Fitness, Health & Sports, Podcast

Art of Manliness Podcast #75: Barbell Training With Mark Rippetoe Part I

After taking a summer break from podcasting, I’m back in the saddle. And this week’s episode is a great one to come back on. I have a very enjoyable discussion with strength training expert and author Mark Rippetoe about barbell training. Mark is the author of the popular book, Starting Strength: Basic Barbell TrainingSince 2005, Starting Strength has sold over 250,000 copies without any marketing; its solid advice has simply spread by word of mouth.

Show highlights:

  • Why a man should be strong
  • The benefits of barbell training over machines
  • The manly strength of old-time strongmen
  • The importance of form in barbell training
  • The main lifts every man should be doing
  • Mark’s opinion of Crossfit
  • And more!

In next week’s episode, Mark answers questions that were submitted by AoM readers.


If you want to get strong, then I highly recommend picking up a copy of Starting Strength. It’s the most comprehensive book on barbell training out there that’s geared for the complete beginner. Even if you’ve been lifting for awhile, you’re bound to learn a thing or two from Starting Strength. And stay tuned for a great article by Mark next month on why barbells beat machines for building strength, hands down.

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Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast.

Well, we are back from a summer break, needed sometime to recuperate, but now we are back on track for our regular weekly podcast schedule. I am excited about the guest we are coming back with, his name is Mark Rippetoe. I am sure a lot of you who are listening know who this guy is or have heard of him. Anytime we write about strength training on the website his name and the book that he published back in 2005 always comes up. He is the author of the book, Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training. That’s what it’s about. It’s about lifting heavy with barbells, doing squats, deadlifts, presses, and bench presses to get strong.

Mark has over 30 years experience in powerlifting being an Olympic weightlifting coach, as a gym owner. And in the past, almost like past 10 years, he has had a lot of influence in the resurgence of just simple back to basics barbell training. So I am really excited to talk to him today. We are going to discuss why a man should be strong, why he should lift heavy things. We are going to talk about the basics of barbell training. We are going to discuss CrossFit. We are going to discuss chesticles, if you don’t know what those are you are going to find out today.

I divided this podcast into half because it went a little long so I will have the second half next week. I’ve been having a lot longer podcasts lately and I’ve had a few people reach out to me and saying hey it’s a little long can you shorten them a little bit. So that’s what I am going to do, get back to our usual 30-minute long podcasts.

So this week we will talk sort of the basics of barbell training and then next week I took questions from twitter from followers to ask directly to Mark and will answer those questions that people have for Mark Rippetoe. So there we go, let’s do this.

Mark Rippetoe, welcome to the show.

Mark Rippetoe: Thanks for having me, Brett. I appreciate your call and I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you people.

Brett McKay: Well, I appreciate it. I am a big fan of your book. Starting Strength has been a big influence on my strength training. We are going to get to the nitty-gritty about your philosophy towards barbell training, but before we get there I want to kind of think you know look at big picture because here’s something that I know is whenever we publish articles about lifting heavy, strength training, we usually get some person that chimes in with some sort of comment like well, you know if you are not playing football or some team sport or if you don’t have a job that requires you to be really strong there’s really no point at deadlifting 600 pounds. What’s your answer to that? I mean to someone you know why should a man be strong even if they are a desk jockey for a living?

Mark Rippetoe: Well, a man ought to be strong because a man ought to just be strong and that’s what men ought to be, I mean what we say all the time is, and this kind of tongue in cheek but a grown man weighs 200 pounds. I think there are standards that must be maintained, and that’s just what we do. I’ve never said that everybody ought to deadlift 600 pounds, all I am saying is that probably you ought to be deadlifting more than you are now. That’s not the same thing as recommending that everybody be a competitive powerlifter but everybody ought to be strong enough to be useful as a human male. We still have to lift things and move things around physically and we won’t be able to do that without hurting ourselves because it’s just you know shameful. I mean I’ve written on this extensively. Strength is– it’s nothing else, strength is the thing that keeps muscle mass on you. Training for strength maintains your muscle mass and maintaining your muscle mass is an extremely important part of maintaining health, for reasons of biology, the immune system mechanics and this sort of thing. It’s the number one thing that happens to us as we get older that affects our quality of life is the loss of muscle mass and the accompanying loss of bone density that comes from the process by which you lose your strength. So the maintenance of strength and the maintenance of bone density is what enabled our quality life to be maintained at old age.

Running doesn’t prevent that from happening. In fact running may accelerate the process. The only thing that keeps that from happening is for guys when they get into their forties at least to say I must now deliberately as a part of my day strive to maintain and increase my strength. And as a result, I mean you got to be strength training. That’s expected of you.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I think it’s a great point. You also write in Starting Strength in the introduction that there’s just like a confidence that comes with being able to lift heavy things like…

Mark Rippetoe: Sure.

Brett McKay: …you know, I know I feel great whenever I make a new personal, a PR on a lift, I mean it carries….

Mark Rippetoe: That’s deep in the DNA, I think.

Brett McKay: All right. So for our listeners who aren’t familiar with your most, I guess most popular, most famous work it’s a book called Starting Strength and it’s all about barbell training.

Mark Rippetoe: Yeah Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training is now in its third edition.

Brett McKay: When was it originally published?

Mark Rippetoe: It was first published in 2005. It’s been through three editions. The third edition has sold the best because it’s the best book. The first two were works in progress and I think we got it nailed down on the third edition. In fact, in all three editions of the book we sold 250,000 copies. For an independent publisher I’m told that’s good.

Brett McKay: That’s really good. That’s the thing like you don’t really, I mean you don’t do any publicity on it just sort of like word of mouth. I find out about it from a friend.

Mark Rippetoe: Yeah we have not really ever marketed the book. We probably should. We are taking steps in that direction now but the book has sold itself over the web and people hear about it, people have good luck with it, people write about it. We got probably 95% of our Amazon reviews are five stars. It comes up and searches prompt the link. People look at it and they think you know this makes sense at a certain level even before they hear the details. The basic program is that you go, you do the basic barbell exercises which constitute the entire program, the squat, the press, the deadlift, the bench press. And for most people we do power cleans and possibly power snatches then we do some chins. These basic exercises work all of the muscles in the body in the way that they work under normal anatomical use. In order words your knees and hips bend. So when you squat down and stand back up that’s a normal human movement, it uses all of that muscular jerk.

Well if we put a barbell on your back and we have you do sets of five reps of the barbell, five work-based for reasons that will take an hour to explain, five work-based. And then we increase the weight on that until we find the weight that first day not terribly difficult but it’s beginning to be a stress. And then the next time you come in we go up five pounds, and the next time after that five pounds and then five pounds and then five pounds. We do that until that didn’t work anymore. And when that didn’t work anymore then we get more complicated but until it’s necessary, be complicated seven works just fine. So that process extends over all of these lifts.

Chins don’t work that way, chins don’t work that fast but we will be using chins as a system exercise but one of the things that barbells do is, the big barbell exercises are the only lifts that you can do that can train you to increase in strength for years. Machines don’t do that. You can’t make progress on your leg extension for years and years like you can’t with your deadlift because there aren’t enough muscles involvement in the exercise and as a result the performance to the exercise doesn’t produce sufficient systemic stress to cause a systemic response. That’s what we are looking for when we do barbell training, we want the whole body to get strong because the whole body functions as a unit and if we trained it as a system instead of isolated components then the system gets stronger while the constituent component gets strong too.

So the program is really very simple and straightforward. I didn’t invent it. It’s been used for decades if not centuries, you know, they were of course predicating this only invention of the barbell. The good thing about the barbell is that it’s incrementally increasable. We can go up on our bench press two pounds a workout if we need to and that enables us to continue to drive an adaptation for a very long time. So the invention of barbells is responsible for the facilitation of the program but I didn’t invent this. I just wrote it down in a comprehensive understandable way that collated everything that I’ve learned about it over my decades in the gym business. It’s a simple program it works every time it’s tried.

Brett McKay: Yeah. The interesting thing is that this book, Starting Strength, is just insanely popular. People see it and they are like wow, this is crazy. This is like it’s new to them because they probably grew up in a time when it was just all about the machines or just simple dumbbell lifts.

Mark Rippetoe: I think that most people have never had this simple straightforward explanation presented to them before. Again, this is not a complicated material. It is merely a utilitarian adaptation of the simple biological principle of stress recovery adaptation. If an organism is stressed and the stress doesn’t kill the organism, organism recovers from the stress and adapts itself so that a repeated dose of that same stress doesn’t constitute a stress anymore. This is just the function of life. Everything that’s alive response to stress in this way and all we are doing is capitalizing on that by making sure that a stress is applied that can’t be recovered from.

Now if I took a novice into the gym the first day and I had him do a 100 squats, a 100 bench presses or a 100 deadlifts, a 100 cleans, that obviously would be both stupid and unprofessional because a person that is not adapted to stress can’t recover from an overwhelming stress. The stress overwhelms it can’t be recovered from so the idea behind strength training is to apply a specifically tailored stress to the body that allows that forces an adaption to take place because it can be recovered from. So the process is recovery or obviously nutrition and sleep and these sorts of things, but the process is so simple and obvious that I think for a long time people just didn’t see it laying there. All I did is organize it.

Brett McKay: Here’s the interesting thing you bring up in the beginning of the book talking about barbells have been used for almost a century, decades, right?

Mark Rippetoe: Yes.

Brett McKay: And you talked about like the strength and the power that weightlifters had back in the day because one of the things I do is I like to collect all men’s magazines and all fitness magazines…

Mark Rippetoe: …back in the sixties.

Brett McKay: Yeah and you see what some of these guys are doing like what they are lifting just sort of as normal. It’s insane, but in today you really don’t see all that often unless you are a competitive powerlifter or the like but there was a different mindset towards I guess strength training say forty-fifty years ago than compared to what’s going on today.

Mark Rippetoe: Well I would like to use the example of the press. You imagine the overhead press, we just call it the press because that’s what it was called in antique. The press is the standing overhead barbell press. Anything besides that gets a qualifier so if it’s a seated press then it’s understood that you are seated. If it’s a dumbbell press you’re using dumbbells. If it does the side bench it’s the same as you pressing overhead. So back fifty years ago a bodyweight press weight 225, loading a barbell at 225 and pressing it was considered pretty good, you know, a good place to start. 75 pound over bodyweight press was considered a good press. Of course you know the Bill York guys who were big pressers, Bill March and Bednarski and all these, you know, I only picked at all these guys, we write about them on the website were good pressers. We have people in this country pressing under 500 and Bednarski pressed close to 500 and 496 I think. I don’t know I am not good with those numbers. But we have a series of articles written by both Bill Starr and Marty Gallagher on our website. They detailed this very thing. We specifically include that stuff in our library of things to read because I specifically want people to know where we were at one time and where we are not now.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I guess the emphasis is like there was a switch where people started focusing more aesthetics like they want the shredded six pack and like, it’s all about six, the packs.

Mark Rippetoe: Packs, body building, you know, that’s when we stop pressing it started lying down doing our pressing on the bench because you get to lay down. I called the packs the chesticles. People think that, well body building made packs fashionable. If you look at the old pictures of Grimmick his pecs were not out of proportion to the rest of his physique. He had a flawless physique and you’ll notice the absence of overwhelmingly large pectoral muscles. That happened back in the late sixties and seventies when the bench press became fashionable. Body building started rewarding big packs, best chest became a trophy that you wanted, Mr. America that sort of thing. I don’t know, I’ve never been a big fan of body building I just think it’s odd but probably the emphasis on bench press comes from body building.

Brett McKay: Yeah. It explains a lot of like where we got to today in sort of fitness and why a lot of guys go to the gym because they want to look like that but maybe not particular be strong, it’s not like the primary goal.

Mark Rippetoe: Right. The funny thing is if you just worry about strength all the other things take care of themselves.

Brett McKay: Yeah, it’s right.

Mark Rippetoe: Physique follows strength.

Brett McKay: That’s right and it will look like a normal physique like it won’t look sort of like a weird, I don’t know, so it’s not out of proportionate, right?

Mark Rippetoe: Some bodybuilders tend to emphasize– some entry level bodybuilders tend to emphasize the things they can see in the mirror with their shirt off. As a result they don’t squat, they don’t deadlift, their back is kind of flab and shallow and sickly looking. Their legs are runner’s legs. People are odd. That’s all I can tell you. Some people are very very odd.

Brett McKay: I can hear you on that. So one thing about barbell training, the thing you focused on in Starting Strength is just the form. How important is form in barbell training? Is barbell training something you can just, you know, someone can get your book, go off on the road and started or should they get a qualified coach to check out what they are doing. What’s your take on that?

Mark Rippetoe: The book is designed to teach you how to do the lifts. People of average intelligence have always been able to take instructions in that book and apply them effectively to their own training. Each edition got better in helping us do that. There are lot of people on my website that they have always trained by themselves for one reason or another have never had any coaching and they were just fine. The optimum situation would be to have a competent coach evaluate your technique but then we get into questions that are extremely sticky sometimes like what is a competent coach.

Most coaches are incompetent. The current fad in the fitness industry is to minimize the importance of deadlifts and squats done correctly into full depth and maximize the importance of unstable surfaces, all these functional training should, a wonderful excuse to handle light weight. You can’t get strong handling light weight. Strength is merely the production of force against an external resistance. If heavy weight is not involved then you are not getting strong. That’s all it is doing. There is no another analysis there’s only one type strength and that’s the kind that your muscles produce when they contract by moving your bones which is a system of leverage that moves the load. The weight is not heavy, the load is light, force production remains at low and you don’t get strong, really oh shit really so all the rest do it. This is not a complicated stuff. I am not that bright. I am just not that bright. This is not complicated. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Squats allow you to lift heavy weights, deadlifts allow you to lift heavy weights. They allow you to get stronger for years. That’s why we use them. They work the best.

But learning how to do these exercises is sometimes contentious for people that are training by themselves. We recommend that you try to find one of our Starting Strength coaches who have been evaluated specifically for their ability to show you how to do these exercises correctly. But tens, thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people have learned how to do these movements by themselves in the garage using the book. Again, these just aren’t that complicated. In an ideal world everybody would have a coach, hell I would have a coach in the ideal world but I trained by myself late at night because there is anybody around. So you just got to remember the few simple principles that we hammer-on in the book and those people can by this time.

Brett McKay: All right. Speaking of form, the CrossFit Games are going on right now.

Mark Rippetoe: Let me briefly touch on your question about technique.

Brett McKay: Okay, sure.

Mark Rippetoe: Because you had asked that previously. Technique is terribly important. It is important that you get the last inch of the proper depth in in the squat. It’s important that you don’t go six inches below parallel but it’s important that you break parallel. It’s important that you keep your knees out. It’s important that your back stay in extension while the weight is being lifted. It’s especially important for novices who are learning this to have technique emphasize above all else. For instance, the first time that I trained somebody in here I will show them correct technique. When their technique is correct we start going up in weight and when I sensed that with my spider sense that the next set, the next increase will make their form come apart. We stopped at that weight, do two more sets of five and quit so that we preserve perfect technique. It is important for novices to develop perfect technique for two reasons.

Perfect technique means that all of the components of the kinetic chain are doing their anatomically pre-determined share of the work in the correct way. The second reason is incorrect technique becomes a safety problem, but we are not so much worried about safety as we are efficiency, remember we are lifting light weights at first and light weights aren’t dangerous. Heavy weight gets dangerous. Therefore, as we go through the process of increasing strength form must stay perfect so that all of the components of the kinetic chain of each exercise get brought along with the whole system as it strengthens to the process of going a five pounds per workout.

Now, once a guy gets strong he had been trained for three years and he wants to go to a parallel lifting mainly also try that 600 deadlift thus his form on the third attempt when he pulls the 600 have to be perfect, no because all we are concerned about at that point is that he get the deadlift and get the thing passed by the judges. If he is back round a little bit that will be fine for him because he is strong now he can tolerate a little deviation from correct technique especially if it’s for the win or for the PR but during the process of the development of certain level of best strength, perfect technique has got to be the process by which we achieve that strength because of the fact that perfect technique ensures that all of the components of the system are doing their job. This is why we don’t need corrective exercise to fix a squat. We need correct squat to fix the squat because correct squatting form utilizes all of the components in their anatomically predetermined proportion within the lift. This is why we hammer-on correct technique, hammer-on and hammer-on. Bad technique gets you hurt. Bad technique also produces holes in the strength within the kinetic chain of the movement then.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I am sure you got to start with getting that good technique at the beginning or else you will just develop these bad habits that are harder to correct.

Mark Rippetoe: Yeah.

Brett McKay: I am sure I probably have some. I’ve been lifting since high school and I’d like to think I am doing okay but I am sure there is room for improvement.

Mark Rippetoe: Oh we all like to think we are doing okay, Brett. It makes us feel good.

Brett McKay: That’s right.

Mark Rippetoe: I like to think I am doing okay but there are things I do wrong. Everyone needs a refresher on their form from time to time, everybody. There is no substitute for the eye of an experience. So it’s just that they are hard to find sometimes.

Brett McKay: Okay. Well, speaking of form, the CrossFit Games are going on right now, you probably know that.

Mark Rippetoe: I am aware of it.

Brett McKay: What’s your take on CrossFit because on the one hand it’s made barbell training popular in some sense?

Mark Rippetoe: Yeah it did. When I first got involved in CorssFit back in 2006 I had great hopes for the potential of its ability to spread barbell training to a whole lot of people who had never been exposed to it and in fact it had. On the whole, CrossFit isn’t that positive but CrossFit has lots of problems. CrossFit training, if you pay attention to the main site programing it’s not really training it’s just random exercise. Training is the process by which a person systematically improves their physical capacity to do a specific physical task. Training is specific and programing can be random. CrossFit P90X, muscle confusion types that doesn’t produce strength is a long-term adaptation because strength requires the proper application of strength-type programing, things that make you stronger five pounds at a time. CrossFit made the heavy deadlift once every six weeks by itself as a strength exercise. Once every six weeks is not a frequent enough exposure to get strong. And in a world where the random nature of CrossFit, the random nature is what keeps people interested in it because it’s not boring but at the same time it’s the thing that makes it not training.

I just recorded a thing with ESPN on Thursday that aired this past Sunday morning, this is you and I are speaking on July 28, this thing aired on July 27 so we are listening to an archive of this conversation. You will need to look it up on ESPN according to that date July 27. We talked about the pros and cons of CrossFit and maybe people enjoy watching that. My objections to that are talked about in that interview.

I think the CrossFit still has the potential to revolutionize the fitness industry because it’s the most broad exposure lots and lots of people have besides P90X. So the concept that part produces results, I mean previously we’ve been taught that the best thing about a fitness program that you could do for instance at home was that the device folded up and stored on your bed that only took five minutes it was easy then it make you sweat and it folds up and stores on your bed. And then P90X comes along back in the early 2000 they start telling everybody hey this thing makes you sweaty and guess what? That’s why it works.

I think the P90X in fact laid the foundation for CrossFit because so many people had seen that infomercial. It had already had the obvious presented to, yes it’s obvious but the hard work works better than soft work. P90X kind of broke the ground on that and CrossFit capitalized on it. CrossFit is in essence P90X with barbells. It’s random, it’s done for the effect that it produces on your body today. There’s no long-term planning in terms of the structure of the workouts themselves. A gradual accumulation of fitness occurs but it’s not according to a specific plan and it’s not specific to a specific type of physical adaptation. In other words a marathon demands a different set of physical adaptations than a 600 deadlifts. So these things must be carefully planned. I am sorry about that that’s not my fault, that’s just biology. The random nature of CrossFit prevents it from being considered strength training but it’s been very very good for a whole lot of people.

The primary drawback to CrossFit in my mind is the fact that there are so many coaches trying to run the program. We deal with CrossFit people all over the country, lots and lots of these affiliates are very good gyms, so very very talented experienced coaches where you are going to obtain quality advice but lots of them aren’t. And to a person off the street walking into a CrossFit affiliate it is impossible for them to tell the difference. Of course that’s also true of any physical coach, any trainer, you know, somebody off the street doesn’t know the difference between me and a 19-year-old kid at the Powerhouse Gym at the street that has a shirt that has trainer on it. That’s part of the drawbacks of being in this industry.

Brett McKay: With CrossFit, I mean, a lot of that’s focused on CrossFit with barbell training is this like lift for time thing. Is that like not good or is it good…slow, it’s better, slow and heavy.

Mark Rippetoe: It’s the source of a lot of injuries because if you do a lift that should be executed with technical perfection under conditions of fatigue, the first that’s going to happen is technical perfection goes out the window and then you are just pulling on the bar and sometimes that gets you hurt. Sometimes the weight is light enough and you’re in good enough shape that you don’t get hurt, but there is always the potential. Whereas a properly executed strength training has such an astronomically low percentage of injury potential that it’s just really not even on the chart. You don’t get hurt doing correctly executed squats, deadlifts, presses, bench presses. You get hurt sometimes at a power meet but that’s competitive athletics not a fitness training. Competitive athletics are dangerous and lets you decide you want to be a competitor that you want to win on something, safety is no longer a concern, wining is the concern. That’s why people in the NFL get hurt. It’s a competitive sport, safety is not the point. Safety is need but it’s not the point and when you make anything competitive then you have the injury potential. I think that’s not a terribly complicated concept to wrap your brain around.

One of the problem with CrossFit is it’s presented as competitive and you have a lot of people that want to immediately join in the competition, but they haven’t prepared. As a result it wouldn’t be crazy to see an increased injury in that kind of situation.

Brett McKay: Yeah. Okay. Here’s the question I have. I know we have a lot of older listeners who are probably like in their forties, I guess that’s not old middle age like forties, fifties, sixties. Should your program change as you get older or can you keep trying to add more and more weight to your deadlift even in your fifties or sixties?

Mark Rippetoe: Well, it depends on when you started lifting. I am 58 and I have been lifting for 38 years and I am not really feeling enough to think that I can do the PRs as I did when I was 35, you know, as you get old and beat up, you know, with back off the horses or whatever else you’re doing, you know, motorcycle rigs and things like that, things get injured and those injuries must be taken into account when you train.

Now if I am starting for some off as a novice when they are 60 I expect them to make progress for several years before it slows down. Now, we won’t approach the training of a 60-year-old novice the same way we would approach the training of an 18-year-old novice because the hormonal male use is different and everything else is different too.

But in terms of your ability to make progress far more important than the person’s age is how long is the person has been training, how much adaptation has already taken place in the direction of that person’s potential adaptation. If no steps along that road have been taken then there are a lot of steps left to take. It’s obvious that a strong guy increases his strength at a higher cost than a weak guy. It’s easier for a weak guy to get stronger than it is for a guy who is already very strong. All right that’s the principle of diminishing return showing up one more time.

If I get a 60-year-old novice we still do the same thing. We will show him the basic barbell exercises, the same one, the only one we might omit, probably would omit for 60-year-old would be the clean because old people’s tissue don’t respond favorably to ballistic training to explosive step as younger guys tissues do because old tissues aren’t as dynamically responsive, rapid dynamic loading is hard on that old guy’s tendons. So we realized that and we won’t have him clean but everything else he can do like squatting, deadlifting, pressing bench, you know, unless arthritis or injuries prevent that from happening. We do basically the same program but what I would do for a 60-year-old guy is I would only have him train probably twice a week. The thing that I have found to be true as we get older is that the problem in older guys is recovery and that training volume is the problem, not training intensity. Old guys can still lift heavy. Guys who had been trained in a long time can still lift heavy. They just can’t do as many reps and sets as they can’t recover from the volume.

Brett McKay: What does your program look like you said you are a 58-year-old man with still kind of the basic starting strength…

Mark Rippetoe: Yeah I do the basic lifts. I still pull, I deadlift or do low rep pulls every other week and then I will squat every other week. So I am only doing those once every two weeks. I press every week and I will do chins and do some conditioning every week. My programs are very simple but I travel a lot and I am not always in the place I need to be to get workout so it’s kind of a mess but I still maintain them. I probably maintain a 500 deadlift. I can probably still squat 365 if I had to, I press 185, I can do 16 dead-hang chins, you know, I can hang on to that, I am fine, I am not competitive anymore but I am just staving off death at this point.

Brett McKay: Yeah trying to maintain that muscle mass.

Mark Rippetoe: Trying to maintain, hanging on for dear life here.

Brett McKay: All right. So you ever hit like the big lifts and you mentioned chins, are there any other supplemental lifts that would be kosher in your program?

Mark Rippetoe: I don’t think anything else much is necessary, I mean the strongest guys throughout the history of the sport have done fairly simple programing. I remember back in the seventies and eighties Larry Pacifico was a little bit different. He used to use a lot of body building assistance type exercises in his programing, but most very strong guys will tell you that squats sometimes the deadlifts maybe some variations in the deadlift, bench presses, some type of overhead press. Chins or leg pulls are basically the tools we have. We don’t vary the exercises we vary the volume and intensity. In other words exercise variety is not the programing variable in strength training. Loading is the variable in strength training. We always squat. We use different sets and reps. If we find it necessary we use leg presses because they don’t do anything that makes your knee sore.

Brett McKay: I can attest to that.

Mark Rippetoe: The simplest things can be kept the better. This is one of my pet peeves with modern approaches, well I wouldn’t say modern but current approaches to strength, the best thing in 2014 is emphasis on exercise variety and 90 different ways to do one-legged squat on an unstable surface. That’s not how you get strong. Your strength is the adaptation you want, heavy weight is going to have to be involved in that equation and if the exercises you choose to do preclude the use of heavy weight then you can’t get strong and that’s just how we always we do it. As is usually the case the latest thing is not necessarily the best.

Brett McKay: The latest you know or the variety it sells books or magazines or…

Mark Rippetoe: It’s proprietary certainly, it’s interesting, certainly it sells better than what I’ve got to sell. Hard work is what I got to sell it’s not much a book. It’s not in demand but it does work.

Brett McKay: Our guest today was Mark Rippetoe. Mark is the author of Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training and also several other books, but Basic Barbell Training is the one you got to check out. You can find that on You can also go to his website They have forms, they have articles by Mark and you can also buy the books there. Also tune in next week for the second half of this interview where Mark answers questions taken from Art of Manliness twitter followers.

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