Madcow 5×5: The Most Effective Workout for Intermediate Lifters

Madcow 5×5 is the training program which I recommend you to do once you’re no longer making progress on your Squats with StrongLifts 5×5. It’s aimed at intermediate lifters.

When to switch from StrongLifts 5×5 to Madcow 5×5 depends on your body-weight and age. A 30y old guy weighing around 200lb will usually have to switch after reaching the 300lb Squat. The lighter/heavier you are, the sooner/later the switch to Madcow.


Origins of Madcow.
 Several years ago “Madcow” was a user at EliteFitness.com who spent many afternoons on the phone with Olympic coach Glenn Pendlay MS. In 2005 he began publishing everything he learned on the defunct Geocities (backup of the website here). Nobody knows who he was, he seemed to have disappeared from all the forums he visited around mid 2007.

The 2 most important works of Madcow were his Intermediate and Advanced training programs. It’s his intermediate training program that is now commonly known as Madcow 5×5. The program is similar to the Texas Method since Madcow spent a lot of time on the phone with the creator of the Texas Method – coach Glenn Pendlay MS himself.


Madcow vs. StrongLifts 5×5.
With Madcow you’ll still do all exercises of StrongLifts 5×5 incl the 3x/week Squats. But because you are now an intermediate lifter moving bigger weights, the program introduces 3 modifications to optimize recovery from the increasingly stressful workouts (recovery is vital for strength gains)…

  1. No more 5 sets of 5 with the same weight. Instead you’ll do ramped up sets: increase your weight every set like when you warm-up and finish with a heavy set of 5 reps (1×5). Ramped up sets are easier than 5×5 across, especially since you should now be Squatting around 300lb.
  2. No more workout to workout increases. You’ll no longer add weight 3x/week because your body doesn’t recover that fast anymore once at the intermediate level. Instead you’ll increase the weight on a weekly basis – every week you’ll lift 5lb more than the previous week.
  3. No more heavy Squats 3x/week. Wednesday is a light Squat day where you’ll be Squatting less weight than on Monday and Friday. This light day provides you extra physical and mental recovery for Friday’s workout.

Realize that none of the above modifications will benefit you unless you are an intermediate lifter. You’ll always gain strength faster on StrongLifts 5×5 because there the weight increases by 5lb 3x/week. Forget about boosting your Squat by 120lb in only 8 weeks with Madcow. 10lb per month on your Squat is more realistic. If that doesn’t sound much, realize that it’s still 120lb in 1 year.


How Madcow Works.
Remember 1×5 stand for ramped up sets – 4 sets of 5 reps with the weight increasing until you reach your last heavy set of 5. Here’s the template that I recommend you to follow…

MondayWednesdayFriday
Squat 1x5Squat 2x5Squat 1x3
Bench Press 1x5Overhead Press 1x5Bench Press 1x3
Barbell Rows 1x5Deadlift 1x5 1x5Barbell Rows 1x3

The 2×5 Squats on Wednesday is lighter than on Monday for recovery. The 1×3 on Friday is also ramped up – 4 sets of 5 reps with the weight increasing, then a heavy triple. This is followed by a light back-off set of 8 reps.

To choose your starting weight, just insert your numbers into the excel file, you’ll automatically know how much to lift every workout, for each exercise, and on each set.

Free: download the Madcow 5×5 spreadsheet to get 12 weeks of training calculated for you. You’ll know which exercises, weights, sets & reps to do each workout, and how much to start with. Signup to my daily email tips to get the spreadsheet. Just click here.

Remember starting too light is better than too heavy – let it be easy the first weeks, focus on technique and speed, and only aim to break PRs starting week 4. For more information, read Madcow’s original guide here.


Madcow Success Stories.
First StrongLifts Member James G. (42y, USA) who did Madcow for 5 months. James Deadlifts 520lb today.

Next StrongLifts Member Vlad (39y, Denmark), one of my ex-private clients who did Madcow for 20 weeks after 6 months of SL5x5. Vlad Deadlifts 550lb today.

Finally StrongLifts Member Lucas (24y, Netherlands) who did Madcow 3 months. This was his 2nd round, Lucas made the mistake of starting with Madcow the first time when he was only Squatting 50kg instead of beginning with StrongLifts 5×5. Don’t make the same mistake. His gains the 2nd round…

  • Body-weight: 79kg to 84kg (+5kg)
  • Squat: 130kg to 150kg (+20kg)
  • Deadlift: 150kg to 160kg (+10kg)
  • Bench Press: 90kg to 97,5kg (+7,5kg)

Obviously Madcow works or it wouldn’t be such a popular training program. I highly recommend you to give i  a try once you’re no longer gaining strength with StrongLifts 5×5. Don’t forget to send me your success story after at least 3 months (ideally 5).

Signup to my daily email tips to get Madcow 5×5 spreadsheet. Just click here.