While teaching my Boot Camp class the other day, I had a participant tell the rest of the class that all of the exercises were harder for him because he was tall (about 6’2). As you can imagine, after class a few people wanted to know if this is really true.

Does your height really affect how strong you are?

First I think we should define strength. In this particular instance I’m referencing actually weight lifted, the ability to move it through a path and for a set number of reps. The truth is tall people do have it a bit tougher! Why? Well it’s really simple actually. Your body is really an amazing system of levers. Ask any engineer and they’ll tell you that the longer the lever, the less mechanical advantage you’ll have. Think of it this way – take an extremely tall person and someone that is let’s say on the shorter side, and have them perform air squats. Now take a look at the distance that’s traveled from standing to rock bottom position. See my point? The person who’s taller has not only a much longer range of motion to travel with each rep, but also much less mechanical advantage.

Squat lever

We can also go a step further and say that tall people generally fit into the Ectomorph body type category, meaning they’re usually taller than average, lean and usually not heavily muscled. Mesomorphs on the other hand, are usually shorter (better leverage), more portly and carry more muscle. So you can see that body type can dictate a persons genetic athletic potential. For instance, you won’t find any word class power-lifters that are 6’8”, nor will you find Olympic swimmers that are 5’1”. See what I’m saying?

Now before you get crazy let me make this clear. I’m not saying tall people are weak or that shorter people have it easy. Intensity is relative, meaning as long as you are working hard and within your fitness and conditioning level, that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter what the person next to you is doing, it matters what YOU are doing. And there’s no doubt that exercising in various ways can help to change and somewhat alter your genetic potential. But more importantly, strength is not just how much weight you can push or how many reps you perform. I like classifying strength along with words like ‘sexy’ and ‘sophisticated’. It’s not something that’s exactly tangible or measurable, I view it more like the way in which an individual carries him or herself and you know it when you see it.

It’s taken me over 20 years to learn this, but just how much weight do you need to be able to lift? Our goal with exercise should first and foremost be to improve our quality of life through better functionality. In my bodybuilding days I could squat 455 for reps, bench 405, throw up 140 dumbbells like they were feathers, but that doesn’t mean I had better health, fitness or vitality. Do you see my point? Being fit and healthy, being STRONG, is much more than just lifting weight. We should be striving for strength across the board in our regimens. What good is lifting heavy weight if you can’t touch your toes, run a mile or jump 2 feet off the ground. The ‘strongest’ individuals are usually those with the most well rounded and balanced programs. Remember my motto – ‘Look Fit BE Fit’.

So while it is FACT that height can affect how much weight you lift, anyone can be STRONG!

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