If you went home for the holidays and visited a local gym to break a sweat, you probably know by now that not all gyms are created equal. Some are shitty by nature, filled with old, rusty weights and uneven flooring. But even at a perfectly new and well-equipped gym, things can sometimes just feel different, and therefore, exponentially harder. The barbell can feel off. The benches can feel off. Hell, even the treadmill model may not be one you’ve become accustomed to and running will feel a little strange.
Worse, this gym in question has hex plates—the single easiest way to screw up your deadlifts. Here’s why hex plates, over rounded plates, generally suck. If you’ve never seen a hex plate, it has flat sides; round plates, as their name suggests, have no flat sides. When you deadlift with round plates, the plates hit the ground and remain stationary, as they should. When you deadlift with hex plates, well, it’s chaotic.
You see, hex plates tend to roll when you set the barbell down. “They will essentially still move and when you set it down it will either come towards you and scratch you or it will roll away causing someone to trip on it,” Luis Cornier, a personal trainer and master coach with Precor told me over email; here’s a video that demonstrates this problem. The issue then becomes that you are constantly having to ensure the barbell is appropriately aligned with your body—or otherwise risk an injury to you or others while lifting. (Here’s another video that shows the difference between lifting hex versus round plates.)
I was at a gym this past week that only had hex plates and deadlifting, my favourite lift of all, became an utter pain in the arse. Fully resetting between reps wasn’t of much help; sometimes, the barbell would roll back and forth as I gripped it on the ground, no matter how much I concentrated on making sure one side of the barbell wasn’t closer or further than the other.
Why then do gyms opt for the dreaded hex plate? Well, you might read online that some commercial gyms may use them specifically to discourage serious deadlifts (less noise, fewer people using barbells, etc.) Whatever the reason may be, if you find yourself in this situation, first of all, I’m sorry this is happening to you. Second, there’s not a lot you can do to change it. You might put a small weight on both sides of the plates to minimise any rolling, but that’ll only accomplish so much. It might bounce back or roll over the weight anyway.
If you’re willing to splurge a little, there’s even a product that turns hex plates into round plates—a “HexBumper”—but it might be worth it to find a new gym, period. Here’s how to start that process.