Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Some Disadvantages of Being Tall


Everyone (male and female) wants to be taller, right? Well, some people who are very tall sometimes want to be shorter. (Or at least “not sooo tall”)

Well, when it comes to adding muscle size or strength being tall has its disadvantages.

The tallest man to ever win a Mr. Olympia competition was Arnold Schwarzenegger (7 times) and Mr. Universe (5 times). He was (officially) only 6 feet 1.5 inches. In fact, Arnold is the only man over 6 feet to ever win Mr. Olympia.
Lee Haney (the only 8 time winner of Mr. Olympia) is 5 feet 10 inches.  Franco Columbu (2 time Mr. Olympia) was only 5 feet 2 inches!

Arnold’s seven “ Mr. O” wins and his 250 pound competition weight are all the more impressive because of his disadvantage of being tall.

Why is being taller a disadvantage in the gym? It’s all about leverage and range of motion (ROM).

First of all, taller people tend to have longer arms and legs. For a lifter 5’9’’ doing a squat he’s going to have to lower the weight about 24” then raise it about 24 inches (48 inches total). On the other hand, a lifter who is 6’3’’ has to lower and raise the weight about 60 inches. That’s a 1 foot difference x 10 reps…the taller lifter has just moved the weight 10 feet farther! Three sets x 10 feet is 30 feet farther that the tall guy has to move the weight.

As for the leverage advantage of the shorter limbed lifter, it’s simple physics…the farther the load is from the fulcrum (in this case the joint) the more force is required to move the load. And that additional force gets transferred to the joint.

What about adding size? Longer bones means longer muscle bellies. So any muscle added is spread over a much larger area. Adding 10 pounds of muscle to the guy 6’3’’ may be barely noticeable.

What’s a tall guy to do?  First, assess where your height lies. Do you have long legs or a long torso with average legs? Is you wingspan due to longer forearms with average upper arm structure or vice-versa? Find compound exercises where your personal structure gives you an advantage and take advantage of those. On exercises where you are at a disadvantage or make you more prone to injury find ways to adjust the movement to minimize the disadvantage.

Some examples:

·        If you have long arms the flat bench press will kill your shoulders. Switch to the incline press or dumbbell press or shorten your ROM by stopping an inch or two below the bottom of the full ROM. If you can, use a neutral grip (palms facing each other) on pressing movements.
·        Tall lifters have difficulty with Lat Pull downs. Switch to pull ups.
·        Heavy barbell curls can put a lot of stress on the elbow joint and shoulder joint if you have long arms. Switch to seated incline dumbbell curls, cable curls or concentration curls and slow the eccentric (lowering) portion of the curl to increase the time under tension (TUT). You can also do seated barbell curls stopping the eccentric movement when the bar reaches you legs in the seated position.
·        Shorter legs and longer arms make you a natural for the dead lift. The single best exercise to add muscle mass. Use that to your advantage.
·        Longer legs? Switch to a sumo dead lift rather than conventional. You’ll have a shorter range of motion and put less stress on your back.

Tall guys don’t have to give up on strength or bodybuilding goals. They just have to work smarter.

If you are a tall guy (or gal) email me at alphaedgefitness@gmail.com I can help.

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