All right, tall dudes, let’s face it: We can dunk a basketball, throw a football and baseball pretty far and usually line up first in school if they’re going by height, but in bodybuilding, damn, it takes forever to gain size and shed the skinny look we so passionately hate (I am 6’4’, by the way).
Why? It’s our body type. Of the three types—mesomorph, thick and athletic; endomorph, round and thick-necked; and ectomorph, tall and thin—we have the one that’s most difficult to put size on.
The good news, though, like Arnold once said: “A good big man will beat a good small man every time!”
So how best to put on size if you’re over 6’ tall? Here are five must moves for tall guys who hate skinny.
1) Fall in love with the leg press. Why? Legs form the foundation of every good physique, and you must begin training them hard from day one. That said, since we are tall, my number-one must-do move is the leg press.
The longer the lever, the stronger the weapon. We have long legs, and even though I also squat and deadlift, I have always used the leg press as a must-do staple. The reason? The amount of weight you can pile on and move under control. It’s the quickest way possible to put on size.
I am now up to almost 1,000 pounds on leg presses, doing them nice and slowly and under control—that’s 10 45-pound plates on each side of the machine.
Blast away on the leg press every five to seven days, and you’ll begin to reap the rewards of training heavy, which is an overall growth spurt because of the growth hormone release you’ll get.
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2) Build a big back. Repeat after me, “Big back equals big body!” Have you ever seen a person with a huge back who was small? No, it can’t happen. Another strong motivator for training back hard is that every Mr. Olympia—other than Frank Zane—had a huge back: Arnold, Sergio, Samir, Dorian, Coleman, Cutler and now Phil “the Gift” Heath.
When you have a big back, everything else gets bigger too. What moves work best? I love any and all type of chins, but since we are so frickin’ tall, they are very hard to do properly. I do deadlifts off of the floor until I get to 225 to 275 pounds, and then I begin to pull off of the pins on the Smith machine. So the number-two must-do move is full deadlifts and then deads off the pins.
3) Train chest with incline work only. Most guys who start to work out with weights will ask you, “What do you bench?” It’s like a badge of courage. For us tall guys, though, since we have to move the bar so much farther, we typically have poor bench numbers. I can now do inclines with 245 for reps, very slowly and under control.
Incline work helps us have “rounder” pec mass and avoid the droopy chest that the many flat benchers have—those who love to push up a huge number on Monday night in the gym, make a lot of unnecessary noise and see if any pretty girls are watching.
With two more important moves to go, let me remind you that 80 percent of the muscle earned by bodybuilders comes in the major muscle groups—legs, back and chest.
4) Limit cardio. Why? Any additional training that you do other than the big three listed above will only take away from your true growth potential. If you need to do cardio for some unknown sadistic reason (most people hate cardio anyway), go ahead and add a 20-minute session of HIIT three times a week at the most. That’s the only other training you should do.
5) Get proper nutrition. Jack LaLanne once said, “Exercise is king, and nutrition is queen—together you’ve got a kingdom.” You need to feed the beast to grow—period: six meals a day or three food meals and three protein shakes.
In my first book, Fit Happens at Any Age, I discussed TNT—training, nutrition and time. All are important. As a natural-for-life athlete, I’ve been trying on and off for about 25 years to get to 250 pounds at 5 percent bodyfat. The journey continues, and I’m a lot closer than I’ve ever been at 270 with abs—at age 48.
Eat, sleep, lift heavy and intensely, and limit cardio. There you have it. See you at my next show, where I’ll be 6’4”, 235 pounds and 5 percent bodyfat—drug-free!
Editor’s note: Mike Pierron has been a natural physique artist since 1987 and most recently won his first show, the 2011 Great White North Classic, as a masters competitor. His book Fit Happens is available at Amazon.com. He’s also known as the “Funny Fit Guy” and is a motivational speaker with his own firm, Dream Big!—www.drmbig.com or call (920) 915-4481.