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Long Legged Squatter, What Do? Here are Strategies for Long Legged Squatters

Updated: Nov 5, 2023


Me squatting with long legs :(

Ok, so you have long legs... what are you gonna do... NOT squat? Long legged and more specifically long femured folks probably dread the squat more than any other movement. Nothing gives me more anxiety than getting to the bottom of the hole and wondering if I'll be able to get back out. Could you imagine if Powerlifting competitions required you to squat last instead of first? No thanks! In this post we will:

  1. Define "long legged" and help you determine if you are one of the afflicted.

  2. Determine if you are "long femured."

  3. Outline strategies for long legged squatters to optimize your squat based on your anthropometry.

DEFINITION OF "LONG LEGGED"

An article by Michael Hales PhD [1] explores the topic of segment length and how to use this for determining deadlift style (sumo vs. conventional). Table 2 below from this article defines average segment lengths as a proportion of overall height (A). If your legs (C) are greater than 49% of overall "stature" or height (A), you would be considered to be "long legged."

Table defining segment lengths
Diagram depicting segment lengths

Segment lengths are based on Figure 3 on the right from the same article. "Leg length is defined from greater trochanter to the lateral aspect of the foot. Arm length is defined from humeral head to the tip of the third finger. The torso is defined from the greater trochanter to an imaginary line extending horizontally from the top of the head."


What's interesting, to me anyway, is that the average torso length B and average leg length C do not add up to 100%. I'm no statistics expert, but shouldn't averages of percentages of total length add up to... the total??? i.e. if the average torso segment is 32% of body stature, wouldn't the average leg segment be 68% of body stature? Maybe I'm thinking too hard and should just ignore since I'm not a PhD in anything like the author of the referenced article. Anyway, I digress...


After taking these measurements, you may find that all of your segment proportions are above average, like mine below. In that scenario, then it's worth taking a look at the actual percent difference between torso length and leg length. Note the difference between my legs, and torso... there's more than a 10% difference.


*Note how my torso segment percentage of 44.9 added to my leg segment percentage of 55.1 adds up to 100%. Again, I digress...


Table showing my personal segment lengths

Ok, so you've taken your measurements and have determined you ARE or ARE NOT "long legged." If you ARE NOT long legged, then congratulations, you can stop reading here... j/k. Even if you aren't long legged, there are still some good takeaways you can apply to your squat. If you ARE long legged, then let's dig a little deeper, because long leggedness in and of itself is not necessarily an issue. What we really need to figure out is if you are long femured.


DEFINITION OF "LONG FEMURED"

Modified diagram to define long femured

Maybe I haven't researched long enough, but no where in the sacred texts or the Google could I find a definition of "long femured," with respect to overall leg length so I'm going to go out on a limb here (pun intended) and make one up to establish a convention for the rest of this blog post. Further subdividing leg segment C into a femur segment (C1), tibia segment C2, and ankle height (C3) we can create the modified diagram to the right.


For the sake of discussion, I offer the following definitions: Femur segment is the portion measured from greater trochanter to middle of the knee joint (C1). Tibia segment is the portion measured from middle of the knee joint to middle of the ankle joint (C2). Ankle height is measured from middle of the ankle joint to the floor.

Table showing my personal leg segment lengths

For further sake of discussion, I will define long femured as having a femur segment (C1) that is 50% or more of your overall leg segment (C). Why 50% or more? Because I barely make the cut and means I can call my self long femured! Seriously though, I think 50% is a fair number considering the leg segment is comprised of 3 segments, and 2 of the segments move about 2 joints. The ankle segment only has 1 joint from a practical discussion of squat mechanics, unless you want to deep dive into toe splaying... but let's not go there please. The other thing I can fall back on is that average femur to stature ratio is 26.74% [2]. Since my femur segment length is 19", and my stature is 69", my femur to stature ratio would be about 27.5%. So there...

How long femurs affect squat mechanics

The above image from a previous post [3] provides a great illustration of how femur length will impact squat mechanics, assuming all other segment lengths are equal. The stick person on the left has longer femurs than the person on the right. However, in both instances, you can clearly see these stick people have tibia segments that are much longer relative to the femur. How would these stick people look if their femur lengths increased and their tibias shortened? Since a static 2D stick figure can't do justice for all the possible anthropometries, and since I prefer not to reinvent the wheel here, I suggest you check out these 2 videos to fully appreciate all the different ways your limb lengths will impact your squat.



STRATEGIES

Alright, the moment you've all been waiting for... what can YOU do if your are afflicted with long legs, and more specifically long femurs? Below are 6 strategies YOU can use to optimize your squat for your anthropometry.

  1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

  2. Optimize Bar Position

  3. Adjust Stance Width and Toe Angle

  4. Improve Ankle Dorsi Flexion

  5. Embrace the Forward Lean

  6. Develop Back and Hip Extensors

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

The first step is to stop comparing yourself to others. In a previous post, aptly titled, "Stop Comparing Your Movement Patterns with Others [3]," I discuss how people can frustrate themselves trying to emulate lifters with different body types. While there is much you can learn from lifters with different anthropometry, banging your head against the wall because your squat isn't as aesthetic as someone's who is built to squat, e.g. Toshiki Yamamoto, won't be productive if you don't have the same body type. Still, there is much to be learned from an elite lifter and you can check out Sika Strength's video here to dive even deeper into Toshiki's squat pattern.


Optimize Bar Position

The lower you can place the bar on your back, the more you can reduce the moment arm between the barbell and hips. If you are high bar squatting, this means not placing the bar on your neck or cervicle spine, and instead placing on your traps above the scapula. If you are low bar squatting, this means place as low as you can on your rear deltoids as your elbows and wrists can tolerate. Just be careful not to go so low that you can't safely keep the bar on your back without leaning too far forward. Another way to think about it is your hands should be there to provide balance, with the majority of the weight held on your back, not your hands and wrist. You also don't want to have the bar so low to the point where you wouldn't get a "squat" command or you get a red light in a powerlifting competition because you are not upright enough at the commencement or completion of the lift. This would be a blue card in the USAPL.


Adjust Stance Width and Toe Angle

Widening stance width and toe angle may allow you to stay more upright throughout the squat and may allow you to better hit depth as it leaves more room for you to get your torso in between your legs so to speak. Staying more upright reduces the moment arm between the barbell system and hips. In addition, externally rotating your legs and toes, when looking at your feet from above, helps to reduce the moment arm between the barbell system, quads, and ankle extensors. If you'd like more context, here's another great Sika Strength video deep diving into Nino Pizzolato, who is also a member of the long femur squat club.



Improve Ankle Dorsi Flexion

Improving ankle dorsi flexion allows your knees to travel forward more which can help distribute more of the load to your quads and away from the back. This can be done with ankle mobility drills or through use of elevated heel shoes like weightlifting shoes.


Embrace the Forward Lean

If you've finally come to terms with your long femurs, then it's time to embrace the forward lean. Understand that you will not be able to have a vertical torso throughout a squat movement. Rather than try to work against your body type, just go with it. For example, I used to cue myself to "fight for extension," which made me over emphasize having an upright chest and almost over extension of my lumber spine. Cueing myself to "get my hips back under me" allows me to lean forward, as required to keep the center of mass over mid foot, but reminds me to get my hips back under the barbell as fast as possible when coming out of the hole to engage more quads and shift some load off of the lower back.

Old Cue: "fight for extension!"
New Cue: "get my hips back under me"

Develop Back and Hip Extensors

This may be obvious but I'll say it anyway... as a long femured lifter, a vertical torso is not in your squatting cards, so building robust hip and back extensors will be key to further developing your squat. You need to make your back and hips and strong as possible to compensate for your unfavorable squat leverages. This will give your body more options should you lose balance or misgrove a lift. While a squat-morning is not optimal or aesthetic, it still counts as a squat in competition if you hit depth and comply with all of your federation's rules.

You need to make your back and hips and strong as possible to compensate for your unfavorable squat leverages.

If you enjoyed this blog post, then be sure to like, share, and comment below!


Thanks,

Bryan


REFERENCES

  1. Hales, Michael PhD. Improving the Deadlift: Understanding Biomechanical Constraints and Physiological Adaptations to Resistance Exercise. Strength and Conditioning Journal 32(4):p 44-51, August 2010. | DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3181e5e300

  2. Feldesman MR, Kleckner JG, Lundy JK. Femur/stature ratio and estimates of stature in mid- and late-Pleistocene fossil hominids. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1990 Nov;83(3):359-72. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330830309. PMID: 2252082.

  3. https://www.craftedstrength.com/post/stop-comparing-your-movement-patterns-with-others


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