The deadlift remains one of the best exercises to target the posterior chain of muscles spanning from the shoulder to the foot. This chain of muscles is key for strength, power, and stability of the lower quarter joints. We commonly see weakness throughout this chain of muscles in our Boulder Physical Therapy practice among patients with lower quarter aches and pains including back, hip, or knee pain. Athletes and patients have many options to target this muscles including either a straight bar or hex bar deadlift. Each variation on the deadlift exercise has its’ own strengths and the muscle activation should be considered when selecting between the hex or straight bar.
A recent article in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the impact of a hex or straight bar on deadlift mechanics (Swinton et al. 2011). The authors studied young, experienced power lifters and measured joint angles and forces as they lifted sub maximal weights. The lifters were able to lift slightly heavier loads using the hex bar. The authors noted higher loads at the lumbar spine with the straight bar, but higher loads at the knee with the hex bar deadlift. When they considered all joints involved in the lift the hex bar seemed to distribute the load over more evenly over all the joints possibly protecting any one joint from excessive loading. To learn more about how deadlifting can help your pain or performance contact your local Physical Therapist.