Article last updated: June 2018 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
There are many factors affecting the best training routine for you, and one of these is height.
I’m a tall 6’2″ guy myself with very long arms and legs and for years I compared myself to my shorter friends who always seemed to progress faster than me.
They started at more pull ups than me and added reps much faster.
They started with a higher squat than me and progressed to +220lbs. in a matter of 3-5 months while it took me almost a year.
And most importantly, they seemed to fill out their frames much faster.
If you’re over 6 feet tall with long arms and legs you probably know what I’m talking about.
You’ve been through this yourself and you wonder why this is the case?
This article will explain why…
Let’s get started:
1) Tall Men Have To Push and Pull The Weights Through A Longer Range-of-Motion
Imagine the bench press, barbell row and squat.
In all 3 exercises the tall guy has to go through a longer range-of-motion because of his long limbs.
The same goes for pretty much any other exercises out there.
So what does this mean for us tall guys?
It means that we do more work on each rep compared to the shorter guy since we lift it through a longer range-of-motion.
And that’s why you rarely see guys who are over 6 ft with long arms do bench presses with over 300lbs. while you see a good amount of shorter guys do it.
A tall guy doing bench presses with 240lbs. may be doing the same amount of work as the shorter guy doing 300lbs. because of his longer arms.
Solution to challenge:
Stop comparing yourself with shorter guys who can lift more weight than you.
Accept that you’re tall with long arms and legs, and that you do more work on each rep.
If you want to boost your ego on a lift, get good at deadlifts since that might be the only lift where you have a great advantage.
Also, if you’re into strength training, consider using very low reps (1-3 reps per set), and do a lot of sets with 1-2 minute rest between sets.
I saw amazing strength gains doing 10 sets of 2-3 reps per set and resting 1 minute between sets on the shoulder press.
I gained something crazy like 25 pounds in a month on the press after years of being stuck on the same weight.
I believe that the lower reps work well for tall guys who wanna add strength because we already do more work on each rep, so we don’t need 5 reps to get a good set in.
2) Tall Guys Have A Harder Time With Calisthenics
Calisthenic exercises such as push ups, pull ups, muscle ups and levers are no different than weight exercises.
Just like weight exercises, they’re also more difficult for tall guys.
Consider the following examples:
- Push up and handstand push up: The tall guy has to push a longer distance.
- Pull up: The tall guy has to pull a longer distance.
- Muscle up: The tall guy has to both pull and push a longer distance.
- Front lever: The tall guy is usually heavier because of a bigger bone structure and has a harder time getting his body centered to maintain balance.
To give you an extreme example, consider insects. Pound-for-pound they’re stronger than pretty much anything and can lift several times their own bodyweight, but the reasoning is their size.
The smaller you are, the stronger you can get pound-for-pound.
If you still don’t believe me, take a look at all world class gymnasts. None of them are over 6 ft. tall. They are all around 5’5″-5’7″, because gymnastics are based on relative strength and not absolute strength.
A gymnast might not be able to deadlift as much as the 6’5″ and 300 pound gorilla strength athlete, but he can do relative strength feats such as the iron cross.
Solution to challenge:
Take it easy with the calisthenics and start with a simple workout.
If needed, train at home and start doing push ups from your knees and negative pull ups to build up your first rep.
It’s all about baby steps and eventually you will get there.
I started at 0 pull ups and 0 push ups and it took me SIX months to get my first pull up.
Now, 5 years later I do sets of 15 pull ups for warm up.
If I can get to this level in calisthenics with my skinny-fat and lanky genetics, I believe you can too.
3) Tall Guys Should Consider Alternative Exercises
Despite devoting a year of my life to master the basic barbell lifts, I still struggled hitting the right muscles with the lifts.
When I did squats I felt a lot of the weight on my lower back, because I had to bend far forward to compensate for my long femurs.
Also, I would often get joint pain from bench presses and deadlifts and I didn’t feel like I worked my muscles.
Since then, the following things have improved:
- I have a more balanced and aesthetic physique.
- I have more muscle mass, especially in the shoulders, upper chest and arms.
- I very rarely feel any kind of pain during or after my workouts. I’ve been training for +5 years now and I have zero injuries, joint pain or anything like that. I believe that’s largely because I don’t lift heavy.
- I look forward to every training session because I don’t have to do exercises that don’t work for my body.
Tips for replacing exercises:
Here are the exercises that I replaced and why:
- Squats replaced by leg presses, leg curls and leg extensions > I feel the muscles working now and have 0 discomfort in my lower back, hips and knees.
- Bench presses replaced by cable flyes and pec deck flyes > I feel the chest working now and have 0 discomfort in my shoulders, lower back and wrists.
- Deadlifts replaced by pull ups, rows and hyper extensions > I feel the different parts of my back working now without feeling any back pain and overdeveloping my traps.
Besides replacing these exercises, I have added a lot of isolation work for my shoulders, arms and abs.
4) Tall Guys Have a Harder Time With Filling Out Their Frame
Most of the “big tall guys” you see are just big-framed guys with a lot of chub and thereby they look big in clothes.
However, seeing a real lean +6’2″ guy with lean and muscular arms and a good shoulder to waist ratio is a rarity.
The reason to why it’s so rare to see a tall guy who’s lean and muscular at the same time is that it requires many years of correct training and eating.
When you have a tall frame, it takes a longer time to fill out and look impressive.
Just imagine a 15 pound muscle gain on a 5’7″ 125 lbs. guy. For him, that gain will be very visible.
On a tall guy who’s 6’5″ and 220lbs., a 15 pound muscle gain won’t be very noticeable.
Solution to challenge:
Most tall guys will give up right before they reap the rewards. I know, because I was close to doing that.
In 2012 I had trained for 2 years and 2 months and I still looked the same, however, in the next 1 year I made more progress than I had made in the previous 2:
I progressed so fast because I had already built a bit of muscle mass in the November 2012 picture. In that “starved” picture, I was training my ass off 4-6 days a week doing cheerleading partner stunts and basic bodyweight training.
I dieted all the way down to 175 pounds and was doing shoulder presses with my partner who weighed around 110 pounds.
And here’s the thing… Once you pass a certain point in your muscular development, any additional size you gain becomes VERY visible.
In my case, the first inches I gained on my shoulders and arms didn’t make me look any different, but now-a-days I see a difference in my arms when I gain just 1/10 inch on them.
The reasoning is that the first many pounds of muscle you gain just make you go from “lanky” to “average”.
Once you have an average build, any additional size makes you stand out and that’s what happened to me from November 2012 to April 2013.
Summing It Up:
I won’t lie, being tall has more advantages than disadvantages, but when it comes to training, being tall and lanky is a big disadvantage.
Tall guys will most often be weaker than shorter guys pound-for-pound and take a longer time to progress in strength and muscle gains.
However, the few os us who can stick it out and stay consistent for years will build an impressive physique that stands out.
Being a tall guy with a great shoulder to waist ratio is like being a short woman with big breasts. It get’s you noticed.
Be proud but stay hungry,