It may seem unfair, but there will always be guys—some of whom inevitably find their way to the bench or squat rack next to yours—who seem born to excel at certain exercises. The truth is, they were. And you weren't. But that's no excuse to cancel your gym membership. "Even if your body proportions aren't ideal, you can still perform exercises that maximize your body's potential," says Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., the owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego.
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So don't give up. Instead, sack up and tackle the problem head-on. Here are some common traits that can lead to frustration in the weight room, and ways to make the most of what you have to build a better body.
The Problem: Long Arms
The bench press may be a barometer of masculinity, but it discriminates against long-limbed lifters. While the distance the bar travels does limit both performance and results, long arms can also set you up for injury. A tall man's balland- socket shoulder joint—the place where his upper-arm bone meets his shoulder blade—is more vulnerable than a shorter man's. "You actually drive your arm bone into the joint, setting yourself up for rotator-cuff injuries down the road," says Martin Rooney, P.T., C.S.C.S., of the Parisi Speed School.
The workaround: With medicine-ball throws, you can focus on speed instead of on lifting weight. "You'll work more of the fast-twitch muscle fibers that come into play during quick movements," says Durkin. No medicine ball? Do 3 to 5 sets of as many pushups as you can in 30 seconds
LYING MEDICINE-BALL THROW
Lie on your back, using both hands to hold a heavy medicine ball against your chest. Push the ball just high enough into the air that it leaves your hands. Catch it, and immediately bring it back to your chest for the next throw. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds. Rest, and do 4 more sets.
The Problem: Short Arms
"Most of the big powerlifters you see have a short, stocky build," Rooney says. It serves them well on squats and bench presses. But when the bar starts on the floor, as with the deadlift, short arms force you to drop into a lower starting position. That changes your leverage and adds strain to your back.
The workaround: "With a sumo deadlift, placing your legs farther apart helps your hands start closer to the ground," Rooney says. It also allows you to begin with a more upright torso, taking stress off your lumbar spine.
9 Secrets to bigger, stronger muscles.
Stand with your feet about twice shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed out. Squat and grab the center of the bar using an overhand grip, with your thumbs 12 inches apart and your torso almost perpendicular to the floor. Without allowing your back to round, thrust your hips forward and stand up with the barbell. Then lower it, keeping it as close to your body as possible. Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.