Getting Ripped vs. Getting Strong

The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings. To get ripped means to be physically or mentally beaten in a fight; while getting strong refers to becoming stronger and more powerful as a result of physical training.

“Getting ripped vs. Getting strong” is a debate that has been going on for years. There are many different opinions on the matter, but one thing is certain: both getting ripped and shredded are used to describe two very different things. Read more in detail here: ripped vs shredded.

Vintage bodybuilder flexing lifting barbell.

When most guys have their “come-to-Jesus” moment and realize they need to start exercising and eating better, their main desire is generally to look good, which means being slim and “ripped.” They want a ripped beach body with abs to grate cheese on.

They do, however, desire to be huge and muscular. Extremely powerful. As they say on Instagram these days, “Strong AF.”

These would-be Adonises begin exercising after browsing the internet for workouts that would simultaneously get them ripped and swole.

They go to the gym six days a week, each day beast-modding a different body area. They share the usual after-workout pump locker room photo via Instagram (#transformation #beastmode). They consume their protein shake inside the magical one-hour window after their workout, allowing their muscles to absorb as much as possible. (In his sponsored post for Optimum Nutrition, this incredibly ripped dude on Instagram suggested doing that.) He certainly knows what he’s talking about since he’s jacked.)

These gentlemen observe some improvement after a few weeks. They’re beginning to look a little leaner and have more muscular definition. They can even bench a little more now than they could previously.

They, on the other hand, aim to go even thinner. It’s either under 10% body fat or bust, baby.

So they reduced their calorie intake, eliminated carbohydrates, and added HIIT exercise at the conclusion of each session.

They are becoming slimmer.

Muscle definition is at an all-time high. Abdominals with six packs have been accomplished.

However, they aren’t becoming any stronger. In reality, they’re becoming more frail.

That 225-pound bench press that seemed so close a few weeks ago is now a long way away. Weight that was once light seems like a metric ton now.

What happened, bro?

Maybe it’s something to do with the software. Perhaps some supplemental work is required. To aid with those final few inches before the bench lockout, hit those triceps hard.

The adjustments are made, and training resumes.


Your tanned, slender body seems to be that of a golden professional soccer player, yet your lifts appear to be something your girlfriend could do.

You can’t have everything (At the Same Time)

I’m going to be brutally honest with you: You can’t become incredibly thin and super powerful at the same time, despite what the internet or that dude-bro at the gym may claim. It’s an objective that’s diametrically opposite to the other.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that you can’t be both shredded and powerful. There are a number of guys that have 10% body fat who can deadlift and squat a lot of weight.

It’s impossible to become ripped and powerful at the same time.

Why Can’t You Get Lean and Strong at the Same Time?

What makes you huge and powerful is increasing muscle density and size. So, if you want to grow large and powerful, you’ll have to put on more muscle.


But there’s a catch. Muscle consumes a lot of calories. It takes a lot of energy to produce anything. You must consume more calories than you spend in order to build new muscle. How much longer will it take? There’s a lot more than you may expect.

The most common error most guys do when they begin their gainz journey is to consume the same quantity of food they did before they began exercising. Intense weight training puts the body under a lot of strain. To properly recuperate, you must supply your body with the necessary nourishment. That implies you must consume enough calories from protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

Muscle mass and strength will grow if you exercise and feed your body adequate food.

However, you will gain body fat as well.

I’m sorry to tell this, but it’s the truth.

There’s no getting around it. Some of the extra calories you consume for muscle development will be stored as fat. That’s the way your body works.

Why Can’t You Get Big and Strong While Losing Weight?

You must lose body fat in order to become ripped, lean, shredded, and so on.

To lose body fat, you must eat less calories than you spend so that your body may utilize your fat reserves as a source of energy.

But here’s the catch: you can’t gain muscle mass without gaining body fat, and you can’t lose body fat without losing muscle mass.

When you’re in a calorie deficit, your body tears down muscle tissue to get the nutrition it needs to keep your physiological systems working. Muscle bulk and strength decrease when muscle tissue is cannibalized.

This is why you won’t be able to become large and powerful while attempting to lose weight. Being large and powerful necessitates a caloric surplus, but getting slim need a calorie deficit.

You must choose one aim at the expense of the others.

Is It Possible to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too — On Steroids?

The scientific reality that it is impossible to gain muscle mass and lose fat is countered by the fact that steroids enable you to accomplish both.


Even if you’re on steroids, you’re going to gain body fat if you’re attempting to grow large and muscular. Because, once again, gaining muscle mass necessitates increasing your calorie intake, which will result in some body fat growth.

To be sure, as compared to going natural, steroids will raise the ratio between muscle mass and body fat gain. That is, you will still gain body fat while using steroids because you are ingesting too many calories. You’ll just get a lot more muscle mass than you would if you didn’t use steroids.

If you want to lose weight, you must cut your calorie intake. As a consequence, you’ll lose body fat and some muscle mass in the process. Anabolic drugs will reduce muscle and strength loss during this “cutting phase,” but they will not eradicate it.


No, anabolic steroids aren’t a miracle drug. While they can assist, they don’t totally erase the body’s incapacity to get larger and stronger without gaining weight, nor do they completely eliminate the body’s struggle to lose weight without sacrificing muscle tissue.

Listen to my podcast with doctor and strength coach Jordan Feigenbaum for further information on why you can’t grow muscle without becoming fat (even with steroids):

How to Gain Size, Strength, and Leanness

While it’s difficult to train towards becoming large, strong, and lean at the same time, it doesn’t mean you can’t BE big, powerful, and lean. All you have to do now is work on these objectives at various times.

This is something that professional bodybuilders are aware of. They’re abnormally large, and the majority of them are freakishly powerful. They didn’t become that way by attempting to stay at 8% body fat all year. They go through phases when they concentrate on being larger and stronger, which involves consuming a lot of food and gaining weight. Bulking is the term used to describe this process.

As a competition approaches, they begin cutting calories, moving macros, and modifying workouts to lose the body fat they’ve accumulated while bulking. As a consequence of the calorie restriction, they lose some strength and muscular mass (though anabolic steroids slow this process down a bit).

The ultimate result is a large, muscular, and lean man. He achieved this by concentrating on one objective at a time.

First, become big and strong, then lean out.

Even if their ultimate objective is to reduce weight, most strength and conditioning experts believe that every guy should make becoming larger and stronger a basic priority, based on my interactions with hundreds of them. Why?

Because becoming larger and stronger is more difficult and time-consuming than losing body fat. Furthermore, increasing muscular mass and strength yields a much greater return on investment than just decreasing body fat.

Losing body fat gets simpler as your muscle mass and strength rise. Because of your enhanced strength, you’ll be able to work harder during those HIIT workouts when you’re attempting to lose weight. Furthermore, increasing muscle development triggers a cascade of hormonal changes that aid fat reduction while retaining muscle mass.

Make growing stronger your top focus if you’re just starting started with training. It will pay off in the future.

Let’s take a look at a few instances that apply to your body type.

If you’re really thin….

You’ll need to consume a lot of high-quality meals if you’re really slim. Consume more food than you believe you need. Here, whole milk, whey protein, and peanut butter are your best friends.

Yes, you’re going to gain some weight. It’s possible that you’ll become “skinny fat.” (Gasp!) That’s OK. Remind yourself that fat is simple to shed, while muscle is difficult to acquire but pays off in the long run. When you finally get around to reducing that fat, you’ll appear jacked thanks to all the new muscle mass you acquired while bulking.


If you’re not thin, but not fat either…

If you’re now at 15-18% body fat and want to drop down to 10% body fat one day, just focus on growing larger and stronger. When you’re ready to cut, it’ll make you appear even better.

And sure, you will gain weight as a result of this. You may even push yourself to 20% body fat, but as long as you’re growing stronger, it’s not a problem. It’s simple to lose body fat (it’s simply a question of nutrition), plus you’ll have a lot of dense, beautiful muscle underneath that fat since you prioritized muscle mass and strength. Allowing yourself to gain weight in the near term will make you seem more jacked in the long run.

This is the camp to which I belong. I usually have a body fat percentage of approximately 15%. I’ve been down to 12% before, but it makes me feel bad, so I try to keep it at 15% now.

When I first began strength training with my coach, Matt Reynolds, he put me on a diet that required me to consume far more calories than I was accustomed to. I was pooping two or three times a day since I was consuming so much food. I developed a belly after a few months, which Kate dubbed “the Rippetoe Belly” since it resembled the famed paunch worn by Starting Strength’s inventor, Mark Rippetoe. My face became pudgy, and my body fat percentage increased from 15% to 20%.

But I didn’t mind since I was becoming stronger and stronger. If I had a bad training session, it was typically because I wasn’t eating enough calories. The gainz began rolling again as soon as I went back to eating the way I was meant to.

Matt changed my diet when I wanted to drop some body fat for a photoshoot I did for Huckberry in August. He steadily lowered my calorie intake and changed my macronutrients from carbohydrates to fat. It was essentially a paleo diet. My routine included a lot more high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

I lost a lot of weight and went down to 13 percent body fat in only a few months. However, because of the muscle mass I acquired throughout my bulk, I seemed larger and more jacked than when I was 15 percent body fat the prior time.

Regardless of appearances, my strength was severely harmed. Lifting a weight that was previously simple was like hefting lead.

I returned to concentrate on being large and powerful after a few weeks of enjoying being more shredded. That means gradually boosting my calorie intake and reintroducing my chubby face. With the reappearance of the Rippetoe Belly, my personal records began to increase once again.

I’ll probably do another cut after I’ve met a couple more PR objectives.

If you’re overweight…

When you’re overweight, say 25 percent or more body fat, you can really cut calories while still gaining considerable strength and muscle mass when you first start exercising because, well, you’ve got a lot of energy reserves to deal with.


You should not eat like a rabbit since your performance will suffer as a result. To maintain your present weight, you should consume roughly 250 calories fewer than you normally do. Consider following a Paleo-style diet, in which you limit or eliminate carbohydrates entirely and focus on protein and healthy fats (like you find in coconut oil, nuts, and avocados). You’re on the correct track if you’re losing roughly a half inch around your waist each week while maintaining your body weight (due to increased muscle mass) and you’re not observing any decline in performance (i.e., you’re able to finish each of your exercises).

Use a barbell training program like Starting Strength’s beginner linear progression program to get started. Compound barbell lifts are the best way to gain muscle and strength. Do 10-15 minutes of HIIT cardio at the conclusion of each session. Sprints on an airdyne, prowler pushes, and kettlebell circuits are all excellent HIIT workouts.

You won’t notice any significant changes in your physique. Indeed, owing to increasing muscle development, you may gain weight and your clothing may fit around your chest a little tighter. But don’t stop measuring your waist. You’ll be OK if that trend continues.

Once you’re below 20% body fat, you may start increasing your calorie intake to kick-start muscle growth.

Dietary Supplements for Strength Training 

Keeping your diet basic is excellent for most beginner weight lifters. Consume enough nutritious meals to allow you to fully recuperate between workouts.

As your training progresses, you may begin to use your diet to minimize (not eliminate; remember, that’s impossible) fat gain while attempting to gain muscle or to moderate muscle loss while trying to lose fat.

These diets include rigorous calorie and macro counting, as well as adjustments on a monthly or even daily basis, depending on how your body reacts to your diet. It’s a tiresome process at first, but it quickly becomes second nature. You can read the rest of my macro tracking tutorial here.

If you’re a rank novice, that type of stuff can wait a few months. Build up your muscular mass and strength (AF!). It will pay off when you decide to become beach body ready in the future.

Conclusion: Do you want to become lean or strong through exercising?

The basic conclusion is that being thin (or “ripped”) and growing strong are two distinct objectives that may be attained together but cannot be trained for simultaneously.

Some men just want to be strong and don’t care about appearances, which is why you’ll frequently see powerlifters who don’t seem “in shape” or “ripped” like an action movie hero but are nonetheless really powerful.

On the other hand, there are men who just worry about looking nice in a tank top, being slim and ripped, and not pulling in large numbers on their lifts.


Finally, there are people who want to grow as strong as possible while simultaneously shedding their power belly, and they work on these objectives in stages: bulking up first, then leaning out.

Whatever group you fit into, the most important thing is to know what you’re striving for and when it’s attainable.



“Getting ripped vs. Getting strong” is a debate that has been going on for years. The question of which is better is one that many people have an opinion on and it can be difficult to decide what the best choice is. Reference: lean vs shredded.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to be strong or ripped?

A: It depends on what your goals are. If you want to work out and achieve a lean, ripped physique then being strong is better. However if you want to be able to lift heavier weights without losing mobility or strength, then being ripped is better.

Does ripped mean strong?

Is it better to be stronger or muscular?

A: This is a very difficult question to answer, as it comes down largely on personal preference and what you want from your body. Some people prefer strength over muscle while some others would rather be muscular than strong.

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