Madcow 5×5 is a excellent program for intermediate lifters transitioning after maxing out linear progression.  Instead of adding weight every training session like in a beginner’s 5×5, the weight increases weekly in Madcow.


Fewer weight increases?!?!  Well, you can’t expect to add 5lbs every session forever, you’d be the world’s strongest lifter in no time if that were the case 😉  


Reaching a point of diminishing returns on gains each session is totally normal and part of maturing as a lifter.  Those newbie gains are now over and it’s time to test your grit as an intermediate lifter when new PRs become more of a struggle to hit.


Fret not though!  This program will help you continue to progress in your quest for superhuman strength.


Here’s the basic template for this 3-day-a-week program:


Monday Wednesday Friday
Squat 5×5- build wt each set Squat 2×5 (75% of last wt from Monday) Squat 4×5 (build), then 1×3
Bench Press 5×5- build wt each set Strict Press or incline Bench Press- 5×5 build wt each set Bench Press 4×5 (build), then 1×3
Bent Over Row 5×5- build wt each set Deadlift 5×5- build wt each set Bent Over Row 4×5 (build), then 1×3



A few more important details about the template above: 1) these do not include your warm up sets, 2) all working sets are building in weight, you’re building weight each set.


Week-to-week Weight Increases

Instead of session to session increases of 5 pounds. You’ll use weekly increases of 5 pounds or 2.5% of your heaviest set. So, which is it, 2.5% or 5lbs?  It depends on the lift. Use your best judgement.


What if I miss or can’t hit my top set?

Just like the beginner 5×5, continuous gains don’t last forever and there will be a point when you miss your top set. Now, if you get stuck early you may just have started too high. When getting started on the program, err on the lighter side to give yourself room to work up.


If you’re only getting stuck on one lift (which is more likely to happen than getting stuck on all of them at once), keep the weight constant for that lift the following week and continue progressing with all others. If you continue to get stuck at that one weight, reset at an even lower weight and begin building up again. Once you start getting stuck on multiple lifts, you may be reaching your personal plateau on this program.  It might be time for a different training stimulus or you may need to look at other areas of your life to optimize your body’s response to training (sleep, nutrition, mobility, etc.).


Ways to optimize strength training

When training for strength, lifting heavy and often is important.  Getting strong isn’t just lifting heavy shit though. Recovery, nutrition, and hydration are all often overlooked. After you graduate from beginner lifter to intermediate, you’re going to need to pay more attention to these factors in order to appease the lifting gods.  Sleep 8-9 hours/day. Eat in a caloric surplus if you want to be big AND strong.


Last point- remember to err on the side of starting light.  Don’t let your ego get in the way. Give the program time to let it do its job and you’ll be lifting heavy in no time. As you start with manageable weight, pay attention to body positioning and bar speed. Maintaining these two components as the weight gets heavy will reinforce proper technique and keep you healthy and strong long-term. Give yourself the best chance to continually make improvements for as long as possible.


Have you done the Madcow 5×5 program?  If so, reply and let me know how it treated you.  How much did your strength go up? I’m collecting numbers on all these programs and am super interested in your experiences.