6 More Hypertrophy Tips for the Long Limbed Lifter

Tom MacCormick

Strength and Conditioning, Personal Training, Sports Science

Fitness, strength and conditioning, training schedule, muscle growth, front squats, isolation work

 

Welcome back. In my first article, Hypertrophy for Long-Limbed Lifters, I covered the first five key training strategies to help long-limbed guys build muscle. In this article, I have another six tips for you to fine tune your training.

 

 

1. Keep it Simple, Stupid - The KISS Principle

The internet is overrun with countless articles (like this one) about exercises and training programs. This provides plenty of information, some misinformation, and most likely causes information overload for you, the reader. Because of this, many tall guys end up confused as to what they should be doing or distracted by articles geared towards shorter lifters.

 

Instead, you should aim to keep things as simple as possible. Pick exercises that suit you and your goals, train them in a manner appropriate to your goals, and aim to get progressively better at them by adding weight or reps.

 

Your training should only be as complex as needed to get you results. The good news is that it really isn’t very complicated at all. Focus on building a base of strength in the big lifts in the 6-8 rep range, train each muscle group 2-3 times a week, do some assistance work in the 10+ rep range and aim to get progressively stronger over time. Follow these principles, and you are on the right path.

 

Keeping things simple will help you to get the best results now. Another benefit of keeping things simple is that it sets you up for long-term success. By saving complex periodized programs, specialization phases, and super high-volume training protocols for when you actually need them, you can keep growing for years by keeping things simple. Don’t fire all your muscle building guns at once. It leaves you with no scope for progress.

 

2. Use Height to Your Advantage

In part one, I pointed out how being tall sucks for building muscle and I discussed all the ways you need to modify training to overcome the disadvantage of your long levers. Well, it is time to flip that and focus on the positives.

 

If you're tall and your number one goal is to pack on some noticeable size, then being mechanically disadvantaged in certain movements because of your long limbs can be an advantage. It allows you to place a ton of tension on the muscle and really exhaust the fibers to force them to grow. Rather than looking to optimize leverages to move the most weight from A to B you should aim to place the most tension possible on the target muscle by using your poor leverages to your advantage.

 

“The amount of additional time, space, and force it takes for us to perform an exercise like a chest fly, reverse fly, or lateral raise can mean more potential muscle. The lever arm created by a weight held much farther away from the torso will be larger than that of a short-armed individual, so it makes sense to train these movements. As such, cable variations of chest flies work well due to the constant tension.” - Lee Boyce

 

The same principle applies to your leg training and this is why I suggest you use the leg curl and leg extension in your training. One of the reasons leg extensions and curls are so effective for tall guys is because of the massive levers created. Given these exercises are easy to execute, it is simple to master the technique. Because they are machine based, you can really get after it and smash the target muscle without fear of form breakdown.

 

Program in some cable flys, lateral raises, rear delt flys, leg curls, and leg extensions toward the end of your training sessions and hammer these for sets of 10+ reps to get a wicked pump and an awesome growth stimulus.

 

3. Pause for Thought, Pause for Progress

It’s no secret that tall guys tend to struggle with mobility. Mobility issues can only be solved by training for increased mobility. This usually conjures images of all sorts of mind numbing, namby-pamby, rehab style mobility drills. Nobody likes that stuff. But, you can use paused reps to get a training effect for the muscles, improve technique, enhance mobility, hone your form, and all in a time efficient manner.

 

Unloaded mobility work has its place, but doesn’t necessarily carry over to movement patterns performed under heavy load in training. For example, many long-limbed lifters find that squatting with an empty bar looks really ugly. As load comes onto the bar their form tends to improve. The weight on the bar forces the body into a loaded stretch. As a result, paused squats and bench variations can be fantastic mobility and muscle building exercises.

 

I think paused reps are vital for many tall guys. Firstly, they inhibit the stretch reflex and minimize momentum. This means that your muscles do more work and get a greater stimulus. This enables you to train true strength from the bottom up. Secondly, paused reps can really enhance technique. By stopping in the bottom range (the most mechanically disadvantaged position on squats and bench), you build stability in this range and ingrain proper technique.

 

Tall guys often lack stability in the hole on a squat and end up shifting their weight forward or back. This increases the risk of a missed lift, injury, and limits the amount of weight on the bar. Spending a few seconds at the bottom of each rep can have a positive impact on your ability to stay tight at the bottom of your reps. Over time this means you can lift more weight, through a full range of motion with better form. Win, win, win!

 

4. Front Squat Instead of Back Squat

The front squat is superior for most tall/long limbed people because it allows you to hit depth easier and maintain a more upright torso position. Because the weight is front loaded, it allows you to use the weight as a counterbalance. This allows you to place more emphasis on your quads and really stimulate them.

 

Back squats, however, often turn into good mornings for lanky guys. All this does is shift more of the load onto your back and make other gym goers cringe at your form. So, when picking your staple squatting movement to gauge progress over time, go with the front squat over the back squat.

 

5. Use Equipment to Your Advantage

The trap bar is a great piece of equipment for a long-limbed trainee. Often, performing deadlifts with a straight bar can get pretty ugly for tall guys due to lack of mobility and the sheer distance they have to move it. Navigating the bar around the shins is often a considerable challenge for you. You can get the benefits of deadlifting without the injury risk by using the trap bar.

 

The trap bar gives you more room to work with. It doesn’t block your shins like a traditional bar. Also, because you are in the middle of the bar you can keep your center of gravity back a little further. This is great because, all too often, tall guys get forced too far forward with conventional bars. This compromises their form, limits the weight they can safely use and increases the risk of injury at near maximal loads.

 

By using the trap bar for deadlifts, you get the benefits of both squatting and deadlifting. The trap bar deadlift is kind of a hybrid lift. Obviously, you deadlift the bar off the floor with it in your hands. However, the movement pattern has is closer to a squat and results in more quad emphasis than a conventional deadlift. This allows you to hit that same deep knee angle as you would in a squat, in a much more comfortable way.

 

Most trap bars have high and low handles (simply flip it over to use the lower handle). This allows you to progress the range over time. First, get comfortable with the high handle start position. Get strong here and then switch to the lower handles. This forces you to work through a greater range of motion. Your quads and glutes will have to work harder but, remember, full range equals full development.

 

6. Perform Direct Isolation Work

Some people can grow big arms and legs simply by progressing on the basic lifts. Has that worked for you? Hell no!

 

Almost all the people who promote the big lifts for building a big and balanced physique have t-rex arms and stubby legs. For us long limbed folks, isolation work is a must if you want to fully maximize the size of your arms and legs.

 

To take advantage of isolation work you could simply add an arm day to your training week. However, for most of us time is at a premium and heading into the gym only to hit arms is not really an efficient use of time. Instead, I would train arms more frequently (2-3 x week) by adding them to the end of other workouts. A good option would be to follow a 4 day per week upper/lower split. Hit arms for 2-3 sets of 1-2 exercises at the end of both the upper sessions for 6 weeks and get ready to finally see those arms growing.

 

Adding indirect quad and hamstring work in the form of leg extensions and curls can also work well on a leg day built primarily around exercises like front squats, trap bar deadlifts, leg press and Romanian deadlifts.

 

Put the Tips to Practice

There you go. Two articles with 11 training tips for the long-limbed lifter. Each tip is really only a small tweak, but if you apply all 11 you’ll grow faster than you ever thought possible. Follow these tips to go from tall and scrawny to big and jacked.

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