Being tall is both a blessing and a curse, take it from me I know. Being 6’4” in the 8th grade, and finally topping out at 6’7”, I feel like I am kind of an expert at being tall. Being tall makes it easy to see over people at concerts or to reach things off the top shelf.
As great as it can be, it can also be tough to find pants that don’t look like you are preparing for a flood or annoying when being used to get things off the top shelf. Let’s not forget the dumb line, “How’s the weather up there?”
Being tall can also be tough in the weight room but hopefully I can help. Check out 5 things that I have learned throughout my years being vertically exceptional.
Stability is a Must
Being tall typically means longer body segments, longer arms, longer legs, or a longer torso. In the sports arena, this is an advantage but in the weight room in can be troublesome. Longer levers means less stability within the system. So being able to create and maintain stability will be key.
A strong core is absolutely necessary to resist the forces traveling through the torso and spine as you move through an exercise. A weak link here can lead to unwanted motion, leading to a leak in force applied.
Slower tempos through the exercise range of motion can also train the athlete to hold proper postures as well as to create dynamic stability. Single-leg exercises are another way to train for stability due to their inherently unstable nature. The better body awareness a lifter has, the better their ability to create stability is as well.
The back squat can be difficult for the taller athlete to master due to their body measurements. A relatively long femur can make a squat in a tall lifter look more like a good morning. The lifter requires more trunk lean to keep the bar over the mid-portion of the foot.
Moving the load anteriorly can be extremely beneficial for the tall lifter who struggles with the back squat. The anterior load causes more forward knee translation which in turn allows for a more upright trunk posture. This helps alleviate some of the stress put on the spine, as often seen with the back squat.
A lifter can hold the weight in a goblet position or in a front rack position on the top and front of the shoulders.
It has been my experience that I am able to achieve a full squat much easier with a weight in the front compared to a back squat.
Trap Bar Deadlift is Your Friend
With the conventional deadlift there is one constant. The plate sizes are pretty standard, but the limb length and the height of the lifter are not. This is why some tall lifter struggle with the deadlift, especially from the floor.
Again, for a taller athlete to grasp the bar in a deadlift they much reach further down than their shorter counterparts. This can lead to poor positioning if the lifter does not have the requisite mobility.
The trap bar is the perfect substitution for those who still want to pick heavy stuff off the floor. The trap bar puts the weight closer to the point of rotation or the hips. The closer the load is to the hips the easier it is and the less strain that is put on the lower back.
Some may call the trap bar deadlift cheating…I tell them to kick rocks. Unless you are a competitive powerlifter, it is not a requirement to have conventional deadlift included in your training.
Using the high handle or deadlifting from blocks can also even the playing field for the taller lifter. It shortens the range of motion up reducing the distance that the bar has to be pulled.
Greater Rest Periods
For taller lifters, it requires more work to create the same visual effect while lifting than it does for shorter lifters. If you look at the equation for work, you will probably see why.
Work=force x distance
Distance is the separating factor between the tall and short lifter. Taller lifters must move the weight further than they shorter friends.
For example, a 5’8” person may only have to move the bar 20 inches to reach a full depth squat. This comes out to be 40 inches in distance per rep. Then compare them to their 6’4” friend who has to move their weight 30 inches to each a full depth squat, coming out to 60 inches per rep.
Think about that…if the weights are the same for each lifter, the shorter lifter is doing two-thirds the work that the taller lifter is having to do
That increase in work builds up through the set and the greater amount of work that one completes, the more rest they will need between sets. This is one of the reasons taller lifters struggle in challenge workouts such as AMRAP sets or where one must complete the prescribed reps as quickly as possible as is often seen in CrossFit workouts. One of the reasons I find CrossFit to be a bit bias, especially towards shorter athletes. Notice you don’t see too many tall athletes legitimately competing for the “Fittest on Earth”.
Stop Chasing Numbers
Stop chasing the numbers of other people. Sadly, we are not all created equal in the weight room. Shorter athletes are typically going to be stronger in the weight room, but us tall people can laugh and point when our shorter friends have to climb onto a chair to change a light bulb.
Focus on making YOU better, and stop trying to beat those who may just be built for the weight room. Unless you are competing in weight lifting or powerlifting, focus on beating the old you and the progress will come.