Barbell or Hex Bar Deadlifts to increase power?

Hex bar deadlift If you follow and read my blog posts you know that recently I was training for a Track and Event that I just participated in on May 14th. I entered two events. One event was a sprint just for fun and to compete and see what I could do, and the other was an endurance race which was my true focus in all training leading up to the games.

Based on the latest science I knew that I needed to get stronger and increase my power. So I wanted to incorporate that into my strength training as much as possible. One of things I did to achieve that was go back to lifting heavier weights than I used in training least year, so I am taking about weights in the range of 85-90% of my 1 rep max. That would have positive implications on both sprinting and endurance performance based on studies I’ve read, but I’ll save that for future blog post I’m sure.

One exercise specifically I focused on was the deadlift. I chose not to use a straight bar, but used a hexagonal bar some call the Trap Bar. I really needed to regain some of the strength I lost when I started running seriously. So I progressively worked on building up in weight over the winter and early spring using the Trap bar for my deadlifts.   Hex bar deadlift video

Many other lifters choose to use a straight bar. I came across a recent publication where the straight bar and trap bar deadlifts were compared to determine which is better to build strength and power.

The study took twenty men who had been familiar with the deadlift exercise and had used it before. All the men in the study performed a one rep max test using a barbell and the hexagonal bar. They actually were tested this way twice, but in different training sessions. Then three reps of between 65 and 85% of their one rep max during their third session. The results did not show much of a differentiation between the barbell deadlift and hex or trap bar deadlift.

When electromyography was analyzed it showed that the hex bar deadlifts it was determined that the hexagonal bar showed higher peak force, peak power, and peak velocity. The straight bar did show more EMG activity on the biceps femoris, the hamstring muscle than the hex bar displayed. This means that an athlete or exerciser looking to improve speed, power, etc might be better off opting for the trap bar deadlift. While someone who may be a competing powerlifter, etc, might stick with the traditional barbell deadlift.

The hex bar is not a true deadlift, nor is it a true squat as you can read from the study. However from personal experience I like to use both, but now have been primarily using the trap bar. I also like to employ the trap bar with clients as I feel it is an easier movement to master and in my opinion is less technical to perform correctly than the straight bar.

Personally I felt it made me much more powerful and I feel my results bear that out as well.  Even with a bad start in the 100m I still improved my time from 14:50 last year to 14:16 this year. I  feel it helped as me as well to stay stronger and more efficient, while improving endurance in my 3000 meter race as well, helping me to improve from 12:33:15 to 12:01:82.

If you do opt for the trap bar I would suggest still using exercises like Romanian Deadlifts, Good Mornings, Glute/Ham raises, etc to develop and target the hamstrings more directly. It is important to maintain a good healthy balance of exercises.

Now get out there and make something great happen!