Are you looking to increase speed in your 40 yard dash or even your marathon? What if there was an exercise you could do once a week to help increase speed not only in your 40 yard dash but longer distance such as a marathon. Ryan Flaherty is the Senior Director of Performance at Nike and he may have just found that. So what is this exercise you ask… Hex (Trap) Bar Deadlift.

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Ryan developed an algorithm called “Force Number” which takes into account peak ground force generated (Power) and body weight. He started looking more at the data and was finding no matter how biomechanically perfect someone was, if they didn’t have good strength to weight ratio they were going nowhere. Ryan started using his “force plate treadmill” to record peak ground force (power) and then factored in bodyweight to determine the Force Numbers. He found that the highest force number does not come from the athlete with the highest peak ground force, but rather the athlete with the highest peak ground force relative to their bodyweight. 

He tested many exercises such as the squat and traditional deadlift, but neither generated the peak ground forces he was finding on the “force plate treadmill”. That is until he tested the trap bar deadlift, and what he found was peak ground force generated during trap bar deadlifted correlated with the peak ground force on the treadmill. Research comparing traditional deadlift vs trap bar deadlift found that trap bar deadlift distributed the load more evenly over the entire body, allowing for greater maximal force production. The trap bar deadlift proved to be the exercise to generate the peak ground force, but that was only one part of the equation.

 The trap bar also allows for a more upright posture, more similar with running.

The trap bar also allows for a more upright posture, more similar with running.

The other part of the equation takes into account bodyweight. The trick is creating greater peak ground force (power) without adding on mass, something that many marathon runners are concerned about. However, the key was training only the concentric portion (shortening of the muscle) of the trap bar deadlift, lifting off the ground, then dropping the weight instead of slowly lowering the weight down generating eccentric contraction (lengthening of the muscle). The eccentric component is how we increase lean muscle mass in the body by micro-trauma to the muscle fibers stimulating muscle growth. By only focusing on the concentric portion you can increase power without increasing mass by stressing the nervous system to recruit larger motor units. 

Increasing the peak ground force generated (power) and maintaining bodyweight allows you to increase stride length naturally without having to over stride. Over striding is one of the major risks for developing running injuries. Therefore, increasing stride length naturally will not only decrease risk of injury but will effectively cut down the distance of your race whether it is a 40 yard dash or marathon. When you think, on average, marathon runners take 20,000 steps in a race. An increased stride length can make a dramatic difference in reducing the amount of steps needed to complete a marathon. Even cutting your strides by 1 can make a major difference in the 40 yard dash when every tenth of a second counts. 

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The trap bar deadlift can be an effective training tool to enhance speed and help trim the seconds off the clock. At TROSS Spine & Sports Performance our goal is to help you to compete and train injury free, so you can achieve your goals. If you ever have any questions or would like a free consultation please contact TROSS today! TROSS proudly serves the Cottleville, St. Peters, St. Charles, O’Fallon, and St. Louis area!




  1. Condon, Josh. "The Money Lift: How a Top-Flight Trainer Discovered the Most Important Exercise Every Athlete Should Do." Men's Fitness 
  2. Swinton, Paul A., Arthur Stewart, Ioannis Agouris, Justin Wl Keogh, and Ray Lloyd. "A Biomechanical Analysis of Straight and Hexagonal Barbell Deadlifts Using Submaximal Loads." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 25.7 (2011): 2000-009. Web.
  3. Ferriss, Tim, and Ryan Flaherty. "The Savant of Speed- Ryan Flaherty." Blog post. The Tim Ferriss Show, 07 May 2017.