One of the most frequently asked questions by tall people training regularly at the gym is: is it harder to put on muscle if you are tall?
The sweet and short answer is NO.
Before I explain why, let’s first examine why this is a frequently asked question.
For a majority of tall people (myself included) the story usually goes something like this:
We start skinny and decide we want to get strong and put on some muscle.
We clean up our diets, find a good training program and hit the gym hard.
About 1 to 1.5 years later the scales show we’ve put on weight or managed to maintain the same weight (i.e. body recomposition – converting fat to muscle).
We look in the mirror and see some muscle definition but we do not look noticeably bigger!
The worst part about all of this: our shorter friends that started lifting are now starting to look big.
Cue self-doubt and questioning whether putting on muscle as a tall person is possible.
The rate at which anyone (regardless of body size) puts on muscle naturally is approximately the same. If you’re interested in specific numbers, check out this article which details numerous models and approximate expected muscle gains throughout your lifting career.
The main reason why it appears that tall people have a hard time gaining muscle is actually quite simple and obvious.
Tall people have much more surface area to fill. It’s no secret that tall people have proportionally longer arms, legs and torsos compared to shorter people. This is why when you stand two people side-by-side who are 5’6 and 6’6 and add 20 kg onto them the shorter person will always look more muscular and “built”. Let’s say you add 2 kg of muscle to your arms. A short person may have an arm length of 90 cm while a tall persons arm length is 140 cm. The 2 kg will be much more densely packed on the shorter arm while for the longer arm it will be stretched out and less noticeable.
As a tall person you need to work harder and for a longer period of time to grow enough muscles to the point where you look built. It’s going to be a harder road to travel but the plus side is that when you do eventually reach that stage of putting on significant muscle you will stand out, a lot! Just take a look at Chris Hemsworth (standing tall at 1.9 meters) when he got in shape for Thor.
A shorter person will reach the state of appearing well built much faster than a tall person BUT after a while there won’t be any more room for growth naturally because of their small frame. As a tall person your larger limbs will give you much, much more room to grow and develop.
It’s all in your mind
Ultimately this all boils down to your mindset. In my opinion there are two things all tall people should do:
- Get out of the mindset that it’s harder to build muscle.
- Stop comparing yourself and your progress to shorter people.
It sucks when you don’t see progress for the hard labour you put in at the gym. It can feel demoralising at times and make you question if it’s worth it. Been there, done that. However, just because you don’t look bulky doesn’t mean you aren’t getting stronger! I’ve been working out for about 2 years now and only now am I starting to notice some gains in my size. However, my strength has gone through the roof: I’m able to lift much heavier for all the compound lifts compared to when I started.
It’s by this logic why so many strongman competitors are tall whereas body builders are generally shorter. Check out this article is you want to learn more.
Patience, young grasshopper
If you are eating the right foods and working hard at the gym don’t fret if you aren’t seeing visible results immediately. You are most likely doing exactly what you need to be doing to grow but you just need to be patient. Stay consistent with your training, weigh yourself regularly and take some photos every few weeks. I promise you that with time you’ll begin seeing the progress you’ve been working towards.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said: “A good big man will beat a good small man every time”.
Stand tall, be proud of your height and strive for greatness.
- Image credit for different body types (cover image): here
Jake H. says
I’m 6’7″ and I’ve been hitting the gym hard for about two months. I’ve definitely noticed major gains in strength and slight gains in size. My goal is to be absolutely massive (250lbs+) and am currently hovering around 200lbs. I try to eat 5,000 calories a day (sometimes it works out that way, sometimes it doesn’t) and am really good at getting into a routine and maintaining it. I don’t take supplements yet because I want to see how far I can get naturally. I don’t have doubts about my abilities, I know I can get to where I want to be, it just takes time. This article was a good quick read! I figured being tall had some advantages, but when I started I noticed how few of my long muscles I wasn’t using. Living this journey already!
I’m 5’4″ female and I currently weigh 130 lbs and I’m just a little tall for my age plus I’m skinny so I look taller and I think I’m perfectly fine besides there are some friends of mine that are much taller than me and they weigh more and have higher BMIs because of their width and depth growing as well.