The Texas Method – Part 1

You should notice a trend in my advice and opinion on training; illicit an adaptive stress to improve. A person who hasn’t done serious and consistent strength training will benefit from a Linear Progression (LP). There are different kinds of LPs, but the best will have a given set and rep scheme and will increase the load each workout. An LP will allow one day of rest in between training days and will typically average three training days per week. Some very good LPs include Starting Strength (SS) and the Greyskull LP (from Greyskull Barbell).


When a trainee can no longer recover after resetting several times, they will need to upgrade their programming to something more complex. The trainee is unable to adapt on a daily (by workout) basis, and must now shift into a weekly adaptation. During this time the trainee needs to specify some kind of goal; the goal will begin to funnel the training. That’s why I like to recommend that people compete; it continues the funnel into a spout that ends in competition day. In any case, a good next step for a trainee is upgrading their program to the Texas Method (TM).


The TM is designed to create a stress with higher volume, and then express the adaptation and further the stress with intensity. The by-the-book program (from the book, “Practical Programming” by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore) is
Monday — 5×5
Wednesday — Light work, commonly 80% for 2×5
Friday — 5 rep max (5RM)


Many people see this and implement it in all situations. If a person has come off of a LP, particularly SS, then this is a good transition. However, it works best as a general strength program and will be better off if modified for most trainees. When I use the term TM (I usually say “a TM set-up”), I imply a program that manipulates volume and intensity to yield a weekly progression. This means that you don’t have to be locked into the above template. After the beginning phases of any LP, there is no cookie cutter program. One-size-fits-all doesn’t apply to the human body because each individual is full of variances and peculiarities, and this is why programming is an art. It’s also why I bitch about needing more information if you ask me a question on pretty much everything (I do this all the time; my friends and girlfriend sometimes get annoyed). Most people don’t implement programs very well because they don’t know how to modify them for their own goals or situation. Tweaking the TM will be a focus in subsequent posts on the TM.


Typical 5x5 weight for me was 445




What is the TM good for?
The TM is a very good general strength program. It continues an appropriate dose/response of tonnage on the body while moving along the upper limit of stress that the body can handle (the latter references experienced trainees who have been on the TM for a few months). A proper LP will have established a good body size, and the TM can continue to build and refine mass, although it is not optimal. However, properly positioned assistance exercises can help increase the size of some body parts that may have been neglected during an LP (barbell curls, weighted dips, power shrugs, and neck harness being the best options for size).


The TM is also a good off-season strength program. Season athletes, those that compete in a sport with designated seasons of competition, will benefit from re-establishing or improving their strength base before getting into a strength maintenance and conditioning phase. It is also possible to switch early novice lifters (those who are on a LP) to a TM set up for various reasons. I have done so in trainees who have anatomical issues (typically asymmetry) as well as to has out subtle form issues — mostly in females in either case. I’ve had a trainee increase on a LP, yet had pelvic asymmetry (rotational scoliosis in the lumbar) to the point where a 3×5 volume three times a week was giving her problems. Instead, we switched to a TM set up; the volume 5×5 (and lower weight) allowed us to work on positional issues as well as conscious neurological innervation, and the intensity day of heavier weight allowed us to push the weight up without worrying so much about the technique. I have several other examples, but the point is that forcing a LP in spite of problems is going to exacerbate things.


The TM is great at continuing to establish a base of strength and can be tweaked for powerlifting competitions, but it has some drawbacks.


Vintage Chris-deadlifting-pic




What is the TM not good for?
TM is not a good program for Olympic weightlifting — straight up. There is no way you can get appropriate work in the Olympic lifts (anything over 80% on a regular basis — i.e. each training session) while maintaining a good 5×5 to 5RM squat program. It just doesn’t work. I’ve tried, and I probably recover better than you. If you aim to compete in Oly, then switch to it. In my run up to going to senior nationals, I used the TM to get my strength back up after a low back injury, but it didn’t leave me with much time to focus on the Oly lifts for nationals (only five or six weeks). In any case, don’t attempt a TM while trying to get good Oly work.


Additionally, the TM is not a very good program if you need to get conditioned. This should be obvious, but when you’re training for strength it obviates for conditioning since conditioning will take away from recovery capabilities. Conditioning can be added to the TM, but it’s placement should be careful as not to interfere with strength (this principle is necessary in any strength and conditioning program).


TM consists of a lot of stress. If you’re doing it to get as strong as you possibly can, it is not easy. Eventually it will take seven to ten minutes of rest in between the 5×5 sets on volume day. The 5×5 can sometimes be a survival based workout (my most poetic moments when lifting, aside from the Olympic lifts, were on volume squat day). Not many people can handle it and not many people should. If you aren’t serious about competing — meaning you aren’t serious about eating, sleeping, recovery, mobility, and doing everything you can to improve in all aspects — TM will become too much for you. If you are an older guy (let’s say around 35 and up), then you will probably find that a TM set up is too much on your body. A good, hard TM is a young man’s program. The lifters who have had the most notable success using it (arguably limited to the people involved in this website) are all young and reckless. If your body can’t handle it (which is not the same as your mind handling it), then tweak it or change the overall program. If you admit that you don’t eat or sleep well, there are other programs that will help make progress, albeit slower progress for your capabilities (Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 is wonderful).




The utility of a TM set-up is very useful if you know how to tweak it, and use its principles for your goals. Remember, a program is supposed to work for you. In a TM set up, it aims to manipulate volume and intensity to improve strength. This doesn’t necessitate a 5×5 volume day and a 5RM intensity day, and in future TM posts, we’ll learn why and how to tweak it for your needs and goals.

47 thoughts on “The Texas Method – Part 1

  1. I tried TM on three separate occasions and ended up over-trained each time. I kept reducing the volume and still ended up the same. The last attempt was 3×5 on Monday with a 3RM on Friday. Still ended badly.

    I’m 41 so I learned through experience that TM is just too damn much for me. Will be trying 5/3/1 soon.

    Yeah, I wouldn’t expect you to do well on it given the age (and not knowing anything else). It can be tweaked a bit to accommodate you, but I think 5/3/1 is perfect for a guy like you. If you go back and read the posts on the USAPL Texas State meet, my friend Allen is 40 years old and lifted in the meet. (I think the post was from April)

    –Justin

  2. What options are out there for someone who wants to get stronger, but needs to worry about conditioning on a pretty regular basis? I’m 32 and have goals to bench 300, squat 400, and DL 500 while scoring a 90 on the AF fitness test.

  3. Great information. Here are some questions, but they may be things that vary person-to-person like you said. FWIW as I’ve mentioned I’m coming to the end of LP but am still making weekly progress on deadlift right now with a set of 1×5. My goal is to get strong as fuck, particularly at squat, bench and deadlift since I’m competing in a few months. I’m 24 male and don’t have trouble sleeping or eating. I don’t care about conditioning–I’ll get to that once I’m strong as fuck.

    Questions:

    Why is it called the Texas Method?

    When picking the starting 5×5 weight for TM after finishing a 3x5LP, is the aim to pick the heaviest weight the trainee can do for 5×5? If so is there a typical reduction in the weight he was doing with 3×5 (i.e. 10%)?

    Do the TM rep and loading schemes apply to all the lifts? (bench, press, barbell rows) And when do you deadlift?
    Like…

    Monday: Squat 5×5, Bench 5×5, Row 5×5, maybe some weighted chins/dips?

    Wednesday: Squat Squat 2×5 (80%<Monday), Press 2×5 (PP says 3×5), Row? Powerclean?, maybe some curls or yoke builders like shrugs

    Friday: Squat 5RM, Bench 5RM, Row 5RM (or maybe deadlift 5RM?), then maybe some assistance stuff like prone bridges etc?

    Do you alternate Press and Bench being the Monday/Friday lift? Like one week you bench 5×5 Monday and Bench 5RM Friday with Pressing on Wednesday, and the next week you Press 5×5 Monday and Press 5RM Friday, with Benching on Wednesday?

    Thanks!

    It’s called the Texas Method because it was made in Texas.

    With your internet search ability, I think you can glean the info about TM and share it here (for gregor in the next post as well). Report back when you’re done.

    –Justin

    P.S. Press would have an emphasis one week, then bench the next.

  4. So all work is done in sets of 5, 5 sets on monday, 2 sets on Wednesday (at 80% of Monday) and 1 set on Friday(?)…How much difference should there be between the weight used on Friday and Monday?

    For example, on squats I am currently doing 260 for 3 sets of 5 (using LP), if I was doing that for 5 sets on monday, and use 270 for a single set on Friday? Should the Monday’s weight and Fridays weight be linked or is it completely separate and they progress on their own?

    I take it that monday’s weight should not “feel” like a maximal weight, at least when starting TM?

    Gregor, with all due respect, go ahead and google the Texas Method or read “Practical Programming”. I can take the time to lay it out, but it’s well documented elsewhere. I guess I explained the conceptual and left out the point by point program that is in the book, but I also did that on purpose because it’s actually in the book.

    –Justin

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  6. Hi, I am 42, and am thinking that TM is great. My error when running TM last year, was running to hard on monday and wednesday. I have now lowered the weight on monday and wednesday.

    I have now bigger difference between the intensities of
    volume(mon), recovery(wed), intensity(fri)

    What opened my eyes was:
    http://www.pendlayforum.com/showthread.php?t=2474
    http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/the_texas_method

    And peeking on other intermediate trainees logs at http://startingstrength.com/resources/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=154

    Also an example of a TM spreadsheet on
    http://nyjet_twoplustwo.home.mindspring.com/SS/TexasMethodCalc.xls
    gives a hint of about how much the difference should be between mon, wed, fri.

    I think with bigger difference you have better opportunity to nail down form and most important, to recover.

    I’ll cover this another time, but I would rather have the intensity day pushed up than volume day. People drive their volume day thinking it’s the right thing to to do, but they end up getting overtrained. Push the intensity day.

    When you’re deep into a good TM, Wednesday’s work load is essentially non-existant.

    Also, Pendlay created the TM (almost inadvertently), and will have good insight on it.

    –Justin

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  8. Justin helped get me to switch from Madcow to Texas Method.

    I did 5×5 255 monday, and I’m still feeling it. I’m gonna do 3×3 FS, 3×3 OHP and 3×3 PC today, and then hit volume (including deads) hard friday. And alternate weeks in terms of the presses.

    It’s weird to have “DOMS” again.

  9. Maslow,

    I’m sure Justin will make more of this clear later, but FWIW, here are my answers to some of your questions.

    Why Texas Method? Probably because Rip designed the program? I dunno.

    Picking starting weights: once you finish your LP (I mean really finish it) you’ll probably be pretty tired, and furthermore you’ll need to get used to the 5×5 workload. So, I would pick a weight that you know you can do pretty easily to get started, maybe what you were doing for 3×5 3-4 weeks before you finished LP, so you can catch a bit of a break and get used to 5×5. Always time to work your way up from there.

    Regarding programming presses and pulls and shit… when I started, what I did was this: Monday bench for some kind of volume, 5×5 is good to start if you can handle it, then Wednesday light press, then Friday 5RM bench. Then the next week I would switch it, so Monday I would press for volume, then do light bench on Wednesday, then 5RM press on Friday.

    Deadlifts: a lot of people using the TM are going to have exhausted their LP, meaning they won’t be able to increase weight on deadlifts every week. So what some people will do is break the deadlift up into two parts, the halting deadlift and the rack pull, and do one heavy set of one on Monday, and a heavy set of the other on Friday. Personally, I used the “less is more” approach to deadlifting, and for a while I just used heavy squatting and some assistance work (heavy KB swings, good mornings, GHR) to strengthen the relevant musculature for a few months, then went back to the deadlift for a while and found it had jumped 45lbs. The reason why I did this is because I am a pussy, and usually after doing 5×5 squats I didn’t have the gas left to do heavy haltings or rack pulls. Anyway, that’s just me.

    Big note here: Don’t deadlift on volume day. I did that at first, and it sucks. Most of us have had good success deadlifting as the last lift on intensity day. I’ll address what to do with deadlifting after it has been exhausted on a LP for sets of 5.

    –Justin

  10. Hey Justin,
    I recall reading an interview by Pendlay where he mentioned that he still used TM for certain occasions. Could he just be using it with squats only? I only ask since you mentioned it didn’t work well for OL. Though I know he does things differently than some of the coaches you know and/or have learned from.

    Well, doing a hardcore by-the-book TM is different than using the principles in an Oly program. Pendlay found the principles when he was coaching Oly lifters. If nobody can find Pendlay’s story of how it was created, I suppose I can summarize it.

    –Justin

  11. I’ve been doing a program that once stemmed from the TM but has morphed into its own thing, and it’s been working very very well. I think using TM as an intermediate starting point and slowly feeling out what works for you and adjusting accordingly is a GREAT way to learn about your individual needs in all aspects of your training, and to continue getting stronger and bigger. So… Kudos to this writeup sir.

    Glad it has worked out. This is how trainees should progress; they should continuously learn how their body adapts to stress, and how those needs change over time. Well done.

    –Justin

  12. Hey Justin,
    Just a quick note to say the tips from yourself and others in tuesdays chat seems to have sorted my deadlift form out.

    Dropped to a measly 70k and after a good 5 sets I had it sorted, posted it over at Rips Q & A and he ok’d it.

    Made up after months of getting nowhere with it so thanks for the input!

    Glad it helped.

    –Justin

  13. Thanks Justin and Briskin.

    Reporting back:

    This site explains it pretty simply: http://stronglifts.com/the-texas-method-strength-training-for-intermediate-lifters/

    So does this and it includes templates:

    http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/The_Texas_Method

    The TM loading and rep schemes apply to all the big lifts. Emphasis day (Monday/Friday) for bench and press alternate. Accessory work rep ranges depends on your goals. If you want to build up your size do 8-10 reps on some of them. If you want to improve your strength, add weight to them, except on dips Bill Starr says to just do bodyweight until you can get 3×20, then add weight. Do deadlifts on Friday, or if your deadlift is already so huge that it’s very taxing to do, split it into a Monday Rack Pull and Friday Haltign DL.

    It seems like the only thing that makes a program the “Texas Method” is the High Volume and Moderate Intensity day, followed by low volume low intensity day, followed by low volume high intensity day. The exact big lifts and assistance work you do is dependent upon your goals. So for a guy like me who wants to get his squat, bench and deadlift up, it’ll look like this:

    Week 1

    Monday:
    Squat: 5×5 (15% of what was done for 3×5)
    Bench: 5×5 (15% drop also)
    BB Row: 3×8 (10% drop from previous 3×5 weight)
    Reverse Crunches if there’s gas in the tank

    Wednesday:
    Squat: 2×5 (80% of Monday)
    Press: 3×5
    Dips: 3xfailure (try to get to 20 then add weight)
    Chin Ups: weighted, 3 sets to failure (aiming for 5 reps each set, increase by 5 lbs each week)

    Friday:
    Squat: 5RM
    Bench: 5RM
    Deadlift: 5RM
    Curl: 3×8
    Prone Bridges: 2×50 seconds
    Porterhouse and twice baked potato, huge salad

    Week 2

    Monday:
    Squat: 5×5 (5lbs more than week 1)
    Press: 5×5 (15% drop from previous 3×5 weight)
    BB Row: 3×8 (5 lbs more than week 1)
    Reverse Crunches if there’s gas in the tank

    Wednesday:
    Squat: 2×5 (80% of Monday)
    Bench: 3×5 (80% of what was done Monday week 1)
    Pull Ups: weighted, 3 sets to failure (aiming for 5 reps each set, increase by 5 lbs each week)

    Friday:
    Squat: 5RM (5 lbs more than week 1)
    Press: 5RM
    Deadlift: 5RM
    Curl: 3×8
    Prone Bridges: 2×45 seconds
    Fogo de Cao session, aim to eat for two hours.

    How did I do?

    I don’t like percentages, even for intermediate trainees. Theoretically (and in most cases literally) the 1RM is in flux, or the volume needs to change. A good rule — on any new program — is to low ball yourself at the out set. Other than that, this looks fine. I wouldn’t do weighted chins/pull-ups on Wednesday because if they interfered with the deadlift, I’d be pissed as a coach or the trainee (primarily because both the lats and proximal triceps are fatigued from the wtd chins, thus won’t be fresh to extend the shoulder — which keeps the bar back — during the deadlift).

    You may want to do some of those prone bridges on the each side for reasons that I’ll share in a post soon.

    –Justin

  14. Thanks Maslow.

    And Justin, I didn’t want to come across as lazy, but…I was

    Being Lazy = Being a Pussy = Not being very 70′s Big

    I should have just looked it up myself. You totally sounded like Rip with the “its in the book”.

    I did read SS and PP, but its been a while, I am in need of a refresher.

  15. Briskit,
    Actually I think Pendlay designed it while he was training lifters out of WFAC back when him and Rip got along. I could be wrong though. I think Rip mentions Pendlay in the back of PP giving him credit for TM.

  16. Good post.

    So what exactly is the Greyskull LP and how does it differ from SS? I’ve looked around but I can’t seem to find any details on it. Could someone enlighten me or post a link?

  17. Thanks bie.

    Now can someone tell me how it is possible that I couldn’t find that on my own. I am also looking for my ass if anyone has seen it.

  18. Dang, I’m 34. I’m old. That sucks.

    I don’t think you’re old. Don’t let yourself feel old by being able to do things. You’ll need to be strong, conditioned, and mobile to feel younger.

    –Justin

  19. You posted this at a really appropriate time for me. I just got back from a deployment causing me to have an 18 day lay off from the gym. This week I started piddling around in there and planned on starting a new program this Monday. I originally decided on Madcow 5×5, but with you posting this I’m assuming that you think highly of it. It seems similar in that it is weekly progression and varies volume/intensity. In your opinion, should I hold off on the Madcow and look into the TM? Thanks…

  20. Alright, so the Texas Method isn’t so great for Olympic Weightlifting. Justin, when you scanned up a page out of your training log from back when you were using the texas method that was pretty helpful. Think we could get a look at what your training looks like now?

    My training isn’t directed towards a strength goal right now, so it wouldn’t be very helpful.

    –Justin

  21. I am a crossfitter(don’t laugh)and want to improve my strength. I am 30 years old. Squat 325, DL 405, Press 170, Bench 265. I want to start with the TM but want to maintain conditioning. From your post, above info and other sources it seems that doing the TM and crossfit would be detrimental to my gains.

    As I have no season to prepare for or competitions to prepare for, should I concentrate on the TM for a few months and then head back to crossfit? Perhaps rotate three months on TM, 3 months crossfit? Thoughts anyone?

    Thanks for the info!

    Maintenance of conditioning physiology isn’t difficult. However, if you’ve been CrossFitting you’ll benefit greatly from some time on a LP. Perhaps a modified LP akin to the Greyskull version (it keeps the squatting on Monday and Friday while deadlifting is on Wednesday).

    If you go with a TM set up, the best days to condition are Tuesday, Friday (after intensity workout), or Saturday. Obviously you wouldn’t do anything crazy to interfere with strength recovery (keep cumulative reps down, don’t work similar body parts, etc.). If you only wanted to maintain, then you don’t need to use all three of those days. I’d just do something short (5 to 10 minutes) and real fucking intense — search back for my post on the conditioning (can someone link that? wasn’t it recent? talking about deficit of substrates and stuff? it may just have been something I was working on that I never posted). “Real fucking intense” won’t use stupid isolation movements like sit-ups or back extensions.

    –Justin

  22. David, looks like you’re pretty strong for a crossfitter, why not set some intermediate goals like X-squat, Y-Bench, Z-DL and give TM a whirl for a few months, then set some conditioning goals for a few months later.

    I ran the ‘Madcow’ version of 5×5 for a long few months, every monday was a saga of squatting… but the gains came. If i knew better i would have been eating like a man and drinking milk like a cat, but at least i got alot stronger.

    I’ve got my boy Awainer1 doing some modified TM stuff, its working nicely

  23. Thanks Justin. That is what I was thinking. Squat, Deadlift and maybe Bench on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and hit real intense crossfit workouts like “fran”(I think I remember you are familiar with that one) or high rep/low weight power cleans that only take 3 to 5 minutes 2 or 3 times a week. Sound about right?

    I saw your earlier post on the substrates and that makes sense.

    Thanks to both you and AJ!

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  25. The story of its creation was glenn’s weightlifters were doing 5×5 backsquats 3 days a week and trying to increase the weight as often as possible. When this slowed down (especially the 3rd day of the week) he added the motivational tool that if the first set of 5 on friday was a 5RM the trainee didn’t have to do the other 4 sets. That was working really well and some of the lifters started asking to lift less weight on wednesday to guarantee friday’s PR.

    And the result of these little tweaks created a program better than the original.

    This is sort of the case, but I was hoping someone would find a quote from Glenn. The lifters are the ones who came up with the fewer sets, because they were getting beat down from the training week. Glenn then said, “All right, if you PR then you don’t have to do the other sets. If you don’t get the PR, then you have to drop and get four more sets.”

    So, essentially the same thing, but it was spurned on by the lifters. Glenn told me the story over the phone — it’s a good story.

    –Justin

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  27. I know intermediate programming has too many variables to do an entire series of posts on it but I wouldn’t mind seeing a post on other weekly progression setups besides TM or touch on the split routines and Starr method and some easy ways to set those up. Since you were actually at WFAC learning from all those guys, inside details and tweaks on the programming side of things has really helped other strength coaches like me out since. You can only pickup so much from PPST so I greatly appreciate that and hope to see more articles like this.

    Jason

    A lot of what I program is what I’ve developed after learning the basics and trying my new ideas on people. The basics are right in that book, but more physiology/anatomy background helps solidify it.

    It really isn’t about knowing different programs; it’s more about understanding the laws that govern adaptation. It’s kinda like doing physics; learn math and fundamental theory and you can apply it to the real world. I think TM is important because after understanding it, you can create other weekly progressions yet they’ll have to adhere to the same rules. Knowing how you respond to this area helps you understand the more advanced stuff when you get there.

    –Justin

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  34. I’ve recently purchased your book TM part 1. The only question I have is that if I want to run TM 5 days a week, I assume that I’ll program a lot my assistance work on the off days. Do you have any suggestions that would help me with the programing?

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