No single person has the exact same body; therefore, how you care for and train varies from person to person - especially the tall individual.
Objectively speaking, there are a ton of advantages associated with being tall. You don’t have to ask for help when you’re trying to reach the highest cupbard, being at the back of a crowd usually isn’t an issue, and you won’t get stopped at amusement park rides because you don’t meet minimum height requirements (although you might be too tall).
But even though being tall and slim is awesome most of the time, there are some disadvantages associated with height in the world of fitness.
Here, we’re going to look at a few disadvantages and explore various forms of fitness that are most advantageous to those who are "vertically gifted" because, yes, while you can do almost anything when you try hard enough, there are some tasks your body absolutely will not allow you to attempt. Try not to be too hard on yourself; it happens to everyone.
How Tall is TALL?
First, we need to discuss what counts as “tall.”
In the United States, the average male tends to be around 5’9” tall while your average American woman usually grows to stand at 5’4” tall. There are a variety of factors that impact how tall you'll grow, such as your diet and genes.
As a matter of fact, approximately 60-80% of your height is entirely dependent on your genes; the remaining 20-40% is based on environmental factors like your diet. For the purpose of this article, let’s target men over 6’2” and women who are over 5’9”.
3 Reasons Gaining Muscle is Harder for Tall People
Like I said before, being tall is awesome but it does come with some disadvantages - and some activities are much more difficult. For example, lifting weights in the weight room at your local gym.
There are three key points you should be aware of if you’re tall and hitting the gym.
1. It's Harder to Build Muscle Mass When You're Tall
Or rather, it takes a taller person a little more time to gain muscle as opposed to a shorter athlete. If you’re wondering why that is, the answer is quite simple: your body has more area to work with. This means that while you are technically gaining muscle, you might not see results as quickly as someone shorter than you.
2."Good Form" is Harder for Tall People to Achieve
It's important to remember how each person is built differently; therefore, proper form usually isn’t “one size fits all”. Because you’re tall, you might have to position yourself in an awkward, uncomfortable form in order to “properly” execute an exercise, which could result in injury. It takes practice and an open mind to find the right form that fits your body type, but still works your muscles in a healthy and safe way.
3. Tall People Suffer Much Worse When Their Form is Off
Treating your body like a shorter lifter can make you more susceptible to joint aches and pains. It is also quite possible that you could feel aches and pains in your lower back as well. Negligence in properly taking the time to adjust your workout regimen can ultimately result in a spinal injury.
5 Gym Tips for Tall People
Regarding health and fitness for taller people, here are a few suggestions that should ultimately help you in the gym:
1. Train Often, But in Shorter Sessions.
On average, you should be exercising anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour per session, 3 to 4 times a week. Research has shown that shorter, higher intensity workouts are proven to be more effective. These shorter, more intense bursts yield higher fat loss and, if you aren’t interested in spending hours pumping iron every day, are less time consuming so you can fit the gym into your busy daily routine.
2. Don’t Worry About Capturing the Full Range of Motion (ROM) When Performing an Exercise.
Typically, it’s encouraged to follow the motion all the way through for optimizing your workout routine, but these standards change for taller people. For example, going too deep on a squat to achieve the proper form will hurt your knees. Going too deep on the dip-rack can severely injure your shoulders. When performing these exercises, if you ever experience any kind of pain, do yourself a favor and stop immediately.
3. Say it With Me: ISOMETRIC EXERCISES.
Read the term and read it again. This will be your best friend if you are tall. We’ve already talked about how performing the full ROM can seriously injure your joints. That’s where isometric exercises come into the picture.
Isometric exercises are exercises in which you hold a static contraction, such as a plank. Isometric exercises allow an athlete to practice holding a position for longer periods of time. Additionally, these exercises help athletes prepare themselves for different ranges of motion. Get the best out of your workout by trying out some free weights, weight machines, and even elastic bands.
4. Only Focus on 8 Muscle Groups
Sure, your body has dozens of muscles you could potentially work on. But adding countless specific exercises to your routine will make you overwhelmed and stressed instead of motivated and focused.
If you choose the right exercises, you will target larger groups of muscles in each exercise so you cover more muscles at the same time. Rued Casper, editor of Tallsome, talks about this in his article that helps tall skinny guys build muscle (we highly recommend you check it out).
5. Push Through the Mental Battle
Working out is just as mental as it is physical, and being mentally tough is just as valuable of an asset as a toned, strong body. As you workout, you're going to hit mental barrier with every single exercise you undertake. Do not give in! Push yourself to failure, give 110% that last rep, finish the set even if you're exhausted. The pain is temporary, but your health and fitness is long-term and worth the discomfort.
It will be easy to create excuses for yourself (ex. "I have really long legs to I should skip leg day to preserve my knees"). You might have to do exercises a little differently as a tall guy, but that doesn't mean you can't workout entirely. Don't beat yourself up - just pivot and push yourself with what you can do.
10 Gym Exercises for Tall People
1. Front Squat > Back Squat
The Front Squat is great for tall lifters because it caters to tall people with longer legs. This type of squat still works all the muscles in a typical back squat without straining your knees or hurting your back. This technique moves the center of mass so you're able to achieve good form, even as a tall person. Check out this Tall Guy's Guide to Weightlifting for more weightlifting ideas.
2. Dumbbell Bench Press > Barbell Bench Press
The Barbell Bench Press comes with a strong stigma to bring the bar all the way down to your chest, which can be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous to tall guys with long arms. A great alternative is the Dumbbell Bench Press - this technique allows you to increase weight just as much without straining your shoulders and pushing yourself too far. This technique actually builds muscle faster too!
3. Hex Bar Deadlift > Regular Deadlift
No matter how tall you are, you'll have to lift weight from the ground if you perform a traditional deadlift. This can be difficult and dangerous for tall guys because they have to reach farther and bend lower to grab the deadlift weight. This can set you up from the beginning with bad form, straining your knees and back before you even begin the true lift.
The Hex Bar Deadlift is a much safer (and better) option. You'll be able to lift the weight from a reasonable height, and you won't clank the bar against your knees on the way up every once in a while. According to an NFL Combine Trainer, the Hex Bar Deadlift is the superior deadlift anyway.
4. Neutral-Grip Pull-Up > Regular Pull-Up
If you couldn't tell already, your shoulder is one of the most sensitive areas of your body. And as a tall guy, it's even easier to strain, pinch, or tweak when you're working out because your arm span is likely much larger than the average Joe's.
A regular pull-up can easily strain your shoulders as a tall guy, which makes it tricky to truly push yourself. Try the Neutral-Grip Pull-Up: simply rotate your hands from a forward-facing position to a side position (like this). This position allows you to put more focus on your muscles and less focus on your joints.
5. Dumbbell Snatch > Barbell Snatch
Barbell Snatches are a great way to test your strength while also getting some cardio in, but they can strain your shoulders and knees as tall guy. A great way to counteract this is by doing a dumbbell snatch instead. You'll be able to focus on the specific muscles your targeting while going at your pace.
6. Kettlebell Swings > Barbell Clean and Jerk
Tall guys have higher risk of injuring their knees at the gym, and if you have bad knees, Kettlebell Swings are a great alternative to the Barbell Clean & Jerk. They still have an element of weightlifting and cardio combined, without straining joints as badly. Plus, you can do more of them!
7. French Press > Dips
Your triceps are made up of 3 groups, and most tricep exercises like dips neglect one of those groups, preventing you from having a full tricep workout. The French Press works this neglected muscle group, so it's a great option for tall guys with long arms (where healthy arm exercises are harder to find).
8. Sliding Single Leg RDL > Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
Like I mentioned before, it's much more difficult for tall men and women to achieve correct form because their bodies are built different. The Single Leg Romanian Deadlift is a great example of this: if your legs are longer or your have wider hips, it will be much harder to have correct form. That's why the Sliding Single Leg RDL is so much better - it's easier to perform and forces your hips to stay square, making your form much better. You can also try these alternatives too!
9. Add Isometric Hangs to Your Routine
Remember how we talked about isometric exercises above? They are so important for upper boy workouts for tall guys. A lot of upper body exercises (like chinups, pull-ups, etc) rely on your bodyweight. But as a tall guy, you not only have a higher bodyweight, but you also have a longer distance to raise yourself into a full pull-up. By the time you're feeling the burn, your grip strength and supporting muscles are shot.
Adding isometric hangs to your routine will increase your grip strength, train your body to get used to that uncomfortable hanging position, and help you do more upper body exercises without getting gassed so fast.
10. Don't Skip Cardio Day
As important as weightlifting is, it's always good to include some cardio in your routine (especially if you're trying to lose weight). But a lot of cardio-focused machines at the gym aren't designed for the TALL people. Here are a few cardio exercises that are great for tall men and women specifically:
- Treadmill: The treadmill is a staple for cardio, and the wonderful thing about it is that it isn't designed to benefit one body type over another. This one is great if you're looking to shed weight quickly.
- Bike: An indoor cycle is the perfect cardio option if you have bad knees. It's gentle on the joints, you can usually adjust the seat and handles to fit your size, and you can still push yourself to a healthy level.
- Stair Stepper: The stair stepper will get you winded fast and really builds your glutes, calves, hamstrings, quads, and core. Just make sure you don't bump your head on the ceiling at the top;)
Be In It For The Long Haul
It's just the way it is: it takes longer for tall guys to obtain muscle mass and look toned on the outside. But that doesn't mean it's impossible, unrealistic, or not worth the investment. You will see progress - you just have to commit to the long run. It takes patience, diligence, and consistency to gain muscle.
Getting fit is also intertwined with so many other elements, which can impact your results as you go. If you're not getting enough sleep, eating healthy, or taking time to maintain good mental health - your gym results will suffer. Make sure you're taking care of all the other areas of your life too; health is all-encompassing, not just something you worry about at the gym for 1 hour a day.
Wear the Right Gym Clothes
You're officially ready to hit the gym and start building muscle - but before you start, make sure you have the right clothing so you can work up a sweat without feeling uncomfortable.
Check out our gym clothes for tall people below - we have some great options that will wick moisture away, keep you cool and comfortable, and fit and flatter your frame:
^^ It's tough finding gym shirts that fit your tall skinny build. Our Tall Triblend Athletic Shirts are tall, slim, breathable, and comfortable for cardio, weightlifting, and more. Pick out your favorite color here.
^^ Every guy needs a sweatshirt he can throw on after he works out (especially during cold winter), and our Tall Quarter Zip Sweatshirt is perfect. It's warm and flattering, but not overheating and stuffy. Grab one here.
^^ Our Tall Joggers are perfect if you live in a cold state and you're trying to go to the gym. Throw these over athletic shorts on your way in and out, and you'll eliminate that freezing cold walk to and from your car. Order a pair here.