Workout Plan

Madcow 5×5: Graduating From Stronglifts 5×5

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If you’ve been doing Stronglifts and it’s not giving you the results you want any more, Madcow 5×5 can help you step up your game!

Madcow 5×5 is a workout plan for getting stronger. It’s the next step if you’ve been doing Stronglifts but need more challenge. You perform exercises like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts with a specific set and rep scheme.

Read Madcow’s original guide here.

About Madcow 5×5: The Intermediate 5×5 Program

When you’re not seeing gains in your Squats with StrongLifts 5×5, Madcow 5×5 becomes a great choice. This program is meant for those who have moved beyond the beginner level.

The right time to switch from StrongLifts 5×5 to Madcow 5×5 depends on your weight and age.

For instance, if you’re around 30 years old and weigh about 200 pounds, it’s often best to switch after you’ve reached a 300-pound squat. So, lighter or heavier individuals may switch earlier or later.

Training Principles

Madcow 5×5 incorporates several training principles to help intermediate lifters make steady progress and gain strength:

  1. Progressive Overload: Madcow focuses on gradually increasing the weights you lift over time.
  2. Variation: Ramped-up sets and changes in squat frequencies keep your body adapting and prevent plateaus.
  3. Recovery Optimization: Madcow includes lighter days and slower weight increases to prioritize recovery.
  4. Compound Movements: These exercises work multiple muscle groups and are essential for overall strength development.
  5. Structured Plan: Madcow provides a clear plan with specific exercises, sets, and reps for each workout. This structured approach helps you stay organized and track your progress.
  6. Focus on Form: Proper technique is emphasized to prevent injuries and ensure effective muscle engagement. Good form also contributes to overall strength gains.

By incorporating these training principles, Madcow 5×5 provides a practical framework for intermediate lifters to continue building strength and achieving their fitness goals.

The Origins of Madcow

Years ago, there was someone called “Madcow” on a website called He talked a lot with a coach, Glenn Pendlay, MS, about weightlifting. In 2005, Madcow began sharing what he learned on a website that no longer exists. No one really knows who Madcow was, and he disappeared from forums around 2007.

The most important things Madcow shared were his training plans. His program for intermediate lifters is now called Madcow 5×5.

The Difference Between Madcow And Stronglifts

With Madcow, you’ll keep doing all the exercises from StrongLifts 5×5, including the Squats three times a week. But now that you’re lifting more weight as an intermediate lifter, there are some changes to make the workouts work better for you and help your body recover (which is essential for getting stronger).

No Longer A True 5×5

You won’t do five sets of five with the same weight anymore. Instead, you’ll do “ramped-up” sets. This means you’ll increase each set’s weight, like when you warm up, and end with one heavy set of five reps (1×5). Ramped-up sets are more manageable than doing the same weight for all five sets, which is important now that you might be squatting around 300 pounds.

Slower Progress – But Better For Intermediate Lifters

You won’t add weight to every workout anymore. Since you’re not a beginner anymore, your body needs more time to recover. So, you’ll add weight once a week – each week, you’ll lift 5 pounds more than the previous week.

You won’t do heavy Squats three times a week. On Wednesdays, you’ll do lighter Squats, lifting less weight than on Mondays and Fridays. This light day helps your body and mind recover better for Friday’s workout.

Remember, these changes are best for intermediate lifters, not beginners. Beginners will still get stronger faster with StrongLifts 5×5, where you add 5 pounds to the weight three times a week. Don’t expect to boost your Squat by 120 pounds in 8 weeks with Madcow. Adding 10 pounds to your Squat each month is more realistic. And even if it doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s still 120 pounds in a year.

Pros And Cons

Madcow 5×5 has its benefits and drawbacks. Let’s take a look at some of the good things and the challenges:


  1. Strength Gains: Madcow is designed to help you keep getting stronger as an intermediate lifter—the gradual increase in weight challenges your muscles to grow and adapt.
  2. Variation: This program introduces changes like ramped-up sets and different squat frequencies. These variations can help break plateaus and keep your workouts interesting.
  3. Structured Plan: Madcow offers a clear plan for your workouts. It tells you what exercises, sets, and reps to do, making it easier to follow and track your progress.
  4. Recovery Focus: With lighter days and reduced workout-to-workout weight increases, Madcow aims to optimize recovery, essential for muscle growth and strength gains.


  1. Not for Beginners: Madcow is best for intermediate lifters who’ve already built a solid foundation.
  2. Slower Progress: Compared to some other programs, Madcow’s weight increases are more gradual. This might lead to slower strength gains, which could be frustrating for those looking for quicker results.
  3. Limited Customization: While Madcow provides a structured plan, it might only suit some people’s needs or preferences. Some lifters might prefer more flexibility in their workouts.
  4. Plateaus: Like any program, Madcow might eventually lead to plateaus, where your progress stalls. Breaking through these plateaus might require additional changes to your routine.

Ultimately, Madcow 5×5 can be a great choice if you’re an intermediate lifter aiming for steady strength gains. However, consider your goals, fitness level, and preferences to decide if this program fits you.

How Madcow Works. 

Remember that when we say “1×5,” it means doing sets that go up in weight. You’ll do four sets of five reps each, and the weight will get heavier with each set until you reach the last set of five, that’s your working weight. 

Here’s a plan for you to use:

Squat 1×5Squat 2×5Squat 1×3
Bench Press 1×5Overhead Press 1×5Bench Press 1×3
Barbell Rows 1×5Deadlift 1×5Barbell Rows 1×3

The Squats you do on Wednesday, 2×5, are lighter than Monday’s. This lighter workout helps your body recover. On Friday, you’ll do something called 1×3. This means four sets of five reps with the weight going up, then a heavy set of three reps. After that, you’ll do a lighter set of 8 reps.

To pick the right starting weight, use this Excel file. When you put your numbers in, it tells you how much to lift each workout for each exercise and set.

Remember, it’s better to start too light than too heavy. The first few weeks should be easy. Focus on how you do the moves and how fast you do them. Save trying to break personal records for week 4. You can read Madcow’s original guide here if you want more details.

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In 2013 I attended TVCC with my studies focusing on nutrition and biology. After leaving TVCC I pursued a career in inbound marketing and have worked in many different industries including health and fitness, firearms, coaching, and many more. I spent 6 years training for powerlifting and 6 years after training for a bodybuilding show in Idaho, which sadly did not come to fruition.

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