The best mass building exercises are squats and deadlifts. Doing these exercises on a regular basis will not only make your legs bigger and stronger, it will also generate size and strength in your upper body. In fact, increases in your squat lift will translate into increases in your bench lift. Unfortunately, the saying “everything in life is a tradeoff” is very true and these exercises are no exception. Do Squats and Deadlifts make you shorter?
The answer is yes. I talked with several power lifters at the gym where I workout. All have told me that they lost 1 inch of height. One power lifter actually had his height measured at a doctor’s office and was able to verify a loss of 1 inch. I know from my own experience that I have lost an inch of height.
Squats load your spine via axial load. This creates a compressive force in your discs, in effect it presses the spinal column down. By shortening your spinal column, squats make you shorter. The same is true for deadlifts, or any other vertical lift, such as standing calf raises or seated shoulder press. That compression force is especially bad if you have a history of lower back pain.
What do you do? No man likes to lose an inch of height, especially if he is less than 6 feet tall. The leg press is a poor substitute; it creates significant shearing and compressing forces in the spine. This is due to the backward rotation of the pelvis during the movement. Isolation exercises such as leg extensions and leg curls generate tremendous shearing forces on the knees, and are also poor mass-building exercises.
The best alternative is the one-legged leg press. By placing one foot on the ground, it directs kinetic energy into the ground instead of your spine. Of course, the weight is much lower; doing any exercise with one limb is much more difficult due to the greater need for stabilization.
So what do you do if you’ve already lost an inch of height? There are exercises to help you regain height and even gain an inch. These exercises will be discussed in the next article.