Ah, the curse of hitting the genetic jackpot.
Your height makes you instantly more attractive, you can always reach things on high shelves, and you’re never at risk of getting lost in Disney World.
But people are constantly coming up to you in supermarkets, asking for help reaching the sugar on the top shelf. You have to shop at the Big & Tall stores, which always have terrible selections of clothing. And worst of all, bodyweight exercise is impossible for you.
I mean, it’s just physics. Someone with long limbs cannot possibly get strong enough to learn challenging physical skills, right?
Some things will be more challenging, for sure, but if you put in the work, you can achieve whatever physical skills you want.
We’ll talk about all the hows and whys in this article.
A Short Physics Lesson for Tall People
There are two main things that make exercises (bodyweight or otherwise) harder for taller people:
- Range of Motion–If you have longer arms, you’ll have a larger range of motion necessary to do a pull-up, than someone with shorter arms. If you have longer legs, squats will require a greater range of motion.
- Torque–The amount of torque that needs to be generated to move a given weight is directly related to the length of the lever arm. If two people weigh the same amount, but one has a longer body (i.e. lever arm) than the other, the one with the longer body will need to generate more torque to complete certain exercises. For example, in the planche, the lever arm (the length of the body from the shoulders down) is longer for the taller guy. This requires more torque generation than for a person of the same bodyweight who is shorter.
Great, so that’s validation for the assumption that (unlike the cookies on the top shelf) bodyweight exercise is out of reach for tall people. Right?
Yes, in some ways you might be at a “disadvantage” for certain exercises if you’re over 6-feet tall. You may need to generate more torque to do the same exact exercise as your friend who’s 6 inches shorter than you but weighs the same as you.
But all that means is you need to build enough strength to do what you want with your body.
And when you build that strength, you will be far stronger (pound for pound) than your shorter friend. Would that mean you’re now at an “advantage” over your friend? No. It’s not a competition. Everyone has different challenges depending on their own specific circumstances.
Is it possible for someone to be so tall that they can’t do any bodyweight exercises? I mean, I guess if you’re like 9-feet-tall. I’m assuming you’re not, though, in which case you just need to work on getting stronger.
Proof: Tall People CAN Do Bodyweight Skills
Not convinced? Well, we happen to know quite a few friendly giants who have worked hard to achieve the high levels of strength, flexibility, and motor control necessary for advanced bodyweight training. Take a look.
In this video, you’ll see three of our hard working trainers:
- Jeff Clark–trainer and client support in Walworth, Wisconsin. Jeff is 6’4″ tall and weighs 200 pounds.
- Rob Westra–trainer in Crieff, Scotland. Rob is 6’3″ tall and weighs 182 pounds.
- Greg Woods–trainer in Durham, North Carolina. Greg is 6’5″ tall and weighs 220 pounds.
None of these guys was born with some special ability to defy physics. They’ve all just worked very hard, and the result of their hard work is the ability to do a lot of difficult and impressive skills.
Specific Challenges for Tall People, and How to Address Them
There are certain types of exercises that will likely be more difficult if you are over 6-feet-tall.
This includes handstands, bent arm stands, and the like. The longer lever arms of the legs necessitate a stronger core. You may need to spend a bit more time using props or supports.
Including deep bodyweight squats, pistol squats, and other varieties. With squats, the use of supports will only take you so far if height is your biggest challenge. Using low reps and high sets without supports will help you improve your ability to do the movements you want to be able to do.
Longer range of motion and more weight to pull means this will be more challenging than for someone of a lower bodyweight. Again, low reps and high sets is the best approach.
Along with front levers and back levers, these skills also require quite a challenging leverage. But the conundrum with increasing your strength is that it often comes along with increased muscle size. And higher bodyweight can make bodyweight skills like these harder, but not at all impossible. Avoiding building strength, though, doesn’t make sense, as that’s what’s necessary to be able to do any of the things you want to do.
One of my favorite examples of a big guy doing incredibly impressive skills is Jujimufu. He’s 240 pounds (a big fella!), extremely muscular, and he can do stuff most smaller people can only dream of doing.
Quit Holding Yourself Back
This article isn’t meant as a “no excuses” type of thing. We all have valid reasons for where we decide to put our efforts, and we all have our own challenges.
However, we’ve always promoted the idea that, if you want to be able to do something with your body, you should have the tools to build those capabilities. If you’re tall and want to be able to achieve certain bodyweight skills, you absolutely can. You just need the right tools and enough patience.
And really, no matter what your challenges may be, you’ve got two choices in life:
- Give up.
- Keep pushing yourself to improve.
Our free Strength & Mobility Kickstart will help you start to build a foundation for bodyweight skills, no matter how tall you may be (or whatever other challenges you may have).