I just started the MadCow program and appreciate the approach to weekly improvements and regimentation - BUT, I'm used to doing 15-18 exercises per workout (3-4 times a week for about 1 1/2 hours) - the list of exercises take me about 20 - 30 minutes to complete.

Has anyone followed this program? and if so, what additional exercises do you do to get the volume?

  • Were you doing a linear progression (SS/SL) before starting Madcow? How heavy do your work sets feel? Sep 18, 2012 at 13:17
  • @Dave - I'm a bit unbalanced: I can 5x squats at 200lbs, 5x bench at 220lbs, 5x dead lifts at 300lbs...they feel slightly heavy, but not crushing Sep 18, 2012 at 16:58
  • Were you doing a linear progression? What made you choose Madcow? How much rest do you take between sets or exercises? What were the 15-18 exercises you did previously? Sep 18, 2012 at 17:30
  • @Dave - I was taking 30-45 seconds between sets. The other exercises were: abs (crunches, ab wheel, etc.), pullups, dips, variations of the main exercise (so, if I did squats, I would then do box squats and maybe front squats) Sep 18, 2012 at 18:02
  • I think this answer could get revived and get some answers, but I think it needs more detail on OP's current situation. Then again, I bet the time of usefulness has passed. Nov 16, 2012 at 4:38

2 Answers 2


I know how you feel. I just switched to Texas Method about 3 weeks ago. It's the original Madcow.

The theory behind these intermediate programs is that you've programmed the load on the bar such that this workout sufficiently disrupts homeostasis. Meaning that, if you've chosen the correct weight, you don't need to do more volume to trigger an adaptation.

Mark Rippetoe's "intermediate" book, "Practical Programming", describes the Texas method in detail in chapter 7. He's also got a quick rundown of the same thing on T-Nation

From the link,

Assistance Work: If it were up to me, I'd limit any assistance exercises to some brief arm work on Monday. I'd also limit any excessive weekend frivolity that might affect the workout... The Texas Method is still very simple in terms of the number of exercises.

The theory behind Texas and Madcow are the same. They were invented by the same people. You can see that Rippetoe takes a clear stance against more volume. If it's too easy to complete the workout, he would suggest upping the weight. Perhaps resting more time between sets on your volume day would allow you to do this. (He recommends "no more than 8-10 minutes" between work sets. That's a huge rest period.) The truth for me is that I can't even do 5x5 90% 1RM. The volume day completely crushes me at 80% 1RM.

The main thing is that you to need to be sufficiently recovered from one Monday to the next so that you can increase the weight. If you can't do that, then you aren't doing the program. If you can do that, then you are following the program. If you can do that even with additional assistance exercises, then I would suggest dropping the assistance exercises and upping the weight. Even for badass lifters, there is definitely some amount of weight X that they can put on that bar such that they will be so taxed that the idea of assistance work doesn't come up. If a lifter is at a point where they are unable to fully tax themselves with a properly weighted 5x5 across, then they're probably still better served with a linear progression program.

  • 2
    BTW, I just realized that you have a big-ass benchpress and a relatively light squat. It might actually be true that you can't annihilate your legs with a 5x5 sets across. You might be in a weird situation where you need periodization to progress your bench but your best squat and deadlift gains would come from linear progression (SS/SL).
    – masonk
    Dec 10, 2012 at 23:09

The question is already old, but I recently got myself faced with the same problem. Basically, the guy (Madcow) did write a few lines regarding additional exercises:

For arms choose a single biceps and triceps exercise and perform them at the end once per week for 3 sets of whatever - your arms will take a beating from all the pulling and pressing anyway. If you want to chin on Wednesday or do a few sets of pulldowns/ups that's fine (avoid the machines if you can use bodyweight). Core work is always fine. Cardio is fine - interval training is the best for this I'll just throw out.

source: http://stronglifts.com/madcow/5x5_Program/Linear_5x5.htm

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