How To Train Tall Lifters

Perhaps this seems like an odd thing, singling out a client or athletes just by the way they’re built. Shame on me, right? Wrong. As a strength coach or personal trainer you will come across tall athletes or clients and I'm here to tell you, they often require a different method of training.

Today I'm defining tall as anything 6'2 and over but it doesn't necessarily have to be height related. It could also mean average or normal size with very long arms or legs. But why? Why does height have anything to do with programming? Force x distance= work

Mechanical work will always be greater in a taller athlete. If I have a basketball player that, when doing pull ups, dips down to where his knees dangle over the floor, when he pulls up, that is a greater distance to overcome and requires more to maintain force over a greater distance. Same goes with bench press and even squats. Let Them Know Their Perceived Progression And Progress Will Seem Slower.

There are not a whole lot of elite very tall lifter's for a reason. Most men who gravitate towards the iron game tend to be shorter and stockier, more mesomorph simply because they see strength and muscle gains quicker. This can lead to a lot of tall athletes giving up on lifting early on.

In fact, I've had to separate my basketball player’s strength training from other sports because kids are competitive. A tall basketball player trying to keep up with a short, stocky running back in the squat can be a recipe for disaster. It's important to let your tall athletes realize that they are progressing, they are getting stronger, but because of their height it will simply take more muscle to visually see a difference. Although their progression of poundage in the weight room might be slower, they are still increasing strength and muscled up tall guys develop scary strength.

Lower reps work better

I'm convinced that even in a hypertrophy phase, tall athletes do better on lower rep schemes. It's actually easier on their joints reducing the total volume a bit, even if it means increasing the intensity. Why? Well, especially in leg training and higher rep squats and dead lifts, the great distance needed to carry the weights tend to cardiovascular deplete a very tall athlete before actual muscle failure occurs.

Monitor body fat percentages closer

Tall athletes and clients often have a problem when it comes to hypertrophy. They often need twice the amount of muscle mass to fill in their shirts, but this is also true when it comes to fat levels. Very tall people tend to hide more fat better than their stockier counterparts. I've been shocked after doing body fat analysis on out of shape, off season basketball players, whereas in some of my shorter running backs or wrestlers I can spot an extra four pounds just by eye balling them. Unhealthy body fat levels can sneak up on tall people and by the time they’re noticing it; their fat gain might surprise both of you.

Be prepared to adjust exercises

Don't be afraid to experiment and even throw out certain sacred exercises that you once, perhaps said you never would throw out. I have found basic back squats and bench presses to be very difficult for tall guys to do. On the other hand lunges and dead lifts work well. I also like dumbbell training more for tall guys cause it gets them away from the whole "What's your bench, bro" attitude.

Training tall people is challenging but height tends to lend much favor in sports such as basketball, baseball, volleyball, and even football. If you’re training athletes, you will definitely get some gangly and tall people. It's ironic though that that same height that aids them in their sport will often make weight training more difficult.


Essentials of strength and Conditioning, 3rd edition.

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