Deadlifting with hexagonal plates doesn’t work. The bar will land on the corners of the hex plates on some reps. It will roll out of alignment. This forces you to reset between reps to avoid lower back pain and shin scraping. But resetting turns your 1×5 Deadlifts into harder 5×1.
The proper way to Deadlift is with round plates. Unlike hexagonal plates, round plates can roll away on an uneven floor. But they land predictably on every rep which improves your form. Hex plates are made for plate loaded machines, not to Deadlift or Barbell Row from the floor.
Hexagonal Plates, Back Pain and Shin Scraping
Hexagonal plates have 12 sides. Their correct name should be dodecagonal plates since the Greek hexa numeral prefix means six. But hexa must have sounded better. Hex plates often have smaller diameters than round Olympic Plates. They’re made to put on plate loaded machines like the hammer strength. The benefit of hex plates is that they can’t roll away, especially on uneven floors. But this is also their drawback on Deadlifts.
Deadlifting with hex plates causes bad form. When you lower the bar, one side can land on the flat part of the plates while the other side lands on the corners. The side that lands on the corner will tilt back or forth to balance itself on the flat side of the hexagonal plates. But this moves the bar out of alignment on one side. And it moves the bar away from the middle of your foot where you must pull from for proper Deadlift form.
If the bar lands on the corners on one side and tilts forward, it will end further away from your mid-foot and your body. Pulling from here increases lower back stress and makes the weight harder to Deadlift. Worse, your body has to lean further forward on one side to reach the bar. This creates rotation of your spine. But your lower back can’t handle much rotation. You can tweak your lower back if you Deadlift with the bar misaligned.
If the bar lands on the corners and tilts back, it will end too close to your shins. Your shins will be in the way of the bar. You won’t be able to pull the bar in a vertical line up without hitting your shins. The bar will bruise and scrape your shins until they bleed. It will then move in a C-curve around your shins and knees to reach lockout. This is a longer, harder and less effective bar path than Deadlifting the bar in a vertical line up.
Deadlifting with hex plates causes bad form because you can’t predict how the plates behave. It’s like Deadlifting with round plates on an uneven floor. The bar rolls forward on one rep, backwards on the next rep and you can’t control it. Your setup is inconsistent as a result which causes your Deadlift form to be inconsistent. You will pull with ineffective form if you Deadlift with hex plates, and can hurt your lower back and shins.
Explain the problem with hexagonal plates to your gym manager. Show them your bruised shins from Deadlifting with hex plates. Tell them about your back pain. Inform them hex plates are for machines, not Deadlifts. Ask them for round plates. A pair of 20kg/45lb is all you need, you can use smaller hex plates on the rest of the bar. If they don’t co-operate switch to a real gym with round plates. Or build your home gym like me.
How To Deadlift With Hex Plates
Round plates are best for Deadlifts because the bar lands consistently on each rep. If you have to Deadlift with hex plates, you’ll get most problems with two-three hex plates a side. The bar rolls less around with one plate a side, it’s only two plates. It stops rolling over four plates (more on this below). Between two and three plates a side (100-140kg/225-300lb) the bar moves most around. Best solutions in this case:
- Use a pair of big round plates
- Reset between every rep
The best solution is to put one round plate on each side of the bar. Hex plates are usually smaller than Olympic plates. Put a big plate of 20kg/45lb on each side of the bar so the hex plates can’t touch the floor. This stops the bar from landing on the corners and rolling. Check if your gym has two big plates gathering dust somewhere. Or convince your gym manager to get a pair so you can Deadlift with proper form.
If that doesn’t work, you must reset between reps. Fix the bad bar alignment by setting up for Deadlifts from scratch on every rep. This means you lower the bar, release your grip and stand up. Move your feet so the center of your foot is under the bar again. Then grab it, bend your knees until your shins touch the bar and pull your next rep. It doesn’t matter how the bar lands, you’ll pull with consistently good form if you reset.
Don’t try to readjust the bar between reps. Readjust yourself. If you readjust the bar without getting up, you’ll do it wrong. You can’t see where the bar is over your mid-foot and will pull it too far back or forward. You’ll drop your hips too much. Standup and setup from scratch like you did on your first Deadlift rep. You can judge better if the bar is over your mid-foot when you look down from the top then why you try at the bottom.
Some people will tell you to just add more weight on the bar. It’s true stronger people can Deadlift with hex plates without the bar rolling around. If you have four plates on each side of the bar, the corners will average out. The weight won’t roll after you lower it to the floor because it has plenty of corners to balance itself on. The obvious challenge is that you need to be strong enough to Deadlift 180kg/400lb first…
What doesn’t work is lowering the bar slow and under control. The hex plates will spin and land on the corners regardless. Substituting Deadlifts by Rack Pulls in the lowest position of your Power Rack also doesn’t work. The weight can’t touch the floor. The muscles that lift the weight off the floor at the bottom of your Deadlifts will be weak because you never train that range of motion. You can raise your feet, it’s still not a Deadlift.
Resetting vs Pausing Between reps
Resetting between reps is not the same as pausing. The proper way to Deadlift is to pause about a second at the bottom of each rep. No bouncing because that causes bad Deadlift form, injuries and weakness from the floor. You pause to pull dead weight from a dead stop. But you don’t get up between reps. Your hands stay on the bar while you get tight for your next rep. Only with hex plates do you reset by standing up.
The issue with resetting is that it makes the weight harder to Deadlift. Your 1×5 Deadlifts turn into 5×1 – five singles. Each rep becomes as hard as the first one. They should get easier because lowering the weight stretches your legs. Your muscles contract harder in response, this is the stretch reflex. But the longer you wait between reps, the more stretch reflex you lose. Resetting between reps takes longer than pausing.
The most effective weight to Deadlift is with round plates. The bar lands consistently on each rep which leads to better Deadlift form. You get more stretch reflex because you only have to pause which takes a second. Resetting between reps is better than not Deadlifting at all. But unless you can Deadlift four to five hex plates a side so the bar doesn’t roll, I recommend you get round plates so you increase your Deadlift faster.