Madcow 5×5 Workout Program

Madcow 5×5 is the workout program which I recommend once you’re no longer making progress on StrongLifts 5×5.

What is Madcow 5×5

The Madcow 5×5 workout is a strength and muscle building program that’s been around for more than two decades.

It consists of compound barbell exercises like Squats, Bench and Rows for 5 sets of 5 reps. You alternate between heavy, light and medium workouts. Between the three workouts you rest one day.

Origins of Madcow 5×5

Several years ago “Madcow” was a user at EliteFitness.com who spent many afternoons on the phone with Olympic coach Glenn Pendlay.

In 2005 Madcow wrote everything he learned on the defunct Geocities. 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.

Madcow 5×5 vs StrongLifts 5×5

With Madcow 5×5 you still do all exercises of StrongLifts 5×5 incl the 3x/week Squats. You still do three workouts a week. You still do sets of five. So everything is familiar.

However there are three main differences:

  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. 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.

How Madcow 5×5 Works

On Madcow 5×5 you alternate between heavy, light and medium workouts.

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 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.

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.

When to switch to Madcow 5×5?

Switch to Madcow 5×5 when you’re stuck or bored with Stronglifts 5×5.

If your Squat has been stuck at the same weight for say a month, then switch to Madcow 5×5.

If you’re tired of Squatting heavy three times a week, switch to Madcow 5×5. It has a light Squat day in the middle of the week.

Madcow 5×5 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.

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