In some sports, being tall and slender is a definite advantage – basketball, tennis and long distance running for example. In these activities, longer limbs mean you have better reach or stride length which can result in better performance. You don’t see many short professional basketball players…

However, when it comes to strength training, longer limbs can make some exercisers harder. Often described as “bad levers”, having long limbs can make some exercises more difficult, less productive, and sometimes even dangerous.

Firstly, it’s important to state that just because you have long-limbs, doesn’t mean you cannot do certain exercises or that you will not make progress. Plenty of lifters with far worse leverage than you have achieved awesome results from their training. The point of this article is to identify why and where long levers may be problematic and how you can work around them to get the best training results possible.

Bench press

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Long arms mean that you have to lower the bar a long way to reach your chest. This means that each rep you perform will be harder and involve more work (force x distance) than for a shorter-limbed lifter. If you have a shallow chest, this compounds the problem further. Long-limbed lifters often find that the bench press is hard on their shoulders.

One way around this is to move your hands further apart and adopt a wide grip. This instantly reduces the distance the bar has to travel to reach your chest. You may feel “out of the groove” at first but you should find you quickly get used to this wider hand position and find benching a little easier as a result.

Another option is to simply stop your rep 10-15cm shy of touching your chest. This exercise variation is actually called a Spoto press and used in powerlifting circles as a bench press assistance exercise.

If you don’t want to modify your bench press technique, consider switching to dumbbells which allow for a more customizable range of movement. For many tall lifters, dumbbells are not only more comfortable but more effective and the double whammy of handing two weights instead of one will definitely improve shoulder balance and stability.

Overhead presses 


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Overhead presses are important for keeping your shoulders strong and healthy. However, if you are a long-armed lifter, you’ll have to lift and lower the weight a long way. As with the bench press, this means more work for the long-limbed lifter.

Just like the bench press, you can try using a slightly wider grip or lowering the bar to your chin instead of your clavicles to reduce the range of motion. Again, dumbbells are a good option.

Some tall lifters find overhead pressing uncomfortable. If this is the case for you, limit overhead pressing with a barbell and dumbbells held with a parallel (palms in) grip instead. Side lateral raises provide a good shoulder workout for the longer-limbed lifter but don’t be surprised if you can’t handle as much weight as T-Rex guy; it’s those long levers again.



A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onDec 19, 2017 at 2:24pm PST

Ass to grass baby! If you aren’t squatting deep, you aren’t squatting right – at least according to some exercise “experts”. However, if you’ve got long legs, ass to grass squats are much harder to do safely. Long levers mean that you are mechanically disadvantaged for deep squats and are much more likely to round your lower back at the bottom of your squat. Deep squats are also hard on the knees when you are tall.

The simplest remedy for this is to let your leverage dictate your squat depth; squat as deeply as you can without rounding your lower back or experiencing knee pain. Work on your mobility and flexibility to maximize depth but don’t feel that, just because you barely reach parallel, you are cheating on your squats. Stumpy legs mean squatting ass to grass is easier. For tall guys, parallel at the knee is ass to grass.

Lunges, leg press, leg extensions, leg curls, Bulgarian split squats – for the tall lifter, all of these exercise may be preferential to squats. If you really don’t feel comfortable with squats, try some of these alternatives. Just don’t be that guy who never trains legs; long limbs are not an excuse for skipping leg day!



A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onDec 21, 2017 at 2:24pm PST

Finally, an exercise that can actually be easier if you have long limbs! If you have long arms, you won’t have to bend over as far or lift the weight as high when you deadlift. This is a big advantage. Guys with short arms have to lift the bar a long way which uses a lot of extra energy.

For many taller lifters, deadlifts are the key to their workout success whereas for regular-built exercisers, it’s the squat. For taller lifters, deadlifts are definitely comparable to the squat providing you have the mobility and core strength to keep your long back in a neutral, spine-friendly position.

Biceps curls and triceps extensions


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Long forearms can make these workout staples tough on your elbows; especially barbell curls and barbell skull crushers. You’ll probably find the dumbbell version of these exercises more comfortable while EZ bars also take stress of the elbows and wrists and are a good option for the taller, longer-limbed lifter.

Your limbs and leverage are unmodifiable – go blame your parents! However, being tall, slim, or long-limbed doesn’t mean you can’t make amazing gains in strength and muscle size. Just accept that what might be deemed “the best exercise” might not be the best for you because of your longer limbs. Experiment and learn which modifications or variations that work best for you. Be the shepherd and not the sheep!