More On Training With Long Limbs

MORE ABOUT – Tall and Long-Limbed Training?

By Paul T. Burke, M. Ed., PhD (candidate)

You recently wrote briefly about “tall bodybuilders” and how they should approach weight training: Could you please tell us more?

First, almost anyone over 6’ knows that they have at least some obstacles to becoming a successful bodybuilder. Unless you are gifted with the right joints and full muscles, you have probably found some trouble doing Bench Presses, Squats, and other multi-joint pressing movements. The good news, as most of you know, is that the longer the limb, the more leverage you have for pulling exercises; however, for many, when it come to pressing with large muscle-groups it can be tough.

Let’s start with Legs. I am 6’1” tall; and, legs were a problem for me from the start. I had to come up with all kinds of ideas to squat heavy enough for those hams to grow.

Fist, I think knee-raps are a must if you have long-legs and a big-torso—especially if you have small knees. I only wear them on my heaviest sets—not the first few. But when it gets heavy, get those wraps on tight.

The second thing: wear a pair of high-top work-boots, or buy a pair of high-top Olympic shoes. This strengthens the ankle area—which is often the weakest link in that long leg/arm/frame body. Arnold always said that when he did squats, his body leaned forward. When I heard him say this (in 1974), I had what I thought was an epiphany (a revelation of brilliance popping into one’s brain). I won’t call it brilliance, but it helped me prevent what had happened to Arnold and was happening to me—the body leaning forward when doing heavy squats. I bought a triple-thick, double tang weight training/Power-lifting belt and pulled that tight around my waist. Then, I took my other regular training belt and put it on backwards, just above the power-lifting belt. Believe me, if you want to squat heavy and you have long thin legs, you’ll come up with anything. (You obviously need a person to help you with this). This will prevent your torso from going too far forward when doing heavy squats. What is a heavy squat? Something that you have to bust your gut to get 10 full-reps without stopping. If you get really confident at this squatting game, I would advise going for higher reps. This wasn’t enough for me because my ankles still felt as if they were moving around inside the boots. I then bought Velcro-strapped ankle-socks (that stretch and fit really snug). This held my ankles- and upper calves tightly together. Putting that into the shoes and having the two belts on, and knee raps may have had me looking like a walking mummy, but I could go with 405 for 12 reps without a problem—prior to the use of the extra? 315 for 12. That is what it can do, it takes all of your weak links out and gives you the feeling of power and straightness.

Let’s go to Chest: I always had trouble with my upper-pectorals (big triceps, weak upper-pectorals). Three major things changed that for me: First, I started doing mostly decline pressing. It allowed for the use of heavy weight because the distance traveled is lessened by the natural range of the arm-stroke with the body being inverted. Secondly, since my deltoids were physically beneath my pectorals, my body had no chance to engage those upper deltoids to press the bar (or dumbbells) upward (something that always happened on “incline bench presses”). Lastly, when I did do inclines, it was strictly with dumbbells and I always pumped up my biceps and forearms before doing these pressing motions. The reason for this is rather simple. The amount of blood in the biceps and forearms gives you a considerable “cushion” as the bar (or dumbbells) make their way back down and up again—you actually feel stronger and more in control this way. Simple, but very effective.

How about Shoulders?: A different muscles group, but basically the same rule of thumb applies—pump up your biceps and forearms before doing pressing and feel the ease of the any pressing motion. (When I say “pump-up your biceps and forearms—that is all, don’t work them hard, just pump them up as fast as you can). Be sure that the pressing bench is positioned so that your feet are flat on the ground and your thighs are parallel to it. Having the seat in a higher position while doing a set of presses on a Hammer-Strength pressing machine will shorten the range. For shoulders, the press need be no more than five inches or so. If you are going all the way up and all the way down, then you are working other muscles—not just the middle head of the deltoid.

The best thing a tall person, or someone with long limbs can do is try to shorten strokes and strengthen areas where they may be. I have seen many guys use some type of elastic-band around their triceps—Yates did it. That was probably a joint that was not as welcoming to heavy training as his other joints were. Think of it like this: The three-S’s: Shorten, strengthen and wear tight-“stretchy” bands, or raps around joints that are a weak link in the chain of events in any given muscle group’s multi-group exercise.

If you have questions, you can write to me at I answer all of my emails.


Paul T. Burke, M. Ed., PhD (Candidate)

CEO: Paul Burke Enterprises, LLC

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One Response for More On Training With Long Limbs

  1. Darren


    September 10, 2010 8:43 pm

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