short limb vs long limb weight lifting

Short Limbs vs Long Limbs Leg Exercises and What You Can Do About It

Time for our Workout Of The Month. Each month we take a look at a different exercise and break it down by movement, how to do it, and discuss some of the positive versus negative impact that it can have to you and your level of fitness. Some workout’s of the month breakdown how to do a common exercise, others feature a specific workout. This month we’ll be taking a look at some forgotten parts of working out: acceleration vs. deceleration when it comes to human movement and working out.

Picking The Right Leg Exercise For Your Limb Type

There are two types of limb morphologies (forms of living things). Now this is pretty straight forward here: some people have longer limbs some and some people just have long limbs. These are the cards we’re dealt and there is no way around it. Each have their own advantage when it comes to working out. For example, shorter limb types have less distance to cover so certain lifts benefit them more. Take the bench press for example: a person with shorter arms has less ground to move in order to perform move the weight so they’re at an advantage of moving more weight compared to a longer limb person. The same can be said for leg exercises. The good news is there’s more than just one leg exercise so let’s dive in a little further.

Short Limb vs Long Limb – The Squat vs The Deadlift

For those of you with shorter limbs, you might have noticed that you can do a phenomenal squat but that your deadlifts tend to be more difficult. What’s with that? Well with the squat, as in the bench press example above, you literally have less distance to cover. But it’s not also about the distance. It’s about keeping the weight midline with your hips so that your torso doesn’t travel out forward over your knees. People with longer limbs have a longer range of motion to travel. With more distance being covered, the lower you get, the more your torso leans forward in order to get your femurs parallel and below your knees. A shorter limbed person doesn’t necessarily have this issue. Because of the tendency to lean more forward for people with longer limbs, it puts more stress on the hamstrings, but also increases the likelyhood of rounding your back and the potential for causing an injury.

So What Can Longer Limb People Do About Squatting?

Since shorter limb people are able to keep the weight midline over their hips AND have a shorter distance to move the weight, they’re often able to move more weight. For people with longer limbs, as the amount of weight increases, the more likely it is for your torso to be pulled forward, your knees pulled in front of your feet, and the risk of your back being rounded.

So what can you do about it? You need to find a way to shorten your femur length. No, this doesn’t mean going into the garage and have one of your buddies pull out a hacksaw and remove some of the bone. It comes down to simple mechanics. And this is why, there is no ONE FORM for squats. Using a wider stance with your feet pointed outward will put your femurs at an angle creating less distance for you to get your hips down in a squat position. You also might want to consider where you place the bar across your bar. With a high bar squat, the bar is resting on the bottom portion of your neck. The problem is for people with longer limbs, higher bar placement means that when your torso is lowered, you have more weight pulling you forward and messing with your form. I would suggest low bar squats for those with longer limbs. With low bar squats, the weight of the bar is resting on your upper back across your shoulders and trapezius. The lower bar placement means that as you lower yourself to the ground, the weight won’t be bringing your body forward as much helping to keep the weight midline, your back from being rounded, and you being able to move more weight.

Limb advantage for squats: Short Limb People

Short Limb vs Long Limb and Deadlifts

short limb vs long limb weight lifting

People with longer limbs have an advantage with the deadlift – the amount of distance required to move the weight is less and the starting position is more ideal for moving heavy weight.

While the squat advantage goes to people with short limbs, the deadlift is a different story. People with longer limbs have a tendency to dominate deadlifts. Whats the reason? Consider the starting position for people with shorter limbs. The longer your limbs, the less you have to bend your legs to be able to reach the bar. This puts your femurs in an ideal spot to drive the weight off of the ground. The shorter person has to lower their femurs more to generate the force – traveling a greater distance. The closer your femurs are to being parallel with the floor, the more distance you will have to travel. With longer limb people having less distance to move, they’re often times able to move more weight.

So what can you do about it if you’re short limbed? Well, simple, this is why you’ll sometimes see shorter people at the gym resting the weights on a barbell on either a platform or several weights stacked together. Raising the bar means you don’t have to reach down as far – or bring your femurs closer to the ground – and it creates less distance for you to travel. Of course, that wouldn’t be allowed in an Olympic competition but I’m not about to get into semantics.

Limb Advantage for deadlifts: Long Limb Homies

Short Limb vs Long Limb Leg Exercises: The Moral Of The Story

Your limb length greatly determines the ability of how you will move weight and the amount of weight that you will move. Recognizing this can help you train more effectively as well as safely.


1. Delavier, F. “Strength Training Anatomy.” Paris: Human Kinetics. 2010. Print. Strength Training Anatomy 130-131.

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