5 Key Workout Tips for Tall Men to Go From Scrawny to Athletic

The picture is of Brian Wade - an actor who clearly understands this post's 5 workout tips.

Do you want to put on some extra muscle on your tall frame?

I know I did and still do in order to make the most out of my long and lanky body. I used to weigh around 80 kilos a few years ago – now I weigh close to 110.

You will find endless advice on how to build muscle out there on the web. And the popular articles from bodybuilding.com, Muscle and Fitness and all the rest are great places to start. They explain the basic exercises and workouts, the principles of macronutrients, equipment, food and all that jazz.

But what I want to give you in this post is my own piece of advice. What I’ve learned about fitness and bodybuilding from going at it for several years can be summed up in 5 key workout tips.

 

1. Consistency is more important than you think

Getting into a habit of working out is so important. If you are skinny or in bad shape being a tall guy, it just isn’t gonna give you any long term results to kill yourself in the gym for 3 months and then stop from one day to another.

Make fitness a part of your lifestyle and keep your head in the game year in and year out. If you really want an athletic body, you have to ‘just put in the work’ as Mark Wahlberg says.

I love the journey, if you can call it that – the process of getting bigger, more muscular and more healthy. If that’s not you, you could maybe take some ‘before and after’ pictures to motivate you.

Set goals, measure your progression to make it consistent.

2. Train like a pro bodybuilder

No, you don’t look buff and oiled up like them, but they really know what they are doing when it comes to the principles of building muscle. You can easily get caught up in articles on weird systems and programs for building ‘long and lean muscles’ for your specific body type. But the muscles aren’t really that clever, so what you need to do is have them undergo extreme stress in order to cause micro muscle tear.

This is the basic principle behind building muscle – to have them super compensate afterwards having been destroyed in the gym. Why wouldn’t you want to learn from the best? Those who dedicate their lives to bodybuilding, nutrition and all that jazz. They are professionals and you wanna implement as much from their regimes as possible (except the steroids).

So lift heavy, go hard and use big exercises like the squat, the deadlift and the benchpress. Keep the rep range at about 10-12 with heavy weights and 5 sets per exercise.

3. Eat like it’s a job – really!

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times before, because you are tall and maybe skinny too. Higher metabolism requires more fuel, and if you combine high metabolism with working out 3, 4 or 5 times per week, you need a lot of food.

“Eat like it’s a job” is a good sentence, because it expresses the need to eat more than you normally feel like – you have to make an extra effort in order to fill you up over the top. Eat 4-5 times a day and start out with a lot of water and protein, then focus on carbs and protein before and after working out, and end your day focusing on slow digesting foods and protein for the night. My favorite protein powder tastes great and is affordable, so no excuses. 

Bulk Powders Pure Whey Protein

For most people, meal planning and measuring isn’t a path they want to go. I know I don’t bother weighing everything I eat. Neither do you? Then there is an easier way to get an idea of how much you need to gain weight. Fill out this caloric calculator, add 500 calories to that number, find a meal plan that gets close to your number and has some foods you like and try to eat according to that plan for 1 day.

This will give you an overall feel of how much 3000, 3500 or 4000 kcal’s per day is. Another little trick is to take a picture of everything you eat during one day. Use your phone to take the pictures before eating and drinking your food, and then take a look at all the pictures in the evening. This will also give you an idea of whether you have eaten to much or too little.

Final word on food and nutrition – drink water! I have no evidence but I’m guessing that dehydration is the #1 prohibiting factor for people’s progression in regards to building muscle. Water is fuel, the body consist mainly of that stuff, and it needs more than you’d think during the day.

Especially of you are a frequent guest in the gym. Here’s a water calculator to use for a rough estimate, if you don’t know how much to drink – it is more than you think. A simple hack is to fill a large bottle of water in the morning, at midday and in the evening. This makes it easier to get water in you and will remind you to drink during the day.

4. Full range of motion can injure your body

Using full range of motion is by all means a good principle, but for tall people it can be hurtful and stress the joints too much. Going too deep on the squat can hurt your knees, going too deep on the dead-lift can hurt your back and going too deep on the dip rack can hurt your shoulders.

dip shoulder injury

I’ve injured my knees several times squatting too deep, but now I’ve learned that other principles apply to longer legs. So because we are tall, we have to be careful and listen to our bodies for when to end the movement. Feel the stretch, then brake the movement and return to starting position.

Don’t use what many call partial reps, which is either just bad form or some bodybuilding tips from a magazine. You should use full range of motion on 90 percent of all exercises, but it’s your body and you should listen it’s alarm signals. If you feel the slightest pain in your knees when you squat – STOP, and adjust the movement, limit the range of motion, throw off some of the weights and try again.

After all, pretending to be super strong is only slightly cool until the moment when you injure yourself and you can’t train properly for weeks resulting in loosing some of that precious and valuable muscle that you work so hard for.


5. Train often but for a short period of time per session

A rule of thumb is to look towards the exit door after about 45 minutes to an hour of working out. Around that time, different levels in the body rise and fall, which isn’t beneficial to work against.

So get the work done effectively – that also saves you time, if you don’t like ‘gym ratting’ it all day. I work out 4 times per week on average and some of my friends think that’s way too much. But the don’t realize is that it only amounts to a total of 3 hours of active work per week. That I can live with.

A way to limit time spent in the gym is to know what you want to do down there before you enter the gym. Have a workout ready and planned from the start, shorten your rest periods between sets and keep an eye on the clock.

Leave after an hour, drink a protein shake if you like those and get a nice big meal in you as soon as possible.

As simple as that!

These were a few of my workout tips that I know have made a difference for me. Keeping it as simple as the above 5 tips is also easier to deal with than hundreds of confusing and diverse tips and tricks coming from a wide array of magazines. Remind yourself of these 5 workout tips before you hit the gym and you’ll soon be on your way to a better looking body.

In the beginning, I didn’t like to work out, but I’ve learned to love it, and so should you. Otherwise, the whole consistency thing kinda wears off. If you hate dragging yourself down to the gym, you’ll probably skip your workouts more often, and then nothing happens.

Proportion is important for everybody, and maybe a little extra important for tall people. Because if you skip leg day every week, you’ll end up looking really weird with long tweak for legs.

My own legs don’t look that big, but when I measure the girth of them, they are the same size as my friends’ larger looking legs. That just means that we need even bigger leg muscles in order for them to appear muscular.

This principle is simple and applies to all limbs, so put in the work and build a big pair of arms, legs and a tight torso. After all, tall people have better frames aesthetically for sculpting their bodies. The athleticism comes naturally when size is added to a tall frame. Just remember those legs, apply the 5 tips that I have suggested here and you’ll be on your way.

rued-after-workout

I hope you can use some of this advice – otherwise they may serve as a reminder of principles already known to you, and that’s fine with me too.

Conclusion

  • Consistency is more important than you think, so hang in there and make working out a lifestyle.
  • Train like a pro bodybuilder, because they are professionals and know what they are doing. And the same principles apply for building muscle whether you are scrawny or buff to start off with. 
  • Eat like your progression depended on it, which it does. Lifting is only half the battle. Real results happen in the kitchen. Focus on water in the morning, carbs during the day and slow digesting foods with protein in the night. 
  • Full range of motion can injure your body, so listen to what it tells you. Especially knees, shoulder joints and back are points of extra attention. 
  • Train often but for a short period of time per session, then get out of there! 45 to 60 minutes is the duration of your workout session. Afterwards you go for a protein shake and a meal.

What works for you? I’d love if you’d share your own tips in the comments.

15 Comments
  • ihab
    March 9, 2015

    thank-you very much i am 6″6 and i weight 75 kg i really needed advises like thees

    • Rued
      May 19, 2015

      Thank you for thanking me, ihab 🙂 I’m glad I can inspire and help you to reach your fitness goals.

      Rued

  • Phil
    May 23, 2015

    Great article!

    It’s easy for tall guys to get lost in the mainstream information that doesn’t always apply to us taller guys. I always train myself (6ft 6) and my taller MMA guys different from the rest. More ankle mobility and more pulling exercises to keep the scaplulae and rotator cuffs healthy.

    Another great article 🙂

    • Rued
      May 23, 2015

      Hey Phil,

      Thank you for commenting – interesting point about the greater mobility. Could you elaborate a little on that if you have some good insights for us tall guys?

      Thank you 🙂

      • Phil
        May 24, 2015

        I sure can. I could spend hours talking about this sort of stuff 🙂

        To keep this short though, taller guys tend to have less mobility in their hips and ankles than our shorter counter parts.

        A lack of hip mobility when squatting will put a lot of unwanted pressure on the knees and lower back. This is something that scares people away, assuming that “squats just aren’t for them”.

        Likewise, poor mobility in the ankles will limit the depth of a squat. I tend to have my taller guys (again myself included) perform front squats over back squats. These keep the torso in a more vertical position, save the lower back some stress and are generally easier to get the depth in.

        I hope this helps a little 🙂

        • Milly
          February 9, 2016

          Thanks for spending time on the computer (witirng) so others don’t have to.

          • Rued
            July 30, 2017

            It was my pleasure writing it, and I’m glad it’s useful to you 🙂

  • Gee Zee
    September 16, 2016

    This is a GREAT article. I am 45 years old, 6’4″ and 210. I have lost 30lbs and now the weight I am gaining is muscle. I went from 30% body fat to now hovering at 11%. – in less than one year.

    I thought because of my tall frame I would never be able to build muscle so I discouraged myself even before starting. What changed it all was boarding a flight to Melbourne and in front of me was a tall muscular man who was my height. Minutes later I realized it was Eric Bana the actor.

    Maybe to these five things I would add that slow and steady wins the race. And you can’t overeat. You need the right amount of carbs, protein and fat. I use the free app “Macros” and I am able to adjust my food intake throughout the day.

    If I can do it at 45 years old, and travel for work anyone can!

    • Rued
      July 30, 2017

      Super great to hear that, Gee. I felt exactly the same; I’m tall – therefore I can’t put on muscle. But it is possible to gain weight as a tall person if you keep going. And even more impressive that you’ve managed to lose weight and gain muscle so successfully at your age well done!

  • Nun
    December 10, 2016

    Oh, reading the comments I no longer feel like a tall guy tbh, I’m just 6.1′ but everyone here is like tricking 6.6′ lol
    Either way I will be using this and thanks a lot man, good stuff

    • Rued
      July 30, 2017

      Haha, thanks! 😀 People in here are pretty tall, that’s true.. But you are right; these workout tips for tall people can be applied to everyone – not just tall people.

  • Israel Saucedo
    January 16, 2017

    These tips aren’t just great for tall men but all men in general. Especially the part about eating like it’s a job. Good read!

    • Rued
      July 30, 2017

      Thanks! I appreciate your praise and agree that these tips apply to everyone. However, I wanted to stress a few especially relevant if you are tall and want to put on muscle 🙂

  • Nat
    June 14, 2017

    I am so lucky finding this blog
    I am 6’1 or 185 cm. And now curious about how to squat for tall people becuase I feel like I cannot do deeper squat while others (shorter) can

    • Rued
      July 2, 2017

      Try weightlifting shoes with a higher and more solid heel. Or just shove some plates under your heels. It helps with the range of motion. Otherwise try to get the technique right without weight – then add bar and plates afterwards 🙂

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