Texas Method vs Madcow 5×5: Differences, Pros, Cons

texas method and madcow are both similar intermediate programs that have you train 3 times per week

Strength programs are designed to help lifters reach their full potential. Two popular ones are the Texas Method and Madcow 5×5. They both are suitable for intermediate lifters and have their own pros and cons.

So, what are the differences between Texas Method vs Madcow 5×5?  Texas Method and Madcow are both similar intermediate programs that have you train 3 times per week. The Texas Method focuses on developing explosive strength more whereas Madcow focuses on building muscle mass. Texas Method balances training bench press and overhead press whereas Madcow trains the bench press twice as much as overhead press.

In this article, we will give you a comprehensive breakdown and comparison between the two programs and take you through what you need to take into consideration so you can make a decision on which program to pursue.

What Is the Texas Method?

texas method is for athletes who are capable of progressing with personal records on potentially a weekly basis

The Texas Method is a well-known intermediate strength program that was popularized by strength coaches Glenn Pendlay and Mark Rippetoe. It is more of a training template than a specific cookie-cutter program since it has more than one version of it for different level trainees. 

Originally, the Texas method was really aimed at developing strength in Olympic weightlifters and general athletes who needed to develop strength. Over the years, many newer powerlifters have adopted these programs at some point in their journey in powerlifting.

The story goes that one of Glenn’s athletes negotiated with him to only perform a single set of 5 reps instead of 5 sets if the load was a personal best and he agreed. Then the Texas Method was created. 

The program is really suitable for later novices and intermediate athletes who are capable of progressing with personal records on potentially a weekly basis. For example, anyone who has established good technique and is struggling to progress from session to session.

Mark Rippetoe extensively goes through the Texas Method in his book Practical Programming for Strength Training.

How Texas Method Works

The standard Texas Method is simple. It is constructed from a starting week and subsequent week. The prescription of the subsequent week is dependent on the performance made in the starting week.

Each week is broken down into 3 training days: a volume day, a light day, and a heavy day. 

Each cycle of the Texas Method lasts for 2 weeks. The squat is performed consistently 3 times per week. The deadlift and clean or power clean are performed once a week. 

The bench press and overhead press alternate with each other in training frequency, so that during the first week, the bench press is performed twice a week and the overhead press is performed once a week. In the subsequent week, the overhead press is then performed twice a week and the bench press is performed once a week.

The philosophy behind Texas Method assumes that lifters generally find deadlifts more fatiguing and harder to recover from than squats, and that squats can have a good carryover to deadlifts.

During the first heavy day, a personal record attempt is to be made on the squat, deadlift, and bench press/ overhead press. The volume day weight prescription of the subsequent week is based on a percentage of the heavy day of the previous week.

The Texas Method technically has no fixed training block length and can be performed weekly until there is a plateau in performance, at which there are many ways to manipulate the program to continue progress. For example, if you miss 5 reps on the 5RM day, you are encouraged to decrease the weight or reps on the next volume day.

Texas Method Training Split: Intermediate Version

intermediate version of texas method training split

The following will detail the Texas Method training split.  What you need to know is that the following split is the “intermediate version”.  Remember, there is no “beginner” version of this program.  

Week 1

Day 1

  • Squat Volume
  • Bench Press Volume
  • Power Clean

Day 2

  • Squat Light
  • Overhead Press Light
  • Back Extension

Day 3

  • Squat Heavy
  • Bench Press Heavy
  • Deadlift Heavy

Week 2

Day 1

  • Squat Volume
  • Overhead Press Volume
  • Power Clean

Day 2

  • Squat Light
  • Bench Press Light
  • Back Extension

Day 3

  • Squat Heavy
  • Overhead Press Heavy
  • Deadlift Heavy

Texas Method Training Split: Advanced Version

advanced version of texas method training split

The advanced version is referred to as the “4 Day Texas Method”. There are also 2 versions of the advanced “4 Day Texas Method”.

The 1st version has a 2-week microcycle.  It alternates between week 1 and week 2 in terms of exercise selection and looks like this:

Week 1

Monday – Volume Bench

  • Bench press 
  • Bench press accessory 

Tuesday – Volume Squat/Pull

  • Squat 
  • Power clean

Thursday – Intensity Bench/Light Press

  • Bench Press
  • Light Press

Friday – Intensity Squat/Pull

  • Squat
  • Deadlift

Week 2

Monday – Volume Press

  • Press 
  • Press assistance

Tuesday – Volume Squat/Pull

  • Squat 
  • Power clean

Thursday – Intensity Press/Light Bench Press

  • Press
  • Light Bench Press

Friday – Intensity Squat/Pull

  • Squat
  • Deadlift

The 2nd version of the Texas Method advanced program has a 1-week microcycle that repeats itself.  Here is an example: 

Monday – Volume Upper Body

  • Volume Bench
  • Volume Press

Tuesday – Volume Lower Body

  • Volume Squat
  • Volume Pulling

Thursday – Heavy Upper Body

  • Intensity Bench
  • Intensity Press

Friday – Heavy Lower Body

  • Intensity Squat
  • Intensity Pulling

What Is Madcow?

You might not know his name, but it is likely you would have heard of the Madcow routine. Intended for strength and power athletes back in 2005, this program was released to a much broader audience by an unsuspecting member on EliteFitness forums who went by “Madcow2” when he published it as a public thread.

Madcow 5×5 was originally a modification of the original 5×5 program from Bill Starr. This program was intended for natural muscle building in mind but has been very successful at getting many strength training individuals stronger. The bias towards bodybuilding is reflected on the general nature of the volume of the program and the exercise selection too.

An intermediate and advanced version of Madcow exists for different levels of training. Once you plateau on the intermediate version, the advanced version can be a logical progression. 

How Madcow Works

madcow starts with an initial week at the start with subsequent weeks recurring afterward in a rolling fashion

Madcow has many similarities with the Texas Method. The program starts with an initial week at the start with subsequent weeks recurring afterward in a rolling fashion. The exercise selection and frequency in the program are consistent on the weekly basis.

Each week is also broken down into 3 training days: a volume day, a light day, and a heavy day.

Each cycle of Madcow lasts for 1 week. The squat is performed consistently 3 times per week. The bench press and barbell row are performed consistently twice per week. The deadlift and overhead press are performed once per week.

This program is also designed as a “template”, not a cookie-cutter program and not necessarily with a fixed number of weeks per cycle. Normally, people will be able to perform 8 to 12 weeks of Madcow before plateauing, although it is not unheard of for people to progress even longer. It really depends on how conservative you progress.

There are prescribed “top sets” on all the days with back-off sets and warm-up sets that ramp up towards these “top sets”. “Top sets” refer to the set of the heaviest load for that given day. This style of prescription occurs on all 3 days and all the lifts.

The weight prescription of the heavy third training day is also a percentage of previous performance but of the first volume day. The subsequent weeks of training are performed with a 2.5% increase from the previous week.

Madcow: Difference Between Intermediate And Advanced Version

One thing that sets the intermediate version apart from the advanced version, is that the advanced version does not have Wednesday squats after week 4. Squatting frequency is twice per week as opposed to 3 times per week. This is because as an advanced lifter, you are able to have more work capacity for each session and you will benefit from more rest between squat sessions.

The advanced block is also broken down into two training phases: a higher volume phase and a higher intensity phase. There is a bridging week between the two phases in the form of a deload week. The average weekly tonnage in the advanced version is also higher to elicit more progressive overload.

Texas Method vs Madcow: 9 Differences 

differences between texas method and madcow

Training Style

There are more similarities than there are differences between the two programs. 

However, they are created with two different purposes in mind. The Texas Method biased to increase maximal strength and explosive strength for Olympic weightlifters and general strength athletes, whereas Madcow was designed to increase muscle mass.

They were both designed for intermediate lifters and both programs can develop maximal strength, explosive strength, and muscle mass to varying degrees. 

Fundamentally, the 4 exercises that overlap are:

  • Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Deadlift
  • Overhead Press

But the differences in exercises between the two programs are that:

  • Texas Method has cleans/power cleans, which increased rate of force development and explosive strength
  • Madcow has the barbell row, which is a strength and hypertrophy exercise for the back.
  • Texas Method includes accessories that have a weekly fixed prescription. Back extensions are prescribed for 5 sets of 10 reps, and chin ups are performed at 3 sets to failure.
  • Madcow does not have accessory exercise prescriptions outside of the prescribed exercises.

Training Frequency

With regards to the standard versions of each the Texas Method and Madcow, both templates are designed with 3 days of training per week. With each exercise, the programs have similarities and differences with how frequently each exercise is trained. 

  • Squat: both train 3 times per week
  • Bench Press: Texas Method trains 1 to 2 times per week, Madcow trains twice per week
  • Deadlift: both train once per week
  • Overhead Press: Texas Method trains 1 to 2 times per week, Madcow trains once per week
  • Power Clean: Texas Method trains once per week
  • Barbell Row: Madcow trains twice per week

Rest Days

Both programs are structured to have the same distribution of training days to rest days. All of their training days are prescribed to be on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday structure.

The specific day in the calendar week is not important but what is important is the fact that there is one rest day after the first and after the second training session. There are two rest days after the third training session.

Intensity

On the volume day, the Texas method on average has a higher intensity than Madcow as it employs straight sets, whereas Madcow employs ramping sets from quite a low percentage. 

On a heavy day, the Madcow program employs higher peak intensity (percentage of 1rm) compared to the Texas method as on the heaviest day, it uses heavy 3 rep sets whereas the Texas method uses heavy 5 rep sets.

Volume

Overall, Madcow definitely has more volume than the Texas method. By volume, I am referring to the total number of reps performed.

The volume is higher for the squat, bench press and deadlift, and this is also largely due to the fact that when working up to the main sets, the previous sets are performed in a ramping up manner. This means that the warm up sets are performed in the same rep range. 

In the texas method, you are performing warm up sets in a pyramid fashion i.e. 5 reps, 3 reps, 1 rep etc, to a final warm up set that has much fewer reps than the main working sets.

Also, bench press volume is higher because it is consistently trained twice a week as opposed to alternating between once a week and twice a week in Texas method.

Periodization

Both of these programs do not employ any traditional block periodization where there are blocks of focuses. The structure of both of these programs employs a single microcycle or collection of sessions that are repeated until performance plateaus. 

Texas method employs a microcycle that spans over two weeks consisting of 6 training sessions. Madcow employs a microcycle that spans over one week consisting of 3 training sessions. 

Both of these programs utilize a form of undulating periodization where each session employs different intensity and rep ranges. 

Mesocycle Length

Both programs have an undefined mesocycle length, which offers a level of adaptability for the lifter. 

It adjusts to how much a lifter can progress with the prescribed week to week progression depending on how fatigued or fresh you are. 

Experience Level

Both of these programs are described as intermediate programs. 

This means that the lifter should have good technique established and that they no longer progress from linear progression from session to session. However, intermediates should be able to make progression from week to week. Anyone who has at least 1 year of lifting experience will find these programs appropriate.

As the Texas method contains cleans or power cleans as an exercise, it will require some competency in the Olympic weightlifting techniques. Cleans are generally not an exercise that is easily self taught and hands on coaching is generally recommended. For that reason, it can prevent some individuals from performing Texas method fully.

Find out more in this article about whether powerlifters should do Olympic lifts.

Customization

With regards to the Texas method, there is scope for customizing the exercise selection so that it can cater to powerlifting goals or bodybuilding goals. 

Cleans or power cleans are generally not that conducive to building maximal strength or muscle mass. For this reason, cleans or power cleans can be replaced with a back exercise such as barbell rows.

There is not much scope for customization for Madcow, but that does not mean that you cannot apply principles to making the exercise selection more specific to your goals and weaknesses. For example, rows can be replaced with pull-ups potentially, if lat strength was more of an issue than upper back strength.

I wrote another program review comparing the Texas Method vs Wedler 5/3/1. Check it out to learn more about the differences, pros, and cons.

Pros & Cons of Each Program

pros and cons of texas and madcow method

Texas Method Pros

  • Does not employ ramping sets
  • Subsequent weeks autoregulates if Friday reps are missed
  • Develops rate of force development
  • Employs exercise for back extension strength
  • Balances overhead press and bench press strength development

Texas Method Cons

  • Texas Method uses cleans, which can be a very technically demanding exercise
  • Alternates weekly focus between overhead press and bench press

Madcow Pros

  • Exercise selection uses simpler to perform exercises
  • Consistent with exercise selection on a weekly basis
  • Biases bench press over overhead press
  • Programs you to make personal bests on 5th week
  • Balances horizontal push and horizontal pull strength with bench press and rows

Madcow Cons

  • Lacks priority for overhead press
  • Higher volume

Who Should Do the Texas Method?

who should do the texas method

The main determinants of who should do the Texas method really are driven by exercise selection. The following people should choose the Texas Method:

  • General sports athletes
  • Intermediate strength athletes
  • Olympic weightlifters
  • Strength athletes who want to do Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting

Should You Do The Intermediate Or Advanced Version?

For the Texas Method, the advanced version or 4 day version is not really an advanced version in the sense that it is for advanced individuals, but it can be a progression of a program that enables more recovery between muscle groups. 

More recovery between muscle groups enables more capacity to perform heavier loads. This in turn allows you to be able to fit more training stress that can lead to potentially more gains.

Who Should Do Madcow?

who should do madcow

Madcow has a more simplistic selection of exercises and for that reason it is open to more types of demographics. The following people should choose to do Madcow:

  • General sports athletes
  • Gym goers who want to bodybuild
  • Powerlifters
  • Intermediate strength athletes

Should You Do The Intermediate Or Advanced Version?

The intermediate version should be recommended for individuals who can still progress and potentially make personal records on a weekly basis. Once the progress plateaus, the advanced version is suitable.

Final Recommendation

Ultimately, the choice between the two versions will depend largely on what your goals are and the nature of the previous training you have been doing.

If you need some explosive strength and you perform other sporting activities then Texas method may be the ideal choice. If you generally want to build muscle and strength then Madcow may be the better option, but the Texas method can be customized to cater for that.


About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach

Norman Cheung

Norman Cheung is a powerlifting coach and an accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience with coaching a variety of lifters from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Along side coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com