Legendary strength coach and author of seminal training text Starting Strength Mark Rippetoe isn’t one to mince words. That much was clear when he recently spoke to Men’s Health for a wide-ranging interview covering everything from his thoughts on CrossFit (“anything works for six weeks”) to the worst types of exercises to do in the gym (“anything with machines”).
So when Rippetoe was asked to respond to some recent online criticism, he didn’t hold back. “Little child, probably 30 years old,” he said dismissively of one particular critic to open the clip. But he wasn’t only there to diss his detractors. Rippetoe and his cohosts discussed the prevalence of these video takedowns of his work, and came to a slightly baffling conclusion: most of the people arguing against him were actually agreeing with the principles Rippetoe laid out years ago in his other work.
The controversy boils down to the criticism that Rippetoe believes that strength is the only thing that matters for athletic preparation, no matter what a trainee’s goal might be. Specifically, Rippetoe claimed his critics took part of something he said on a podcast about Olympic weightlifter Lasha Talakhadze out of context: “technique doesn’t matter.”
So, if you take that concept its logical endpoint, one might assume that Rippetoe would advocate for high-level athletes like Olympic weightlifters to focus on nothing but building strength, which Rippetoe famously contends is best done using the traditional powerlifting barbell exercises of the deadlift, back squat, and bench press. Likewise, if he believes that strength is the most important aspect of any lift, Rippetoe would likely believe that all-time great powerlifters could outperform Olympic lifters in their own discipline.
When presented with this critique, Rippetoe was astounded. “Despite the fact that I am the author of the two-factor model of sports performance,” he said in response. “Training and practice—that’s my idea.”
The article he’s referring to contends that athletes need to hone both their strength and skills for peak performance using a two-pronged approach: training, which is focused on using strength and conditioning methods, and practice, the honing of sport-specific skills and techniques through repetition that replicates the competitive environment. “It explains all kinds of things, including why Olympic weightlifters have to do the Olympic lifts and practice them for technique basically every day,” he says, referring to the article.
For Rippetoe, the criticism isn’t just misguided—it’s coming in bad faith. He and his cohosts pointed out that many of his detractors are likely chasing clout and clicks for their own work by using Rippetoe’s name and reputation.
“I don’t know these peoples’ names. They all know my name. There’s an asymmetry there,” he said.
“Look, you make up your own mind about whether or not I’m full of shit,” he said. “But every time this happens… what they do is mischaracterize my position, and then refute that.”
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