This is the perfect program if you got stuck in your early progress. When you start lifting weights you easily add more load to the barbell every singel workout. After a while all the newbie gains are gone and you need to start training a bit differently. Thats when Madcow 5×5 come into the picture!
Madcow 5×5 is a strength gaining program. You will see gains in muscles mass but the main focus in strength. You will train three times per week and the workouts will differ from each other. Every week you should try to increase the load on the barbell. Beginner programs such as Starting Strength ad more weight every workout and more advanced programs such as Wendler 5/3/1 ad load on a monthly basis. Madcow is in the area between these two. You are still gaining fast as an intermediate lifter but not as fast as a beginner and not as slow as an advanced.
The program was designed by the alias Madcow on an internet forum who changed the classical 5×5 made by Bill Starr. Madcow removed all the complicated olympic lift and made a program for regular lifters. In the beginning the program was designed for both muscle gains and strength but time has shown that it is best used for strength.
The program uses the big heavy compound exercises Squats, Bench Press, Military Presses and Barbell Rows. In the workouts you also use ascending sets. You start pretty soft and then you ad more weight for every single set, you therefor usually do the hardest set in the end of every exercise. The only exception to this is the volume set in the last workout.
The load is based on your 5RM, that is the maximum weight you can lift 5 times with good form.
Three workouts per week:
- In the first workout you do 5 sets with 5 reps each. You start off with 50% of you 5RM and increase until 95%.
- The second workout is a bit softer. You only do 4 sets and the weight varies from 50% to 90%. Except for deadlift were you do 50, 60,70 and at last 70%.
- The third workout is the hardest and it is also divided into three parts. 4 ascending sets, one 3 rep maximum and then a volume set in the end. See the workout below for the division and weights.
Load, progression and number of weeks
If you manage to do all sets and reps you should raise the load with 2,5 kilos for upper body and 5 kilos for lower body exercises. Madcow is not limited by a set amount of weeks. Just keep on going as long has you have good gains although it is a good idea to have a recovery week with just easy workouts now and then.