Deadlifts with Olympic Hex Bar

September 21st, 2010 | Posted in General

We interrupt this art blog for a little fitness discussion…

Today was “Back Day” at Renegade Fitness, the local gym where I have been working out for several years now. About 10 minutes into the workout, a delivery guy drops by with the gym’s newest piece of equipment… an Olympic hex bar. Good timing, since dead lifts were the next lift for the workout.

A hex bar is so called because it’s shaped in a hexagonal form making it easy to step in and out of the bar and centering the weight on each side, ideal for shrugs and dead lifts. Doing dead lifts with a regular bar really places a lot of stress on your lower back, because no matter how strict your form is the weight is still slightly in front of you, making your center of balance hard to maintain directly over your feet. The heavier you get, the harder it is to “stay back” and keep your lower back from taking too much of the load. In my case, once I got tired during a heavy set my rear end would raise up slightly before I started pulling with my back, and then the low back and hamstrings would get too involved as the dead lift became a partial stiff legged version. Additionally, the skin on the front of my shins would get scraped raw from the textured bar grips rubbing as I stood up during the lift and I’d start bleeding all over the place.

This was my first time using a hex bar, and it was great. The weight is located directly in line with your torso as opposed to being in front of you. No low back involvement, I was able to stay back and keep the stress on my glutes, quads and lats. In the video above, I did a last set of six reps at 385 lbs. Not a huge amount of weight yet, but I’m still working my way back after shoulder surgery about 18 months ago.

Actually I am about as fully recovered from my rotator cuff repair as I am likely to get. The shoulder will never be 100% again. There is a smaller range of motion and it gets sore after doing pressing and shoulder work, but it’s manageable and I am hoping I can get back to the point where I am doing the kind of weight I was prior to the injury. Right now I am doing about 85% of that weight.

For anyone interested, here are the details of my back day workout. We are doing a descending reps routine, 4 sets of each exercise with 12, 10, 8 and 6 reps respectively as the weight goes up with each set and some core stuff supersetted in:

Back Day

  • Wide Grip Lat Pulldowns– 4 x 12,10,8,6
  • Dead Lifts– 4 x 12,10,8,6
  • Superset: Close Grip V-Bar Pulldowns– 4 x 12,10,8,6 / Medicine Ball Slams 4 x 12
  • Superset: One Arm Dumbbell Rows– 4 x 12,10,8,6 / Side Raises 4 x 20
  • Superset: Wide Grip Bar Rows- 4 x 12,10,8,6 / Hanging Knee Ups 4 x 20 / Back Extensions 4 x 20
  • Shrugs– 4 x 12,10,8,6


  1. Mark Hill says:

    I love the hex bar, too. My gym (the YMCA, where I’ve been working out for over 20 years), got one earlier this summer and it was an instant hit with me and my lifting buddies. It is much easier to stay back and maintain good form throughout the lift. –Great for shrugs as well!

  2. Cade says:

    You see these a lot at high school and college gyms for football players as the motion is all quads and hips as opposed to deadlifts working lower back and hams. The hex bar is basicly a squat as your pulling up and in the deadlift your pulling up and back. A hex bar won’t work the lower back as much if that is what your going for.

    If you think about it, hex would be better for younger lifters as it will teach them to be knee benders rather than waist benders.

    • Tom says:

      In a straight deadlift, you don’t want your low back or hamstrings involved. Coming up from the floor you should stand up in one motion, keeping your butt down and lifting with your legs first keeping your upper body as upright and stable as possible, then when you clear your knees with the bar you pull back with your lats and mid back as you complete your stand. You lean back at the top of the motion thrusting your hips forward. The minute you let your butt raise up first so you are bent over you turn it into a stiff legged or romanian deadlift. That is more hamstrings and low back.

  3. Don Stahl says:

    I read this with interest, and will look for the hex bar. I was recovering from surgery to my shoulder when you posted your one-year update. The related sketch was great, and was on my bulletin board for months. I’m proceeding carefully into a full workout schedule, hoping to get back to my former condition. Did some light dead-lifts yesterday and am feeling it today. I’m going to work that back workout into the mix. Thanks for posting it.

  4. Curtis says:

    good form. pretty soon your quads won’t fit under your drafting table.


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