Bodybuilding Secrets: Quality Muscle Mass Vs. Size?

Back in the day the popular powerlifting coach Mark Rippetoe used to say to beginners that they need to gain a lot of weight in order to be competitive lifters. In his words a man at 6′ – 183 cm needs to be at least 200 lbs – 91 kg.

In fact, the guys from the 70s big website, who were heavily promoted through Mark Rippetoe, had a T-Shirt saying – ‘Real Man > 200 lbs’.

Well, 200 lbs may be a nice round and sexy number, but it does not quite work like that.

Quality Vs. Quantity: Does It Matter How Much You Weight?

While it would be nice to be a heavy muscled motherfucker, we already know that you don’t get to be 200 lbs with low body fat unless you are on steroids. That’s why it’s not advisable for natural bodybuilders to chase arbitrary numbers that are only achievable, if you also allow your body fat to climb into the 20s.

This is one of the cases when quality should have much higher priority than quantity. If you start eating a lot and gain 50 lbs and only 5 lbs of that is muscle, you are pretty much working against yourself – if you goal is to build an impressive physique. You will have to lose the extra fat which means that you will have to go on a diet which will severely affect your abilities to gain muscle mass and your strength levels will suffer as well. You may be thinking that you are making progress when all you are doing is delaying progress.

To illustrate my point I will present you a guy who is 6′ tall and about 160 lbs – 165lbs. Yes, you read that correctly – the photos of the person on the right below are of someone who is only 160 lbs and 6’0″ tall.


On the left side is Zach Evetts who trained under Mark Rippetoe’s supervision 4 years ago and built this ‘impressive’ looking physique of his. While he is quite heavy in the picture, 242 lbs, he is barely looking like a person who actually lifts weights seriously. To be quite fair, he does not look very good and seems to be a little overweight. However, while that extra mass of his is not very useful when the goal is to look good naked, he added a lot of plates to his squat in a short period.

Anyhow, on the right we have a guy whose progress was presented on He is only 160 lbs or 80 lbs less than Zack Evetts. Both guys are about the same height.

Who do you thing looks more impressive?

Of course, the guy on the right because he has quality muscle mass and superior conditioning. He may not be as heavy as Zack Evetts, but that’s because he does not have all the blubber presented by the former Rippetoe student.

It may cool to overeat and reach Arnold’s weight, but what’s the point in doing so, if you are going to be out of shape and look terribly. Sure, if you are a powerlifter who only cares about putting more weight on the bar and improving your lifts, it can be fine, but how many are training to remain overweight and unimpressive? Is it a good trade to give up on your aesthetics and athleticism for the sake of increasing your squat/bench/deadlift?

It’s a question that you have to answer for yourself – the more honest you are, the more pleasant the results will be.


  1. Chris

    Nice article….but not sure I agree with everything. I am 6 ft tall and at 200 pounds. I am 57 years old, and have been at that weight since I was 35. I lift some weight (once a week), I do cross-fit, and I teach martial arts. i admit that I might have lost some muscle mass and gained a bit of fat instead (but I wear the same jeans size as when I was 35). So the comment “you can’t be >200 without steroids” is not fully accurate IMO.

  2. Paul

    “powerlifting coach Mark Rippetoe used to say to beginners that they need to gain a lot of weight in order to be competitive lifters. In his words a man at 6′ – 183 cm needs to be at least 200 lbs – 91 kg.”

    Well, he was right. That guy appears to be a powerlifting coach and not a bodybuilding one. Especialy natural guys have to bulk in order to lift seriously. Nothing wrong in his words. Let’s not judge him from an estetique perspective.

  3. Chris

    I would agree that 6 feet / 200 pounds sounds about right. Having said that, I assume he meant “pack some muscle weight”, not just pigging out on Mc Donald everyday. Because that can also bring you to 200 pounds easy, but not necessarly the kind of pounds you want. Probably some high protein / hig carb diet, in order to pack some good muscle weight. The other big difference IMO is that body builders train on very localised exercice, as opposed to powerlifter who need a “global” strenght, including core muscles that are not that visible lower back, deep back muscles, gluts)

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