacrificing on strength, can be challenging--hex bar deadlifts are a great solution to this problem.
Another variation that hex bars allow for is the ‘hex bar jump’. Jumping from a deadlift position is just about impossible with a barbell, and certainly not safe. By keeping the weight in line, and holding the weights down by your side, hex bars allow for a great way to boost your vertical jumping by training your explosivity in the posterior chain. While you can always train weighted jump squats with a barbell, resting the weight on your back is different than pulling it up from the floor, and many people benefit more from hex bar jumps than back squat jumps.
#4 Friendlier on the lower back
As a former professional athlete, I understand that injury is just a part of the game. I also understand the desire to keep lifting when one part of your body is out of commission--the rest of your body feels strong, but maybe you’re struggling with a sore shoulder, torn ligament, knee problems, or recovering from a lower back strain.
This last injury (lower back) is one of the most common, for athletes and non-athletes alike. And let’s face it: barbell deadlifts are pretty unforgiving on the lower back.
One major progression for those recovering from lower back injuries is to keep your lower body strength engaged with hex bar deadlifts. Since the weight is in line with your body, less strain is placed on your posterior chain; releasing your lower from doing the leg work, while still loading up your spine and lower body and giving them a good workout.
While hex bar deadlifts are lighter on the back than barbell deadlifts, they should still be performed with caution. If you’ve suffered from recent trauma to the lower back, always consult your doctor or health professional before getting back into resistance training.
Hex bar deadlifts have a few advantage cases over barbell deadlifts. They’ll let you lift heavier loads, change up your routine, and allow you to keep working your lower body when recovering from lower back issues. It should be said that the benefits of hex bar deadlifts don’t actually substitute the benefits of barbell deadlifts. I would be remiss not to mention that I still recommend barbell deadlifts over hex bar deadlifts in most circumstances. For a closer look at hex bar deadlifts versus barbell deadlifts, see here.
In summary, hex bar deadlifts have a number of useful benefits, but should mostly be used as a supporting or alternate lift to barbell deadlifts.