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COMPARISON OF OLYMPIC AND HEXAGONAL

BARBELLS WITH MIDTHIGH PULL, DEADLIFT, AND


COUNTERMOVEMENT JUMP
KYLIE K. MALYSZEK, ROQUE A. HARMON, DUSTIN D. DUNNICK, PABLO B. COSTA,
JARED W. COBURN, AND LEE E. BROWN
Human Performance Laboratory, Center for Sport Performance, Department of Kinesiology, California State University,
Fullerton, CA

ABSTRACT INTRODUCTION

T
Malyszek, KK, Harmon, RA, Dunnick, DD, Costa, PB, he deadlift (DL) is a full-body strength exercise
Coburn, JW, and Brown, LE. Comparison of olympic and that is frequently performed in resistance training
hexagonal barbells with midthigh pull, deadlift, and coun- settings. It is most often used for strength and
termovement jump. J Strength Cond Res 31(1): 140145, power development, as it allows for the use of
2017Those training for strength and power commonly use
heavy loads, which generate large muscular forces (3,10). It
requires the lifter to grasp the barbell in a position similar to
different bars and different lifts. The hexagonal barbell
a squat, then elevate the load in a continuous motion
(HBar) and Olympic barbell (OBar) are frequently used
through extension of the lower back, hip, knee, and ankle
training implements, and the midthigh pull (MTP) and dead-
joints (24). It is crucial that the barbell remain close to the
lift (DL) are 2 popular exercises. Therefore, the purpose of body throughout the lift, ensuring that the load remains
this study was to compare force between an HBar and closer to the lifters center of gravity (19).
OBar for a MTP, DL, and countermovement jump (CMJ). There are many variations of the DL exercise. One
Twenty resistance-trained men (age = 24.05 6 2.09 years, such variation is the hexagonal bar (HBar) DL. The HBar
ht = 178.07 6 7.05 cm, mass = 91.42 6 14.44 kg) vol- enables athletes to perform the DL while the load is
unteered to participate and performed MTP and DL using positioned closer to their body, as the lifter is actually
both bars and a CMJ. Joint angles were recorded for all inside the frame of the bar. The HBar also enables the
pulls and the bottom position of the CMJ. Peak ground lifter to keep a more erect posture, reducing strain on the
reaction force (PGRF) was greater in the MTP (3,186.88 6 lumbar spine (12). However, little research has been done
543.53 N) than DL (2,501.15 6 404.04 N) but not different on comparison of the HBar with a conventional DL using
between bars. Midthigh pull joint angles were more extended
an Olympic bar (OBar). To our knowledge, only one
study (19) has examined this comparison and found that
than DL, and the strongest correlations between isometric
the HBar DL produced greater peak force, peak velocity,
and dynamic performance were seen between DL PGRF
peak power, and 1-repetition maximum (1RM) compared
and CMJ impulse (OBar r = 0.85; HBar r = 0.84). These
with the OBar.
findings are likely because of the different anatomical charac- The isometric midthigh pull (MTP) is a static exercise in
teristics between the MTP and DL and the similarity in joint which an athlete generates maximum force against a station-
angles between the DL and CMJ. Therefore, the DL may be an ary bar (1,5,17), whereas peak force and rate of force devel-
optimal choice for athletes in jump-dependent sports, regard- opment (RFD) are easily measured. The isometric MTP has
less of bar. several advantages to gross measures of strength, such as
reduced risk of injury, minimal fatigue, and low technical
KEY WORDS isometric, force, performance errors (5,7). Although isometric peak force has been shown
to correlate well with dynamic performance, this seems to
only be the case in movements with similar joint angles
(1,15,16,23). Therefore, peak force produced during an iso-
metric MTP correlates well with weightlifting movements
Address correspondence to Lee E. Brown, leebrown@fullerton.edu. (1,7,11,14), such as the second pull of the clean, yet correla-
31(1)/140145 tion with an isometric DL is unknown.
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research The HBar is commonly used in many strength and
2016 National Strength and Conditioning Association conditioning settings. However, to properly use it with DL
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Figure 1. Set-up for isometric midthigh pull (MTP) with Olympic bar
(OBar).

Figure 3. Set-up for isometric deadlift (DL) with Olympic bar (OBar).

Figure 2. Set-up for isometric midthigh pull (MTP) with hexagonal bar
(HBar). Figure 4. Set-up for isometric deadlift (DL) with hexagonal bar (HBar).

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Strength Between Barbells

TABLE 1. Isometric force values (mean 6 SD) for peak ground reaction force (PGRF) and rate of force development
(RFD) of midthigh pull (MTP) and deadlift (DL) for Olympic bar (OBar) and hexagonal bar (HBar).

OBar MTP HBar MTP OBar DL

PGRF 3,196.28 6 590.29 N 3,177.48 6 531.34 N 2,461.08 6 397.11 N


RFD 2,435.12 6 1,780.90 N$s21 2,826.38 6 1,887.94 N$s21 1,926.54 6 1,181.35 N$s21

HBar DL MTP (collapsed) DL (collapsed)

PGRF 2,541.21 6 414.84 N 3,186.88 6 543.53 N* 2,501.15 6 404.04 N


RFD 1,744.50 6 851.58 N$s21 2,630.75 6 1,707.19 N$s21* 1,835.52 6 952.81 N$s21

*Significantly greater than DL (collapsed).

training, further research is needed to examine how it A goniometer was used to ensure that the knee angle was
compares with the OBar. Therefore, the purpose of this 135 degrees. Hands were positioned outside the knees,
study was to compare MTP and DL isometric strength using a self-selected grip (Figure 1). The HBar was
between an OBar and an HBar, and their relationship to secured at the same rack height as the OBar with hands
dynamic performance. grasping the low handles with a neutral grip (Figure 2).
For the isometric DL, standard plate height was used for
METHODS position of both bars (Figures 3 and 4) and knee angle was
Experimental Approach to the Problem not controlled. The same grips were used for DL and
This study used a repeated-measures design to compare MTP.
isometric strength between an OBar and HBar and between
an MTP and a DL. Subjects were required to attend 3 days of Day 1. Upon arriving at the laboratory, subjects read and
testing 2448 hours apart and performed both lifts, using both signed an informed consent document. Body mass and height
bars. Subjects also performed a countermovement jump (CMJ) were obtained using an electronic scale (ES200L; Ohaus
to compare isometric strength with dynamic performance. Corporation, Pinebrook, NJ, USA) and stadiometer (Seca,
Subjects Ontario, CA, USA). Before testing, subjects performed
Twenty resistance-trained men (age = 24.05 6 2.09 years, a dynamic warm-up consisting of 10 m of walking knee hugs,
age range = 2027 years, height = 178.07 6 7.05 cm, mass = walking lunges, and Frankenstein walks. They then performed
91.42 6 14.44 kg) with at least 1-year experience performing a CMJ. An EPIC jump device (EPIC Athletic Performance,
the DL volunteered to participate. All participants reported Inc., Colorado Springs, CO, USA) was positioned next to the
previous experience using the hex bar. They were free from force plate. Subjects reach was measured with the dominant
any musculoskeletal injuries. Before data collection, all sub- hand. While standing on the plate, subjects performed 3 CMJ
jects were notified of potential risks and gave written trials, with 1-minute rest between attempts. Although 3 trials
informed consent, approved by the University Institutional were the minimum performed, subjects continued to perform
Review Board. trials until they could no longer successfully hit the vanes of
the device. After the completion of CMJ trials, subjects held
Procedures still in the bottom position of a countermovement, and ankle,
Set-Up. For the OBar MTP, the bar was fixed in a power knee, and hip angles were recorded.
rack at midthigh level and secured with the use of straps. Subjects were then fitted to both bars for both lifts. For the
OBar MTP, a handheld goniometer was used to ensure
a 135-degree knee angle. This bar height was recorded and
maintained for the HBar MTP. Subjects were given lifting
TABLE 2. Countermovement jump values
(mean 6 SD) for jump height, ground reaction straps to secure their hands to the bar. For familiarization,
force (GRF), and impulse. they performed 23 trials with each bar and each lift with
a warm-up of 5 pulls at 50% effort, 3 pulls at 75%, and 1 pull
Jump height 46.67 6 7.69 cm at 90%, with 1-minute rest between sets and 3-minutes rest
GRF 2,390.58 6 341.79 N
Impulse 286.69 6 45.13 N$s21 between conditions until a consistent effort was shown.
They were instructed to pull against the bar as hard and fast
as possible for 5 seconds. Ankle, knee, and hip angles were
recorded for both bars and lifts.
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TABLE 3. Pearson correlations between countermovement jump height, ground reaction force (GRF), impulse and
midthigh pull (MTP), and deadlift (DL) Olympic bar (OBar) and hexagonal bar (HBar) isometric peak ground reaction
force (PGRF).

OBar MTP PGRF HBar MTP PGRF OBar DL PGRF HBar DL PGRF

Jump height 0.57 0.19 0.15 0.18


GRF 0.50* 0.48* 0.77* 0.77*
Impulse 0.60* 0.66* 0.85* 0.84*

*Significant at p # 0.05.

TABLE 4. Comparison of midthigh pull (MTP), deadlift (DL), and countermovement jump (CMJ) joint angles (mean 6
SD) between Olympic bar (OBar) and hexagonal bar (HBar).

MTP DL

CMJ OBar HBar OBar HBar

Ankle (deg) 75.00 6 6.24 82.50 6 3.62* 79.80 6 5.15* 76.15 6 5.42 71.00 6 7.22
Knee (deg) 93.50 6 27.39 135.00 6 0.00* 134.85 6 0.67* 99.85 6 14.14 97.10 6 13.17
Hip (deg) 80.00 6 13.33 129.20 6 12.82* 123.70 6 12.61* 52.70 6 6.75 49.70 6 10.24

*Significantly greater than CMJ.


Significantly less than CMJ.

Day 23. Subjects followed the same warm-up procedures as RESULTS


day 1. They then performed 3 trials each of either an For PGRF and RFD, there were no interactions or main
isometric MTP or DL, using both bars. They were given effects for bar. However, there were main effects for lift, with
1-minute rest between trials and 3 minutes between con- MTP being greater than DL (Table 1).
ditions. On day 3, they followed the same procedures, using Countermovement jump values are shown in Table 2.
whichever lift had not been tested on day 2. Countermovement jump impulse was significantly corre-
For all tests, subjects stood on an Advanced Mechanical lated with RFD of OBar DL (0.52). Isometric PGRF of both
Technologies force plate (AMTI, Watertown, MA, USA) bars and lifts showed significant correlations with CMJ GRF
sampling at 1,000 Hz. All data were collected and analyzed and impulse (Table 3).
with custom LabVIEW (v2013, National Instruments, For MTP ankle angle, OBar was less dorsiflexed than
Austin, TX, USA) software. For the lifts, isometric peak HBar and CMJ and HBar also had less dorsiflexion than
ground reaction force (PGRF) and RFD were measured. For CMJ (Table 4). For MTP knee angle, both OBar and HBar
the CMJ, jump height (estimated from the force plate), GRF, were more extended than CMJ (Table 4). For MTP hip
and impulse were measured. The average of the 3 trials was angle, OBar and HBar were significantly more extended
used for analysis. than CMJ. For DL ankle and knee angles, there were no
Statistical Analyses
differences between OBar, HBar, or CMJ, but CMJ hip angle
A 2 3 2 (lift 3 bar) repeated-measures analysis of variance was more extended than OBar and HBar (Table 4).
(ANOVA) analyzed all isometric force variables. Signifi-
cant main effects were followed up with simple ANOVAs. DISCUSSION
A 2 3 2 3 3 (lift 3 bar 3 joint) repeated-measures The purpose of this study was to compare isometric
ANOVA analyzed joint angle. Significant interactions strength between Olympic and hexagonal barbells for
were followed up with dependent t-tests. Pearson corre- MTPs and DLs and compare these with dynamic
lations analyzed relationships between all CMJ and iso- performance via a countermovement jump. The major
metric force variables. Alpha was set at 0.05 to determine findings were that MTP force was greater than DL for
significance. both bars, MTP joint angles were more extended than

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Strength Between Barbells

DL, and the strongest correlations were seen between DL the feet are positioned further apart and turned outward,
force and CMJ impulse. These may be because of with the hands positioned inside the knees (810,18).
anatomical differences of body position between the Because of the differences in biomechanical positioning,
MTP and DL, the joint angles of the lifts, and the need Escamilla et al. (9,10) found that sumo-style DLs resulted
to maximize explosive force during efforts such as iso- in 2530% less mechanical work. Additionally, Cholewicki
metric pulls and vertical jumping. et al. (6) observed a 10% reduction in L4/L5 moment and
Isometric MTP is a commonly used assessment to 8% reduction in L4/L5 shear force when using the sumo DL
measure strength because of its similarity with the second vs. conventional. As subjects were performing maximum iso-
pull of the clean. A characteristic of this lift is a knee angle of metric actions, differences in forces on the body with the
130140 degrees and an upright trunk, commonly referred conventional stance may have affected their force-
to as the power position as it represents the point, during generating capability.
weightlifting movements, where the highest forces and Despite greater force for the MTP, the strongest correla-
power outputs are achieved (1,14). In comparing weightlift- tions were seen between DL PGRF and CMJ impulse. This
ing and powerlifting exercises, Garhammer (11) reported is contrary to what was expected, as, unlike the DL, both the
average power output in the DL to be one-half to one- CMJ and MTP are often used as measures of explosive
third of that developed during the snatch or clean, attributed performance. Previous research has reported conflicting
to the lower vertical velocities generated throughout the DL. results in the relationship between isometric and dynamic
Additionally, in a review of existing studies of weightlifting performance. McGuigan et al. (17) found very strong corre-
and powerlifting, Garhammer (11) reported that power test- lations between isometric MTP and vertical jump height,
ing has more potential as a tool for predicting performance and with 1RM squat and bench press. Thomas et al. (21)
in weightlifting movements than powerlifting. The current found that isometric MTP performance did not significantly
study examined 2 separate lifts that are classically considered correlate with vertical jump peak velocity or jump height;
weightlifting specific (MTP) and powerlifting specific (DL). yet, it did correlate with peak force and peak power. As in
The DL is commonly used to generate maximum force, the present study, previous research found low correlation
whereas the clean is used to generate maximum power with dynamic measures of performance and RFD (17,21).
(14,19,20). Despite the overlap, it has been repeatedly dem- As mentioned, multiple studies have found that the
onstrated that the development of strength and power are strength of the relationship between dynamic tasks and
distinct qualities (17). Further, previous research has shown isometric performance are dependent on similarity of
that the joint angle of isometric tests significantly impacts joint angles (1,5,15,16). The lack of correlation between
the relationship to dynamic performance (1,15). Therefore, MTP and CMJ could be attributed to the differential bio-
the higher power production during weightlifting move- mechanical characteristics of the 2 movements. The MTP
ments would result in greater outputs during the isometric uses an exclusive isometric muscle action, whereas the
task in a similar position. CMJ uses an eccentric muscle action followed by a very
The force differences between MTP and DL may also be brief isometric and finally concentric muscle action (21).
because of anatomical differences between the positions. Thus, the CMJ uses the stretch-shortening cycle, unlike
The conventional DL at heavy loads is commonly viewed as isometric actions. Additionally, MTP performance relies
the most challenging movement for the lumbar spine solely on maximal force production, whereas CMJ relies
(13,18,19), with liftoff to knee being the most difficult (4). on both maximal force and velocity, a more complex
Examining elite powerlifters, Cholewicki et al. (6) found that relationship resulting in power (21).
loads on the lumbar spine ranged from 14k to 17k Newtons In the present study, MTP ankle, knee, and hip joint
during the DL. In contrast, the position of the MTP is often angles were significantly more extended than DL and CMJ.
referred to as the power position (14). At MTP, greater However, there were minimal differences between DL and
extension angles at the ankle, knee, and hip allow for a more CMJ angles, with the only difference seen at the hip. This
advantageous length-tension relationship of the muscles could explain the stronger correlations between DL and
involved than at the DL position. The shorter a muscle, CMJ variables. Previous research has found the position of
the less tension it is capable of generating (9,10). As the fibers the knee during the first pull to be near the angle where knee
are more optimally overlapped at MTP, greater force is able extensor strength is approaching maximum (22). Addition-
to be developed than at DL. ally, both the first pull of the DL and CMJ require the appli-
Because of the dimensions of the force plate, participants cation of high force in a short period of time (22). During
were required to perform the DL with a conventional stance. a dynamic DL, an explosive concentric action is required to
Although all participants had experience performing the DL move the load from the ground; this high reliance on rapid
with a hexagonal bar, many were powerlifters who used strength production during liftoff is similar to that required
a sumo-style when performing dynamic DLs with an to lift the body from the ground during a CMJ (22).
Olympic bar. This change in stance may have impacted Although rapid strength production is also required for
some lifters force production. During the sumo-style DL, MTP and dynamic weightlifting movements, our subjects
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