12 Ways To Skin The Texas Method

Jordan Feigenbaum
February 24, 2015
Reading Time: 12 minutes
Table of Contents

    By Jordan Feigenbaum

    The Texas Method may be one of the most popular intermediate training programs in existence. Developed by happenstance in Texas (duh) and popularized as a follow-up program to Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength Novice Progression (seen here), it’s based on a three-day split that is originally structured as follows:

    Week 1Day 1 (Volume Day)Day 2 (Light Day)Day 3 (Intensity Day)
     Squat x 5 x 5
    Bench x 5 x 5
    Deadlift x 5 x 1
    Squat x 5 x 2 @ 80% of Day 1
    Press x 5 x 3
    Chins x max reps x 3
    Back Extensions x 12-15 x 3
    Squat x 5RM
    Bench x 3RM
    Power Clean x 3 x 5
    Week 2Day 1 (VD)Day 2 (LD)Day 3 (ID)
     Squat x 5 x 5
    Press x 5 x 5
    Deadlift x 5 x 1
    Squat x 5 x 2 @ 80% of Day 1
    Bench Press x 5 x 3 @90% of last week’s Day 1
    Chins x max reps x 3
    Back Extensions x 12-15 x 3
    Squat x 5RM
    Press x 3RM
    Power Clean x 3 x 5

    Now let me go on record as saying I think the Texas Method, which is abbreviated TM but does not signify Trademark (™), is a great template as written. On the other hand, sometimes it is implemented in suboptimal conditions or is inappropriate for a particular trainee as written. What follows are 12 Ways to Skin the Texas Method, which I have used both personally and professionally. I hope you enjoy!

    1) The Problem: The workout on Day 1 takes too long.

    Solution: Split up Volume Day (VD)

    Rationale: Perhaps one of the biggest gripes people have with TM is that day one can take too long; especially as the 5×5 sets get very heavy. One easy way to circumvent this is to split up volume day into two separate days. There has been some who suggest that the 5×5 squat causing enough fatigue to negatively affect the 5×5 bench weights, which leads to the recommendation that the 5×5 bench be done on Day 1 and the 5×5 squat be done on Day 2. That would yield the following:

    Day 1 (Volume Day)Day 2 (Volume Day)Day 3 (Intensity Day)
    Bench x 5 x 5Squat 5×5Squat x 5RM
    Chins x max Reps x 3DL x 5 x 1Bench x 3RM
      Power Clean x 3 x 5

    However, I have not experienced this with others often enough to validate it. Moreover, the act of splitting the volume day in two can complicate what do with the light day’s movements. I chose to maintain the existing frequency and volume vs. eliminating it as in the initial example. Here is my preferred template:

    Week 1Day 1 (Volume Day)Day 2 (Volume Day)Day 3 (Intensity Day)
     Squat x 5 x 5Bench x 5 x 5Squat x 5RM
     Press x 5 x 3DL x 5 x 1Bench x 3RM
     Back ExtensionsChins x max reps x 3Power Clean x 3 x 5
    Week 2Day 1 (Volume Day)Day 2 (Volume Day)Day 3 (Intensity Day)
     Squat x 5 x 5Press x 5 x 5Squat x 5RM
     Bench x 5 x 3 @ 90% of last week’s day 2)DL x 5 x 1Press x 3 RM
     Back ExtensionsChins x max reps x 3Power Clean x 3 x 5

    2) The Problem: My Intensity Day (ID) weights aren’t going up.

    Solution: Alter the rep ranges.

    Rationale: At some point, most people are no longer going to be able to sustain a linear progression that is organized around weekly increases in intensity (load) with the same rep scheme. I’ve found that periodizing TM works pretty well for lots of folks before needed to adjust even more variables. This sort of approach is more appropriate for those who’ve been using TM for awhile and need to change something to keep their progress moving. In other words, this is not for people just getting done with their novice progression. Here’s what it might look like:

     Volume Day (Reps x sets)Light day (reps x sets)Intensity Day (reps x sets)
    Week 15×55×25 x 1 RM
    Week 25×55×25 x 1 RM
    Week 35×55×24 x 1 RM
    Week 44×55×24 x 1 RM
    Week 54×53×33 x 1 RM
    Week 63×53×33 x 1 RM
    Week 73×53×35 x 1*
    Week 83×43×35 x 1*

    A few notes about how to approach deadlifting, day 2 pressing,  weight increases, and what to do after week 8. Deadlifts are still done on day 1 in this approach for a single set of 5,4, or 3 based on the rep prescription listed. Weight should be added to the bar each week under optimal conditions. Day 2’s pressing volume is indicated as above and it’s intensity (load) remains 90% of the previous volume day’s bench work or +2.5-5lbs from the previous volume day for the press. Weight increases, in general, should occur on intensity day across the board with 2.5-5lbs being used on bench and press variants (from previous ID weights) and 5-10lbs on squats. After week 8, I recommend taking 10-15% off the bar and starting over again at week 1. The jumps made between each week on both VD and ID are pending the lifter’s recovery, so if a bigger deload is required that can be accommodated for too.

    *1×5= Five singles across (same weight)

    3) The Problem: I always feel terrible when I get to deadlifts at the end of VD.

    Solution: Do deadlifts first on Day 2.

    Rationale: The big issues with getting the deadlift to go up include training volume (not enough), training fatigue management (e.g. how good or bad is your recovery relative to your training stress), and motivation by the time deadlifts come around at the end of a long volume day session. I’ve found that putting people’s deadlifts first on Day 2 (light day) allows them to do the deadlifts in a much fresher state than compared to if they did it after volume day, i.e. fatigue management is better. Additionally, motivation appears to be higher. Volume, as you might have guessed, is the same. Here’s what the template would look like:

     Volume DayLight DayIntensity Day
    Exercise 1SQ x 5 x 5Deadlifts x 5 x 1SQ x 5RM
    Exercise 2BP x 5 x 5Press x 5 x 3BP x 5RM
    Exercise 3Chins x max reps x 3SQ x 5 x 2 @ 80%PC x 5 x 3
      Back Extensions 

    4) The Problem: I don’t do power cleans. What should I substitute in for them?

    The solution: Do a deadlift variation like paused deadlifts.

    Rationale: Power cleans might be one of the most-substituted exercises in any of the Starting Strength associated programs, which is a shame because they are wonderful for training rapid force development in an objective way. Additionally, they require a high amount of skill and coordination to perform, which tends to improve motor learning overall in my estimation based on experience and the literature. Still, there are some cases like the following where it’s inappropriate to do power cleans: a person >45 who has never been an athlete and has no desire to learn the power clean, a person with a history of Achille’s injuries, a person who does not have the proper equipment to power clean (e..g a training bar and 2.5kg bumpers) who cannot start with a 20kg or 45lb bar, or a person who has honestly tried to learn the power clean and even sought out coaching, but who just cannot get them down. Still, power cleans do represent some pulling volume within the context of the Texas Method. If we have to abandon them altogether then I’d like to replace them with any one of the following movements for 2-3 sets of 5 reps at a weight that’s challenging, but not a grind. You should also not wear a belt during this accessory lift, unless you have a previous back injury:

    Power Clean Substitutes
    2 count Paused Deadlift (1″ off floor)Tempo Deadlift (3s up, 3s down)
    Halting DLSnatch Grip Deadlift
    Beltless DeadliftDeficit DL (1-2″)

    5) The Problem: Volume Day wrecks me. I cannot recover after it.

    The solution: Make VD more of a Dynamic Effort (DE) day.

    Rationale: 25 reps of squats followed by 25 reps of bench press and 5 reps of a deadlift can be a bear to recover from if they’re heavy and they often are on the Texas Method. If your recovery is compromised from any of the following factors: advancing age, being less male, having poor baseline conditioning (GPP), poor diet, poor sleep, etc. you may find that the way volume day is setup just wrecks you for an entire week. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the template to get strong. Here’s an option to  decrease the total amount of training time VD takes, keep it light enough that you’re fresh for intensity day, and generate enough of a training stress to drive adaptation-theoretically at least. I say theoretically because we’re making the assumption that Texas Method was an appropriate choice for the hypothetical lifter here based on their previous training experience AND that someone will do the protocol correctly. Additionally, it needs to be pointed out that we’re not doing speed work like Westside Barbell advocates, as they tend to suggest 50-60% of a 1RM to be used though it is complicated by the use of bands, chains, weight releasers, etc. Overall, the way this particular template works is by getting the lifter to do volume with enough load to induce a stress that can subsequently be recovered from. Mike T. wrote a great article about why classical “speed work” is really just a ploy for more volume (see here). Finally, Dr. Zourdos et al. have found that speed work can be done up to as high as 90% of a 1RM and optimal power output can be maintained for single-effort athletes, e.g. powerlifters. This may be too many assumptions, however. Still, here’s what it’d look like:

    Day 1Day 2Day 3
    SQ x 2 x 12 EMOM*SQ x 5 x 2**SQ x 5RM
    BP x 3 x 8 EMOM*PR x 5 x 3BP x 5RM
    DL x 1 x 15 every 30 secondsChins x max reps x 3 setsPC x 5 x 3
     Back Extensions 

    *EMOM= every minute on the minute. The loading for the squat and the bench press should be that the weight moves quickly (e.g. not a grinder) but not so fast that it’s easy. It should feel somewhere between 70-80% or so, depending on the individual.

    **The “light squat” on light day usually is at 80% of Day 1’s volume day. However, since volume day is now more dynamic effort it is much lighter than it otherwise would be. I typically recommend either using the same load on Day 2 as was used for Day 1, or 80-90% of it. It should feel pretty easy and it’s good active recovery for a lifter.

    6) The Problem: I’m a powerlifter with a meet coming up. Why should I give press the same priority as bench press?

    The solution: You shouldn’t. My recommendation would be to bench 2x/wk every week, whilst keeping press in on Day 2 as a developmental lift. In other words, the press is not a priority, but you still train it because it helps your overall development.

    The Rationale: If you’re a powerlifter, which by definition means you actually compete or are signed up to compete in a sanctioned meet, then you probably shouldn’t give press the same priority as the bench press. Let me reiterate that again, in order to be “a powerlifter” you actually have to compete. I don’t care how many sumo deadlift videos you have on Instagram or how many histrionic T-shirts you own that let everyone know you’re about the squat life, bro….If you haven’t ever competed in a meet that is judged (or aren’t signed up for one), you’re not a powerlifter and this doesn’t apply to you so move on.

    If you’re still reading, you must actually be a powerlifter then- welcome 🙂 I would advise keeping bench press at 2x/wk, with a volume day on day 1 and an intensity day on day 2. Depending on how advanced you are, you may be able to stick with the 5×5 scheme on VD and the 1×5 scheme on ID for a long time. If you’ve been doing the 5×5/1×5 setup for awhile, you might need to periodize your training a bit (see #2 above). For peaking for a meet, I’d use this:

    5 weeks outDay 1Day 2Day 3
     SQ x 5 x 5SQ x 5 x 2 @ 80%SQ x 5RM
     BP x 5 x 5PR x 5 x 3BP x 5RM
     Power CleansChins & Back ExtensionsDL x 5 x 1
    4 weeks outDay 1Day 2Day 3
     SQ x 4 x 5SQ x 5 x 2 @ 80%Squat x 3RM, 3 x 1 (back off)
     BP x 4 x 5PR x 5 x 3BP x 3RM, 3 x 2 (back offs)
     Power CleansChins & Back ExtensionsDL x 3RM
    3 weeks outDay 1Day 2Day 3
     SQ x 3 x 5SQ x 5 x 2 @ 80%Squat x 3RM, 3 x 1 (back off)
     BP x 3 x 5PR x 5 x 3BP x 3RM, 3 x 2 (back offs)
     Power CleansChins & Back ExtensionsDL x 3RM
    2 weeks outDay 1Day 2Day 3
     SQ x 3 x 3SQ x 5 x 2 @ 80%SQ x 1-1-1 (up to 2nd attempt)
     BP x 3 x 4PR x 5 x 3BP x 1-1-1 (up to 2nd attempt), 3 reps x 1
     Chins & Back Extensions DL x 1-1 (up to opener)
    1 week outDay 1Day 2Day 3
     Squat x 1 @ openerSquat x 2 x 2 @ 80% of Day 1Meet Day
     Bench x 1 @ openerBench x 2 x 2 @ 90% of Day 1 
     DL x 1 @ last warm upChins x max reps x 2 sets 
     *everything is written as reps x sets 

    7) The Problem: I cannot make my VD weights go up every week for 5×5.

    The Solution: Let’s do some pyramid sets to get to a heavier set of 5, but keep the volume the same overall.

    Rationale: The idea on a linear progression like TM is to get more weight on the bar for as long as possible. One way to do that is to set new Rep PR’s for only a single set every week, while still increasing intensity week to week. On Volume day, a lifter would work up to a single set that’s 5lbs heavier than their top set on the previous volume day. The other 4 sets would be somewhere between 90-100% of this weight, depending on how the lifter’s recovery and performance is on that particular day. It might look like this:

    WeekDay 1Day 2Day 3
    1SQ x 5 x 5 @ 300lbsSQ x 5 x 2 @ 240lbsSQ x 5 x 1 @ 315
     Sets across  
    2SQ x 5 @ 275, 295, 305, 295, 290SQ x 5 x 2 @ 240lbsSQ x 5 x 1 @ 320

    8) The Problem: I’m a bodybuilder. I need to train for hypertrophy. Can I use TM?

    The solution: Sure, the template is great- but let’s alter some of the rep prescriptions in order to prioritize more training resources into hypertrophy gainzZz.

    Rationale: Hypertrophy, a topic we’ve covered extensively on this site, is a response to the correct training volume (reps x sets) with an adequate intensity (load) to stimulate the muscle to grow. Training volume and intensity can be achieved via machine and isolation exercises- though in general, they require more volume than their compound exercise counterparts. However, some would argue that doing all compound lifts is more exhausting physically and mentally than doing some compound exercise work, e.g. squat, bench, deadlift, press, and some isolation work. That said, I think the most optimal program for hypertrophy is heavily biased towards the big lifts instead of isolation work for a person training 3x/wk who would like to get 95% of the hypertrophy improvements they’re ever going to get naturally. Still, some variations may be useful to a hypertrophy-focused individual to keep them motivated. Here’s something I’ve used with others:

    Day 1Day 2Day 32x/wk
    Squat x 8 x 5Front Squat x 3 x 3Squat x 5, AMRAP in 15 min*10 min Arm Superset**
    Bench Press x 8 x 5Press x 3 x 3Close Grip Bench x 5, AMRAP in 15 min*10 min Ab work
    Chins x max reps x 3Rows x 9 x 3Deadlift x 5, AMRAP in 15 min*15 min HIIT

    *AMRAP= as many reps as possible. Use the same load you did your heavy set of 5 with, and do as many submaximal sets and reps as you can in the 15 minutes.

    The arm superset just means pick 1 bicep exercise and 1 tricep exercise, do 8-15 reps per exercise and alternate back and forth until your arms fall off. The idea would be to increase the volume over weeks, i.e. add more time to the training in order to accrue more reps and sets.

    9) The Problem: I really want to train 4 days a week. TM is only set up for 3. Help!

    The Solution: Let’s run a four day split.

    The Rationale: Splitting up the training over 4 days can make each session shorter, which really tends to work well with some folks’ preferences and schedules. Here’s what I’d do:

    Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4
    BP x 5 x 5SQ x 5 x 5BP x 5RMSQ x 5 RM
    PR x 8 x 3Power Cleans x 5 x 3Press x 3 x 3DL x 5 x 1
    Chins x max reps x 3Back ExtensionsPull ups x max reps x 3Ab work

    10) The Problem: I don’t know where to plug in some conditioning work since that’s important to me. HALP!

    The Solution: The best days would either be between Days 1 and 2 or after Day 3, as the light day (Day 2) doesn’t really require a ton of immediate recovery and doing some conditioning the day after intensity day could be considered active recovery in addition to still leaving you a day of complete rest before your next volume day.

    For Military folks, training for the PFT can be a pain in the ass when doing a strength program like Texas Method. I have had pretty good success with the following approach:

    Volume DayChins x 7 min AMRAPLight dayOffIntensity Day1 mile run
     Ab work x 7 min AMRAP   1 min max pushup
     HIIT x 20s on/1min 40s off x 7 rounds   1 min max situp
         Rest 5 min, repeat x 1

    11) The Problem: I am a CrossFitter, can I still do Texas Method for my strength work?

    The Solution: Sure, let’s intelligently layer in some skill work and WOD’s to support development of a competitive CrossFit athlete.

    The Rationale: So let’s first make the statement that a competitive CrossFit athlete is defined as a person who will actually compete in a competition and be vying for the win. Sorry, finishing 1412th out of 10,000 people makes you a non-competitive recreational CrossFit participant and your training should reflect your goals when that is taken into context. Furthermore, a competitive CrossFitter needs to be strong on top of having the requisite skills and work capacity that CrossFit tests. Unfortunately, strength programming in most CrossFit gyms is inappropriate almost all of the time unless the coach has an extensive background in actual strength sports and thus, programs his or her lifters accordingly. In any event, let’s assume you’re controlling your own programming and have decided to program for implement a strength program. Here’s how TM might fit into that:

    OffSQ 5×5Bench Press x 5 x 5OffSquat x 5 RMBP x 5RMMobility x 20 min
     15-12-9 For time:3 rounds for time: Deadlift x 5 x 1Max rounds in 12 min:Steady State HR training x 20 min
     Power Clean @ 2255 presses @ 185 30 min Snatch PracticePush Press @ 225 x 3 
     Muscle Ups50 double unders 10 min gymnastic workWeighed Chin up (45#) x 6 
         2 pood KB swing x 9 

    12) The Problem: I am an Olympic Lifter, this doesn’t look like it would work for me. HALP!

    The Solution: Let’s program in more exposure to your competitive lifts and necessary variants like the front squat, for instance. Practice makes perfect, of course, and getting strong makes all the perfect technique more useful on the platform. Here’s how I’ve done Texas Method with an Olympic Lifting bias:

    Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4
    Power Clean x 3 x 5Hang Snatch x 1 x 10 EMOMSquat x 5RMSnatch x 1 up to 3 misses
    Squat x 5 x 5Bench Press x 5 x 3Press x 5 RMClean and Jerk x 1 up to 3 misses
    Press x 5 x 5Front Squat x 3 x 5Rack Jerks x 3 x 3Deadlift x 5 x 1
     *EMOM= every minute on the minute  

    Jordan Feigenbaum, a competitive powerlifter, holds his Bachelors of Science in Biology, a Master’s of Science in Anatomy and Physiology, and is currently pursuing his doctorate in medicine. With a strong anatomy and human physiology background, Jordan is able to provide in-depth instruction and analysis of movement, performance, and exercise technique. Jordan also holds accreditations from many professional training organizations such as the NSCA-CSCS, ACSM-HFS, USAW-Club Coach, and is a staff member for select Starting Strength Seminars. As a competitive powerlifter, Jordan has competition best lifts of a 640 squat, 430 bench press, and 725 deadlift as a 198lb raw lifter.

    Jordan Feigenbaum
    Jordan Feigenbaum
    Jordan Feigenbaum, owner of Barbell Medicine, has an academic background including a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Master of Science in Anatomy and Physiology, and Doctor of Medicine. Jordan also holds accreditations from many professional training organizations including the American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association, USA Weightlifting, CrossFit, and is a former Starting Strength coach and staff member. He’s been coaching folks from all over the world  for over a decade through Barbell Medicine. As a competitive powerlifter, Jordan has competition best lifts of a 640lb squat, 430lb bench press, 275lb overhead press, and 725lb deadlift as a 198lb raw lifter.

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