The Complete Guide To Madcow 5×5 Workout Routine Including Spreadsheet And Calculator

bill starr's original madcow 5x5 pictureYou most likely heard of Bill Starr’s 5×5 workout routine. He is the original creator of this program and the nice results that a program like this gives you.

The first time I have heard about madcow 5 x 5 routine/workout, I was doing the starting strength routine and trying to push it as much as I could to get to the next level of strength.

I remember myself doing the Starting Strength routine for more than 8 months in which I gained massive amount of strength but I just had enough. I wanted something different and not so “plain” and just the same thing week after week.

Introducing Madcow 5×5 Workout Routine

Madcow was a person just like me and you who was active on powerlifting and on some bodybuilding forums.

He started publishing this 5×5 routine on a well known free hosting platform named geocities but his website disappeared in October 2009 after a good 5 years of being up and providing this quality training material.

After you will learn everything about this method of training, if you are familiar with the Texas Method, you will see that they are very similar.

It is mainly tailored for intermediate users who have the feeling of the weights and also possess at least 6 months of training under their belt.

If it happens for you to be in the situation in which your progress slowed down and you don’t know what to do, you came into the right place.

How Madcow 5×5 Routine Works

I will begin by saying that this is a very simple intermediate program that goes by the principles of linear progression which I really like and  hope I’ll do a good job in putting every aspect of the madcow 5×5 training “down on paper”.

This is the exact program that you will be following for the next weeks/months:

madcow 5x5 routine explained picture

The only thing that you will do on this program is to take your current 5 repetition maxes and try to get them higher by increasing the weight that you are lifting, in a steady manner over the weeks.

This is not a 8-9-10 week program , the 9 week example in the excel file is just showing you how the progression is being made.

You can use this program for as long as you are making progressions steadly.

A First Look At The Madcow 5 x 5 Routine Spreadsheet Linear Progression

NOTE: Before beginning this program, you must know your current 1 or 5 rep max because it’s needed for the planning of the progression aspect of training. If you don’t know them, you can take an easy approach to find the rep maxes by testing your strength in the gym (maintaining a good form) by either testing your 1 rep max and then using a calculator to get your 5 rep max OR get the more flexible approach: begin lightly and progress as it goes.

madcow 5x5 spreadsheet

After imputing your current weight for the 5 repetition maxes, the madcow 5×5 spreadsheet file will calculate your progression rate just like in the picture bellow:

visual representation of madcow 5x5 routine

If you take a look at the excel sheet, your will see that the first 3 weeks of the madcow 5×5 program are done with submaximal weights and you will work up to your current weights in the week  4 of training.

If we look at the numbers in the sheet, the weekly progression is approximately 2.5% increase each and every week until we get to a plateau.

So for example if Monday you are doing 200 lbs x 5 reps, on Friday you should strive to get a triple with 2.5% more which is 205 lbs and so on.

How Do I Get Started With Madcow 5×5 Workout?

  1. Figure your 5 rep max
  2. Put it to the week 4 of the program ( Look at the picture )
  3. Take out 2.5% from the weight and go back until week 1 ( I explained in the picture above )
  4. Do the program as listed
  5. Back off as explained when you reach a plateau
  6. Get back to your “week 4” and over it
  7. Profit !

You should take into account that progressing weekly is done if you get the 5 reps that are scheduled. In case you miss those 5 reps, you will keep the weight constant the next week and strive to get the 5 repetitions in the next workout.

Ramping Up The Weights

Here’s the simple explanation: If you bench 100, take 10-12.5 % of that number and go backwards. A good example of what we will have after making some calculations: 10% : 100 lbs x 5 reps the 5th set, 90 x 5, 80 x 5, 70 x 5, 60 x 5.

Assistance Exercises

I know that every one of you want to get the pump work for the ladies but I would suggest you to limit it to the bare minimum. You don’t want to stress your body too much because It’s already stressed from the main lifts.

madcow 5x5 workout progression chart

What makes it a beautiful program is that in case you stall on most of your lifts you can continue working with this program for as long as you take the intelligent path in reusing it.

The intelligent path would be taken by resetting the weight back 2-4 weeks and try to get back to your current lifts and over them.

Remember, I said that if you stall on the majority of your lifts BUT in case you only stall on a single exercise, you can lower the weight back a few weeks and only work with that move by using the progression chart.

Some people might argue that 2.5% increase over the 4th week and so on is too little but picture yourself doing the routine for at least 8 weeks.

After that 4th week in which you get your 5 repetition max (which should be easy and counted as a true PR because the strength adaptation is kicking in so in that 4th week workout you will move that same 5 rep max from 4 weeks ago with ease ).

After 4 more weeks (8 weeks in total) of sticking with this program, you should have increased your weights by 10%.

That’s quite a huge adaptation If you ask me because if you keep doing it and watch your diet, you could progress even further.

If we are to look ahead and imagine 12 weeks into this program, your total increases would be 20% added to your lifts. Impressive isn’t it ?

Rest time

It all depends on your working capacity.  Let’s say it takes 2 minutes to recover between sets. By all means take them.

You should always listen to your body when you are doing the rest time because it knows best of what you are capable of doing. It’s like a biological auto-regulation system which should be listened and even improved if your body recovers too slowly (cardio anywhere ?).

What’s next ?

Imagine yourself doing this program for a long time and notice that something slows down your strength gains. You can’t progress as you used to. The fix would be to reset the weights and take a run with your records, change some exercises and keep milking that linear progression as long as you can.

Good things come to an end because there will be a point where progressing will be slower, you’ll hit a plateau and the next recommended step would be: periodization.

The best advice that I can give you is to stick with it for as long as you can milk it and don’t jump from a program to another like most of the Joes and Janes do , wondering why they are not making any progress.

There’s a saying “Everything works but nothing works forever”.

With that being said, I appreciate that you took the time to read this and if you have any friend/person that might benefit from your share, please share it.

Also, have you heard about the madcow 5×5 workout routine until now ?

If yes, what are your results after using it, and if no, what is your opinion about it?

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Madcow 5×5 Training Program PDF
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  1. Antoine Calvan says:

    Haven’t tried it yet but looked for a good explanation of this program so this is what I needed. thanks florin

  2. Mirabela says:

    I got great results in using this routine back when I wasn’t able to squat 200 lbs. I remember getting to a 400 lbs squat only with this routine! Good tutorial

  3. Do the workouts stay in the same order each week? Example: week 2 do deadlifts workout Monday and Friday and bench workout Wednesday? Just a little confused.

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