I’m sorry to say that if you have long legs relative to the rest of your body that you will be at a disadvantage when squatting compared with someone who has short legs.
This is why it’s important to choose the right training strategy and squat technique if you have long legs and want to continue to get stronger.
The top 10 tips for squatting with long legs are:
- Use a Wide Squat Stance
- Work on Your Hip Mobility
- Squat Using a Low Bar Position
- Wear Heeled Squat Shoes
- Place Your Torso More Horizontal To The Floor
- Work On Your Ankle Mobility
- Build Strong Hip & Back Extensors
- Limit Your Squat Frequency
- Perform The Belt Squat Variation
- Ignore Comparing Yourself To Other Lifters
Each of these tips will allow you to squat more effectively. However, before diving into these tips further, we’ll want to first find out whether or not you actually have long legs. Let’s get started!
Do You Actually Have Long Femur Squats?
Having long legs typically refer to having long femurs, which is the length of the upper thigh bone.
A lot of lifters may arbitrarily say that they have long femurs, but they haven’t gone through a formal assessment to determine whether their legs are actually longer than the rest of their body.
If you do have long legs, it will most certainly change the mechanics of your squat.
So let’s find out if you have long legs or not. As you’ll see, I’m someone who has long legs for squatting.
A study by Hales (2010), examined various lifters’ limb lengths, including the torso, leg, and arms as proportions of the overall body structure. Analyzing these limb lengths gives us a reference point to know whether some limbs are considered ‘long’, ‘short’, or ‘average.
The key takeaway is that having long legs for squatting needs to be considered as proportions to the rest of the body.
If you have long legs, but you also have a long torso, then you might not actually have any negative effects when it comes to squatting. However, the challenge exist when you have long legs compared with the rest of your body, i.e. you have long legs, but a short torso.
Therefore, you need to measure your total height, leg length, and torso length (not just your legs).
Here is how you should measure:
- Total height: Measure from the bottom of your foot to the top of your head while standing tall against a wall.
- Torso length: Start at the hip bone (greater trochanter) and measure to the top of the head.
- Leg length: Start at the hip bone (greater trochanter) and measure to the floor.
For reference, here are my limb proportions:
If your legs are anything greater than 49% of your overall height, then you would have long legs for squatting. Since my legs are at 51%, I would be classified as someone who has long legs.
Squatting Mechanics: Regardless If You Have Long Legs
Before discussing my tips for long-legged lifters, let’s examine 3 must-have technique principles that you need to implement regardless of your limb lengths.
Just because you may have long legs for squatting, doesn’t mean you should be compromising on certain elements of your technique.
The Barbell Must Remain Over The Mid Foot
One of the fundamental principles of squatting is that the barbell must remain over the mid-foot throughout the entirety of the movement.
In my article on the Best Bar Path For Squats, I discuss that keeping the barbell over the mid-foot allows you to (1) work less, (2) increase balance and stability, and (3) decrease the loading demands on your low back.
The tricky part for lifters with long femurs is that the barbell will want to drift forward in front of the center of mass. However, regardless if you have long-legs or not, you’ll want to ensure that the barbell is directly stacked over the mid-foot, especially as you squat deeper into the bottom end range of motion.
I’ll discuss how to do this in our ‘tips section’ below.
Your Back Should Not Round
At all times, you should maintain a high level of integrity through your spine while squatting, which means not rounding through your low or mid-back.
Long-legged lifters will have more of a tendency to round their back in order to sit their hips between their legs or when trying to achieve greater ranges of depth within the squat.
Just because you have long legs isn’t an excuse to round your back while squatting. I do discuss that sometimes it’s okay to round your back while deadlifting, but this is not the case for squats.
Again, I’ll discuss more on how to achieve this position in our ‘tips section’ below.
You Can Still Squat Below Parallel
Despite being a long-legged lifter, you can still achieve deep squats.
While it will be increasingly difficult to achieve deeper squats for someone who has a larger proportion of their body made up of their legs, it’s not impossible for these lifters to squat below parallel.
If you struggle with getting below parallel in the squat, you can read my article on How To Squat Deeper. However, we’ll be discussing some specific tips for long-legged lifters below.
10 Tips For Squatting With Long Femurs
I’m now going to discuss 10 training strategies that you can start implementing immediately in order to squat more effectively with long legs.
Not all of these tips will apply to everyone equally though. What might work for one person, may or may not work for another.
I suggest taking one of these tips, implementing it into your training over a period of a few weeks, then see if it works. If it does, great. If not, move onto the next tip.
Just don’t give up because you have long legs. I’m confident at least one of these tips will work for you! And if not, feel free to contact me.
1. Use a Wide Squat Stance
One of the quickest ways for long-legged lifters to start feeling more comfortable in the squat is to use a wider stance.
In the study by Hales (2010) that I mentioned earlier, one of the main conclusions was that if someone has longer legs compared with the rest of their body that they should consider squatting and deadlifting in a wider stance.
For squatting, I recommend taking a stance that is 1.5X the distance of your shoulders and flaring your toes slightly. It very well could be that you need to go wider, but this will be a good starting point.
Squatting in a wide stance allows you to externally rotate your femurs so that your hips open up more. It will make squatting deeper feel easier, as well as the ability to maintain a more upright posture.
If you do end up squatting wider, be sure to read my article on Wide Stance Squats. I talk about some of the other benefits of wide squats, including have greater glute activation and increased levels of power.
2. Work on Your Hip Mobility
As a long-legged lifter, you will need to implement a regular hip mobility routine, including stretching and foam rolling.
It’s not that because you’re a long-legged lifter that you need to work on your hip mobility more than anyone else. But, if you’re a long-legged lifter, and you choose to squat in a wider stance (tip #1), your hip mobility demands will be greater compared with someone in a narrower stance.
If you’re interested in learning more about hip mobility, read my article on How To Warm Up For Squats, where I detail a complete mobility routine for the hips.
One of my favorite exercises is the frog stretch, which every long-legged lifter should implement (watch the video above).
3. Squat Using a Low Bar Position
Using a low bar squat position will allow your hips to travel more freely behind you, which is necessary for long-legged lifters.
There are generally two different squat styles: high bar and low bar. The high bar squat places the barbell on your upper traps. The low bar squat places the barbell on your lower traps/upper rhomboids.
With longer femurs, your hips will need to travel a greater distance behind you. This position is more easily achieved in a low bar squat, which promotes more hip flexion. In a high bar squat, your hips will need to sit more ‘straight down’ vs ‘back’, which will be difficult with long legs.
There is a lot of biomechanics at play when it comes to choosing a low bar squat vs high bar squat position, so feel free to read my guide on Where Should You Put The Barbell On Your Back When Squatting?
4. Wear Heeled Squat Shoes
The greater the length of the femur, the more you will benefit from squatting in a heeled shoe. This is especially the cause for squatting for tall guys with flat feet.
I wrote an entire article on whether you should squat in heeled or flat shoes. There are several points to consider when buying a proper squat shoe, but there is no question that if you have long legs that you need to be squatting in a heeled shoe.
In order to squat deep with long legs, you will require a greater amount of ankle dorsiflexion compared with someone who has short legs (i.e. how much your ankle needs to flex forward). With a heeled shoe, you can immediately create more range of motion for your ankle to travel.
If you wear flat shoes with long femurs, you will either lean too far forward or your ankles will pronate (i.e. heels lifting from the floor).
My #1 heeled shoe recommendation for long-legged lifters is the Adidas Powerlift 4.
If you can’t afford this shoe, check out my Best Squat Shoes Under $100. A proper squat shoe is so important for long-legged lifters that you just need to get something with a raised heel.
5. Place Your Torso More Horizontal To The Floor
As a long-legged lifter, you need to accept that your torso is going to be more horizontal to the floor no matter how hard you try to stay upright.
I mentioned that squatting in a wider stance, using a low bar squat position, and wearing heeled shoes will allow you to stay more upright. This is true. But, you will still be more ‘bent-over’ compared with someone who has shorter legs.
Don’t fight this position. It’s okay to have a more horizontal torso position to the floor. This is a perfectly safe position to be in, so long as you maintain neutrality in your spine. In other words, avoid letting your back round.
To avoid rounding, you need to have strong spinal erectors to handle the additional loading demands on your back. We’ll talk more about this in Tip #7.
If you think you’re leaning too far forward in the squat, you can read my article on How To Fix Leaning Forward When Squatting (5 Solutions).
6. Work On Your Ankle Mobility
Since your body will need to travel a greater distance while squatting, your ankles will require additional mobility as a result of this increased range of motion.
As I mentioned, heeled squat shoes will be a quick way to increase the amount your ankle can flex forward while squatting (Tip #4). However, even with a heeled shoe, someone with tight ankles will still struggle to get low in the squat.
As such, long-legged lifters should work to increase the natural mobility of their ankle to the greatest extent possible.
Here are two ankle mobility exercises that I would do before squatting:
Banded Ankle Dislocations
Soft Tissue Calf Release
7. Build Strong Hip & Back Extensors
Someone with long femurs while squatting will need to build strong hip and back extensors, including your glutes and spinal erectors.
As I mentioned in Tip #5, anyone with long legs will naturally have more of a forward-leaning torso while squatting. As a result, your low back, mid-back, and glutes will require greater levels of strength to handle this position.
If these muscles are weak and the loading demand is too heavy, the consequence is that your back starts to round, or worse, you fall forward.
Therefore, you should be intentional with some of the squat accessory movements that you program to increase your hip and back extensor strength.
For someone with longer legs, I would include the following exercises into your squat routine:
8. Limit Your Squat Frequency
A lifter with long legs will squat less often per week compared with a lifter with short legs.
If you’re designing your own squat program, you will need to consider how many times per week you should squat.
When deciding your optimal squat frequency, the main question to ask is whether you can still recover if you increase the number of times you squat per week.
For long-legged lifters, your muscles are traveling a greater range of motion, and therefore will create more muscular damage.
As such, compared with people who have short legs, you’ll find that you cannot recover as quickly from your squat workouts. I find that long-legged lifters can squat optimally between 1-2 times/week, while long-legged lifters can squat between 3-5 times per week.
This is not to say that I haven’t met long-legged lifters who don’t squat 3+ times/week, but it’s just rarer and requires an advanced-level squatting ability.
9. Perform The Belt Squat Variation
The belt squat is an effective squat variation that allows long-legged lifters to feel more comfortable squatting at deeper ranges of motion.
The belt squat is an exercise where the weight is attached to your hips (rather than loaded on your back), which reduces the level of spinal loading and compression compared with a traditional barbell back squat.
Because your back will be stressed a lot more squatting with longer legs, you’ll want to find, at times, lower body exercises that allow you to train your lower body without causing excess fatigue.
The belt squat is a highly effective lower body exercise that can allow you to increase your squat frequency throughout the week, and at the same time, not increase the level of fatigue.
If you don’t have a belt squat machine available to you, check out my article on the 9 Best Belt Squat Alternatives.
10. Ignore Comparing Yourself To Other Lifters
Long-legged lifters should ignore what other people look like when squatting, as their mechanics will be much different than their own.
It’s easy to become discouraged when you see other squatters maintaining a perfectly upright torso and have the ability to squat below parallel with ease.
These other lifters should not be the models that you try to replicate your squat after. It’s an unrealistic expectation given your unique limb lengths and proportions.
As such, you should ignore trying to copy someone else’s technique, and simply work to refine your own within the strength and limitations provided.
Whether you have long arms or not, you want to make sure you follow basic squatting technique, including (1) keeping the barbell in line with the mid-foot, (2) avoid back rounding, and (3) not making excuses for lack of depth.
So is it harder for a tall person to squat?
If you have long legs, recognize that you’ll be at a disadvantage while squatting, but that doesn’t mean you are helpless. Follow the tips in this article to create a more successful squatting experience.