Madcow 5x5: The Intermediate & Advanced Program For Strength & Muscle [Spreadsheets]

by Nader Qudimat
Updated November 25, 2021
Strength & Hypertrophy
Experience Level
Intermediate, advanced
9 weeks
Made to increase strength and size
Easy to follow and straight forward progession
Original program made by respected coach, Bill Starr

Bottom Line

When you've just completed a 5x5 program like Strong Lifts, then it's time to move to the next level with a program like Madcow 5x5.

Inspired by the original Bill Star 5x5, the Madcow 5x5 is designed to increase strength while maximizing size through bodybuilding style exercises. 

While this is made for strength and hypertrophy, this can be used as a powerlifting program through the off season. 

The weight is increased weekly with a deload period in-between.

If you've just completed a program similar to the Texas Method, Strong Lifts or Starting Strength then you'll likely make the most out of Madcow 5x5. 

For how to save spreadsheet instructions, click here. 

Click Here For Spreadsheet 

When it comes to strength and size, simple is better. 

This program is designed for intermediate level lifters but it's similar to the beginner programs like Starting Strength and StrongLifts

But instead of using the same weight for 5 sets, you'll be increasing the weight for every set. 

Generally, if you're able to squat near 300lbs, then Madcow 5x5 should be a suitable program for you. 

And you won't be adding weight by workout, instead you'll progress weight on a weekly basis. 

While StrongLifts is made to increase squats by 120lb in just 8 weeks, realistically you'll be increasing squats by 10lbs per month with Madcow. 

If you can squat less than 280lb / 125kg then you'll want to stick with Strong Lifts 5x5 or a similar program until you can squat more. 

Madcow 5x5 for Intermediate Lifters

This is the intermediate level spreadsheet with 1RM and 5RM starting inputs. 

Again it's an excellent choice if you've just completed a program like Strong Lifts or Starting Strength. 

You'll progress on a weekly basis, averaging 10lb weight increases per month. 

The general rule of thumb is that if you squat less than 280lb or 125kg then you'll want to stick with the Strong Lifts program or Starting Strength until you can. 

There's also an advanced version in the next section.

Here's the intermediate level spreadsheet:

Madcow 5x5 For Advanced Lifters

If you're at an advanced level then the advanced variation of Madcow is available as well. 

Made by the same creator as the intermediate variation, "Madcow" also made this advanced version. 

It's a 9 week program that can be run continuously, as desired.

Madcow 5x5 Advanced 


Here you'll frequently asked questions regarding the Madcow program...

If you don't find your question answered, you'll likely find it answered on Reddit.

But you can also ask your question in the comments below and I'll answer them as best as I can. 

What's the Madcow Program?

The Madcow program was created by a user that was well known on

He frequently communicated with a legendary strength coach, Glenn Pendlay MS. 

While his true identity was never revealed to this day, his program Madcow 5x5 has remained popular among intermediate and advanced lifters since it was created in 2005.

It's similar to the Texas Method, which was created by coach Glenn Pendlay MS himself.

The Madcow 5x5 program uses 3 sessions per week to maximize strength training. 

It uses linear periodization and progresses weight on a weekly basis for the intermediate version, and the advanced version sets a new 5RM in the 4th week with a deload period in the 5th week, followed by a 3RM in the 9th week.

Intermediate vs Advanced?

The main difference between the advanced and the intermediate version of Madcow 5x5 is that the advanced version removes squats on Wednesdays after week 4, reducing the squatting frequency per week to 2 instead of 3.

There's two main blocks in the advanced version, one with more volume, and the other with less volume. 

At the end of week 4, it sets a new 5RM max, which is a +5lb/2.3kg followed by a deload week on the 5th week.

Then on week 9, it sets a new 3RM at the end of the next 4 week cycle.

The intermediate version has a ramp week, which consists of 3 weeks before setting a new 5RM on week 4 then each week will progress by adding weight. 

If you can make progress weekly, then the intermediate version is suitable for you. 

But if you plateau and it happens regularly, then the advanced variation is likely at your level. 

Am I Ready for Madcow?

If you're unable to make progress on a workout to workout basis, then Madcow 5x5 may be the appropriate transition for you. 

Madcow is a 5x5 program, where it focuses on 5 sets of compound lifts of deadlifts, bench press and squats. 

You'll likely to find this program to progress too slowly if you're still a beginner. 

Is Madcow a Bodybuilding or Strength Training Program?

Madcow 5x5 is made by strength enthusiasts but it's also fantastic for bodybuilding because it uses compound lifts with high volume. 

Although it's focus isn't in bodybuilding, if you're looking to maximize strength over muscle then you should consider this program. 

Is This The Best Intermediate Program?

It's one of the best. 

However no one can suggest this to be the best program for you because it depends on your preferences. 

If you try this program and you find yourself bored then you can consider other intermediate strength programs like these. 

But if you want something that is more fun then consider this program or the PHAT program

You can use our program finder as well if you want to filter programs. 

What About Rest Periods?

Since this is a 5x5 program that uses mostly compound lifts, you'll want to take your time between sets.

This means taking at least 1 minute rest periods, or up to 5 minutes if you really want to put full effort into heavier sets. 

It's not uncommon to take 3-4 minutes rest periods as it takes this much time to properly recover between heavy sets. 

In Madcow, Wednesdays are generally lighter days, which will help your body recover between high effort sessions.

Madcow or Texas Method?

Both of these programs are made by highly respected creators. 

The Texas method however does use more volume and power movements while focusing on muscular development. 

And the Madcow program puts an emphasize on strength gains as it revolves mainly around compound lifts. 

Many will view the Texas Method as a more balanced program since it doesn't just focus on strength but muscle development as well. 

The Madcow program spreads volume evenly throughout the week while the Texas Method sets the most effort in one workout session. 

Madcow For Big Gains

Madcow is one of the best programs for strength training that also has benefits for bodybuilding. 

Remember to start light and build up your weight as you can increase risk for injury by starting too heavy. 

If you're preparing for competition then you should consider using another program that will help with that. 

Otherwise Madcow 5x5 is an excellent program. 

by Nader Qudimat

Forged by the iron and cold steel, Nader takes his knowledge and hulks it up into this site.

Having to be stuck as a 110lb skinny guy in the early days, he has had no choice but to keep improving himself until he cannot.

Click here to check out his 12 year transformation: Natural 12 Year Transformation

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