T Nation

Being Short and Strong?


From my limited experience it's perceived by most that guys who are short ( 5'4" and under short) are generally are very strong in most lifts because of their body mechanics despite their limited body/muscle mass.

I am looking for a good technical article which would explain the physiology behind this.



It's not necessarily true. It all depends on your levers as well as genetics, ability to get strong, bone size, overall strength to bodyweight, etc.

I'm short, and I am fairly good at deadlifting more than twice my bodyweight. I've squatted twice my bodyweight for one rep, but I've only benched 1.5 times my bodyweight.

I'm also very small boned and have short muscle bellies and long tendons. So I don't look big, and have long, lean arms and legs. I have the "short" biceps and "short" calves. But I can jump pretty freakin' high considering I'm so short.


yes short people tend to be probably the strongest for their size yet you are also limited on how far you can go because of how much muscle you can put on.


Smaller people have the potential to have the greatest relative strength, this is because strength does not linearly increase as muscle fibers increase in size. The force produced by a muscle fiber is dependant upon the cross sectional area whereas mass is dependant upon volume so as a result mass outpaces strength.

Theoretically there is a point where one could be so large that they would not be able to move, however I doubt this size could ever actually be achieved, and most larger people are stronger in the absolute sense.


I second the deadlifting comment. The DL is easy for me, whereas bench presses are comparatively much harder to gain on.


Check out "overcoming loussy leverages" by Robertson and Cressey.


Actually it has more to do with physics/leverages than height per se because you could in theory be a little shrimp with gorilla arms which would help you at pulling but hurt your bench press. Work=force*distance and longer arms equals greater distance and hence more work or a greater force=more strength.

Simple physics...) Plus the different limb sizes might add a vector or two into the equation which is not so simple physics.


The physics (in its simplicity) doesn't account for how much harder it is for a shorter person (or person with poor leverages to get the weight off the floor to begin with).


I'm pretty short, about 5'6, and I, in my limited time in PL, deadlifted 2x bodyweight like it was nothing, squatted 1.5x like it was nothing, but yet couldn't even get to 90% of my bw for the bench.

My wingspan is 68inchs, where as I'm 66inchs tall. I got mucho long arms.

short people do tend to be stronger relative to bodyweight. look up pocket hercules. He was under 5foot tall and currently the only guy to put 3x bw overhead.


taller person has a longer fulcrum.


That's funny. I'm the same way. I can deadlift nearly twice my BW, but my bench has never gone over 250.


If you have long arms , then your bench problems may be like that of a taller person.


Yep! People think that because I'm short, I should have a good bench. But I still have long arms, so I still face the same disadvantage!


Yep. At 158lbs, I squatted 300lbs, deadlifted 340lbs, but could only get 225lbs on the bench.


I'll chime in as well.
I'm 6'3 and I think the shorter you are the more of an advantage you have to becoming stronger with proper training ect.

I can't squat a damn, my best ever was 245 @ 160 pounds, but I have deadlifted 2x my body weight. Alot of it has to do with leverages as stated earlier. I have long legs, long arms, and a short back, good for deadlifting. However I've had to learn to squat fairly wide, this decreases the ROM my long ass legs have to travel, and allows me to lift more weight.

The only downside I think of being so tall, is I'd have to weigh close 240-250 to look "big" whereas shorter guys, can weigh 185 and less and look pretty beefy.

I just work with what I got. All about perspective.


Nate Dogg, as far as your strength levels go, you seem to be right in range for having things properly prorportioned

for reference, another tall skinny here (6 feet, fallen back down to 180)
i've never went past 260 on bench, dispite training it for 5+ YEARS (breaks in there-bad shoulder)
-relative that to my deadlift, which i've gotten 405 without wearing anything, after only 1 YEAR of weight training legs, Almost double my bench

welcome to how it goes actually being tall and skinny everyone


I have short arms, a longish torso and short legs, which basically means-

*The journey to the hole and back up during squats is a quick one, to say the least.

*My deadlift goes up as long as I train box squats and good mornings every once in a great while.

*As long as I get in a decent amount of volume for my bench, it also goes up consistently. No fancy shit necessary. I also don't do as much as I probably should in terms of tricep training, since if I can get it off my chest, it's going up. I mean to rectify that.

That being said, it is by no means easy for short guys (not so short; I'm 5'9). I know plenty of 6'1-6'3 guys that smoke me in the gym. Leverages don't mean shit if you're stronger than the other guy, imo.


Also, a thought; it seems like it would make more sense for tall guys to train their shoulders and bottom of the bench press more than guys with decent levers. Or am I full of shit and drunk on the power of my awesome levers?


From Cressey and Robertson articles , the longer your arms the more potential for elastic energy (my bad )from the stretch reflex at the bottom of the bench press .You won't completely kill it with a slight pause.

Leverages are not bs IMO and it evens itself out as shorter guys(5" 5 1/2) have an easier time with the squat.


The weight is being "held" on the floor by a force (gravity) this is called inertia. For a person to get the barbell off of the floor, they must produce a force greater than that of what keeps the barbell on the floor in the first place to overcome this inertia.

The leverages that you speak of are really a vector force and whether it is a mechanical object like a crane lifting something off of the floor (in which case assuming that it is vertically raised by a crane on a 90 degree angle, then there is no vector involved, unless there is friction somewhere) or a person, whose legs and back will both form angles, and obviously since the bar cannot go through the knees, then there is an angle/vector involved, as well as the distance that the limbs have to travel to make a straight line (lockout); the force is still calculated the same way for any object breaking inertia.