Tall Vs. Short

James Michelfelder

You’ve heard it from your mom your entire life: You’re special. And you are, as far as weight training is concerned, anyway. Every body is different—some respond well to one kind of exercise, while another exercise can be downright dangerous. For the best long-term gains, you need to find which exercises are the most effective and safest for how you’re built. The following two routines will help you on this journey, offering examples of how a taller, long-limbed guy can train for the best results, and how a shorter, stockier man should go about it.

How it works

If you’re 6′ or taller, with long arms or legs, you’re going to have trouble with classic barbell exercises like the bench press and back squat. You’re simply not built to perform those lifts efficiently. You’ll likely do better with the dumbbell bench press, which allows your hands to move freely, making for a safer and more comfortable movement pattern for the shoulders and elbows. At the same time, front squatting will be easier on your lower back and will allow you to squat deeper.

Stockier guys, around 5’10” and shorter, who have naturally broader shoulders and shorter limbs, may need to extend their range of motion on certain exercises to activate the most muscle. Bulgarian split squats will stretch out their hips while working more leg muscle. They can also take advantage of abs rollouts. Because short arms don’t have to reach far, rollouts won’t overextend the lower back as they can on a tall guy.


Choose the workout that’s appropriate for your height and limb lengths—for example, if you’re 6’ or more, go with the taller-man workout; if you’re built like a D battery, use the other routine. Exercises marked “A” and “B” are alternated, so you’ll do one set of A, rest as needed, then one set of B, rest, and repeat until all sets for the pair are completed.


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