Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Day 66 - Overcoming Disadvantages

Everybody is different. There is no disputing that fact. We all think differently, act differently, and for the purpose of this blog, look and perform differently. Just as everyone has different shaped noses, ears, eyes, etc., we also have different ratios and proportions of our limbs and various body parts.

There is a saying that goes, "To be a good athlete, you should choose your parents wisely!" Although your body makeup may be advantageous in one area of performance, you may lack in others. Because of this, nearly everyone has their own individual strengths and weaknesses.

Just because you have an area of training that you may be weaker or stronger at, does not meant that you should avoid training in that area because it is either too 'hard' or too 'easy'. You are only good at things that you do often, so if you wish to improve in a specific area, you need to practice and work at it. Unfortunately, your body type may prevent you from being 'great' at something you struggle with, but hopefully some of the tips below can help you at least get 'better' at your weaknesses.

Long Arms

Remember when you were little, learning all about "simple machines" in school? Things like levers, ramps, pulleys, etc.? Well, your body uses the principles of simple machines (mostly levers) to help overcome discrepancies in resistance. In more basic terms, your body uses levers to help you lift things.
Unfortunately, when it comes to strength training, the longer your limbs are, the further the muscle has to 'travel' or contract to overcome the joint angle, therefore increasing the amount of force needed. In other words, guys with longer limbs oftentimes have a tougher time with heavier weights. Taller guys, or guys that have longer limbs may get discouraged at the gym with something like a bench press for example.

The bench press is often thought of as the pinnacle or holy grail of tests of a man's (or woman's) strength. Truth is, gentlemen (or ladies) with shorter arms, experience less strain on their shoulder joints and can actually use their shorter limbs to their advantage.

The bright side here is that even though longer arms may not be able to produce as much force (comparing similar body sizes) as someone with shorter arms, longer arms or limbs tend to be able to move at a faster speed.

So, to overcome shortcomings on a bench press for example, trade in the heavy resistance for speed training instead. Try either doing as many pushups in 30 seconds, for example, or lay on your back and "press" or throw a medicine ball straight up in the air as if you are making a chest pass in basketball.

Small Hands

Folks with shorter limbs may also be blessed with small hands. So, although they may be able to produce greater forces, their weak link may be their grip strength, due to the small hands and shorter fingers.

One way to increase grip strength is to do Farmer's Walks. Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and walk around until you are at the point where you are about to drop the weights. Set them down, gently, rest for a few minutes and then do 2 more sets.

Another way to improve grip strength would be to do pullups/chinups, or if you can't do those, then simply just hang from a pullup bar until you can't take any more, for 3 sets total. To increase the effectiveness of this exercise even further, try rolling up a towel and wrapping it around the bar. Use 1 towel per hand or 1 towel for both hands, whichever you prefer.

Long Legs

Similar to having long arms (see above), long legged folks may also experience difficulties with exercises like a heavy back squat. If you experience difficulty or discomfort during any type of exercise, switch things up to something that is more favorable for your long legs.

For example, try using Step-Up Lunges. Grab a pair of dumbbells, and step up onto a sturdy platform. If you step-up with your left leg (only left leg in contact with platform), as you step up, raise your right knee to your chest, and then place your right leg back onto the ground first. Do 8-10 reps per leg.

This exercise allows you to activate more muscle over a (potentially) greater range of motion without needing as heavy of resistance to do so. This also places the resistance in a different position to help relieve some strain from your lower back.

Quote of the day:
"It is not enough to take steps which may some day lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise."
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe