This work presents an extended formulation of maximal stiffness design, within the framework of the topology optimization. The mathematical formulation of the optimization problem is based on the postulated principle of equal dissipation rate during inelastic deformation. This principle leads to the enforcement of stress constraints in domains where inelastic deformation would occur. During the transition from the continuous structure to the truss-like one (strut-and-tie model) the dissipation rate is kept constant using the projected gradient method. The equal dissipation rate in the resulting truss and in the original continuous structure can be regarded as an equivalence statement and suggests an alternative understanding of physical motivation behind the strut-and-tie modeling. The performance of the proposed formulation is demonstrated with the help of two examples.