If you are a powerlifter, chances are you have heard of or tried both the Wendler 531 and Texas Method. The Texas Method and Wendler 531 are two popular beginner to intermediate strength programs. Both have proven to be very effective, but there are some key differences between the two that will make one work better for you than the other depending on your goals.
So, what are the differences between Texas Method vs Wendler 531? The Texas Method is a three-day split with a full-body approach, while the 5/3/1 program has four days of training with a focus on one lift each day. The Wendler 531 program uses less volume than the Texas Method. Also, the Wendler 531 program utilizes more assistance exercises than the Texas Method.
In this article, we will go over the two strength training programs and break down what to take into consideration so that you can decide which one is best for your needs.
Texas Method vs Wendler 531: 10 Differences
1. Training Style
There are many differences between the two programs but fundamentally they cater to people who want to develop maximal strength along with some other qualities.
The Texas Method specifically biased to increase maximal strength and explosive strength for Olympic weightlifters and general strength athletes, whereas Wendler 531 caters for more athletic qualities than maximal strength.
They were both designed for intermediate lifters who have previously tested out their 1RMs and both programs can develop maximal strength, explosive strength, and muscle mass to varying degrees.
Fundamentally, the 4 exercises they have in common are:
- Bench Press
- 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
- Wendler 531 has options for conditioning, which can improve on running faster and jumping higher.
- 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.
- Wendler 531 has a range of options for accessories outside of the core lifts that will cater to whatever your goal is.
2. Training Frequency
When comparing the standard versions of each the Texas Method and Wendler 531, the Texas Method is a 3 day a week program whereas Wendler 531 is a 4 day a week program, which has the options for shrinking down to 2 or 3 days per week.
3. Exercise Frequency
- Squat: Texas method trains 3 times per week, Wendler 531 trains once per week.
- Bench Press: Texas Method trains 1 to 2 times per week, Wendler 531 trains once per week
- Deadlift: both train once per week
- Overhead Press: Texas Method trains 1 to 2 times per week, Wendler trains once per week
- Power Clean: Texas Method trains once per week
4. Rest Days
The programs are structured to have different distributions of training days to rest days. The Texas Method training days are prescribed to be on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday structure. Wendler 531 gives you flexibility with how you want to distribute the training days
Wendler 531 acknowledges that as each day is either an upper body or lower body dominant day, your muscle groups will get at least 2 days of rest between training. It is best to alternate between an upper body variation and a lower body variation.
When comparing the prescription of the core lifts, Texas Method has a lower average and lower peak intensity of working sets whereas Wendler 531 has a much higher intensity of work reaching up to 95% of your 1RM.
However, depending on the accessory options you choose for Wendler 531, you can spend a lot of work doing lower intensity sets. Texas Method does not have this option
When comparing the core lifts, the Texas Method definitely has more volume than Wendler 531. By volume, I am referring to the total number of reps performed. This applies to all except for the deadlift where there is only 1 working set of 5 reps for the Texas Method.
When you take into consideration that Wendler 531 offers accessory options that may include performing the core lifts again but at a high volume of 5 sets of 10 reps, this would then suddenly make the volume much higher in a Wendler 531 program.
Both programs seem to have a similar fashion for warming up to the main working sets, by ramping up in a pyramid, so as the warm up sets get heavier, the reps done for the set gets lower.
The Texas Method does not employ any traditional block periodization where there are blocks of focuses. Whereas, Wendler 531 uses block periodization and weekly undulating periodization.
The Texas method uses a microcycle that spans over two weeks consisting of 6 training sessions.Wendler 531 uses 4 different microcycles that spans over one week consisting of 4 training sessions.
8. Mesocycle Length
The Texas method has an undefined mesocycle length, which offers a level of adaptability for the lifter. Wendler 531 has a mesocycle length that lasts for 4 weeks, which gets repeated.
Texas Method adjusts to how fatigued or fresh you are, which influences how much a lifter can progress with the training weeks being repeated one after the other.
9. Experience Level
Both of these programs are described as intermediate programs. However, due to the nature that Texas Method assumes you can progress week after week and that Wendler 531 assumes you can progress every 4 weeks. Wendler 531 is a slight more advanced program than the Texas Method.
The technical nature of the clean or power clean exercise demands that you ought to have some level of coaching of the movement before pursuing the program.
The barriers to entry for the Wendler 531 program mean that more people can use this program.
The fact that you can potentially be performing on high levels of volume AND intensity in the Wendler 531 program depending on the options of accessories you choose, suggest that Wendler 531 demands slightly more work capacity and thus experience.
With the Texas method, there is an option for adjusting the exercise selection so that it can cater to strength or muscle-building goals. With Wendler 531, there are way more options to choose from depending on what your goals are or when you are in your training block.
The primary concern with cleans or power cleans is that they are not the best for building muscle or maximal strength. If you want to get more muscle mass and strength, cleans should be replaced by a back exercise such as barbell rows.
There are plenty of options for customization in Wendler 531, depending on what your weaknesses are or whether your goal is to get good at the main lifts.
I wrote another program review comparing the Texas Method vs Madcow. Check it out to learn more about the differences, pros, and cons.
What Is the Texas Method?
This high-intensity program made famous by Glenn Pendlay and Mark Rippetoe is great for intermediate lifters who are out to take their progress to the next level. The Texas Method consists of three days a week in which you will train with heavy weights and low reps, moderate weight and medium rep range, or lightweight/high-rep scheme.
Since it caters towards different types of athletes depending on where they are at in terms of strength levels this means that there’s more than one version so if you find yourself struggling through your workout then switching up what day varies from person to person can help achieve better results.
The Texas Method is a training program designed to build strength and power. It has helped many Olympic weightlifters achieve personal records, while also being adopted by powerlifters who need an effective way to get stronger.
In the late 1980s, one of Glenn’s athletes negotiated with him to perform a single set of five reps instead if he could beat his personal best. This agreement led to what is now known as The Texas Method.
The program is designed for intermediate athletes who are no longer making progressions from session to session but are able to progress on a weekly basis. Due to the high difficulty of sets on the heavy day, it is important that you already have consistent and good technique established already.
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. These two weeks are cycled one after the other. A single week in Texas Method consists of three training days in the week in which you will train with heavy weights and low reps, moderate weight and medium rep range, and lightweight/high-rep scheme.
The squat is performed 3 times every week. The deadlift and clean or power clean are performed once a week.
The training frequency of bench press and overhead press alternate with each other. This means that during one week, the bench press is trained twice whilst the overhead press is trained once a week. In the week after, the overhead press is trained twice and the bench press is trained once.
The program assumes that deadlifts are generally more of a fatiguing exercise than squats, and that squats can have a good carryover to deadlifts.
During the Friday workout (day 3), a 5 rep max is to be attempted for the squat, deadlift, and bench press/ overhead press. The volume day weight prescription of the week after is based on a percentage of the 5 rep max 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.
The standard (Intermediate version) Texas Method looks like this:
- Squat Volume
- Bench Press Volume
- Power Clean
- Squat Light
- Overhead Press Light
- Back Extension
- Squat Heavy
- Bench Press Heavy
- Deadlift Heavy
- Squat Volume
- Overhead Press Volume
- Power Clean
- Squat Light
- Bench Press Light
- Back Extension
- Squat Heavy
- Overhead Press Heavy
- Deadlift Heavy
There is an advanced version of this program, but I won’t get into details about it in this article. The intermediate version is the most popular, and that’s where most people should start anyways to see if the advanced program is something they should progress to at a later date.
What Is Wendler 531?
The Wendler 531 program is a strength training system designed to help you achieve your maximum potential in strength. Its creator, Jim Wendler, has authored 2 best-selling books on the system and also competes as an elite-level lifter himself. He has created Wendler 531 for raw strength and Wendler 531 for powerlifting.
Wendler felt that the Westside or conjugate style of training had too much complicated jargon and was tired of the training debate so he decided to remove those and make a simple percentage-based program.
Wendler’s 531 protocol is based on simplicity, consistency, and intensity which makes it perfect for intermediate to late-intermediate athletes looking to build maximum strength. It combines strength and hypertrophy to create an adaptable program for athletes or gym-goers looking to see some results block after block.
In his books, he provides different variations of the program to cater to people for different performance goals. So powerlifters and strongman competitors are not the only people the program caters for. There are even variations designed for people looking for more athletic qualities including running faster and jumping higher.
How Wendler 531 Works
Wendler 531 is a percentage-based program that uses previous 1RMs in the calculation. It provides a framework that allows flexibility with the plug-ins of the accessories. Wendler 531 uses training blocks of 4 weeks at a time and you train the squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press once a week.
Within each session, there is a standard warm-up protocol that leads up to 3 working sets in increasing intensity where the last working set is performed as an AMRAP where you perform as many reps as possible.
After the training sets for the main lift are done, there are options for what is to be done depending on what you want to achieve.
Accessories plug-in plans include options such as:
- Boring, But Big
Performing the main lift again @ 5×10 (50% 1RM), and another accessory exercise for 5 sets
- The Triumvirate
Performing two assistance exercises for 5 sets each
- I’m Not Doing Jack S***
Performing no accessory exercises
- Periodization Bible by Dave Tate
3 exercises for 5 sets at 10-20 reps each
2 bodyweight exercises such as the pull-up, sit-ups, dips, etc.
We have some great resources if you need further ideas for accessory lifts:
- 9 Squat Accessories To Improve Strength & Technique
- 10 Bench Press Accessories To Improve Strength & Technique
- 12 Deadlift Accessories To Improve Strength & Technique
During a training week of the standard Wendler 531, you train each of the main lifts once a week and each training day focuses on those movements. The training week is repeated over 4 weeks with the same exercise structure to create a training block.
From the 1st to 3rd week of training, the average intensity goes up for the main lifts and the volume goes down. The 4th week is a deload.
The core week of the program looks like this:
- Squat Accessory Option
- Bench Press
- Bench Press Accessory Option
- Deadlift Accessory Option
- Overhead Press
- Overhead Press Accessory Option
The prescription of the core lifts throughout a mesocycle block looks like this:
- 1×5 65% of 1RM
- 1×5 75% of 1RM
- 1×5+ 85% of 1RM
- 1×3 70% of 1RM
- 1×3 80% of 1RM
- 1×3+ 90% of 1RM
- 1×5 75% of 1RM
- 1×3 85% of 1RM
- 1×1+ 95% of 1RM
- 1×5 40% of 1RM
- 1×5 50% of 1RM
- 1×5 60% of 1RM
The program recommends starting off with plugging 90% of your true 1RM into the program at first and after every 4-week cycle of it, you add 5lb to your 1RM into the calculator to project the next block of prescription.
Jim Wendler makes the emphasis that the focus is not necessarily on breaking your 1RM but more so on breaking personal records for multiple rep sets. For example, you hit 225lb for 5 reps in the first block, but hit 235lb for 5 reps afterward.
Wendler 531: Difference Between Raw Strength And Powerlifting Version
You might be wondering: should I do the 531 for raw strength or the 531 for powerlifting?
The biggest difference between the standard Wendler 531 version of the program and the 531 for powerlifting is the quantitative aspects of the program. The main differences are the first two weeks. The first two weeks are swapped around and there are heavy singles of the lifts performed on the 1st and 3rd week.
The reason for the weeks being swapped around is simply because it gives you a lighter week between weeks so that there can be some more recovery in order to do well on the heavy singles.
Texas Method vs Wendler 531: Pros & Cons of Each Program
Texas Method Pros
- Utilizes simple sets and light sessions
- Subsequent weeks adjusts downwards if Friday reps are missed
- Develops explosive strength
- Trains squats frequently
- Balances overhead press and bench press strength development
Texas Method Cons
- Texas Method uses cleans, which are technically difficult to learn
- Inconsistent weekly focus between overhead press and bench press
Wendler 531 Pros
- Balances upper body and lower body training
- Has many options for accessories
- Has a deload week
- Gives opportunities to push hard on certain weeks
- Ramps up in working set load
- Low frequency of technique practice
- Higher volume
Who Should Do the Texas Method?
The main influencing factor for who should be doing the Texas method is down to the exercise selection. The following people should choose the Texas Method:
- General sports athletes
- Intermediate strength athletes
- Olympic weightlifters
- Hybrid athletes who want to do Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting
Who Should Do Wendler 531?
Wendler 531 has a simpler selection of exercises with options for a larger variety of exercises in accessories and for that reason it is open to more training goals. The following people should choose to do Wendler 531:
- General sports athletes
- Gym goers who want to bodybuild
- Gym goers who want to build strength
- Strongman competitors
Should You Do The Standard Or Powerlifting Version?
Most people will benefit from the standard version but the powerlifting version can be suitable for powerlifters as well as strongman competitors too.
Wendler 531 uses a lower frequency of training for each lift and higher intensity so it can be interpreted as a more appropriate choice for powerlifters who are getting closer to a competition date. The lower frequency means that there are not a lot of opportunities for technique practice. Along with the assumption of how frequently you should be making personal records, it seems like Wendler 531 may be for more advanced individuals than the Texas Method is.
About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach
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