By Lori Brand
Anyone who is into lifting weights knows that the deadlift is an absolute must when it comes to improving physical fitness. One of the “big three” lifts (the others being the bench press and squat), the deadlift is often referred to as “the king of lifts,” due to its ability to elicit increases in muscle, power, strength, and conditioning. This full-body, multi-joint exercise not only engages the entire posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, erectors, lats, and traps), but also the quads and abdominals. Heck, it even hits muscles in the forearms and hands!
However, conventional barbell deadlifts can be pretty intimidating to many people, mostly because of the complexity of the movement, as well as the shear force it exerts on the lumbar spine. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the body benefits, not to mention the badass feeling, of this functional movement.
If you shy away from barbell deadlifts, or you’re dealing with an injury that prevents you from doing them, the hex bar deadlift is an amazing alternative that boasts similar benefits. Learn how to do them, and you can be performing perfect deadlifts in your workouts, starting today.
Benefits of the Hex Bar Deadlift
Unlike the conventional deadlift, which uses a mixed grip (one overhand, one underhand) or hook grip (overhand grip, including thumbs), the hex bar deadlift is done with a simple, neutral grip (palms facing each other). Think of picking up a grocery bag in each hand by the handles: If you can do that, you can pick up a hex bar. The hex bar’s handles also provide an extra few inches of height, which allows your torso to remain more upright during initiation of the lift, compared to a regular barbell deadlift.
Because of the hex bar’s shape, you stand in the center of the bar, rather than behind it. Not only does this allow greater freedom of movement, you don’t have to worry about bumping and bruising your shins. Furthermore, by standing inside the bar, you don’t have to hinge as far forward to initiate the pull. This produces less stress on the lumbar spine and allows the shoulders to remain more stabilized. It also makes it easier to keep a flat back, which is crucial. In short, the hex bar is a more comfortable, easier to learn, and safer option than the conventional deadlift.
The cherry on top? Hex bar deadlifts have been shown to produce more force, power output, and velocity than conventional deadlifts, making them a better training method for most fitness styles and sports. Ready to step up to the bar? Here’s how to do it properly.
How to Do It:
The Set Up
- Place the hex bar on the floor, handles facing up.
- If desired, load the bar with weight plates. A traditional bar, like the one shown in the picture, is 45 lbs.
- Step into the middle of the frame with your feet about shoulder-distance apart.
- Grip the center of the handles.
- Squat down and remove any slack from your arms and shoulders.
- With a flat back (crucial!), take a deep breath and hold it, bracing your abdomen.
- Drive into your feet and stand up, keeping your back flat the whole time.
- Exhale at the top of the lift.
- Reverse the process and lower the hex bar back down to the floor.
- That’s one rep.
- Between each rep, you will set the bar back down on the floor briefly.
How to Incorporate the Hex Bar Deadlift
Deadlifts are a very taxing lift. Once you are warmed up, they should be done towards the beginning of your training session, while your muscles are fresh. Deadlifts are not a high-volume lift. Most people do 1-3 sets of anywhere from 3-12 reps, depending on the load. Allow at least 48 hours for recovery before hitting them again. They can be incorporated into either back or lower-body workouts.