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Too Tall to Squat?

Lee Haney's squat alternatives for tall bodybuilders

 QUESTION 

I’m 6'4" and have a tough time squatting. People have told me that I’m not made to squat and should stick to the leg press for thigh mass. What do you think?

 ANSWER 

Well, you may not like my answer, but I think the people you’re talking to are both right and wrong. Now, before you throw up your hands in frustration, let me explain. 

People of a certain structure (usually tall and long-legged) may have a more difficult time squatting than those who are shorter and stockier. This is because the squat is all about leverage. 

As you descend in the squat, your hips move slightly backward, while your knees compensate by moving forward a bit to keep your center of gravity aligned directly over your ankles. The longer your legs, the more likely they are to experience some of this front-to-back motion as they lower into a full-squat position. 

Now, I’m not an engineer, but I do have long legs for a man who has a 5'11" frame, and I can tell you that having long legs makes squatting a very difficult exercise. Since you’re 6'4", I can only imagine how awkward squatting must be for you. Does this mean you should avoid squats? I don’t believe anyone should avoid squats altogether, unless he’s had an injury that impedes his ability to perform the exercise. Squats are pretty much universally recognized as the king of exercises, and I can’t disagree with that assessment. However, even a king has his limitations. You may want to restrict the amount of squatting you do, instead opting for other mass-building exercises, of which there are several, for the bulk of your thigh workout. 

In my experience, most people who have a tough time finding a groove with traditional squats can get an effective workout from front squats. Because the bar sits across the front delts rather than across the traps, the torso is forced to stay more erect, thus keeping the hips directly in line with the spine, making for a less stressful exercise. Smith machine squats and hack squats can also serve as good substitutes for standard squats. During both exercises, the bar moves along a straight track, which lessens the need for a trainer to stabilize himself, freeing him up to concentrate on working his thigh muscles. 

Of course, an old standby, leg presses, are great for building thigh mass, as well. These days, almost every gym has leg-press machines, each with variable adjustments designed to accommodate people of different shapes and sizes. 

So while I wouldn’t recommend that you avoid squats simply because you’re tall, I can tell you that it isn’t necessarily the only  option you have for putting quality size on your upper legs. I’ve included a sample squat-free thigh workout that you can alternate in four-week cycles with a more traditional squat-based thigh program. One last bit of advice: in your quest to build mass, be patient! You’ve got a lot of frame to fill out, so go slow and steady. It may take you a little longer to reach your goal than an average-sized person, but when you do, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you earned every last ounce of muscle. - FLEX

LEE HANEY'S SQUAT-FREE THIGH ROUTINE

EXERCISE: Leg Extensions SETS: 5-7 REPS: 15-20

EXERCISE: Leg Presses SETS: 5 REPS: 12-15

EXERCISE: Hack Squats SETS: 4-5 REPS: 12-15

EXERCISE: Barbell Lunges SETS: 3-4 REPS: 15 (per leg)

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