The first thing former competitive powerlifter and coach Mark Rippetoe wants you to know about the Texas Method is that it’s not for everyone.
“Most people have no business trying the Texas Method because it’s very, very hard,” he says.
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the training program he created. But the man behind Starting Strength also mentions that—if you’re up for the challenge—you can gain some serious size and strength by following the protocol.
What Exactly Is the Texas Method?
The Texas Method is a three-days-per-week training regimen that emphasizes volume on Mondays, active recovery on Wednesdays, and intensity on Fridays. Rippetoe was inspired by an old bench press workout from Canadian strongman Doug Hepburn, in which Hepburn would do 5 heavy 1-rep sets followed by 5 heavy 5-rep sets.
Rippetoe provides this framework as an example of the OG method: If 365 pounds (165.5kg) is your 1-rep max, then those sets of singles would clock in around 335 (152kg). The 5 sets of 5 would then be somewhere in the 285 to 290 pound (129kg to 131kg) range.
“I tried this and found I couldn’t do the singles and then get all 5 sets of 5 with that much weight,” says Rippetoe. “Thirty heavy reps were just too much.” So, he tweaked the workout, placing the bulk of the volume on Monday and moving the 5 singles to Friday. That’s how the Texas Method was born—dubbed as such because Ripptoe lives in Texas, the program is a method, and he doesn’t have any time for nonsense.
The Texas Method focuses on big barbell lifts—squats, bench presses, overhead presses, and deadlifts—plus power cleans and some bodyweight recovery work.
- A. Squat: 5 sets of 5 reps
- B. Bench Press/Overhead Press: 5 sets of 5 reps
- C. Deadlift: 1 set of 5 reps
Each lift on Monday should be 90 percent of your 5-rep max. Alternate between bench press one Monday, and overhead press the next. Note that deadlifts don’t get the 5 x 5 treatment. “Deadlifts are too much,” says Rippetoe. “You’ll never recover if you’re doing 25 reps.”
Between sets, rest as much as you need. That could be five minutes or 15, depending on your training level. The point is to recover fully between sets so that you can knock out the final rep each time.
- A. Squat: 2 sets 5 reps
- B. Bench Press/Overhead Press: 3 sets of 5 reps
- C. Chin-up: 3 sets till failure
- D. Back Extension or Glute-Ham Raise: 5 sets of 10 reps
You’re still doing work on Wednesday, but you’ll go lighter than Monday—and some bodyweight exercises are thrown in for good measure.
Start by squatting at 80 percent of Monday’s load. Here, you’ll see some overhead presses or bench presses (do whichever one you didn’t perform on Monday) at 90 percent of the prior week’s 5 x 5 load. Then bang out chinups to failure and 5 sets of either back extensions or glute-ham raises—dealer’s choice.
- A. Squat: 1 set of 5 reps
- B. Bench Press/Overhead Press: 1 set of 5 reps
- C. Power Clean/Power Snatch: 5 sets of 3 reps / 6 sets of 2 reps
Friday is all about pushing toward a new five-rep max. Warm up as much as needed before you begin. Pick a heavier weight than Monday, but not so heavy that you can’t complete the fifth rep.
For section B, do whichever lift you performed on Monday. You’ll notice that today’s workout skips deadlifts—you won’t see those again until next Monday. Instead, you’ll choose either power cleans or power snatches, two Olympic lifts that increase your explosiveness under the bar. Pick a challenging weight, but make sure that you’ll still be able to lift through the final rep.
Relish Your Days Off
The Texas Method isn’t a workout that allows for much else. In fact, Ripptoe suggests doing as little as possible the other four days of the week. That might come difficult to some, especially gym rats who consider cardio to be an off-day activity.
“On your days off, you should be trying like hell to recover,” says Ripptoe. “This is your training. You’ll be breathing pretty damn hard, so you don’t need to do cardio.”
He notes that he typically advises people follow the Texas Method for six to nine months, which leaves plenty of time for cardio and other exercise before and after the program.
Should You Try the Texas Method?
“This is not a beginner’s workout,” stresses Rippetoe. If you’re new to lifting, he suggests a different approach that follows a classic four-day routine split between upper and lower body. “You should already be strong. It’s once the regular stuff stops working that you do the Texas Method. For the right guy, it works really well.”
All that work requires fuel to feed your furnace. Many people following the Texas Method need to take in around 5,000 calories per day, according to Rippetoe. Between all the training and eating, it’s a commitment.
Your suitability for the method also depends on your goals. If you’re aiming for the prototypical beach body, you might want to find a different split.
“If a guy is primarily worried about his abs, don’t do the Texas Method,” Rippetoe says. “If you are primarily worried about keeping your weight down and will only eat 2,500 calories a day, don’t do the Texas Method. But if you’re trying to get as big and strong as you can, and you’re willing to eat enough, rest enough, and can stay in the gym for two and a half hours each Monday, then the Texas method might just be for you.”
By Kevin Gray