We’ve all heard it before: The Squat is the king of the lower-body exercises. This may be true because it gives you the most bang for your buck when it comes to building strength and size in your legs. But not everybody is built to squat the same. Anatomical differences can make squatting and specifically the Back Squat more difficult. This is especially true for the tall athlete.
Being a taller lifter, 6-foot-7 to be exact, I have been through the struggle of learning to squat and have some insight on squatting for vertically exceptional.
Why Do Tall Athletes Struggle With The Squat?
Being a tall athlete has its advantages. Height can be advantageous for the basketball and football player but it can make things more difficult in the weight room.
But tall athletes often have a greater relative femur length when compared to the torso. Think about the 7-footer whose legs go on for days. This body structure can make proper squatting technique tricky.
For a proper Squat, it is imperative to maintain your center of mass or the barbell over the mid foot. For tall athletes, the Back Squat can look more like a Good Morning to keep the weight over the mid foot.
This technique puts more strain on the lower back and also makes it more difficult to reach much past parallel without compensation.
One Cue That Hurts Tall Athletes
Before we go into squatting variations, lets broach the subject of one cue that can be troublesome for taller athletes.
“Don’t let the knees go over the toes.”
If you are 5-foot-5 with a long torso this will work, but for the taller athlete this just won’t cut it.
For an athlete with longer limbs, the knees are going to have to go past the toes or achieving full range and keeping undue stress off your low back will be difficult.
Here are three squatting variations that taller athletes should consider implementing in their training programs.
Goblet Squats are a great tool for teaching the novice lifter how to squat, but it can also be useful in training the taller athlete.
The anterior loading of the goblet position will encourage more forward knee tracking, allowing for a more upright posture. I have personally found that it is much easier to reach full depth with anterior loading.
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As stated before, anterior loading in the squat pattern can lend itself to a better squatting posture and a greater range of motion.
The Front Squat, like the Goblet Squat, uses an anterior load, but the front rack position allows for greater loads. The Front Squat would be considered a progression from the Goblet Squat. When the goal is to move weight, the Front Squat may be more advantageous.
Another positive of the Front Squat comes with failure. The Front Squat is safer when failure occurs. It is much easier and safer to dump the load out of a front rack position versus when a bar is across your back.
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Goblet Rear Foot-Elevated Split Squat
Single-leg exercise variations are important for fixing strength imbalances and creating stability. They can also be helpful for those who struggle with low-back pain, an issue that a number of taller athletes deal with. The overall loads may be lighter but the stimulus can be just as effective.
Combining a single-leg exercise like the Rear Foot-Elevated Split Squat with anterior loading can be especially effective for the taller athlete.
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