There are typically many advantages and disadvantages when it comes to lifting weights depending on your physique, but is height one of them?
More specifically, is it easier to lift weights if you are shorter?
I’ll answer this exact question for you now, plus I’ve also included various weightlifting world records to prove the point.
Is it Easier to Lift Weights if You Are Shorter?
It is generally easier for a shorter person to lift weights. In essence, shorter people have a mechanical advantage, as they have less distance to travel in order to move a weight. Additionally, being shorter will typically mean that you have shorter limbs, which once again reduces the range of motion required.
1. The Short Person’s Mechanical Advantage
It’s not completely cut-and-dry when it comes to whether weightlifting is easier for shorter people.
By this I mean that not only height, but also your individual proportions, will impact how much and how easily you can lift.
So, someone could be really tall, but have extremely short limbs in comparison to their torso.
This would make various lifts much easier for this person.
Additionally, bone length doesn’t always directly correlate to strength.
You also have to consider what’s known as muscle to tendon ratio.
Basically, if you have long tendons then you have less room for muscle and vice versa.
And tendon length has little to do with bone length.
This means that a shorter person may have long tendons, therefore less room for muscle, which actually makes it harder to lift weights and get stronger.
With that being said, in general, it is easier to lift weights if you are shorter.
The main reason for this is that short people have a mechanical advantage over their taller counterparts.
Basically, the range of motion is decreased, which means that a shorter person has less distance to travel.
Furthermore, returning to limb length once again, shorter people will typically have shorter arms and legs.
It is widely accepted that squatting is much easier for people who have shorter legs.
Conversely, bench pressing can be extremely difficult for someone with long arms.
Something else to consider is that a shorter person will have their centre of gravity closer to the ground.
This is especially advantageous in terms of core strength.
And when you consider that most exercises initially stem from the core, this once more gives shorter people the upper hand with many of the traditional lifts.
2. The Tall Person’s Genetic Potential Advantage
Now, before you start thinking that shorter people have it all their own way, there are certain weightlifting advantages to being taller.
The easiest way to look at this is that a taller person has more room for muscle in their frame.
So, in effect, if a tall person and a short person reached their full muscle and strength potential, the taller person would definitely be stronger and more muscular.
In fact, there is no way a shorter person could compete with a taller person when it comes to lifting weights.
Furthermore, going back to what I’ve mentioned about a shorter range of motion, is this really an advantage?
If you think about it, a taller person has to work harder to perform most lifts, which means that they’re getting more bang for their buck from training.
Lifting weights is simply about applying force against resistance.
So, if you have to apply more force over a greater distance then you’re having to work harder.
If we look at the barbell back squat for a tall person as an example.
Let’s say that a tall person and a short person have exactly the same weight on the bar.
A tall person will need to travel a greater distance, which also means that they spend more time under tension.
Now, this may not make a huge difference for one single rep, but imagine doing this for 10 reps.
Then imagine performing 4 sets of 10 reps.
The very fact that a taller person is having to work much harder and spending more time under tension means that they have a greater potential to build muscle and strength.
In effect, simply due to distance travelled, it may take a short person 35 seconds to perform 10 reps of squats, whereas it takes a tall person 36 seconds.
Obviously, this doesn’t make a huge difference when comparing one set, but consider this over an entire workout, a week, a month, a year, etc.
3. Short vs. Tall Powerlifting World Records
A good way to look at the short vs. tall lifting weights scenario is that shorter people will generally be able to lift more “relative weight”, whereas tall people will lift more “absolute weight”.
This simply means that a short person will usually be able to lift more weight in relation to their own body weight.
The reason for this is the factors I’ve already mentioned, i.e. mechanical advantage.
However, due to size and weight, a taller person will lift more weight than a shorter person, i.e. genetic potential.
You can actually see how this works when you look at some of the world powerlifting records across various weight classes.
Andrzej Stanaszek holds the world record in the 114.6lb weight category.
He holds the squat world record in this weight category, which is 662.5lbs.
This equates to 5.78 x his body weight.
Andrzej is considered to have dwarfism and is 4ft tall.
Ray Orlando Williams holds the world record in the Unlimited/Over 275.5lbs weight category.
He holds the squat world record in this weight category, which is 1080lbs.
Ray weighs 362lbs.
This equates to 2.98 x his body weight.
Ray is 6ft 1n tall.
Andrzej is lifting significantly more weight compared to his own body weight, whereas Ray is lifting much more relative weight.
E.S. Bhaskaran holds the world record in the 114.6lb weight category.
He holds the deadlift world record in this weight category, which is 564.4lbs.
This equates to 4.92 x his body weight.
E.S. Bhaskaran is 5ft 4in tall.
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson holds the world record in the Unlimited/Over 275.5lbs weight category.
He holds the deadlift world record in this weight category, which is 1,104.5lbs.
Hafþór weighs 322lbs.
This equates to 3.43 x his body weight.
Hafþór is 6ft 9in tall.
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Andrzej Stanaszek also holds the world record in the 114.6lb weight category.
He holds the bench press world record in this weight category, which is 396.8lbs.
This equates to 3.46 x his body weight.
Andrzej is 4ft tall.
Julius Maddox holds the world record in the Unlimited/Over 275.5lbs weight category.
He holds the bench press world record in this weight category, which is 770lbs.
Julius himself weighs 440lbs.
This equates to 1.75 x his body weight.
Julius is 6ft 3in tall.
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So, as you can see, it is generally easier for a shorter person to lift weights.
This is mainly due to the mechanical advantage they have, which involves a shorter range of motion.
This is also made easier by shorter people typically having shorter limbs, although a tall person may also have short limbs too.
With that being said, taller people will usually be able to lift more absolute weight.
However, shorter people will typically lift more relative weight.
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.