There seems to be a common theme among many deadlifters who like to make excuses. One common excuse is not having an optimal body type for deadlifts. Some tall athletes claim their height gives them a disadvantage due to greater range of motion and sub-optimal leverages. Here at Deadlift Potential we don’t accept excuses, so we are going to break down the deadlift form for tall athletes and show you how being tall can actually work to your advantage.

Tall People

People are considered tall when they have an above average height, which is 5′ 10″ for males and 5′ 5″ for females.  Many people believe that being tall puts you at a disadvantage in the sport of powerlifting and specifically the deadlift. They think that because the bar has to travel a greater distance, this makes the lift harder. When it comes to deadlifting, height really has no effect on how well you will perform at deadlifting. There are short people who are good at deadlifting and there are also tall people who are good at deadlifting. Although body height does not effect how good you are at deadlifts there are a few factors that do, including limb length and leverages.

Optimal Deadlift Body Type

The optimal body type for deadlifting is long arms with a proportionally short torso. Long arms help because the lockout position will be lower, reducing the range of motion. The short torso is beneficial because it allows the lifter to get into a better starting position. Optimal body type for deadlifting also depends on whether you are doing sumo or conventional deadlifts. Long arms will be beneficial for both styles, but if you have short arms, sumo deadlifting will be better regardless of your torso length. 1

Which Body Type Are You?

If you would like to know if you have an optimal deadlift body type here’s how to measure. There are two indexes we can look at to determine limb length in relation to how close to average you are. The first is the ape index where you measure body height and wingspan. The average height to wingspan ratio is 1:1 and if your wingspan is longer than body height, you have longer than average arms, which is optimal for deadlifting. The next ratio to look at is leg to total body height. Leg length is measured using the inseam of the leg. The average leg length is 45% of total body height and anything greater than this would be optimal. Having long arms will help both the sumo and the conventional deadlift. People who have shorter than average torsos will usually have longer legs. If you have longer than average legs, or short arms, pulling sumo may be a better choice for you. If you have shorter than average legs, a conventional deadlift may be ideal.

So now you have no excuses to not deadlift. So all you tall people get out there and start deadlifting!

 

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Notes:

  1.  Hales, M. (2010). Improving the Deadlift: Understanding Biomechanical Constraints and Physiological Adaptations to Resistance Exercise. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 32(4), 44-51.
17 comments on “Deadlift Form for Tall Athletes – Biomechanics of Deadlifts
  1. Palanquator says:

    Hey, good website !
    It seems that there are an interesting bunch of informations around here ! I practice deadlift, and indeed, it is not easy ! I’m not specially tall, but it is quite hard too ! 🙂
    Good content dude, keep up the good work !
    I would like to see more images and colors though !

  2. Steve says:

    There can be a optimal body ratio for deadlift. However, that is no excuse for those who wan to train their body. Whatever your body size may be, if you want to develop a strong low back, make sure to practise your workout consistenly. I have a friend who is only age of 12 and does the deadlift.

  3. vivia says:

    I think this is a really interesting article.
    Even though I am not an athlete, I do deadlifts as part of my exercise routine, my personal favourite being stiff-legged deadlift as I find this works my hamstrings and glutes the best, and these are the areas that I would like to improve the most.
    Being above average height, 5’7″ as a woman, I have never considered myself at a disadvantage and really agree with you when you say that it is just an excuse 🙂
    Thanks for the information.
    Vivia

    • Lucas Maki says:

      Hey Vivia!

      Thanks for the comment! Stiff leg deadlifts are an awesome exercise for activating all the muscles in your posterior chain. We actually have an article breaking down the technique and motion of the stuff leg deadlift. You should give it a read, it is loaded with great info. Take care!

      Lucas

  4. Juan says:

    Thank you for clarifying that being tall should not change deadlift technique. My friend always complains that I am able to do more deadlifts because I am shorter than him.

    He also said that I am able to do more pull-ups and chin-ups for the simple fact that I am shorter than him. I am glad I came across your website so I can straighten things up with him.

  5. Michel says:

    I’m 6 feet tall and I always thought that deadlifts are not optimal for my height. I, like you said had the idea that only short people really benefit from deadlifts. although I had this idea in my head, I never skipped this exercise.I believe it’s one of the most beneficial compound exercises.
    Thanks for clearing this up!

  6. Ray says:

    Hello, thanks for the great article. I’m 5′ 6″ and my wingspan ratio seems definitely 1:1 or less, legs shorter then 45% so definitely conventional deadlift will suit me. It’s great to know, because a friend of mine told me how to do a deadlift a couple of years ago, and I’ve been doing it blindly. I’m going to try Stiff Leg Deadlift that you recommend in your other page (this is the one I should do, isn’t it?)

    Thanks again for the info, and the great site!
    Ray

    • Lucas Maki says:

      Hey Ray! Thanks for the kind words! Yes, stiff leg deadlifts are a great accessory movement for conventional deadlifts. I would recommend you do them after you finish your conventional deadlifts. Good luck!

  7. Alyssa says:

    I guess there are no excuses when it comes to pursuing what you want! My co-worker’s daughter is 5’6″ and I saw a video of her deadlifting 155lbs. I was impressed! My step-daughter is 5’8″ and she deadlifts somewhere in the neighborhood of 125lbs. Impressive young ladies! I, on the other hand, deadlift about 10lbs 🙂 I had not really given any thought to the mechanics behind deadlifting. But the discussion about arm and torso length makes sense. It’s not about height, but about ratios. Neat facts, thanks!
    -Alyssa

  8. Dan says:

    Hi Eric, it is refreshing to see an exercise site that has the knowledge base to drill down into the biomechanics of lifting.

    I say this because most ‘strength and conditioning’ websites do not go deep enough into the academic side of things and instead pedal ‘bro-science’.

    My friend is doing his masters degree in strength and conditioning and the information he relays to me far surpasses what is banded about in the typical lifting community.

    I can see with your knowledge base and practical experience you can easily define your authority in this widely misinformed niche.

    Dan.

  9. Bimmerguy says:

    Although I’m not tall, this is pretty interesting stuff. I wasn’t aware that there was a particular method to deadlifting for taller people.

    It makes sense that someone witih longer arms would have an easier time deadlifting.

    Awesome writing, keep up the great work. You give great advice on this page that many will find useful!!

  10. Robin Rasmussen says:

    Very interesting article and content. I am actually short myself at 5’7″. A friend of mine and I used to do a lot of weight lifting in our younger days. He was much taller than me. We used to compete with each other to see who could lift the most at various different types of lifts. We each had better lifts than each other depending on what we were lifting. Very interesting site. I will bookmark your site and pass it on to others.

    • Eric Radcliffe says:

      Hey Robin,

      Same for me. I have a friend who is a lot better at pressing movements like bench press and shoulder press, but i’m better at lower body exercises.

      Thanks for checking out the site, I’m glad you like it. Let us know if you ever have any questions.

      -Eric

  11. Dave says:

    Well this is interesting. I never really thought of a best body type for deadlifts. Well I guess it doesn’t really matter. The key at the end of the day, is to have good form….flat back, neutral head position…etc. Deadlifts went from a exercise I hated to one I love doing.

  12. Vinnie Prasad says:

    Great article on deadlifting, have been power lifting for just over an year now. Since staring out I have gone back and fourth between sumos and conventional but now have found my groove with conventional. Also there is defiantly no excuse to deadlift! Haha

    Just out of curiosity have guys written an article on the correct techniques for a deadlift?

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