Texas Method Training Program: Make it Even Better (and What NOT to Do)

The Texas Method training program (TM) is famed for its effectiveness in intermediate lifters. It was developed by Starting Strength creator Mark Rippetoe to combat the “novice effect,” also known as the “noob gains” phase where lifters just getting started make rapid progress simply by being consistent and choosing compound movements while following a linear periodization plan.

Note: if you want to skip the background information and get straight to the program, scroll down. Additionally, if you have questions be sure to check the frequently asked questions section (FAQ) at the conclusion of this article.

Broken down further, the novice effect is seen when new gym-goers are able to add 5-10 pounds to their squat and deadlift every single workout. In a similar fashion they are able to add 1-5 pounds on their bench press each and every training session. On top of that, it doesn’t take much accessory work or auxiliary exercises at all to keep the gravy train gains coming. If you are reading this article, chances are you have seen first-hand just how quickly progress is made in the beginning with consistency and dedication—but you’ve also seen how this doesn’t last forever.

In simplest terms, the bigger and stronger you get, the harder it will be to make progress. The workouts that elite lifters complete to keep the progress rolling make even an intermediate lifter’s training look like child’s play. The TM knows this and helps beginners transition into a more optimized way of lifting.

Mark says a lifter is intermediate or advanced after 1.5-2 years of training but this is a gross oversimplification and is not a true way to gauge how adept a lifter is.

On the contrary, the answer is very simple: if linear periodization no longer works, you are now an intermediate lifter—congratulations your workouts just got a lot harder! (but don’t worry—this is a good thing and means you’ve gotten much bigger and stronger than when you started)

And his comments on being advanced after two years are simply laughable. Becoming an elite athlete in any sport requires much longer than 2 years. At the end of the day this is just splitting hairs—who cares what “classification” you fall under? As long as you are making progress, that’s what counts. And the TM is designed specifically to keep that progress coming after your noob gains dry up.

But before diving into the widespread powerlifting program, there are a few things to be aware of.

  • Beginner lifters are able to progress rapidly using a simple linear periodization approach found novice programs like Ice Cream Fitness or Greyskull LP (GSLP)
  • As a lifter continues to spend time in the gym and makes substantial progress, his or her results will begin to slow. At this point, programming and recovery must be viewed in a much more systematic manner.
  • The Texas Method works to balance intensity and volume in an intelligent way so that intermediate lifters can continue to progress over an extended period of time without needing to make dramatic changes or follow an advanced program.
  • To accomplish this balancing act, the TM is comprised of three days of lifting per week: a high intensity day, a high volume day, and an active recovery day.

How did the TM Come About?

Legend has it that the TM was formed through a challenge made by Glenn Pendlay, an internationally-acclaimed Olympic weightlifting coach that trained athletes at Mark’s gym and athletic club in Wichita Falls, Texas—hence where the name of the plan comes from.

One of his athletes began to complain about the amount of volume for the day as their group worked through the planned 5×5 workout for squats. Glenn made a deal with him—if he could hit a new personal record (PR) on a set of 5, he would only have to complete one set for the day and could skip the other 4. Naturally, he took Glenn up on his offer and proceeded to set a new PR.

The Texas Method in its infancy was born.

Henceforth, Glenn’s athletes no longer had to do 25 total reps for the given workout and simply had to hit a new 5-rep-max personal best.

Mark Rippetoe would go on to use this concept as the foundation for TM, which he outlined in the Texas method book, Practical Programming for Strength Training. The book naturally gained a lot of steam and attention due to Mark’s already-famous Starting Strength program—it provided intermediate lifters who had already exhausted their noob gains to continue progressing in an efficient and quick manner.

Interestingly, TM is a unique take on block periodization. In most cases, this style of periodization is done over several weeks where strength athletes focus on building work capacity and volume, slowly move into heavier weights, and end with a maximum-intensity phase that optimizes their top-end strength output (the Juggernaut Method is a perfect example of this—designed for upper-level intermediate and advanced lifters).

Instead, the TM condenses this all into one microcycle (also known as a week—but read the muscle and strength guide if you don’t recognize this term, you will learn a lot). Instead of spending several weeks on each phase, lifters are taken through a high-volume and high-intensity workout within the course of a few days—along with an active recovery day added in for good measure.

Another unique aspect about the TM is that it has no rigid timeline structure. You can choose to use the program for 2 weeks or 2 years (though that is likely not an effective use of your time). This makes it a perfect option if you need to fill an odd week here or there with effective training without committing to a larger, more detailed and thought-out plan.

The Texas Method Training Program

It is recommended that you read the entire article to get a firm understanding of the why behind what you are doing. If you are short on time or are simply looking for the plan outline, the spreadsheet is listed below.

Texas Method Spreadsheet

Texas Method Spreadsheet

Outlined earlier, the program includes three workouts per week—all dedicated to the compound movements that provide the most amount of stimulus for the recovery resources they utilize.

What exactly does this mean?

For any given exercise that you complete, your body must devote a finite amount of recovery resources to healing up and repairing the damaged muscle tissue. The 80/20 rule, or pareto principle, is in full effect here. While both lat pull-downs and deadlifts will work your lats, deadlifts clearly provide way more stimulus. And because you don’t have an infinite amount of recovery resources (hormones, proteins, carbohydrates, etc.) the absolute best way to maximize progress is to spend those resources on the lifts that produce the most stimulus to your muscles and nervous system:

Also mentioned earlier, the week is split between a high-volume day, a high-intensity day, and an active recovery workout to help allow your body to recover without allowing you to stagnate.

While the workouts are usually completed on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday feel free to adjust the days to fit your unique schedule or personal preferences. If you do this, however, just make sure that each workout is followed by a rest day—in other words, don’t workout 3 days in a row as that defeats the purpose of how the plan is structured.

Furthermore, the percentages below refer to the percentage of your 5-rep-max (5RM) and not your one-rep-max (1RM). Your 5RM is simply the highest weight you have lifted for 5 consecutive repetitions. For example, if you load up 225 on the barbell and are able to squeeze out 5 reps (and the last rep is a true struggle)—that would be your 5RM.

The plan is split into two weeks—the only difference between the two is that bench press and overhead press are alternated to keep things even.

Week 1:

  • Monday (High Volume):
    • Squat: 5×5 at 90% of your 5RM
    • Bench Press: 5×5 at 90% of your 5RM
    • Deadlift: 1×5 at 90% of your 5RM
  • Wednesday (Active Recovery):
    • Squat: 2×5 at 80% of the weight you completed Monday
    • Overhead Press: 3×5 at 90% of the weight you completed last time you completed OHP
    • Chin-Ups: 3 sets to failure using your bodyweight (as you progress attempt to add weight using a belt)
    • Back Extensions or Glute Ham Raises (GHR): 5×10—simply attempt to do more weight than last time; alternate between the two exercises if you have access to both necessary machines
  • Friday (High Intensity):
    • Squat: following your warm-up go for a new PR on your 5RM
    • Bench Press: following your warm-up go for a new PR on your 5RM
    • Power Cleans or Power Snatch: 5×3 if you choose power cleans and 6×2 if you choose power snatches—instead of alternating from week to week, pick one and stick with it to truly learn the form and become skilled at it (olympic lifts are extremely technical lifts that require a high amount of skill to perform correctly)

Week 2:

  • Monday (High Volume):
    • Squat: 5×5 at 90% of your 5RM
    • Overhead Press: 5×5 at 90% of your 5RM
    • Deadlift: 1×5 at 90% of your 5RM
  • Wednesday (Active Recovery):
    • Squat: 2×5 at 80% of the weight you completed Monday
    • Bench Press: 3×5 at 90% of the weight you completed last time you completed bench press
    • Chin-Ups: 3 sets to failure using your bodyweight (as you progress attempt to add weight using a belt)
    • Back Extensions or Glute Ham Raises (GHR): 5×10—simply attempt to do more weight than last time; alternate between the two exercises if you have access to both necessary machines
  • Friday (High Intensity):
    • Squat: following your warm-up go for a new PR on your 5RM
    • Overhead Press following your warm-up go for a new PR on your 5RM
    • Power Cleans or Power Snatch: 5×3 if you choose power cleans and 6×2 if you choose power snatches

Now it’s time to break down each day in detail to provide further details that are important in getting the most out of the Texas Training Program.

The Texas Method Volume Day

For beginner, intermediate, and advanced lifters alike volume is extremely important for progressing. Studies have concluded with strong confidence that regardless of your style of training (high frequency vs. low frequency) the largest determining factor in increasing strength and lean body mass is volume. The high volume day of the TM understands this and makes sure your body has adequate stimulus to grow. If you aren’t already aware, volume is often defined as sets*repetitions.

Furthermore, 5×5 is ideal even for intermediate lifters because it walks the line between hypertrophy (increased muscle mass) and strength very well. Interestingly, studies point to the fact that sets of 3-5 repetitions are more advantageous for stimulating muscle growth and strength gains in resistance-trained (intermediate) lifters than sets of 10-12 repetitions—a huge hit against the idea that high repetitions are needed to put on size.

If that wasn’t enough, another study confirms that muscle hypertrophy was roughly the same across all repetition ranges, but that strength was only increased efficiently using higher-intensity loads found in sets of 1-5 repetitions.

Bottom line: the Texas Method Training Program is highly optimized for both strength and size.

Mark Rippetoe goes further to explain in his own words that higher repetition sets use weight that is too light and unable to provide adequate stimulus, while extremely heavy weights cause too much structural damage to adequately recover without longer and more advanced rest procedures.

Furthermore, the 5×5 workout should not pin you in the gym for hours on end—you should be able to complete the sets within a reasonable time frame. They should be challenging, but they should not require you to get hyped up and take 10-minute rest periods in between each set. If you are familiar with the concept of RPE (and you should be if you are an intermediate) your sets should fall between 7.5 and 8.5 RPE.

Mark also makes sure to point out that deadlifts are not adapted to this high-volume approach. As you will notice in the program above, only one set of deadlifts is completed on any given day. The reason for this is two-fold:

  • Deadlifts are extremely taxing, especially when done two days per week. The famed Physiqz 8 week powerlifting program includes the option to complete deadlifts twice per week—while it produces insane results in a short period of time, it is not for the faint of heart and truly requires a will and commitment to strength that many are unable, or aren’t willing to put forth. Furthermore this is only truly necessary once you are deadlifting over three times your bodyweight.
  • Deadlift form is already difficult to grasp for many beginner and intermediate lifters (especially sumo deadlifts which require a very high level of technical skill despite the seemingly-simple look from the outside) and this only gets worse when fatigue kicks in. Performing multiple sets of deadlifts, if you aren’t extremely solid in your powerlifting abilities, often leads to form breaking down to a large degree.

While deadlifts are always performed after squats, and thus will not be a “true” indicator of your strength in the lift, they should nonetheless increase from week to week.

If you’ve been paying attention so far you will recognize that Monday’s workout is the toughest of the week. This is done on purpose to allow for ample recovery by Friday—so that you can crush your workout and hit new personal records.

It is also worthwhile to point out that you must be “on-point” with your recovery when it comes to sleep and food, especially around the high-volume workout. Prioritize eating a large amount of carbohydrates both before and after Monday’s training session (this doesn’t mean junk food—eat wholesome carbohydrates that fuel your body with proper nutrition). Additionally, try to get to bed earlier—8 hours or more is truly ideal for healing up. Remember: you don’t gain strength and put on muscle while you’re at the gym—you do when you are sleeping and recovering.

Texas Method Recovery Day

Just like it sounds, Wednesday is dedicated to recovering from Monday’s workout while still providing your body with a muscular and strength-inducing stimulus. If you’ve ever had a busy week and were only able to make it to the gym once or twice you can personally attest to the negative effect it has on your strength. Three days is really the minimum when it comes to both maintaining your progress and growing.

The recovery day is also a perfect time to hit the beach muscles: calves, biceps, and abs.

  • Calves are unique in that they are almost constantly used—when you stand, when you walk, when you reach, when you jump, when you drive, and so many other daily activities. For this reason, they respond well to high frequency and high volume. Perform 3 sets of 30 repetitions. When completing calf exercises take your time and go slow—bouncing up and down on the calf raise machine is as ineffective as it is dumb.
  • Biceps, due to their poor biomechanical positioning, are very hard to truly “kill”. For this reason, they are one of the only body parts that can take a beating 6-7 days per week. Using the recovery day to grow your “arm farm” is perfectly acceptable and helps to keep things exciting. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love doing curls and having big, vascular biceps?
  • Abs are easy to neglect and skip after a heavy set of squats and deadlifts. By devoting time on your recovery day to working your abdominals, you ensure even development and keep yourself from skipping them. If having a slim waistline and a nice v-taper is important for your goals, include vacuums in your rotation of abdominal exercises (arguably the best ab exercise there is).

Additionally, it is a good idea to go through the lower-body mobility exercise list to encourage healthy movement patterns and proper form. As you begin to increase in strength it becomes easier and easier to neglect the structural health of your soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons). By staying ahead of issues before they develop you are able to ensure constant progress and avoid injury. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the key to true long-term results revolves around staying healthy. Ask anyone who has suffered a training injury and they will be the first ones to tell you how much they were set back, and how they wish they would have taken simple precautions towards staying mobile and injury-free.

Texas Method High Intensity Day

The high intensity training session is designed to push you to the max. Each week when you step into the gym on Friday you will be directly competing with the only person that matters—yourself. The goal is simple: to beat the number you hit last week. If you follow the program correctly and give it your all on Monday this shouldn’t be an issue. On the other hand, if you slack off on Monday and don’t take active recovery seriously you will be left disappointed with Friday’s outcome. If you’re reading this, however, there’s a good chance you are extremely motivated and driven to make progress—the high intensity day is your chance to really push yourself and maximize your results.

While squats are prescribed first in the program, if your bench press is lagging or you would like to place emphasis on it, perform it first. This will allow you to go for a new bench press 5RM while you are completely fresh. Just know that you can expect your squat 5RM to be lower than it would have been had you chosen to do it first. Another option is to alternate the order of the lifts to provide a more balanced approach.

Following your attempts on squat and bench press, the TM also includes power cleans and power snatches. These are highly technical lifts and require a great deal of focus to execute correctly. If you are unfamiliar with the form, now is a good time to learn. For example, did you know that the deadlift and power clean starting position are completely different? Don’t make the mistake of performing them incorrectly—you will simply make sub-optimal progress or, more likely, get injured.

Making the Texas Method Workout Even Better for Powerlifting and Strength Training

By now you have a solid understanding of where the plan originated, why it was designed the way it is, and how to execute it effectively. However, there are several areas that the program falls short. While Mark Rippetoe has made tremendous contributions to the strength community, a quick internet search will reveal that relying solely on his advice is not an effective strategy for optimal progress.

In order to create a truly optimal plan, one must draw from a wide range of sources. More importantly, these sources need to be scientifically sound. Furthermore, these sources should walk the talk—while Mark’s accomplishments are nothing to balk at, he is not an elite lifter. By looking to scientific case studies as well as elite lifters who have set world records and continue to push the limit of human genetics, the TM can be improved. With that said, Mark has done an excellent job of laying the foundation.

Without further ado, how can it be made better?

  • Removal of olympic lifts (a.k.a. what not to do): performing power cleans and snatches makes little sense if your goal is to be as strong as humanly possible in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. While developing explosive power makes sense if you are an athlete in a non-strength sport such as football or rugby, it is a poor use of recovery resources for powerlifters and strength athletes. Instead of performing these Olympic lifts, more effort should be dedicated to deadlifts, which leads into the next point.
  • Increase deadlift volume: 10 total repetitions of deadlift each week just isn’t going to cut it if you plan become efficient, skilled, proficient, and strong at performing deadlifts. Ideally, you should perform 3 sets of deadlifts instead of just one set—on both Monday and Friday. However, if this is too difficult then drop the volume of squats down to only three sets instead of five on the high volume day.
  • Changing the ratio of bench press to overhead press: while overhead press is an excellent exercise to encourage holistic upper-body development and strength, performing them just as often as bench press is not ideal for powerlifters. Instead of completing OHP in a 1:1 ratio, complete them in a 1:3 ratio—for every time you overhead press you should bench press three times.
  • Inclusion of undulating periodization: described in depth in our now-famous 6 week strength training program, undulating periodization is the act of varying the amount of volume and intensity performed each week. Instead of constantly doing 5×5, alternate between doing 5×5 and 5×3 each week. This will provide a more effective strength stimulus.
  • Inclusion of conjugate methods: in the most basic terms, this simply means switching up the accessory exercises you perform in order to provide your body with a novel stimulus. Additionally, this is an excellent opportunity to perform exercises based on your weak points. If you aren’t sure where to begin, look here and choose based on your sticking points.

Texas Method Results

Probably one of the biggest questions for anyone considering starting the TM revolves around the sort of results that can be expected. While each individual’s unique training history and genetics will play an enormous factor in determining this, it is helpful to have a rough estimation for anticipated progress.

One user on Reddit outlined his results after completing the TM for one entire year:

  • Squats: 305 -> 455
  • Bench Press: 217.5 -> 305
  • Deadlifts: 325 -> 525

There are some important factors to be aware of when considering his results:

  • He started the program at 28 years of age—roughly the age of a male’s hormonal peak in regards to testosterone (highest level of performance)
  • He completed Starting Strength for 5 months prior to starting the TM but other than that had no previous lifting experience
  • He ran into knee pain issues which he believes held back his squat to some degree (which likely bled into his deadlift as well—squats have a high carry-over to deadlift performance)
  • He modified the program to remove the olympic movements and also switched to undulating periodization as he became stronger and could not progress with strictly sets of 5 on intensity day (how to do this is explained earlier in the article)

The message is clear: if you have a solid base of training under your belt (6-12 months) and are dedicated to putting in the hard work required, you can expect phenomenal results as long as you are also willing to remain flexible and modify the program as needed and described within the other sections of this page.

Texas Method Template FAQ

Q: What if it takes me too long to complete the Monday (high volume) workout?

If you are monitoring your time effectively in the gym and choosing the correct weights (it should be challenging but you shouldn’t need to do a line of nose tork and scream out to your favorite heavy metal album) then the workout should not take any longer than 1.5 hours or so.

If you are truly struggling to complete the workout in a reasonable time, however, you can make a slight change.

Instead of using Wednesday as a recovery day, you can use it as a second volume day. If you do this, keep in mind that you will have to either drop exercises from the recovery day, or split them across both volume days.

Not sure what that looks like in practice? Take a look at the graph below.

Texas Method Variations for decreased volume

Q: What if I’m not able to increase in weight on the high intensity day?

First, make sure your recovery is in check:

  • Are you sleeping enough? 6 hours is the bare minimum—8 hours or more is ideal.
  • Are you eating enough? Make sure you are eating in a caloric surplus—this means eating at least 200-300 calories more than you burn each day. If you do decide to cut down or lose weight, it is perfectly acceptable but be aware that you should not expect to make significant strength gains and should even expect to lose strength. This is the price you pay for cutting down and getting lean.
  • Are you overly stressed? If you are experiencing a remarkably rough time outside of the gym it will undoubtedly affect your strength progress. Take everything in stride and do your best to minimize stress. Easier said than done, but extremely important nonetheless.

If that is covered, resort to undulating periodization which is covered in the section above.

Finally, some lifters find that dropping the intensity to 70-80% instead of 90% helps to keep recovery in check so that consistent progress can be made. More than likely, as you get stronger you will have to resort to this lessened intensity due to the reasons explained earlier.

Q: What if I feel weak on deadlifts every time I get to them?

Instead of completing them on the high volume day, move them to the front of the line on active recovery day and complete them first. If you make this swap, move the chin-ups to Monday and complete them after you finish your squat and bench press sets.

Q: I have a powerlifting meet coming up; should I make any changes to better prepare?

To better prepare and peak for an upcoming meet, the name of the game is increasing specificity. In layman terms, this means doing what you will be doing on competition day: bench press, squats, and deadlifts. There are several changes to make (these changes should happen four weeks before you plan to step on the platform):

  • Drop the overhead press completely and simply bench press instead
  • Instead of completing sets of 5×5, complete sets of 5×3
  • Do two additional sets of deadlifts (complete three sets of five instead of just one set of five)

As the meet approaches, drop the accessory work to focus solely on completing the big three (squats, bench press, deadlifts). This will not only allow you to dedicate your time more efficiently where it matters, but also recover more effectively.

Additionally, on the last week you should take Friday off (if you are competing on Saturday when most meets are held). This should be pretty self-explanatory: you want to be fully rested and prepared to dominate when you step onto the platform.

Q: What if I want to train four days per week instead of just three?

If your goal is to train four days per week in order to shorten the workouts and better fit your schedule, simply moving things around some is a solid choice.

  • Monday:
    • Squat: 5×5 at 90% of your 5RM
    • Deadlift: 1×5 at 90% of your 5RM
  • Tuesday:
    • Bench Press: 5×5 at 90% of your 5RM
    • Chin-Ups: 3 sets to failure using your bodyweight (as you progress attempt to add weight using a belt)
  • Thursday:
    • Squat: 2×5 at 80% of the weight you completed Monday
    • Overhead Press: 3×5 at 90% of the weight you completed last time you completed OHP
    • Back Extensions or Glute Ham Raises (GHR): 5×10—simply attempt to do more weight than last time; alternate between the two exercises if you have access to both necessary machines
  • Friday (High Intensity):
    • Squat: following your warm-up go for a new PR on your 5RM
    • Bench Press: following your warm-up go for a new PR on your 5RM
    • Power Cleans or Power Snatch: 5×3 if you choose power cleans and 6×2 if you choose power snatches—instead of alternating from week to week, pick one and stick with it to truly learn the form and become skilled at it (olympic lifts are extremely technical lifts that require a high amount of skill to perform correctly)

If you are looking to train four days per week with the goal of progressing faster, however, it is recommended that you use Jason Blaha’s Intermediate Program. This will allow you to train four days per week while also accommodating for more accessory work leading to greater hypertrophy gains (more muscle mass).

Q: What if I am an athlete and a sportsman? Should any changes be made if I play xyz sport?

If you are looking for a very focused and dedicated version of the TM to accommodate your specific athletic endeavors, Mark’s book Practical Programming is worth your investment—it will take you through a plan designed specifically for your sport, guiding you every step of the way. Additionally, it includes details on how to make the TM even more “advanced” which provides a nice alternative to undulating periodization if you’re looking to switch things up.

Q: Can I use the Texas Method for bodybuilding?

While the plan can be used if your main goal is hypertrophy and increased muscle mass, it will require extensive alterations as there simply isn’t enough accessory work in the traditional plan. Instead, if you are looking to get the strength-related benefits of the TM and also increased muscle mass from additional exercises, choose a powerbuilding program: