Texas Method – Part 2

This post is part of a series on the Texas Method. Here is Part 1.
Now that there is a general understanding of what the Texas Method (TM) is, what it’s used for, and why it’s useful, we will talk about how to transition different exercises into it.

I have several themes that resonate over and over and over and over and over and over … on this site. The concepts of adaptive stress and individuality mean that in order to drive progress, an adaptive stress must be imparted on the body. However, the magnitude and method of that stress is dependent on a person’s current state of adaptation. Our society likes to group things to make them easier to comprehend; skinny, weak, skinny-fat, big, fat, and strong are ways to describe a trainee. However these distinctions aren’t descriptive enough. For instance, there may be a trainee who has just gotten into squatting and deadlifting, yet has been doing bench and other upper body exercises for years. His bench may be higher than the squat and deadlift; such a body isn’t balanced for performance.

In the case of discrepancies in weight lifted or muscular distribution, it may be prudent to advance certain exercises to intermediate programming instead of a linear approach. For instance, if the squat progression (on a structured linear program designed to make daily gains) has stalled several times, yet the press and bench are still making progress, then the squat could be shifted into an intermediate-style program while the presses continue a linear advancement. The opposite could also hold true. In other words, beating your dick into the ground because “that’s what the program outline tells you to do” doesn’t help you get any stronger.

Similarly, forcing yourself to find the maximum potential of your linear progression won’t be helpful in the long run. For example, I ran my (Starting Strength style) linear progression up to 465x5x3, yet every workout after 450 was purely survival. I vividly remember feeling emotionally wrecked when I finished squatting; I had to summon so much adrenaline just to get through the three sets (with at least 10 minutes of rest between sets) that I was running on empty. Forcing myself into that experience may have been spiritual, yet it wasn’t optimal for my strength development. I spent several weeks putting an unnecessary amount of stress on my structures to the point that they required recuperation as I transitioned into intermediate programming. I subjectively wouldn’t recommend this, but I also wouldn’t objectively recommend it because it blunts progress in the long-term.

The pressing exercises won’t have the same problem because they don’t involve as much muscle mass. A trainee can exhaust their progression many times yet the recuperation time won’t be as lengthy as if the overreaching occurred with squat or deadlift. Remember: the more muscle mass that is trained by the exercise, the more disruption that occurs. If you abuse the amount of stress you impart on your body – relative to your current adaptation – then you will cause local, and potentially systemic, problems.

Advancing various exercises to a TM approach isn’t difficult; the first workout is volume-based, the second is recovery-based, and the third is intensity-based. The bench and press will alternate their emphasis every week so that you bench volume and intensity in the same week (and visa versa). On bench week’s recovery day you would press; on press week’s recovery day you would do some light bench. It isn’t difficult and there are plenty of examples in the book Practical Programming (as well as on the internet).

The deadlift is a little bit trickier. I like to have novices deadlift once a week on the same day. I usually like to put it at the end of the week so that it doesn’t disrupt any other squat days and because the weekend allows an extra rest day (the Greyskull Linear Progression drops a squat day and puts the deadlift on Wednesday – this is acceptable). Novices will make progress by doing a single work set of five. Often I see people doing sets across on the deadlift. This will put more volume on the trainee making it hard to recover while using a smaller amount of weight compared to a single set of five. Don’t do sets across; for a linear progression it’s too high of a dose to get the response we want, and it will hamper other training days.

Franco Columbo deadlifts

Once the single set of five starts to slow, then the trainee can shift into doing triples. This allows the trainee to continue adding weight on the bar every week while getting a moderate amount of volume. It’s important to note that moving to triples will benefit a trainee who has a decent musculature structure. The fewer reps will move away from the hypertrophy spectrum (5ish to 15 reps) and thus wouldn’t be optimal for someone with a thin back and torso. A smaller person would benefit in the long run from ratcheting the weight back and getting more cumulative deadlift training done with sets of five (there’ll be more on this topic in another post).

If a trainee has shifted into doing triples, the timing will usually work out where they have transitioned the rest of their training into TM-style training. In such a case, I would just keep driving the triples up. The triple reduces a little bit of the volume imparted on the body on the intensity day, yet handles a significant load. If the triples start to poop out, then the trainee could shift into more complicated stuff; ascending singles, singles across, ascending doubles, or doubles across (as well as rack pulls and speed deadlifts — subject matter for other posts and interviews). Of course this all depends on the current state of adaptation and what the trainee’s goals are. As a general rule I like to keep the total reps on intensity deadlift workouts below five (NOT including warm-ups). After all, it’s supposed to be a high intensity and low volume workout. To get appropriate super-compensation from the volume/intensity effect, you’ll need to maintain the weekly fluctuation of those variables, so don’t get excessive volume in on the intensity day.

As you progress you’ll learn what your limitations were in the past and how you currently adapt to stress. Your training records will help provide data that will help you predict how you will adapt to stress in the future. You will become your own scientist as you continue to advance your strength throughout your life. I will continue giving you ideas and tools to use in your experiments. In the next TM post, we’ll talk more about how to manipulate the reps and sets of the volume and intensity days to continue your strength progress.

19 thoughts on “Texas Method – Part 2

  1. When you talk about switching to triples, do you mean on intensity day, or volume day too?

    In this post I meant on intensity day. I’ll talk about doing them on volume day in the next post.

    And I would always have a trainee deadlift on intensity day as opposed to volume day.


  2. Thanks I found this very helpful, especially the deadlift information.

    Do you recommend (as I believe PP/SS do) doing singles in deadlift warmup sets? I usually feel pretty warm when I get to deadlifting since I’ve already squatted, so I ramp up pretty quikcly. I have been doing this:

    135 x 5 (thinking about very strict form, double overhand grip)
    225x 3 (double overhand)
    315 x 1 (double overhand)
    *Secretly apply chalk in my globo gym’s locker room like a kid trying to chug a beer at the prom*
    385 x 5 (work set with mixed grip)

    And if my work set was more like 500, I’d do an additional single at 400.

    Singles are fine for warm-up sets. Part of why warming-up is beneficial isn’t just the body temperature increasing (hence the “warming” part) or muscles feeling more pliable, but the nervous system getting ready for heavy lifting. Singles will accomplish this. Anything more than singles is just going to help increase body temperature, so they aren’t necessary beyond a certain point (unless you aren’t warm or if you just want to do them [and they aren’t inhibiting the work set]).


  3. Random TM thought, but I find it odd how so many people are willing to follow LP, but afterwards I hear many complain of overtraining once they go to TM. It is as if they went from a novice, right to an advanced intermediate. Or perhaps they are just being pussies. Yeah, that’s it.

    They aren’t overtraining, they are just doing it wrong. It might be that it’s hard and they are pussies, but they are probably doing it wrong first.

    Edit: It is possible to overtrain some structures, but no one who has just made the switch is actually overtraining.


  4. Off topic, but I competed in my first PL competition this past weekend. It was a local single lift championship for deadlift. I made all three of my attempts with my third going for 470 lbs which actually got me first place for my weight division of 181lbs. Special thanks to this website for finally giving me the testicular fortitude to compete. For peoples’ viewing pleasure, my girlfriend captured some footage of the event and added a nice touch of a before and after picture of my journey to become 70sbig. Enjoy….

    Congrats on the win. Glad we could inspire you.


  5. Last day of Manuary. Hope everyone is lifting heavy to celebrate.

    Another great article. Good job Justin you continually impress me with your knowledge.

  6. Great Post!

    It never ceases to amaze me how much I have learned from this site, it truely is awesome. Just the right mix of excellent lifting information and general silliness.

  7. Completely off topic, but can anyone here offer some advice on the best clamp / attachment to rig up a pull up bar from a steel girder (i-beam)?

    A few have suggested using standard girder clamps but I’m not sure these are the best for hanging humans from.

  8. What are all the different rep schemes that are good choices for intensity days? I’ve seen you do 5 singles for squats. Obviously a top set of 5s or triple is on the table, or working up to a max. Is there anything else you like to use?

    I’m gonna talk about stuff like that in the next TM post.


  9. @smithb9 – Haha, read that Benbata today, Ben is pretty hilarious

    @bohdi – Nice transformation man. I need to search for some good before 70s BIG pics, that’s a cool idea.

  10. I’m in a weird place with my squat. I herniated L5-s1 last year and can’t low-bar over 275 without developing symptoms again for the next week. I tend to flatten out at the bottom when the weight moves up. Hi-bar’s ok but I can’t move any weight with it. My squat’s always been my weak lift and I love training it multiple time a week for reps but fives and below are weak and painful.

    I’ve always been an ok deadlifter with a lifetime pr of 455 at 180, but my squat has never passed 335. LPs always feel like the emotional grind you describe anywhere passed 265 or so. My bench keeps growing. I’m never under 3000 kcal/day and usually over 4. I’m holding at 180-185 on 4000/day.

    I’ve thought of transitioning to an intermediate protocol but can’t come to terms with 280x5x3 being the end of my workout-to-workout progress. TM framework? Embrace the repitude and go 5-3-1 for squat? Thoughts?

    How tall and old are you?


  11. Just finished Anatomy Without a Scalpel. I took an anatomy class in college, so this book was a great refresher, and I even learned a lot of new things. I love the pic on top of pg. 117.

  12. Solid writeup justin. Really appreciate the quality information. I’ll be refering to these two posts when putting together a TM setup when I get back to a spot where I can devote enough time to training to do it.

  13. Justin,

    It sounds like you were squatting heavy 3x a week when you finished the LP. How come you didn’t try switching to advanced novice (H-L-H) before moving on to TM? Thanks.

    A H-L-H approach would only prolong my agony. The goal isn’t to put weight on the bar, but set your body up to make consistent progress. I should have converted over to intermediate stuff earlier in retrospect. I don’t think it’s beneficial to destroy yourself at the end of a linear progression for the purpose of progressing further.

    That’s all assuming you’ve done things correctly up to that point.


  14. Justin,
    I’m 27, 5’8″ I went from 160-185 in recovering from the herniation. Gains stopped at 185. Rehab was lots of bench and sets of 20 hibar squats starting from 95 to 235 5# a workout, then went in sets of 5 to 280. I ran a SS LP to 265 two years ago and started developing symptoms then, full debilitating herniation in June 2010. I’ve always trained the squat into the wall and always had a bit of the good morning issue out of the hole with heavier weights or when fatigued. Thanks for your site btw man.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.