Texas Method Review
This review is going to center around the well-known Texas Method program. First of all, I want to clarify one point: the Texas Method is more of a template than a true, cookie cutter program. This makes it very difficult to evaluate because there a lot of moving parts. As such, I’m going to focus on the version of the program that has become most popular around the internet.
However, please do note that the new version of Practical Programming spends more than 100 pages discussing possible variations and alterations to the program for a variety of goals including: MMA, weightlifting, football, powerlifting, and a lot more. The book discusses how to progress, when to move to the next “Phase” of the Texas Method, how to incorporate dynamic effort and maximal effort protocols into the program, and so much more. If you’re planning to do this program, the bottom line is that Practical Programming 3rd Edition is mandatory reading. You absolutely will not get the best gains possible without reading through the intermediate program section of that book. If you’re interested in the Texas Method, I highly recommend that you snag a copy of Practical Programming.
If you’d rather watch than read:
The Texas Method: History and Background
As far as I can tell, Olympic Weightlifting Coach Glenn Pendlay was the first person to popularize the Texas Method on the internet. As the legend has it, Glenn, working out of Mark Rippetoe’s Wichita Falls Athletic Club, had his Olympic lifters squatting 5×5 on both Monday and Friday. After hearing one of his lifters moaning and complaining one hot Friday afternoon, he issued him a challenge: if you can squat a PR set of 5, you only have to do one set for the day. The lifter readily agreed, summoned the requisite psychic energy, smashed a PR, and helped give birth to the Texas Method. Instead of 5×5 on both days, the program now called for a PR set of 5 on Fridays.
Now while Pendlay may have initially popularized the program online, it was Mark Rippetoe who first brought it into legitimate publication in Practical Programming. Because of the enormous success and following of his novice program, Starting Strength, many trainees were inclined to also use the intermediate program he was recommending. From there, the Texas Method really took off.
This all said, it is important to keep in mind that the Texas Method was birthed, primarily, in the training of Olympic lifters and general strength athletes – Glenn and Rip’s primary clientele at the time. Like I said before, the program is more of a template, but the reality is that all versions of that template seem to include power cleans and an extremely high ratio of squat volume to deadlift volume. This is for two reasons: a) Rip buys into the idea that deadlifts are so hard to recover from that you shouldn’t perform them for volume and b) the program is not explicitly aimed at powerlifters who need to maximize their deadlift strength for competitive success.
The Texas Method Program
Unlike Madcow’s, the Texas Method is brutally simplistic.
Texas Method: Explanation
Without delving too much into the specific programming, the idea behind the Texas Method is that Monday serves as the “volume” stimulus (aka “Volume Day”), Wednesday is a lighter day which prevents detraining but allows for more recovery (aka “Recovery Day”), and by Friday you’re recovered and ready to smash a new PR (“Intensity Day”). Each week, you’re supposed to go through, and fully complete, a stress-recovery-adaptation cycle. You’re not supposed to accumulate fatigue on the Texas Method in the way that you do on Madcow’s. The program is intended to be run in the long term, week after week.
Texas Method: Progression Protocol
The progression on the Texas Method is incredibly simple. You simply add 5lbs to each Friday top set per week. Because the bench and press alternate, this works out to 2.5lbs/week on the upperbody exercises and 5lbs/week on the lower body movements.
The Texas Method is very easily adapted to a competitive schedule. In fact, if you wanted, you could compete with virtually no changes whatsoever. All you’d have to do is skip your Friday workout and then compete on Saturday. Remember, the entire idea behind this program is that you’re fully recovered and stronger by each Friday.
That said, because you never know when you might stall, and fatigue tends to accumulate even when it isn’t supposed to in theory, it is a good idea to take a light week before a meet.
Here’s what it would look like:
All you have to do is change volume day from 5×5 to 3×[email protected]~90% of whatever your last volume day was. For example, if you did 405x5x5 last week for volume day, and this week was meet week, you would do only 365x5x3 on volume day this time around.
This is going to allow any accumulated fatigue to mostly dissipate and you’ll receive a performance boost come game day at the meet.
The Texas Method does not employ periodization in the sense that there are specific periods focusing on hypertrophy, technique, strength, the bench, the squat, or the deadlift. It doesn’t even vary volume from week to week. The program is a true, blue intermediate program.
The programming behind the Texas Method is devastatingly simple and effective. Unlike most advanced programs, which have you spending a few weeks accumulating volume, a few weeks recovering, and then a few weeks trying to set new PRs, the Texas Method squeezes the entire process inside of a single week. So, each training week is a full mesocycle and each training session represents a distinct microcycle: Monday – Volume Day; Wednesday – Recovery Day; and, Friday – Intensity day.
This variation in volume from workout to workout is literally perfect for the new intermediate trainee. It just isn’t necessary for them to introduce variations from week to week just yet. Eventually it will be, but not in the early stages of intermediate training. In my opinion, this makes the overall programmatic structure of the Texas Method about as good as it gets for that particular demographic.
The biggest failing of the Texas Method is specificity. As we’ve covered elsewhere, in my opinion power cleans are a silly addition to a powerlifting program. In a sport where rate of force production basically doesn’t matter (you can lift as slow as you want so long as you complete the lift), doing three times more power clean volume than deadlift volume just doesn’t make sense. Additionally, the 1:1 overhead press to bench ratio is an incredibly bad idea for an aspiring powerlifter.
Beyond those issues, which are typical of all Rippetoe programs, we see that the program features 20 “pulling” reps per week (15 on the power clean and 5 on the deadlift), but features 40 squats per week. The actual squat to deadlift ratio, in terms of reps, is 8:1. This doesn’t make sense for a competitive powerlifter. The deadlift is too important to deprioritize like that.
Additionally, there is far more lower-body volume than upper-body volume – another issue common to Rippetoean programming. While the lower body receives 60 reps (90-105 if you include GHR), the upper-body receives only 45 reps. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this is fairly backwards. Most people, if anything, need more upper-body volume than lower-body volume to achieve the same levels of fatigue in each respective area of the body. They certainly don’t need LESS upper-body work than lower-body work.
Now, I can already hear you guys saying that most of these issues are readily fixable: substitute power cleans for stiff-leg deadlift or deficit deadlifts, don’t alternate the press and bench, and reduce the squat volume a bit on volume day. Presto! The Texas Method is far improved. Okay true, but that is why I acknowledged this is more of a template than a program at the very beginning. If you want examples of these types of modifications, I highly recommend Practical Programming.
When I release the PowerliftingToWin Intermediate Program, it will be very clear that I drew upon the programmatic structure of the Texas Method to create the base.
The Texas Method employs basic progressive overload. You simply add 5lbs to your top set on Friday every single week. Given the overall structure of the program, and the fact it is aimed primarily at early intermediates, this is perfectly acceptable.
The biggest strength of the Texas Method, in my opinion, is in its fatigue management. As I’ve already outlined, the program condenses the more traditional “block periodization” approach into a single week. Rather than spending a few weeks each in “accumulation” (high volume), deload/transmutation (recovery), and intensification (go for PRs), on the Texas Method, this whole process occurs every single week. This is to accommodate the fact that an early intermediate trainee simply doesn’t need that much time to adapt to a new stimulus; they can still do it weekly.
The programmatic structure of the Texas Method allows for an optimal rate of progress for the early intermediate trainee. You are maximizing the amount of full stress-recovery-adaptation cycles that you go through in a given amount of training time.
Like most programs, the Texas Method almost completely ignores the law of individual differences. If you get Practical Programming, you’ll see that there are certain individual cases where 3×5 is recommended on Volume Day and that different rates of progress are recommended for different demographics. These additions are key because they represent at least SOME attempt to address individual differences.
However, in the end, the program falls short on this particular attribute. Everyone has “bad” days and “good” days. On the Texas Method, you cannot take advantage of this fact. The weights are predetermined, the volumes are predetermined, and you cannot go outside the structure. The reality of training is that everyone needs different levels of volume and everyone makes progress at a different rate. Not only that, but everyone needs different levels of volume and makes progress at a different rate on a week to week basis! The Texas Method does not, and cannot, account for that when used as a percentage base program.
In the PowerliftingToWin Intermediate Program, I’m going to show you how to rectify this issue and turn the Texas Method into a fully-fledged, autoregulated program. If you want a sneak peak, PowerliftingToWin member Dan Lee has already provided a basic autoregulated Texas Method template on the PowerliftingToWin forums.
Overall, I think there are aspects of the Texas Method that are unsurpassed by other intermediate programs. Namely, the overall programmatic structure is ideal for the intermediate trainee. You’re going to maximize your rate of progress using this schematic. The program lends itself well to both peaking for a meet and long term progress. You can potentially run this very basic program, with only a few adjustments and resets along the way, for a full year or two.
That said, the program needs to be adjusted to better account for specificity and individual differences. The “out-of-the-box” version of the Texas Method simply isn’t ideal. The 1:1 press to bench ratio, the inclusion of power cleans, the upper/lower imbalance, and the squat volume to deadlift volume ratio are all out whack with a true powerlifter’s goals. If you want a head start on how to properly change the program, I’d recommend checking out my review of Mike Tuchscherer’s Reactive Training Systems, reading the RTS+Texas Method thread in the PowerliftingToWin forums, and picking up a copy of the 3rd edition of Practical Programming.
The Texas Method is definitely a very good choice for an intermediate program. As a powerlifter, you should be prepared to make some adjustments to it. In the future, I’ll show you how to do that in the PowerliftingToWin Intermediate Program.