Big guys—we’re talking over 6’2″ and 100kg’s —struggle more than a small dude during any workout. Why? Their longer levers make it more difficult to go through any range of motion for all exercises. It’s a fact, and an important one to consider when designing a program, since doing 10 to 15 reps is a lot more demanding for a Jolly Green Giant than for a 5’7″ 160-pounder.
Yes, being on the bigger side puts you at a huge disadvantage from a performance standpoint, as you’ll need more rest and shorter sets with less weight. You should, however, also look at your size as a way to take your workouts up a notch—especially for body-weight training. The reason being: Big men can make their bodies work harder. The 10 moves below are a great place to start. Each exercise targets multiple muscles and has you fight gravity to maintain position. You’ll definitely be humbled but even bigger and better conditioned because of it.
WHY DO IT: This hamstring curl variation emphasizes eccentric strength and also uses one leg at a time. Not many ham exercises can do that.
DO IT: Lie on the floor with a Swiss ball and place your heels on top of it. Elevate your hips and perform a typical Swiss ball curl. At the top position, lift one leg, then return slowly to full extension using one leg.
SETS X REPS: 3–4 x 8–10 (per side).
WHY DO IT: Unilateral strength helps with balance and stability and hits muscles that two-legged movements can’t—like the VMO (vastus medialis oblique), adductors, and medial glutes.
DO IT: Standing in front of a low box (6 to 8 inches), lift one leg off the floor and squat down, reaching back with your butt. (Aim to reach the back of the box, and you’ll end up in the middle.) Once you’ve made contact, pause, then stand using the same leg. If that’s too difficult, stand back up with both legs and focus on a single-leg eccentric only.
SETS X REPS: 3–5 x 8 (per leg).
WHY DO IT: An isometric hold at the top of a TRX row torches the muscles of the upper back and neck—key postural players—and challenges their endurance. These particular muscles can benefit the most from endurance-based work. They’re constantly supporting our posture (which is becoming increasingly crappy) during the day and during big lifts.
DO IT: Set the straps of a TRX row to midheight and lie underneath it so your chest is in line with the straps. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and grab a handle in each hand. Row yourself up until your elbows are by your side and hold that position.
SETS X REPS: 3–5 x 15 seconds.
WHY DO IT: The wall mountain climber is like a plank on steroids that will crush your entire upper body—not just your abs—due to the amount of traction you need to do it.
DO IT: Set up in a pushup start position against a wall, with your hands just in front of your body (longer lever plank) and your feet against the wall instead of on the floor. Use your hand position to “push” your feet into the wall so they don’t slide. Next, slowly bring one knee toward your chest, then alternate.
SETS X REPS: 3–5 x 30 seconds.
WHY DO IT: This big-guy-friendly modification places more of the weight closer to the lifter’s core, putting less stress on the lower back.
DO IT: Lie faceup on the floor and hold on to something sturdy, just behind your head or neck. Next, tuck your knees and raise your entire body straight upward so you’re balancing on your shoulders and upper back. Bend one knee so that it’s tight to the body, and lower your entire body toward the floor as slowly as possible, maintaining this position. That’s 1 rep.
SETS X REPS: 3 x 6 (per leg).
WHY DO IT: The pullup is an all-inclusive movement pattern that strengthens your back, biceps, and trunk at the same time. Also, 10 reps for a big dude is far more impressive.
DO IT: If a pullup bar isn’t available, you can use a TRX. To do so, set the straps high and sit on the floor underneath the handles. Grab one in each hand and plant one foot on the floor. From there, perform a standard pullup, leading the pull with your elbows. As a bonus: Using the TRX, as it’s not a fixed bar, is easier on your elbow joint.
SETS X REPS: 5 x failure.
WHY DO IT: For big guys, hand walkouts are a great substitute for ab wheel rollouts, which can prove to be very stressful on the lower back for lifters who are heavier or who have long extremities. This allows for the same position to be achieved from the toes, with much more control during the move.
DO IT: From a standing position, reach down to the floor and start walking out with your hands. Walk out past pushup position into a long-lever plank and hold for 3 seconds. Then walk back in and repeat.
SETS X REPS: 3 x 6.
WHY DO IT: Simply put, this is one of the hardest inner-thigh and oblique movements you’ll ever do with your body weight.
DO IT: Set up a bench or TRX and lie perpendicular to it on the floor. Place one leg on top of the bench (or in the top strap of the TRX), with the shin along the top. You can bend your knee. Keep the bottom leg straight—it can travel right under the box (or under the strap). Set up in a side plank position with the upper body and “pull” with top leg on the box (or in the TRX) to bring your two legs to meet and sandwich the box. Lower slowly and let hip and thigh tap the floor.
SETS X REPS: 3–4 x 10 (per side).
WHY DO IT: This move combines mobility, coordination, and shoulder and core strength into one “flow” pattern. You’ll boost athleticism and burn body fat in the process.
DO IT: Start on your hands with knees just off the floor. Turn to the right by taking the right hand off the floor and “kicking through” with the left leg, across to the right side. Straighten that leg as you pivot on your planted foot. At the finish position, your torso should be nearly facing the ceiling. Return to your start position and repeat.
SETS X REPS: 3–4 x 8–12 (per side).