Strongman Mitchell Hooper Shows How Different Barbells Affect the Deadlift

Hooper breaks down how to lift on four different types of barbells.

In another edition of the ongoing training series that strongman Mitchell Hooper has routinely published to his YouTube channel, the Feb. 1, 2023 episode included his insight on how different barbells affect the deadlift. Various factors can cause the deadlift to feel different, whether that is the barbell moving differently on the ascent or causing a need to adjust how to pull the weight.

Hooper opened the session with his students to determine what kind of deadlift strengths they have to assess their positioning better. It changed whether they felt stronger on the lockout or the ascent. Additionally, he covered the importance of bracing during each lift. Check out the full session in the video below:

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Where Is the Difficulty?

For the athletes who felt weak pulling the barbell off the ground, Hooper suggested getting their knees further over the barbell. This position helps better activate the quads, giving them more power at the start of the lift. The two ways to do that are either bringing the feet closer together or getting the toes further inward (in the case that the lifter was turning their toes out).

Furthermore, Hooper suggested folding the upper back to make up the difference if the lifter can only reach so low with the knees over the barbell. He said folding the upper back does not put the athlete at risk of injury like folding the lower back would. Hooper mentioned rolling the shoulders forward for several more inches of range in the starting position. They will be easier to roll back in the lockout.

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Different Barbells

Hooper moved swiftly through demonstrations of various barbells in the seminar. Below is his advice:

Hooper’s suggestion was to “cup the hands” around the Axle barbell rather than trying to get a grip around the entire bar. This appeared similar to a suicide grip, though he still employed a mixed grip variation in his demonstration.

Stiff Barbell

Stiff bar deadlifts will be more difficult for those who struggle to pull the bar off the ground, as the more rigid the barbell, the more difficult it is to pull from the floor. However, the same principles of bracing and positioning apply to stiff bars and standard Olympic barbells.

Trap Bar

Hooper uses the trap bar portion of the seminar to discuss the importance of the center of mass with each barbell. With a standard barbell, the barbell should start at the mid-foot, even if the barbell is pushed forward slightly due to the shins. However, the benefit of the trap bar is the open space in the middle allows the lifter to place that center of mass in line with the ankles.

The number one error is people treating the trap bar like it’s a barbell.

According to Hooper, the weight a lifter can pull on the trap bar should be significantly higher than that on a standard barbell.

When combining all of the deadlift bars in a medley, Hooper recommends pacing through each lift depending on the weights in relation to the athlete’s one-rep max. If the final lift would be a PR, he suggests taking 20-30 seconds before lifting it, even if it costs points in the competition, as performing a PR after burning out on the previous reps can result in poor performance the rest of the day.

Featured image: @mitchellhooper on Instagram