Deadlift Form for Tall Guys – Introduction
How to Deadlift for Tall Guys: The Best Tips to Power Your Lifts.
While the back squat is known as the king of exercises, the deadlift probably deserves that title more.
While squats are great for building bigger, stronger, more powerful, athletic legs, deadlifts can do the same for your entire body.
Holding a heavy weight in your hands means that deadlifts work your arms, shoulders, upper back, lower back, core, and legs.
It’s the ultimate minimalist strength training exercise and virtually a workout all by itself.
Toss in a few sets of push-ups or dips, and you can really train your entire body with just two exercises.
Also, deadlifts require no spotter or squat rack, and you can train to failure all by yourself.
Just drop the bar if you cannot complete your next rep.
But, as near-perfect as deadlifts are, taller lifters sometimes find them difficult to do correctly.
And as effective as GOOD deadlifting can be for building muscle and strength, BAD deadlifts can be a back-breaker – literally!
So, if you are a tall guy who struggles with the deadlift, use these deadlift tips to make the REAL king of exercises safer and more comfortable.
Why do Some Tall Lifters Find Deadlifts So Difficult?
Firstly, it’s important to note that being tall does not have to be a handicap for deadlifts.
Some of the best deadlifters in the world are very tall.
For example, Hafthor Bjornson, holder of the current World Record deadlift of 501kg (1,104.52 pounds), stands at 6’9″!
And if you take a look at the average World’s Strongest Man competitor – most of those guys are well over six feet, and some are over six and a half feet, such as 4x WSM winner, 6’8″ Brian Shaw.
Clearly, height doesn’t have to limit deadlift performance!
However, because of genetics and biomechanical differences, being tall can make deadlifts feel awkward for some people and may also limit your performance.
The main reasons that being tall might affect your deadlift execution are:
You have to bend over further to reach the bar
In powerlifting competitions, the barbell is typically 8.25 inches above the floor.
This is the bar’s height if you use regular-sized 45-pound bumper plates.
If you are very tall, reaching down to grab the bar means you’ll have to lean over further than someone shorter.
Bending over more can put more strain on your lower back and could even mean that you end up rounding your spine.
That’s a big no-no in deadlifting!
This all means that taller guys are more likely to injure their backs during deadlifts unless they take care not to round their lumbar spines.
Greater range of motion
The further you have to lift a weight, the more work you’ll have to do to complete each rep.
The taller you are, the more distance the bar has to travel from the floor to the lockout.
Needless to say, this makes each and every rep you perform harder, which could result in lifting less weight or doing fewer reps compared to someone with a shorter range of motion.
However, while this issue may reduce your deadlift performance, it won’t make the deadlift any less productive.
After all, work is work, and your muscles don’t know or care how much weight you’re lifting.
Train hard enough, and they’ll get bigger regardless of how much weight you are actually lifting.
However, this could be an issue if you want to try your hand at competitive deadlifting.
A long torso and long legs create long levers.
A lever is the distance between the weight and the fulcrum or pivot point.
In the deadlift, the main fulcrum is your hips.
The further the weight is from your hips, the heavier the load will feel.
Also, as it’s your back that’s the main lever in deadlifts, you’ll have to work much harder to maintain a neutral spine than someone with a shorter back.
A strong core is a must.
Of course, there are advantages to being a tall deadlifter, too. These include:
A better grip
Taller athletes often have bigger hands and longer fingers.
Deadlift barbells are pretty thick, and if you have long fingers, you’ll be able to encircle the bar more completely and create more friction for a better grip.
A shorter lifter with small hands may struggle with their grip during deadlifts.
If you are tall and have short arms, the deadlift odds are stacked against you.
But, if you are tall and have long arms, you may not actually have any real disadvantages to overcome.
Long arms mean you won’t have to bend over so far, and your range of motion will be shorter.
Some of the best deadlifters have long arms, but, on the downside, this makes bench presses far harder.
https://breakingmuscle.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/bobpeoples.jpg – Bob Peoples – an example of a long-armed deadlifter.
How to Deadlift for Tall Men
If you are a tall guy who struggles with the deadlift, here are some ways to make this exercise safer, more comfortable, and more productive.
Here are the top 7 deadlift tips for tall guys:
- Raise the bar
- Take off your shoes
- Use a narrower grip
- Improve your hamstring flexibility
- Do Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) instead
- Widen your stance
- If all else fails, don’t deadlift!
#1. Raise the bar
If the barbell feels too low to the ground to deadlift safely, raise it to a more forgiving height.
For example, you can rest your barbell on the safety bars of a squat or power rack (rack pulls) or place the weights on steps or blocks (block pull).
Alternatively, you can put your loaded barbell on a couple of spare bumper plates to lift it up.
#2. Take off your shoes
Training in sneakers can add an extra inch or more to your height.
That’s not an issue if you are of average height but just adds insult to injury if you are a tall guy.
Instead, remove your shoes and lift in your socks to avoid making a tricky situation worse.
However, if you train in a commercial gym, there may be rules against barefoot training.
If this is the case, wear minimalist shoes with thin soles and flat heels, or get some deadlift slippers, which are what most powerlifters wear.
Do NOT wear Olympic lifting shoes as they have a very pronounced heel block.
#3. Do not use a wide grip
Tall guys should use a shoulder-width grip for deadlifts.
This maximizes the distance between your shoulders and the bar and saves you from bending over quite so far.
On the other hand, a wider grip means you’ll need to bend over more to reach the barbell.
#4. Work on your hamstring flexibility
If you are tall AND have tight hammies, the chances of reaching your deadlift bar without rounding your lower back are very slim.
Tight hamstrings will pull your pelvis under, turning what should be an arched lower back into a rounded one.
Rounding your lower back puts a whole lot of strain on the discs and ligaments of your spine.
If damaged, these structures can take months to heal and may even need surgery to repair.
If your hamstrings are tight, you need to improve your flexibility if you want to deadlift correctly.
One way to do this is to sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
Loop a resistance band around your feet and gently pull your upper body forward, ensuring you lean from the hips and not the lower back.
Hold for 20-30 seconds, relax, and repeat for 3-5 reps.
Do this exercise every day, or even several times a day.
A few weeks’ flexibility training will work wonders for your hamstrings’ elasticity.
#5. Do Romanian deadlifts instead
Romanian deadlifts work many of the same muscle groups as regular deadlifts.
However, each repetition starts from standing, and you don’t have to lean over so far.
In fact, you are free to self-select the range of movement that best suits your flexibility and leverage.
While RDLs don’t involve your quads as regular deadlifts, this shortfall is easily fixed by doing goblet squats, leg presses, or lunges afterward.
#6. Experiment with your stance
A lot of deadlift information for taller lifters recommends sticking with a conventional deadlift stance.
And while that may be good advice for some lifters, it doesn’t take into account that the sumo deadlift lowers your hips closer to the bar and involves much less forward lean, so it may be better for taller lifters.
Try moving your feet a little wider into a semi-sumo stance and then going full sumo to see how that affects your deadlift.
But, if these options don’t work for you, stick with your conventional stance and work on perfecting your deadlift technique from there.
#7. Don’t deadlift!
If you are struggling with the deadlift, and it’s giving you more problems than benefits, consider dropping it from your workouts altogether.
When it comes to getting fit and transforming your physique, deadlifts are not the only game in town.
Unless you are a powerlifter, the deadlift is NOT compulsory, and there are plenty of other posterior chain exercises that you can do that are much less affected by your height.
Good options include:
- Barbell hip thrusts
- Glute bridge
- Cable pull-throughs
- Kettlebell swings
- Single-leg Romanian deadlifts
While this may seem like a sacrilegious point of view, weighing the benefits of an exercise against the risks is important.
You want to be able to train regularly, consistently, and for many years to come, so it may be necessary to eliminate dangerous exercises from your workouts.
This advice is NOT your excuse to stop deadlifting just because you find it hard; when it comes to productive training, hard is good!
But if you can’t deadlift safely and the risks outweigh the benefits, there are alternative exercises you can use that will achieve similar results.
Save Your Spine Deadlift Tips from Dr. Stuart McGill
How to Deadlift for Tall Guys – Wrapping Up
Many exercisers and trainers believe that you MUST do certain exercises to get fit or strong.
The big three of bench presses, squats, and deadlifts are classic examples of this.
And while these exercises can be super productive, they may not be the best choice for some people.
So, while the conventional deadlift IS undeniably an excellent exercise, it’s not for everyone, and you may need to modify it to match your biomechanics and height.
Or, you may not be built to deadlift, and other exercises will suit you better.
Use the tips in this article to overcome any disadvantages your height may cause during deadlifts.
Alternatively, consider dropping them from your workout program entirely and train your posterior chain muscle groups with some different exercises.
Ultimately, the deadlift is just one of many powerful tools you have at your disposal to achieve your fitness goals, and no rule says you MUST deadlift – unless you are a powerlifter, of course!