The king of body weight exercises and one of the most effective moves for strength and conditioning.
They predominately work the muscles in your chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs.
There are hundreds of variations to keep you challenged and they require zero equipment so you can do them anywhere.
Despite all the benefits, the most common question about push-ups that I see is:
Are push-ups harder if you are tall?
A quick Google search of this term generates 3.18 million hits!!
Reddit is no better, it contains countless posts like these:
What’s going on here?
Is there truth to the claim that push-ups are harder if you are tall or are people making excuses?
The answer is a combination of both.
The Disadvantage of Long Limbs
It’s no secret that tall people have longer limbs.
This can be a blessing when reaching things from the top shelf but also a curse when attempting certain exercises.
In a previous blog post I outlined why some body weight movements are harder if you are tall.
It essentially boils down to three things: distance traveled, leverage and muscle to weight ratio.
1. Distance Traveled
The longer your limbs the more work you have to do to move your body through a range of motion.
For every inch your arms are longer than someone of a shorter height you have to travel an inch further to execute a push-up.
When you increase the distance you need to travel, you increase the amount of work you need to do!
Push-ups are a second-class lever.
Your body pivots around your toes, the weight is your body and your center of gravity hovers around your hips.
Your arms are what does all the moving, pressing you up and guiding you back down.
The problem with a second-class lever is that it needs to be stable in the place where all of the weight is pressing it down.
Since your hips are the center of mass and are in the air, and both your hands and feet are on the ground, gravity is pulling your body down at the hips.
Consequently you need a certain amount of abdominal strength to complete a push-up, to keep your hips from sagging.
The taller you are, the longer your body, and the further your hands and feet are from your hips.
The further your base of support moves from the center, your hips, the greater the amount of force that pulls the hips down.
3. Muscle to Weight Ratio
Generally, the taller you are the more body weight (not just muscle) you have to carry.
As you get taller, your organs and bones get larger and heavier, but you still build muscle at about the same rate as everyone else (regardless of height).
So, if you are lean (like most tall people), you require a certain amount of strength to be able to execute a push-up correctly.
It’s usually a lack of strength coupled with distance traveled and leverage that make push-ups harder if you are tall.
Let Go of Your Ego
I have a confession to make.
Many years ago, before I started any weight training, I couldn’t do a single push-up.
Rather than putting in the hard work and training push-ups on my knees I quit.
What did I do instead?
I blamed my height and made all sorts of excuses.
For the next 2 years I put off push-ups completely.
Instead I focused on getting better at the exercises that I could already do.
I was too embarrassed and proud to practice knee push-ups.
Looking back it sounds silly but at the time it felt right.
You can see this around you everywhere.
Our egos are fragile and many times we will choose to do the thing that preserves it.
Look deep and ask yourself honestly how many times you acted a certain way to stroke your ego.
When we learn to identify that our ego is holding us back and we let go only then can we make progress.
Get To Work
The truth of the matter is push-ups are harder for you because you are not strong enough.
The sooner you accept this fact the sooner you’ll be able to work towards getting better.
You can make all sorts of excuses like I did and waste your time or you can simply get to work.
The beauty with push-ups is that they are body weight exercise.
They don’t put much stress on your central nervous system so you can train them many times per week.
This leads to faster progress and more muscle growth.
How To Do More Push-Ups
One of the best FREE resources I’ve come across is a website called ONE HUNDRED PUSHUPS.
This site gives you a detailed 6 week training program (for all skill levels) for progressing to 100 consecutive push-ups.
All you need is plenty of discipline and about 30 minutes a week to achieve this goal!
If you are serious about getting stronger and being able to do more push-ups then go and start ONE HUNDRED PUSHUPS.
Don’t be another reddit poster looking for excuses as to why they shouldn’t do push-ups.
Get out there and get it done.
Stand tall, be proud of your height and strive for greatness.
- Image credit for push-up (cover image): here
Your ego is not your amigo! Amen, good read… I hate push ups, but I do them, because they work! I started with knee push-ups, at the gym, in front of everyone. And like anything else, you get stronger and now, no knees and more strength!
Art of Tall says
Thank you Zach. Great work pushing through with the push-ups and not being put off starting out on your knees.
Iam 6ft6in tall and i just started with low reps of push ups then week by week added more reps. So far can do 30 in one go, however just gonna build more on that week by week ??
Art of Tall says
Fantastic work Kent! Progression is the key to being able to do more and getting stronger. Keep up the good work!
Hey bro!I am 15 years old 6’5 tall and i started doeing 100 push ups every day for about 3 weeks and i can say that i got much stronger.The thing is that its difficult for me to do pull ups.How can i achieve this?
Hey, try doing inverted Bodyweight Rows to build up your mid back 1st.
I can do 50 normal push ups in one go, but can’t do a single one handed push up. Being tall definitely makes it way mire difficult, because my short ass dad never exercise and can do a one hand push up and brag about it.
jesse sarabia says
The reddit posters are mostly from their own lips, At least on many, and experience in school…Asking that question because shorter P.E classmates beat them in push ups by a lot, some going from 30 for the tall guy and 156 for the short guy., The first thing I heard was, Oh it is because you’re short,I have more upper body strength, Come the rope challenge and it was finished in 3 seconds flat to the bell and drop down, Tall guy does the same and can’t make it up, Even though he is lean. Longer arms would hypothetically have the advantage. My main point is,This question is VERY COMMON, when a pre conceived notion about height is challenged to the person who views themselves above or strongers ego. Plus , short people can have long arms and do depending on how much taller the person is, have the same arm length, arms stretched out, Believe me, Kids in school would test it all to support their ego. This question spreads by this idea, So while it isn’t enough of a factor to cause a tall person to lose to a stronger short person, It plays some factor but strength is going to make the difference, If you took 2 people with the same strength, the taller person would have a boost on strength and be even or better, Take a trained man who is shorter but stronger, and the excuse goes away. This question came up so much, and reddit chats referenced it so I had to address it because I’ve always found it sad that we can’t just all give props where props are do.
Here’s my 2 cents.
I’m 6ft7 105kg 38yo male.
There’s a reason people ask reddit questions and it’s a big google search because it’s TRUE.
I’ve done close to 12yrs full time Army and passed Arms Corps training. A Veteran, been close to the fittest guy for my age and carried heavy machine guns for hours with extreme weight, without a sling, during a 15km pack march whilst the rest of my platoon shares the weight.
I struggled with push ups my whole career and still do. But I can GUARANTEE I’d be the muel and carry stuff people couldn’t because they were smaller than me. Are they weak? No there not, there just not built like me. The smaller guy understood he could do more push-ups. It didn’t mean anything.
We all knew our strengths and weaknesses. Tall and short have there advantages and disadvantages. To say the truth is the tall man is weak is a laugh. Believe me I talk from experience. Everything comes out on the table where I’ve been.
Fact is the Tall man is at a disadvantage when it comes to push ups. We all trained thr same and lived out of eachothers pockets for days with an extreme training regime. The smaller guy ALWAYS does better at push ups.
Stop spouting rubbish.
It’s all a mind set. And you have to want it. It’s not ego.
I’ll happily debate or advise anyone also. And I am not the know all of everything, I just speak from facts and experience.
ognjen puljak says
I am 40 years old male, 6’5 with 6’9 wingspan. My forearm is same length like people who are several inches shorter than me, but my upper arm is abnormally long. I am not the weakest person in the world, I do quite well in various exercises.
I can’t stress enough how hard I struggle on push-ups. Just to get 90 degrees forearm-upper arm angle I need to put my palms close to my belly button and I struggle so bad on push-ups, all variations but the ones where i spread my arms all the way wide.
I feel 90 years old on push-ups, but I am not that weak, it’s more the way I’m built.
I’m 6’4″ and people have always said I have ungodly “farm boy” strength. It’s true, I can lift and carry things easily and can manhandle most people with ease. I have long arms and big strong hands.
Pushups, however. I feel sooo terrible at them. People say it’s a “chest” exercise. I feel nothing in my chest, ever, when doing pushups. My wrists and the upper top side of my forearms and the tops of shoulders where the arms connect hurt like crazy, however. Not weak pain, but like there is something wrong, as if the lever forces are too much. I’ve read all kinds of posts on proper form and don’t think that is it.
I tried the 100 Pushups thing and got to 21 pushups after three weeks. I tried for four more weeks after that and just could not ever pass it. I also tried an ungodly amount of knee pushups, which I can do with ease. I also found out tonight that I can do pushups much more easily with my feet up on a chair (elevated). These are supposed to be harder, but they are much easier for me. I think the problem is actually the angle and the forces acting on the long arms.