Muscle for life

MFL Podcast 91: Mark Rippetoe on training for strength vs. “aesthetics”

MFL Podcast 91: Mark Rippetoe on training for strength vs. “aesthetics”

This is the first part of a two-part interview with the always enlightening and entertaining Mark Rippetoe, who you’ve probably heard of if you take fitness seriously.

In case you don’t know who Mark is, though, he was a competitive powerlifter for a decade and is the author of several books, including two classics that everyone that’s into weightlifting should read–Starting Strength and Practical Programming for Strength.

Mark has also coached thousands of people all over the country on proper barbell training through his seminars, which you can learn more about at www.startingstrength.com.

He’s also just a fun guy to chat with because he’s colorful and just shares his thoughts and openly and isn’t one for euphemisms or minced words, which I think is refreshing, really.

So, in this interview Mark and I talk about the training for strength versus “aesthetics” and why there isn’t as much of a difference between the two as many people think.

This podcast really drives home an important lesson I learned years ago:

It’s very hard to build an all-around muscular, visually appealing physique without getting really strong on a handful of key exercises.

If you’ve been following my work for any amount of time, you already know this (and if you’ve implemented any of it, you’ve experienced it), but I think you’ll still get something out of the conversation.

Here it is…



5:19 – The simple truth about training for strength vs. aesthetics.

7:40 – Why strength programs are great for women.

16:00 – How getting strong helps guys get the bodies they want.

21:05- Want to get stronger? Then you probably need to gain weight.

24:00 – The simplest “hardgainer” cure out there.

29:55 – How much “good weight” can a guy in his hormonal prime gain in a year?

41:50 – A simple caveat for guys embarking on strength training.

50:44 – How much do genetics influence our strength and looks?

57:27 – You use training to get big and strong and diet to get lean.


8:15 – The simple truth about training for strength vs. aesthetics.

10:34 – Why strength programs are great for women.

18:50 – How getting strong helps guys get the bodies they want.

23:55- Want to get stronger? Then you probably need to gain weight.

26:44 – The simplest “hardgainer” cure out there.

33:00 – How much “good weight” can a guy in his hormonal prime gain in a year?

44:44 – A simple caveat for guys embarking on strength training.

53:35 – How much do genetics influence our strength and looks?

1:00:00 – You use training to get big and strong and diet to get lean.

Starting Strength

Practical Progress


The Best Way to Gain Muscle Without Getting Fat

How to Make Meal Plans That Work For Any Diet

How to Create the Ultimate Muscle Building Workout

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What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Mwu

    Mark Rippetoe is funny, about the “anorexic guy” “5”8 135 lbs for 8% body fat) let’s take a formula from http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-much-muscle-can-you-build-naturally/

    Natural Max potential of the 5″7 around
    170-100 = 70kg @4-5% body fat so 66.5-67 kg of Lean body mass.
    With the number give by Rippetoe the guy has 56 kg of lean body mass, he is 10 kg of muscle away from his natural max.
    How in the fucking world, unless in a world of fatty (or people that I suspect are frustrated about being a tad fat) this could be an issue for somebody starting weight training.

    Mike you should have told him that you stay year-round (as written several time) at 8% just to see his reaction.

    • Mwu

      well what would you expect of someone advocating GOMAD… 😀 “the kid is gonna get 30 lbs (185-155) in 2.5-3 months, everytime ” …

      ” 70% is lean body mass”. (aka 21 lbs, meaning between 1.7-2 pounds of MUSCLE gain PER WEEK). No it’s not. The guy has good advise regarding work-out, but otherwise about meal plan he is a joke.

      Old article but interesting : https://www.t-nation.com/training/truth-about-bulking

    • Haha he knows that I’m “into abs” and stay lean and he openly admits that diet isn’t his thing–training is.

      Hence the rather “barbaric” nature of his diet recommendations. 🙂

  • Lloyd

    This podcast is pretty funny! You can clearly tell that you don’t fully agree or disagree even with some of the points that he makes. But every time you even go to give an opinion, he either continues to talk or raises his voice.
    Interesting podcast, but I don’t agree with all of Mark’s points. Very knowledgeable man, who is excellent in the strength training world. I don’t necessarily agree with putting on a bunch of body fat as well as muscle, to look big in clothes though.

  • Miroslav Kovar

    I really appreciate the preparation and work Mike has given to this podcast, but I am disappointed with the result. This guy is repetetive, impolite to insulting and advocating outdated methods. Most of the time, he was either repeating himself, insulting a group of people, or putting out controversial claims without supporting them in any way. Maybe it’s just me used to listening to people with high verbal skills who actually have some valuable science based information to share…

    • I understand where you’re coming from. I have a part 2 coming that I think you’ll like more.

    • To be fair, he did write an entire book laying out and justifying his “controversial claims”. Would you like the interview to have been him reading out the whole book?

      In what way is squatting, pressing and pulling “outdated”? Does progressive resistance training not build muscle and strength? I’m wondering where my clients muscles came from then.

  • Chris

    This came at a good time, I’ve made the swap from a cut to a bulk and I’ve seriously had to wrap my mind around being comfortable gaining fat. My strength is soaring but so is my belly and some bloat. Rip really reassures me that I’m making the right choices in putting the abs away temporarily. Haha.

  • Mwu

    Indeed the guy is insulting and knows that a lot of listener are into being lean so he trolls

    And that’s idiotic because the reality is much simpler and doesnt need to pit “abs” people against “strength people ” :
    anybody can be “strong” (say deadlifting 3x body weight) and lean at the same time, however if one’s goal is too be among the strongest people in the world, competing against Eddie Hall then yes one will need to forget about being sub 10% fat. And that’s completely fine, even admirable DL 500 kg is amazig.
    But this particular case cannot give us a general rule.

    The same for marathon, if you wish to run 42.195km in around 2h you will need to be pretty slim (see Dennis Kimetto) and probably loose some “useless” (useless for marathon) muscle. Does it mean that if you wish to be able to run long distance at a decent pace you need to become skinny; NO.

  • M dot

    I was very excited for this podcast. I had to turn it off about 20 minutes in. He was smug and uninteresting.

    • Sorry you didn’t like it. You may like part 2 more.

  • Such a great podcast! Mike, you and Mark are a bitchin’ duo! How about Rip ripping on Hemsworth LMFAO!

  • Juan

    Thanks Mike, can wait for part 2.

    What about Training and Dieting for those in my age group 50+ with a BF between 16-19%. Should I buy the cow, milk it and then eat it or should I continue on deficit.

    Thanks —

  • Gary

    Hi Mike, I am a big fan of yours and Mark’s; in fact I own books from both of you. This interview confused me when you started talking about different approaches for old, overweight guys in regards to diet. Mark says everything stays the same for overweight guys except the GOMAD. I am 41 years old and despite training for about a year and a half and besides some strength gains at some movements, you couldn’t tell by looking at me that I even train. I train heavy but quickly hit plateaus for moths on end and I have recently discovered through Alan Thrall that this is probably because my mobility and form sucks (particularly my OHP and squats are simply not right and probably doing more harm than good because my ROM sucks a$$). I am 177 cm at 97 kg, and I’d guess my BF is about 25-30%. I can bench press about 115 kg as 1 RM (which is way more than I can squat, although I can DL about 140 kg for 3 reps). At my weight I should be progressing much faster. So which is it? Do I eat in an excess to build muscle and like Mark says, “worry about that later?”. Or do I continue trying to be in a deficit for years on end and make no gains at all in terms of body composition? Thanks for all that you guys contribute to the industry, I wish I lived around the corner from one of you! In Germany, good, affordable personal trainers are truly scarce, if not non-existent.
    By the way, your podcasts are really awesome listening during my morning walks with the dog.. Let me know if you’re ever in Germany and want to train at a High 5 gym (you did learn German by now, didn’t you? 🙂 ).

    • Gurion

      Post the question on the SS forums

    • Glad you enjoyed the interview, Gary! Don’t worry. You don’t have to be in a deficit for years on end to improve body composition. A few months at a time cycling bulk/cut until you hit your aesthetic and strength targets. Really, it depends on what your goals are.

  • OK Mike — you said the first person would get something cool. Not sure if anyone has pointed it out, but I was totally giggling at the cosmetologist/esthetician battle. So a cosmetologist is all about hair/makeup/nails. Estheticians specialize in skincare such as facials, pore cleansing, waxing, acne help etc. If someone is both a cosmetologist and an esthetician they can do even more and provide a more comprehensive service. So cosmetologists normally work in a salon with a chair (nails/hair/makeup). Esthetitians often work in salons as well but have a private room with a table for their services.

    Does that help? I love Mark’s podcasts. He’s awesome!!

  • JM613

    Went back and watched the video again. He mentions SS with Chins twice a week and curls. As you progress on SS, deadlines drop to around once a week and adding weight only twice a week on squats. This seems to be a more balaced approach and would probably help with upper body development better. Do you think this is a better balance at this level?

  • bj

    hey mike at 7:36 of the podcast did mark rippetoe say your muscles get bigger when they get stronger?

  • bj

    hi just wanted to know if you have the transcript for this podcast a lot of good info i would like to print out and keep and read if thats too much to ask for i understand

  • bj

    its difficult to get a reply back from you guys idk if im asking the right questions been sending emails as well and nothing yet

    • Sorry for the delay. Mike receives hundreds of emails a day and it does take some time to go through it all. I hope you can understand. Thanks for your patience!

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