Originally published on October 25, 2015
Quite a while ago, probably around 2006 or 2007, when “Practical Training” by Rippetoe was all the buzz, many people were wondering how to actually go about using the “Texas Method” 5×5 as mentioned in the book. There was no actual written program, only a loose explanation. Someone asked me how to do it, and I interpreted it. This “version” of the Texas Method found its way onto bodybuilding boards other than the board it originally was posted to. Not many people ever knew I wrote it down. I wish I hadn’t. Now there are other versions of this “program” around, and hopefully, since then it has died the death it deserved in the first place. I doubt it, though.
When this article was originally published at GUS, my older site, in 2015, there was a Texas Method eBook being offered for sale. At this time, there is a free eBook being offered on Scribd. I do not know if these are the same eBooks and after reading this article you will understand why I didn’t think it worth my time to find out. This article will cover any such ‘eBook’ longer than one or two pages.
The main purpose of this article is to make a point about how simple such a program is, and how it is limited in scope. A 5×5, when it works, only works for a little while. Unfortunately, most trainees want to find one program they can use, seemingly, for the rest of their lives. When they hit the inevitable wall in such a program as the TM, instead of determining that it is time to move on, they hit the bodybuilding gurus up for “how to make it work.” And there is no shortage of such gurus willing to tell them about all the things they are doing wrong, or all the magical tweaks they can use to keep progressing in this fashion.
First, let’s start with the program or one possible iteration of it. Am I recommending it? No. If you are just beginning, but past the initial stages of training, you may want to give something like this a whirl, but there are much better ways to go, quite frankly.
THE TEXAS METHOD
This method uses a sharp contrast in training variables between the beginning and the end of the week. High volume at moderate intensity is used at the first of the week, a light workout is done in the middle for maintenance of motor pathways, and then a high-intensity workout at very low volume ends the week.
According to its originators, such a method is usually the first program to use when simple “linear programming” doesn’t work anymore. The trainee is in transition from a novice to an intermediate is unable to make progress with either a workload he can recover from enough to do 2 to 3 times per week, or conversely, a workload that is stressful enough to produce the stress/adaptation/supercompensation cycle that he cannot recover from quickly enough to do 2 to 3 times per week. This circular reasoning defines a beginner and intermediate according to the needs of the program. In other words, it is saying that you are a novice because you recover from the workload on a day to day basis. Why can you recover on a day to day basis? Because you are a novice. When you can no longer recover on a day to day basis, you must move onto a “weekly” workload schedule. Why? Because you are an intermediate. It is the height of nonsense and a hallmark of the unscientific and spurious explanations behind these programs.
In-Depth Coverage With Examples, Modifications, etc etc etc
In the Texas Method, the workout at the beginning of the week is the “stress” workout, the lighter midweek workout comes during the recovery period, and the last, higher-intensity/lower-volume workout is done when the trainee has recovered enough to show an increase in performance. The total weekly training volume and training stress is low enough that as each week begins the trainee has no accumulated fatigue from the previous week, yet the one “stress” workout on Monday is high enough in volume to trigger an adaptation, and the heavy single set on Friday provides enough intensity that neuromuscular function is reinforced without fatally upping the volume. This is all Ignoring the fact of the ever-increasing workload from week to week that you are supposed to magically recover from because of your angelic-like intermediate status.
A classic example of this variation would be a squat program where, after warm-ups, Monday’s workout is 5 work sets of 5 across, Wednesday’s is lighter – perhaps 5’s at 80% of 5RM, or front squats for a variation in exercise technique – and Friday’s is a single heavier set of 5. It looks like this:
Squat, 5 sets of 5 reps
Squat, 2 light sets of 5
Front Squat, 3 sets of 3
Squat, One heavy set of 5
Here is another example of this basic intermediate template, this time for pressing exercises:
Push Press, 6 sets of 3 reps
Press, 2 sets of 5 reps
Push Press, 1RM, 2RM, or 3RM
Most intermediate trainees will be able to spend months making progress on programs set up like this one. Different set and rep schemes can be used, as long as the basic template of a volume workout, a light workout, and an intensity workout is followed.
The Monday workout should be stressful enough to cause homeostatic disruption. The second training session should be enough work that the muscles involved are used through the range of motion, but at a load that does not add to the disruption caused by the first workout. The third day should be an attempt at a personal record.
When a program like this is started, the goal is to make progress on both Monday and Friday, just as in the novice program. When all the prescribed sets and reps on Monday are accomplished, raise the weight for the next week. If a new 1RM is set on Friday, next week try for a new 2RM. In essense, progress is still being made, but the line is now being drawn between Monday and Monday and Friday and Friday, instead of between Monday and Wednesday.
Very often, after 4 or 5 weeks of the progress with personal records getting more difficult on Friday, what is needed to keep the cycle running for a few more weeks is nothing more than a slight reduction in Monday’s workload. Cut back the number of sets, or even the weight on the bar a little, and progress on Friday’s workout can usually be sustained. The object is to make Monday’s workout stressful enough to spur progress, not so stressful that it interferes with Friday’s PR.
If progress simply stalls, with no reduction in the ability to complete Monday’s workouts but an absence of personal records on Fridays, the stress needed to spur progress is probably not being applied on Monday. Often an increase or slight change in Monday’s workout will restore progress. Adding a set is a good idea. Or, holding the total number of reps constant while using more lower-rep sets with a slightly higher weight also works well.
If however, actual regression occurs, not only in Friday’s workout but with staleness carrying over into Monday, then usually the workload on Monday is too high, and residual unrecovered fatigue is creeping in. Possible solutions could be to drop a set or two from the sets across, reduce the work-set weight, or reduce the reps in the work sets – from 5 sets of 5 with 300 pounds to 5 sets of 3 with 300 for example.
A valuable training tool that fits very well into this template is speed sets, as popularized by Louie Simmons in his Westside method. High-intensity training, the utilization of a very high percentage of force production capacity, is very productive but difficult to recover from in large doses.
When beginning this type of training, it is normal to continue to use 5 sets of 5 on Monday and replace Friday’s workout with speed sets. usually, you do a 3 week cycle in Westside.
Week 1: 12 sets of 2 reps @ 50% of 1RM
Week 2: 12 sets of 2 reps @ 55% of 1RM
Week 3: 10 sets of 2 reps @ 60% of 1RM
this cycle is then repeated many many times.
The object is to really explode under the bar and complete each set as quickly as possible. It is normal to take 2 to 3 workouts to get adjusted to this system. If even the last rep of the last set slows down, the weight is too heavy. In fact, the first time this workout is used, the last set of 3 should be noticeably faster than the first. The speed workout is substituted for the PR workout on Friday, with the high volume workout remaining as the primary stressor on Monday.
The Texas Model works in 3 sessions:
High Volume / Moderate Intensity Session
Low Volume / Low Intensity Session
Low Volume / High Intensity Session
In summary, this is how it is outlined:
High Volume / High Intensity Session
Squats 5 sets of 5 reps across
Bench Press 5 sets of 5 reps across
JS Rows / Power Cleans 5 sets of 5 reps across
Low Volume / Low Intensity Session
Squats 2 sets of 5 reps @ 80% of Monday
Press 3 sets of 5 reps
Deadlift 1 set of 5 reps
Low Volume / High Intensity Session
Squats 1 set of 5 new PR
Bench Press 1 set of 5 new PR
Pull-ups 3 sets to failure
The last program is a mere example and can be modified in many many ways.
That is It, There is Nothing More To It
Keep in mind that the above explanation for the why the program is not my doing, nor do I endorse any of the reasoning given. However, what you see is what you get.
Texas Method eBook and Advanced Texas Method
A few years after the hey-dey of the Texas Method (so I thought) it came to my attention that there was an individual selling an eBook explaining and outlining templates for the Texas Method. And charging for it. Apparently putting 5×5’s into books is a big thing. We have Stronglifts and we have numerous sites promising to explain the ever mysterious 5×5 varieties. Things always get ridiculous in the scumbag world of fitness and strength.
If I actually sat down to write 50 to 100 pages on a 5×5 I’d have to do it while either flogging myself or biting my cheeks to keep from ROFLMAO every few minutes..depending on my mood at the time. How many charts and images would it take?
The 5×5 is not FLEXIBLE enough to need that much explanation even the ever popular Texas Method. And as far advanced Texas Method programs, there is no way to modify this program in a way that could be honestly classified as more advanced. Such claims are made up nonsense. I know. As I already mentioned, I am the guy who actually wrote down the ‘template’ that has been popularized through bodybuilding.com and beyond. Since then there have been many other iterations but as they say, you cannot polish a turd. Well, apparently you can but nobody should mistake it for a diamond.
The reason that people require an explanation about the Texas Method, besides the fact that PP really doesn’t give a template, is that the explanations given for it create expectations that do not pan out in the real world. You can explain “how to do it” in one page but you need many pages to qualify it and explain what to do when it doesn’t work, which is most of the time for most trainees.
Here, we are talking about an eBook with 60 pages or thereabouts. Such a book is ridiculous. These types of things, like the TM, are something you visit. You do NOT live there! You don’t need a friggin book to learn all the ins and outs of the TM. If you are in a place where you think it might work, give it a run until it stops working. And then move the heck on. You want to know how to run it? You can use the information given here on this page or just about any damned bodybuilding or strength training forum in existence and ask. It’ll be free.
I am really sick and tired of the never-ending crusades to try to make programs into fitness principles and get them to just run and run and run. The day when a whole book is required to explain a cookie cutter method is when cookies jump out of the oven and run around with all the villagers chasing them.
The TM is actually more “effective” in its organization than other 5×5’s, but it is still middle of the road and like the other popular 5×5’s, Madcow’s (Bill Starr Power) and Stronglifts it has the tendency to make trainees think they are ‘working hard’ by virtue of the ever-expanding workload. You feel like you are working hard and you feel badass. The trap is the naive insistence that this method can magically dissipate fatigue because you insert a light day in the middle.
Not only are there books but there are people out there trying to apply theory to all this and try to fit in with ideas in Russian Periodization. It is very ironic.
For instance, people are saying that it is not linear progression because the load changes during the week. Linear progression is a particularly popular piece of bullshit jargon. All “progression” is linear. You cannot “progress” in a non-linear way. As a term, it is completely meaningless. Whether the “progression” comes about because you load the bar “linearly” putting 5 pounds or so on every session or whether the progression comes about from training that does not involve linear loading…the progression itself is linear. Linear loading would be a better term to describe the actual practice if you wanted to coin one.
Linear periodization in a completely different thing yet some people seem to get these mixed up. Linear periodization is just moving from higher reps lighter loads down to lower reps heavier loads in a linear, step-wise, fashion.
But going by PP’s definition, yes, the TM uses linear progression from week to week. Monday to Monday is linear progression. As far as Friday, well Friday is a friggin mess. Saving your heavy day for the end of the week after you just did a progressively loaded 5×5 session with the lift on Monday is absolutely backward if your primary concern is strength performance. However, keep in mind that this is a middle-of-the-road approach to mass and strength, meaning it is not great for either if either is your primary concern. If you belive the explanation, that that the 5×5 will just automatically result in a “PR” on Friday you’ll think it’s great. If you don’t believe that, you’ll have a mess and wonder what the hell you are doing and maybe need a long eBook to explain it to you.
Why Do People Fall For This 5×5 Nonsense?
Since 5×5’s don’t seem to work for most trainees for very long, but they keep coming back again and again, there must be a reason. There is. Clever marketing. The strength training culture has created the expectation of secret ingredients and tweaks that, if you just knew what they were, would solve all your problems and open up the door to strength gains that has been closed to you since you began training. Even if the program is not working, once you have the secret, you’ll be the strongest guy in the room!
There are two different scenarios, both of them designed to make repeat customers.
The idea that if the tool doesn’t work it is the tool user’s fault is what drives the fitness money making machine. It’s particularly manipulative because a trainee is typically given a program which they are told to absolutely not modify or “mess with” and then when the program fails they are told they are not doing it right. The trainee is placed in a limbo, making him or her nothing more than a willing puppet of whatever fitness guru is pulling the strings.
On the other hand you’ve got the idea that there are “secrets” that are just not available to anyone but the “insider” and that these secret details are what makes these programs work..but you must pay extra!
In the first scenario, you’ve got people buying every new product that comes along and following instructions, failing, and then buying the next, all the while thinking it’s their fault none of it works. Makes no sense, but there it is.
On the other hand you’ve got people paying money for explanations into these very same things that were supposed to be so simple and foolproof. The strength training/fitness industry always wins and the consumer always loses.