The deadlift is the ultimate movement for muscle growth and testing sheer, raw power. One of the most compound exercises that a person can do, which involves your entire body to pick that bar up. The deadlift provides one the best training stimuli to the lower back and legs as well, but can also boost overall muscle growth throughout the body. Recently there have been a few variations to the traditional deadlift, the main focus being the hexagonal (or trap bar) deadlift.


The traditional deadlift is done with a straight Olympic bar with plates on each side. This variation is done with a bar that is hexagonal (six-sided) where you stand, and lift from the centre, rather than behind the bar as it is with the Olympic bar. The big question, however, is whether or not it is better. While it does provide many advantages over the traditional deadlift, it would be amiss to say that it is better.

The traditional deadlift activates many areas of the lower body in order to complete the movement, such as the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. This is why it has been recognised as the king of mass building exercises because of the range of muscle groups it taps into. The hexagonal deadlift, however, removes the stress from the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes, and emphasises the quadriceps muscles, as it shifts the weight on the bar to the centre of the body, rather than the front, but it does put more strain on the knee joint.

The muscular force used to generate lift on the hexagonal deadlift is greater which would theoretically lead to greater muscle as well as strength gains, but each deadlift style puts greater pressure on different parts of the body. As the hexagonal deadlift puts more pressure on the knee, it is wise to make sure that your knees are fully warmed up before performing this movement, it is recommended to look at strapping on some knee wraps as well. Furthermore, look at adding some fatty acids and joint formulas to keep them healthy, avoiding serious injury, which can be viewed in the Joint Health section.


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Due to the differences in body mechanics between the two styles, the straight barbell deadlift impacts the lower spine quite severely. The straight barbell deadlift produces greater strain on the spine, particularly lower back, as well as producing greater lumbar disk compression. The hexagonal deadlift places far lower amounts of stress on the lower back which could make it a safer option to avoid spinal injury, but remember that it transfers that pressure onto the knees rather, so while it may lower the risk for spinal issues, it may increase the risk for knee degradation and injury.

The hexagonal deadlift also offers a different emphasis on muscle groups, as it emphasises the quadriceps muscles more – particularly the vastus lateralis, which is the largest portion of the quadriceps muscles. For a better explanation, it is the furthest outward portion of the quadriceps muscles and is responsible for the ‘sweep’ look in your legs. Both training styles offer advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to know which muscle group you wish to target, as the straight barbell deadlift will provide a training effect than the hexagonal deadlift.

Furthermore, the hexagonal deadlift requires you to generate considerably more muscular strength and power to lift the bar up, which in turn will mean heavier lifts as it provides you mechanical advantage of being able to generate more muscular power. Some studies have shown that lifters were able to lift 20 kg’s more than what they could off the straight bar deadlift, with an eleven percent increase in strength output.

Simply put; more power equals heavier lift equals more muscular stimulation equals greater gains.


The straight bar deadlift, or traditional deadlift, has been a staple in the training routines of many strength and bodybuilding athletes because it is one of the most powerful movements for strength and size, but certain variations of the exercise can be beneficial. While one cannot say that one is better than the other, there are many pros and cons to both, the hexagonal does reduce the risk of lower back injury and focus on specific regions of the body, the straight bar deadlift doesn’t run a high risk of knee injury.

It is, therefore, important to recognise the importance of each in your training days, where the hexagonal deadlift is very useful to activate better quad movement, while the straight bar would be safer if you are worried about your knees packing up. One thing is still clear, though; deadlifts should never be forgotten, no matter their form, they are still the king of exercises.

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