“Everything’s bigger in Texas” – so they say – and it’s hard to argue when you look at this workout and its results. It might not build you to the size of the Lone Star State but it will make you bigger and stronger than you ever believed you could be. It’ll see you smash PBs regularly and give you the physique – not to mention the confidence – to feel like you would fit among the Dallas Cowboys.
The periodisation programme, commonly known as the Texas Method, was developed by Olympic weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay. It is built on three weekly sessions based around lifting your five-rep max (5RM) in four essential compound lifts: the squat, deadlift, overhead press and bench press. The focus on compound rather than isolation moves allows you to activate more muscles and is perfect for building strength and mass.
Your five-rep max is usually around 85% of your one-rep max – if you attempt to work this out make sure you warm up thoroughly, get a spotter and work your way up to a final heavy single.
Don’t get used to that weight though – this plan will aim to increase your strength rapidly. You’ll look to work through that weight and increase your 5RM.
Don’t rush the sets in this plan as you’re looking to push yourself to build strength. And take longer rest periods of roughly two minutes.
You should aim to have a rest day between workouts. Ideally hit the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday – you’ll need that extra day on the weekend after you attempt to set a new 5RM.
5x5 Workout 1: Volume
Warm up before each move, then lift 90% of your five-rep max (5RM) for a workout that breaks down maximum muscle tissue. Only go for one working set of your 5RM for the deadlift. They’re hard and you won’t be able to recover fully if you do multiple heavy sets, but one will do the trick.
Sets 5 Reps 5 Weight 90% of 5RM
Bench press or overhead press (alternate this each week)
Sets 5 Reps 5 Weight 90% of 5RM
Sets 1 Reps 5 Weight 90% of 5RM – aim to increase this every week
5x5 Workout 2: Recovery
This session is all about recovery – but you still work hard and add exercises that will ensure balanced muscle gains.
Sets 2 Reps 5 Weight 80% of Workout 1
Overhead press (if you bench pressed in workout 1) or bench press (if you overhead pressed in workout 1)
Overhead press: Sets 3 Reps 5 Weight 90% of 5RM
Bench Press: Sets 3 Reps 5 Weight 90% of previous 5x5
Sets 3 Reps To failure
Sets 5 Reps 10 (light barbell)
5x5 Workout 3: Intensity
The aim here is to set a new five-rep max in each move – a 2.5-5% increase is the target. Work out what that is, then work up to it. If you aren’t able to increase your 5RM during this workout, don’t be disheartened. Stick to the same weight for the next workout – one more week with it under your belt could make the difference.
Sets 1 Reps 5 Weight New 5RM
Bench press (if you bench pressed in workout 1) overhead press (if you overhead pressed in workout 1)
Bench press: Sets 1 Reps 5 Weight New 5RM
Overhead press: Sets 1 Reps 5 Weight New 5RM
Sets 5 Reps 3 Weight Relatively light barbell – aim to increase this slightly every week
Armed with your new 5RM, return to workout 1 in the next week of this plan. If you’re fairly new to compound lifts, you’ll make impressive gains with the Texas Method. If you’re more experienced, or follow the plan for a long time, you’ll notice your gains begin to slow and you’ll have to work that much harder to progress. It won’t work forever, but as an introduction to advanced programming it’s perfect.
With your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, rest the bar on the back of your shoulders. With your chest up and core braced, squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Drive back up through your heels to stand.
Hold the bar with a shoulder-width underhand grip, with your arms straight and feet under the bar. Keeping your chest up and back straight, drive through your heels to raise the bar and push your hips forwards to stand tall.
Lie on a flat bench holding the bar with an overhand grip, hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Drive your feet hard into the floor and press the weights straight up powerfully, then lower them slowly to the start position.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the bar with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your core and glutes to keep your balance and press the bar overhead. Lower it until it’s sitting on the top of your chest.
Hold a chin-up bar with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Brace your core and pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, keeping your elbows tucked in close to your body, then lower under control.
Stand holding a barbell on the back of your shoulders, not your neck. Slowly bend forwards at your hips, keeping your legs and back straight. Bend until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, then rise back to the start.
Raise the weight to chest height by powerfully pushing through your heels and driving your hips forwards, keeping the bar close to your body. Quickly drop into a half squat, bring your arms under the bar to catch it on the top of your chest, and stand up. Carefully return the bar to the floor.
Additional reporting by Scott Blake (@Scott_Blakey (opens in new tab))
Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix (opens in new tab). Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.
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