Understanding the Texas Method

Over the summer, my CrossFit gym converted their box in Northeast Minneapolis into a bad-ass barbell club.

I was picked to be a part of a test group of members to put the place through its paces and see how a programmed weight-lifting class would work.

Our task since we started in August is to also provide feedback about what type of additional support and equipment we need.

Thankfully, Coach T-Money (aka Tracy) is leading our merry band and helping us improve our form along the way.

The focus of this 8-week trial has been the Texas Method, which was created by the legendary Mark Rippetoe as a next step after Starting Strength. It is meant to be an intermediate-level program.

As he describes in his article on T Nation, “the workout consists of a volume day for the major lifts on Monday, a lighter recovery/variety day on Wednesday, and a high-intensity day on Friday for the major lifts.”

Those lifts would be back squats, deadlifts, bench press, strict press and cleans. They are complemented by accessory work on Wednesdays with sets of back extensions on the GHD and rows.

In our trial period together, the barbell club used the first week to establish our one rep max. It was also a good way for us to get to know each other a bit more in the group, as we were going to be spending a lot of time together. My first week numbers were as follows:

Back squat = 225#
Bench press = 175#
Deadlift = 345#
Strict Press = 130#
Clean = 145#

After our test week, we have been in the throws of three 2-week cycles. Each cycle looks essentially like this in terms of the breakdown of sets and reps:

Back Squat5 x 52 x 51 x 55 x 52 x 51 x 5
Bench Press5 x 51 x 13 x 5
Deadlift1 x 51 x 5
Strict Press3 x 55 x 51 x 1
Clean5 x 35 x 3

Rippetoe explains the madness behind the method, “If we design the program correctly, we can plan workouts that place optimum stress in the optimum pattern to continue the adaptive drive of the program for a long time:

A high level of tonnage-stress early in the week, a lighter workout in the middle to aid in recovery — “active rest” it’s sometimes called — and then a higher-intensity lower-volume workout at the end of the week.”

The truth though is that Mondays are gnarly. It is heavy for all the lifts and you feel it. Yet, Friday is heavy too, despite the lower amount of sets.

I’m not alone in the group with being found sitting on the floor after hitting the 1 set of 5 back squats.

You get a little light-headed, you see stars and sometimes you just say “Whoa!” But the program is designed with recovery-time in between these big days.

If you hit your reps on Fridays (or for the deadlift on Monday), then your weight increase the next week by 5-10 pounds.

I can share that this past Friday, which was week 5 out of 6, I did 1 set of 5 reps in the back squat at 215 pounds. If you look above, you can see that is only 10 pounds shy of my 1 rep max for that lift.

Also, the rep scheme changed slightly, and we did 1 set of 2 reps for the strict press on that same day.

My prescribed weight was my 1 rep max and I hit it! So the progress is clear in terms of my increase in overall strength.

Again, coming back to Rippetoe, he states, “At any point in your training career, quantifiable progress must be your objective.

It’s easy at first when you’re a novice to the barbell. The Texas Method is a good way to carry you through the next step: maintaining the trend of handling increasingly heavy weight.“

We will be testing our 1 rep max again during the eighth and final week of our trial period. However, Rippetoe nor the coaches intend for the Texas Method to end so abruptly. It actually can be used as a long-term progression.

Eventually, you will hit a wall but it has a much longer shelf life than other programs out there. A few of us in the barbell club have discussed continuing with the programming beyond our short time together.

For a full explanation at the rationale behind the Texas Method and specifics on how the programming works, make sure to check out Rippetoe’s article. Click here to read it.

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