When speaking on tall, I’m referring to those that are over 6 feet. Aside of the number of feet you are, a lot of lifters tend to have long arms and legs, which is most interesting. Anthropometry is the thing that differentiates tall lifters from the average-sized lifter. Trying to be a heavy lifter with a short torso, a large wingspan, or giraffe legs can be a lifter’s worst nightmare.
The Question of Strength
Lifting weights involves the application of force against resistance. Work is the product of this action, which is further defined as force x distance. The capacity of force that is applied over a certain distance shows how much work is done.
Let’s use a 5’9″ lifter, for example, after he commits to a full range of squats, while weighing 225 pounds; his total ROM is at a span of 48 inches. Now, the same situation, with a guy that is 6’3″ will have a ROM of 60 inches. That results in a foot difference per rep over the shorter guy. If you multiply that by a set of 10 reps that is a total of 10 feet of extra distance, which is covered by the taller guy. So technically, the taller guy committed to doing more work under the same demands.
The moral of the scenario is that a tall lifter shouldn’t be viewed as a disadvantage when in the weight room.
Range In Motion!
Going through the full range of motion, while exercising, is very important for the taller guys. Full ROM is more force that is produced over the most distance available; more work. In order to improve strength over a period of time, ROM cannot be cheated.
Eating a lot is key for the tall guys. When the myofibrillar hypertrophy is exploited to add strength by lifting heavy for full ROM, the extra-long muscle bellies has to be distributed over a larger space. Adding on 10 or 15 pounds can be unnoticed if not properly portioned. There are advantages and disadvantages when it comes to being the tall lifter; an advantage is to eat more to put on more weight.
Keeping the big compound lifts in place, a long-limbed guy can get the most out of exploiting their big levers through bicep curls, tricep press downs, leg extensions, leg curls, and pull downs.
The SAID Principle
Specific adaptation to imposed demands is what the SAID principle refers to. Being exposed to heavy weights and time under tension repeatedly your body will automatically grow bigger and stronger to adapt to those demands. Tall guys should take advantage using controlled eccentrics, full ROM, and high reps.
The Good Stuff
Putting on size can be a headache for a lot of tall lifters because blanket cues that permeate in training are more regarded than anthropometrical differences. There is a saying that you should not “let the knees pass forward over the toes.” This word of advice should be disregarded; there is no harm in letting the knees tracks forward over the toes.
The Salvation for Bad Joints
Tall lifters often run into the problem of joint stress. Due to the length of the body, the effort to use complete ROM can interfere with the joints. This only means that you need to identify the weakness and make adjustments, but continue exercising with full range of motion.
For instance, deep squats take a lot of mobility in the hips. Hips with poor mobility will eventually result in unwanted knee and lower back stress. Don’t just give up right away; make a sound judgment before you call it quits for the squats. Do whatever it takes to maintain a structural balance around the joint area. Maintaining a structural balance comes from the buildup of proper foundation with mobility, your tissue quality, and functional strength in mind. You can make modifications to exercising, such as use a neutral grip when at all possible. Performing pin presses and rack pulls are good while working through chronic discomfort of load bearing joints. Pulling more often can be an important solution to chronic injuries.
Being tall does not make life in the gym easier for you, but training smart can. Do not cripple your levers; take advantage of them and exploit them more in the gym.