Starting Strength vs. P90X: Retrospective and Random thoughts

| February 16, 2015 by Truth Seeker |

old-bodybuilding-memories

I spent the last two days reviving old memories from the beginning of my journey in the land of muscle construction.

I did an online search for two legendary muscle scholars – the creator of P90X Tony Horton and the author of Starting Strength Mark Rippetoe.

Those two have sold millions of books and DVDs which makes them successful by default. Ironically, they are the polar opposite of each other.


Rippetoe plays the role of the tough coach who is all about strength and considers everything else a distraction. He does not care about appearance, at least on paper. To him, people who want visible six pack abs are brainwashed pussies.

On the other hand, Tony Horton does not place as much emphasis on strength but thrives on visual appearance. To him, six pack abs are a must. He makes sure to push his in your face every time the camera is close to him.

The systems of Horton and Rippetoe may be different but share a common tactic known as great expectations.

People look at the before & after photos of P90X with eyes full of amazement. However, many outsiders don’t have the required vision to see the reality in front of them.

First, most before and after photos are altered either digitally or organically through angle and lighting manipulation. Second, you do not know the history of the people doing P90X. Very often the most amazing after photos are of individuals who had decent muscle mass before doing the actual program.

I am convinced that many of the transformations presented by P90X can be achieved by dieting and doing three exercises – dips, pull-ups, barbell squats. That’s it. The diet will make you ripped whereas the exercises will build all major muscle groups.

The medicine ball push-ups may look fancy, but they don’t add much in terms of physical composition. Also, many of the movements in P90X are hard for people of normal weight, let alone super obese individuals.

As a bonus, P90X is based on questionable ideas (e.g., muscle confusion). Every version comes with a new pitch. As far as I understand, the latest form of P90X is supposed to be a compact version limited to 30 minutes because “studies have shown that the effectiveness of exercising decreases” after that threshold. Nice. I guess all people working out for longer periods of time are doing it wrong.

Another annoying side of P90X is the number of exercises in it. I would rather do one core exercise perfectly than all kinds of banana shapes on the ground. The more movements you do, the harder it becomes to track progress.

Having said that, I would rather look like Tony Horton than Mark Rippetoe. Why? Because I have been 24% body fat. It didn’t feel right. I thought that working out was meant to improve your everyday life? No?

Now it is time to analyze Rippetoe.

I believe that Rippetoe’s stubbornness has been his savior and destroyer at the same time. People love his hardcore Texas beard style macho behavior, but his self-righteousness makes arguing with him impossible. He always finds a way to back his ideas through crazy data manipulations.

For instance, he says that the low bar squat is better than the high bar because it allows you to lift more weight and provides more work for the hamstring.

Sure, Rip. Looking like you are about to fall while taking a shit is the way to go. In my eyes, that’s not even a squat. Everybody knows that the low bar squat is a powerlifting invention allowing you to lift more weight by shifting the stress to the posterior chain.

Yet the biggest downfall of Rippetoe’s methods are the unrealistic expectations that he promotes. I am sorry, but you can’t gain 30lbs of muscle in three months naturally. The Starting Strength success stories can fool a beginner, but not me. You just got fat boys.

Just recently, someone on the StartingStrength.com wrote that 5’10 @ 200lbs @ 10% BF is possible naturally. Many agreed and gave me a good laugh. I am almost sorry to inform you that the natural potential is a lot lower.

In addition, Rippetoe puts too much faith in barbell strength. He says that it’s the basis of everything, but it’s not. Strength is important but only in terms of performance. Who is the better swimmer? The one deadlifting 300lbs or the one deadlifting 600lbs? Stupid question right?

Eventually, adding more weight to the bar becomes the equivalent of increasing your hard drive. So, you have 2TB of space now. Who cares when you are a writer whose work takes 250 MB? The hard drive will remain empty.

In his latest interview, Rippetoe says that getting stronger can eliminate steroids from the NFL.

Are you serious, Rip?

No amount of exercises will ever eliminate steroids from sports, especially those dependent heavily on muscle mass and strength. Regardless of how much the players squat, bench and deadlift, steroids will remain an integral part of the winning scheme.

Dear, Rip, how are you supposed to squat heavy weights as a natural without being fat? Where will the mass and strength come from? Moreover, steroids are not always taken solely for strength purposes? E.g., Lance Armstrong

In conclusion

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