If you’re a tall guy who wants to get stronger at deadlifting, then you will need to implement specific training strategies to overcome your height disadvantages.
Why is being tall a disadvantage for deadlifting? Because the longer the range of motion you need to pull, the more work you have to perform compared to someone who is shorter.
My top 7 tips for deadlifting for tall guys are:
- Deadlift Using The Conventional Stance
- Focus On Back Extensor Exercises
- Deadlift Using Flat Shoes
- Stand With Your Feet No More Than Shoulder-Width Apart
- Grip directly Outside Your Shins
- Cue Long Arms
- Build Lockout Strength
Many of these tips are aimed at trying to reduce the range of motion as much as possible. However, as a taller lifter, you also need to focus on developing specific muscle groups over others. We’ll explain exactly what you need to do in this article to get bigger pulls if you’re a tall guy!
Quick note: I just launched a squat and deadlift program specifically for tall lifters on my training app. It’s a 13-week program geared toward lifters with long limbs to increase max strength in the squat and deadlift. Get the program, join our community, and see results.
Questions about anything? Feel free to contact me.
Are You Too Tall For Deadlifting?
Before diving into my tips for deadlifting if you’re a tall guy, you first need to understand whether you are actually considered “tall” or not.
A lot of lifters will say that they’re tall, but they haven’t gone through a formal assessment to know whether their height is impacting their deadlift.
Furthermore, it also matters what segments of your body are considered “tall”. For example, is it your legs that are contributing to your height? Or is it your torso that is contributing to your height? Or both?
Based on the answers to these questions, the overall mechanics of the movement will change, and thus, the strategies that you implement.
So are you tall or not?
A study by Hales (2020), looked at the length of the torso, legs, and arms in relation to the overall height of a person.
It was determined that if your torso is greater than 32% of your overall body, or if your legs are greater than 49% of your overall body, then you are considered “tall”.
The key part is looking at the length of your limbs in relation to your height. This is a better indication of whether you are tall or not when it comes to how your deadlifting technique may be impacted.
So either now, or when you have time, measure your limb lengths. Here is how you should measure:
- Torso length: start at the hip bone and measure to the top of the head
- Leg length: start at the hip bone and measure to the floor
For reference, here is how I measured when doing this assessment:
Based on these measurements, I am someone who has “long legs” and a “long torso”. So yes, I’m a tall lifter when it comes to deadlifting.
If you have long legs, but a short torso, or vice versa, you can still be considered tall, but the consequences may not be as drastic as someone who has long limbs all around.
Check out my article on How To Squat With Long Legs.
Deadlifting Technique Regardless If You Are Tall
I’m going to discuss some specific deadlift technique that you need to implement if you’re a tall lifter.
But before doing so, I want to remind you of some key principles that EVERYBODY needs to follow regardless if you’re tall or not.
Start With The Barbell Over The Mid-Foot
When you walk up to the barbell to begin, your mid-foot should be directly underneath of the barbell. This will ensure that the barbell is not too far away from you as you begin pulling off the floor.
The Barbell Needs To Stay On Your Shins
As you bend over to grab the barbell in the start position, your shins should move to touch the barbell. At that point, the barbell should not break contact from the body. The barbell should drag up your shins and along your thighs the entire range of motion.
The Shoulders Should Be In Front Of The Barbell
The shoulder position should be such that when you are in the start the shoulders are in front of the barbell. I will tell you a more specific shoulder position for taller lifters later on, but know that the shoulder position should not be behind the barbell for anyone.
The Spine Should Be Neutral
As you load the body by pulling the barbell off the floor, the spine should remain in a neutral (straight) position while deadlifting. You should not lose integrity in your spine no matter how heavy you are pulling. In rare cases, the upper back may round, which I cover in a separate article.
Consequences of Being Tall When Deadlifting
Now to the specifics.
If you are a tall guy, then there will be some specific consequences when it comes to deadlifting.
The Back Will Be More Horizontal To The Floor
The longer your legs are, especially if you have a relatively shorter torso, the more horizontal your back angle will be toward the floor.
In other words, you’ll be more bent over compared with someone else. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just something that you need to recognize.
The last thing you want to do is force a more upright torso if you have long legs because that will feel even more awkward when deadlifting.
So you’ll need to own a more bent-over position, which will require you to strengthen certain muscle groups over others if you want to get stronger. More on this in my ‘tips’ section.
The Barbell Will Start Lower On The Body
If you put a tall lifter and a short lifter side-by-side in the deadlift you’ll notice that the barbell starts closer to the ankles for the taller person, and more around the mid-shin for the shorter person.
This means that the barbell is starting lower on the body for the taller person, resulting in a much greater range of motion when comparing the same movement for the shorter person.
This will impact how you set up your start position and the overall technique of the movement. Again, more on this in my ‘tips’ section.
You’ll Be Doing More Overall Work, Requiring More Rest
As a result of the increased range of motion, you will be doing more work than other lifters.
Mechanical work is a product of force multiplied by the distance that this force needs to be applied over (Work = Force X Distance).
Since a taller lifter will have to displace force over a longer distance, the taller lifter is at an energetic disadvantage compared with a shorter lifter.
One of the consequences of this is that a taller lifter may feel more overall fatigue from deadlifting, and they may not be able to handle the same amount of volume as someone else.
As such, taller lifters may need to have more recovery between deadlift workouts compared with a shorter lifter.
You Might Feel Unmotivated To Train Deadlifts
One mental consequence of being a tall person who deadlifts is that you might simply not feel like training deadlifts. This is because you might not feel competent in the movement because it’s your ‘weakest lift’.
I once heard someone say to a taller guy: “Just accept the fact that you’ll never be a good deadlift”.
I disagree with this attitude, and I do think you can develop a strong deadlift despite being taller.
There are numerous examples of taller guys who are deadlifting big weight. Take Thor who deadlifted a World Record of 501kg/1100lbs at a height of 6 foot, 6 inches:
7 Tips For Tall Guys Who Deadlift
I’m now going to share with you my top 7 tips for deadlifting as a tall guy. Remember, I fall into this category too!
It’s important to note that not all of these tips will work equally for everyone.
What I suggest is implementing one or two of these tips over a period of time and see if they work for you. If it does, great. If not, implement some of the other tips that I cover.
The key is to stay patient in your strength progress, as none of these will be ‘quick fixes’. But over several months, you’ll start noticing that your deadlift strength is trending up.
1. Deadlift Using The Conventional Stance
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|Average torso / short arms||✅|
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In most circumstances, based on the Hales (2010) study of limb lengths I mentioned above, a tall person should be deadlifting using the conventional stance.
I don’t mean that you can’t deadlift using those other styles occasionally, but your main deadlifting stance should be conventional. This is because you will likely pull more weight using the conventional stance compared to other styles.
The only situation where you should consider not deadlifting conventional as your primary stance would be if you have short arms. This is regardless if you have long legs. If that’s you, I wrote an entire article on deadlifting with short arms, which you should check out.
2. Focus On Back Extensor Exercises
Because you will assume a more bent over position in the deadlift, you need to focus on more back extensor exercises in your program.
When you have a forward-leaning torso in the start position of the deadlift, it will place greater loading demand on your low and mid-back.
This is not a bad thing, it just means that your back needs to be a lot stronger when compared with shorter lifters who deadlift.
You can place these exercises into your program after your deadlift or on a separate day dedicated to back development.
3. Deadlift Using Flat shoes
One of the quickest ways you can gain an advantage in the deadlift as a tall guy is to deadlift using flat shoes.
I recommend this for all lifters, regardless if you’re tall or not. This is because if you can reduce the range of motion through your footwear then you will be performing less overall work.
The last thing you want to do is deadlift using a squat shoe where there is a 1-1.5 inch heel. Any heel height during the deadlift just means that you will have to pull the barbell this extra distance.
If you don’t already have a specific shoe for deadlift, then check out my guide on the Best Deadlift Shoes where I review the top 8 shoes.
My top pick is the Sabo Deadlift Shoe (click for today’s price on Amazon). Not only is it a minimalist shoe, but it will also keep your body position balanced, protect your ankle and arch, and will ensure your feet don’t slip.
4. Stand With Your Feet No More Than Shoulder-Width Apart
Every tall lifter should pay particularly close attention to how far apart their feet are in the deadlift.
For every inch that your feet are outside of shoulder-width while deadlifting in a conventional stance, this distance gets added to the overall range of motion that you need to pull the barbell.
Since tall guys are already pulling the barbell a further distance compared with shorter guys, you want to ensure you’re maximizing your individual leverages as best as you can. This means not making the movement any greater distance than it already is.
As such, your feet should be directly stacked underneath of your shoulders, and for some lifters, a slightly narrower-than-shoulder stance might feel more comfortable. What you want to avoid is a stance greater-than-shoulder width distance.
5. Grip directly Outside Your Shins
Tall lifters also need to pay attention to where they are gripping the barbell.
I wrote an entire article breaking down the mechanics of the deadlift grip width. In short, the wider you grip the barbell, the more range of motion that you need to pull the barbell. As a tall lifter, your primary concern should be with reducing the range of motion, not increasing it.
Furthermore, a wider grip in the deadlift will place greater emphasis on your mid and upper back muscles.
As a taller lifter, you will already be challenging your mid and upper back to a greater extent because you’ll be deadlifting in a more bent over position. If you combine this more bent over position with a wider grip, your mid and upper back muscles may fatigue sooner than it otherwise would.
My general rule when gripping the barbell for deadlifts is to place my hands so that they are 1-thumb distance away from my shins. If the tip of my thumb doesn’t touch my calf, then I’m gripping the barbell too wide and I need to narrow it.
6. Cue Long Arms
One of my favorite deadlift cues is ‘long arms’.
When you deadlift you want to visualize that your hands are hooks and your arms are chains and the goal is to keep your arms (the chains) as long as possible throughout the range of motion.
This will (again) ensure that you are not increasing the range of motion any more than what’s required. As a tall guy, you need to be obsessed with maximizing your individual leverages as much as possible.
What you want to avoid is bending your elbows, which will cause a lot of stress on the biceps, and cause you to pull the barbell extra distance. If you feel any strain in your bicep while deadlift, it’s because you are not cueing ‘long arms’.
7. Build Lockout Strength
If you are a taller lifter, you might find your deadlift lockout strength is lacking.
This is because the range of motion is longer and your muscles are more fatigued compared with shorter lifters by the time you get to the lockout.
Also, taller lifters generally have a hip position that is further away from the barbell, so in order to bring their hips ‘up and through’ in the lock-out, it’s a much more demanding effort.
In other words, it’s not just the increased vertical range of motion the barbell needs to travel that makes the lift more difficult, it’s also the increased horizontal range of motion that the hips need to travel.
In order to work on your lock-out, you need to prioritize your glute muscles, as your glutes are the primary hip extensor muscle group. I wrote a full guide to the deadlift lockout, which covers technique, programming, and exercise selection.
There are several professional powerlifters who are tall that deadlift a lot of weight. They don’t use their height as an excuse, but rather, work on various elements of their technique in order to maximize the leverages they are built with.
If you’re a tall guy and want to increase your strength on the deadlift, do an audit of your technique and start implementing changes to your stance and grip. Make sure that you’re using specialized deadlifting shoes, cueing your arms to be ‘long’ when pulling, and work on your back extensor/lock-out strength.