It can be hard on us tall guys when aiming to put on some serious muscle mass (believe me I know, I struggled for years trying to put size on my skinny 6ft 4 frame). Most of us have been dealt long lanky limbs, making our muscles look smaller then they are. This is because the origin and insertion of the muscle (muscle attachment points) tend to be further away (making our muscles look longer, not bulker). So even a significant weight gain can translate to a sub-par size gain.
- Also there’s the fact that nearly every machine in the gym feels unnatural and awkward for us, as they were not designed with tall guys in mind. When height is a factor (6ft above) lifting the iron requires a lot more coordination and energy. This is because sets take us longer as we have more range of motion with our long limbs .
When it comes to tall powerlifters and strongmen, whose main goal is to build strength, they are constantly looking for ways to refine their technique and form so they have optimum leverage over the weights (less range of motion = heavier weight).
BUT if you’re your goal is to strictly build muscle and look as good as you possibly can, you should look at it the other way around, and use your long limbs to an advantage as they make the range of motion bigger.
Taking that into consideration, here are some exercises and tips to go along with them, that I found to help me build mass on my 6 ft 4 frame!
Pin Press = healthy shoulders
A pin press is a variation of the bench press. It’s when the bar is starting on pins set a few inches above chest level. The main benefit of the pin press is that you can lift heavy with less pain or even prevent any pain in the elbows and shoulders. This is because of the fact that the elbows don’t have to travel quite as far below the level of the chest, meaning less shoulder stress at the bottom of the lift.
Additionally the pin press is great for ‘concentric only training’. As you can drop the bar back down to the pins from the top position with minimal tension. This increases the amount of max efforts you can do since the eccentric phase is typically the most taxing on the CNS (central nervous system).
When you can’t leg press, lunges are the solution
As we have already gathered, most machines were not built with tall people in mind. This is the same when it comes to the leg press, as it tends to put our limbs and joint angles in an awkward position. BUT the leg press isn’t a complete loss cause, work on your ankle mobility (dorsiflexion). This helps by allowing your knee to travel further past your toe, so you can have greater range of motion while maintaining a neutral spine. Another tip would be, when using the machine assume a very high foot position on the platform, to prevent pressure being put on the lower back and knee joints.
Some tall guys regardless of how mobile they are will never feel comfortable using a leg press. So what I recommend for the majority of you tall guys is to really utilise lunges and split squats. They are also great exercises for the quads and glutes. What make them even better is that they are unilateral movements, meaning they use one leg at a time, which is great for preventing muscle imbalances and improving balance.
Make sure you include deadlifts (trap bar), pull/chin-Ups, and snatch-grip pulls in your training-
The back is one of the areas of the body that normally gets rejected and under developed, resulting in bad posture. As tall guys we can not afford to reject our back. If anything we need to put more time and effort into making our lets wider and our upper- back thicker as it takes more muscle to fill out our longer torso. Hammering away at the upper and mid back is important if we want to look large and imposing and feel healthy.
In my opinion chin-ups are the most important exercise when it comes to bicep growth. Using a narrow supinated grip is the key to targeting the brachialis (bicep) muscle. This is a great way to overload the biceps as they are under a heavy load putting stress on the muscle, causing them to increase in size, which is what us tall guys want. We want to build as much muscle possible on our arms as we have a bigger surface area to fill out!
When I do pull ups I like to include isometric holds, as it’s a good way to hit the endurance-geared fibres (type 2a muscle fibres) of the back (which there are a lot of) through increased time under tension.
Some of you tall guys will have very short torso with long legs, making it difficult to use a conventional deadlift set-up since it’s hard to position the shoulder blades above the bar, which is the ideal position. If you have this problem I recommend you try out trap-bar deadlifts and snatch grip rack pulls instead. These both are great deadlift alternatives. The lowered pulling space in a snatch-grip rack pull, along with the ability to lower the hips in a trap-bar deadlift, are both money makers that can keep your pulling strength in check.
Learn to love the flys –
As tall lifters we need to think smart. Take advantage of your longer limbs. When doing any fly or raise variation, such as; reverse fly, chest fly, lateral raises and front raises, take advantage of additional time, space, and force that’s created by us having longer arms.
This leads to more time under tension, and also the further away the weight is from the torso the more pressure is put on the muscle (chest or shoulder, depending on exercise), and this can mean more potential muscle.
Play to your advantages
There are some real challenges when it comes to building muscle as a tall guy, so rather than get disheartened and frustrated when there’s an exercise you can’t perform, start using your long levers to your advantage.