Madcow’s 5×5 Program

Madcow’s 5×5 was created when a poster on the EliteFitness bodybuilding forums decided to revamp Bill Star’s 5×5 with a bodybuilding twist. This is an intermediate level program mainly designed for natural bodybuilders. It’s not recommended that strength athletes use this routine to prepare for a competition, but it could be used to change things up in the off season.

Madcow’s 5×5 is a 3 day per week program based around compound movements with some accessory work built in. Due to the fact that this is a bodybuilding program, the accessory work is just as important as the main lifts for hypertrophy and maximal progression. If you’re a novice you would be much better off trying a program with more frequency and weight increases such as stronglifts or starting strength.

madcows

Linear Progression

The progression of Madcow’s 5×5 is very simple. You start at 42.5% of your estimated one rep max on the first Monday and don’t hit your max until Week 4. The weight on the bar increases 2.5% every week. Week 5 is the week of PR’s! Obviously you will not be able to increase 2.5% every week for a long period of time because you will eventually plateau. This routine is designed to be run in 8-12 week cycles, followed by a deload period. As soon as you notice that your progression is stalling, stop the program, deload, rinse and repeat.

Exercise Reps Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
Squat 5 42.5% 45% 47.5% 50% 52.5% 55% 57.5% 60%
5 55% 57.5% 60% 62.5% 65% 67.5% 70% 72.5%
5 67.5% 70% 72.5% 75% 77.5% 80% 82.5% 85%
5 80% 82.5% 85% 87.5% 90% 92.5% 95% 97.5%
5 92.5% 95% 97.5% 100% 102.5% 105% 107.5% 110%


Breakdown (M/W/F)

Monday – Heavy Day

Mondays are heavy days with added core exercises at the end of the workout. Building a strong core is important for both gaining strength on compound exercises, and building a balanced physique.

Exercise Sets and Reps Details
Squat 5×5 Ramping weight to top set of 5 (equal to the previous Friday’s triple)
Bench Press 5×5 Ramping weight to top set of 5 (equal to the previous Friday’s triple)
Barbell Row 5×5 Ramping weight to top set of 5 (equal to the previous Friday’s triple)
Weighted Back Extensions 2 sets of 10-12 reps
Weighted Situps 4 sets of 12 reps


Wednesday – Lighter Day

Don’t think that just because this is one of the lighter days that it will be easy. Wednesday’s are unique because Flat Bench Press is replaced with Incline Bench Press. If your upper chest is lacking development, hitting incline is critical.

Exercise Sets and Reps Details
Squat 4×5 First 3 sets are the same as Monday, 4th set is a repeat of 3rd set
Incline Bench 4×5 Ramping weight to top set of 5
Deadlift 4×5 Ramping weight to top set of 5
Bodyweight Situps 2 sets of 10-12 reps
Weighted Situps 3 sets of max reps


Friday – Medium Day (Volume and Hypertrophy Focus)

Volume is hypertrophy’s best friend. Instead of working up to a set of 5 reps at Monday’s 100%,you work up to a triple at 102.5% of Monday’s estimated 1RM. After that, a set of 8 repetitions is performed. This should just tap out any strength that you have left over from the triple.

Exercise Sets and Reps Details
Squat 4×5, 1×3, 1×8 First 4 sets are the same as Monday’s, the triple is 2.5% above Monday’s top set, use the weight from your 3rd set for final set of 8
Bench Press 4×5, 1×3, 1×8 First 4 sets are the same as Monday’s, the triple is 2.5% above Monday’s top set, use the weight from your 3rd set for final set of 8
Barbell Row 4×5, 1×3, 1×8 First 4 sets are the same as Monday’s, the triple is 2.5% above Monday’s top set, use the weight from your 3rd set for final set of 8
Weighted Dips 3 sets of 5-8 reps
Barbell Curls 3 sets of 8 reps
Tricep Extensions 3 sets of 8 reps


Deloading

Madcows 5×5 was designed to cause you to continue to overreach and reset. The majority of intermediate programs are designed to be run indefinitely, however madcows fatigue management is controlled by resets and run-ups. You don’t fully recover at the end of each week, you recover when you reset for the first few weeks of the program. This allows for overreaching for a few weeks followed by a few weeks of under-reaching to allow for supercompensation and full recovery between each cycle of the program.

deload

Weaknesses

Having a balanced and proportional physique is one of the most important aspects of bodybuilding. To build a proportional physique, your routine has to take account of your weak points. For this reason, following Madcow’s 5×5 without changing a few variables might not be in your best interest. For example, if your calves look like toothpicks, it might be a good idea to add in some direct calf work. If your upper chest is poorly developed, it may be in your best interest to perform Incline Bench Press on Mondays and Fridays, and Flat Bench Press on Wednesdays.

If you’re still having trouble figuring out the layout of the program we have laid it out below with all sets, reps and percentages. The example starts at week four after the under-training period of the program. Remember to use a one rep max that is relatively easy to get your percentages.

madcows-deadlifts

Extended Tables Of Madcows 5×5 Program

Monday

Exercise Reps % Of Mondays Top Set Example Weight
Squat 5 50% 150
5 62.5% 188
5 75% 225
5 87.5% 263
5 100% 300
Bench Press 5 50% 100
5 62.5% 125
5 75% 150
5 87.5% 175
5 100% 200
Row 5 50% 100
5 62.5% 125
5 75% 150
5 87.5% 175
5 100% 200
Weighted Back Extensions 2 sets of 10-12 reps
Weighted Situps 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Wednesday

Exercise Reps % Of Mondays Top Set Example Weight
Squat 5 50% 150
5 62.5% 188
5 75% 225
5 75% 225
Incline Bench 5 62.5% 125
5 75% 150
5 87.5% 175
5 100% 200
Deadlift (not based on monday) 5 62.5% 219
5 75% 263
5 87.5% 306
5 100% 350
Bodyweight Situps 3 sets to failure

Friday

Exercise Reps % Of Mondays Top Set Example Weight
Squat 5 52.5% 158
5 65% 195
5 77.5% 233
5 90% 270
3 102.5% 308
8 77.5% 233
Bench Press 5 52.5% 105
5 65% 130
5 77.5% 155
5 90% 180
3 102.5% 205
8 77.5% 155
Row 5 52.5% 105
5 65% 130
5 77.5% 155
5 90% 180
3 102.5% 205
8 77.5% 155
Weighted Dips 3 sets of 5-8 reps
Barbell Curls 3 sets of 8 reps
Tricep Extensions 3 sets of 8 reps


If you miss your target rep count on any given workout, simply try it again next week. If you miss it two weeks in a row it’s probably time to reset and start the program over from week one. Remember Madcows is specifically designed for you to eventually stall and reset. Remember starting out too light is better than starting out too heavy, focus on form, but also be aware that when grinding out some reps your form will most likely suffer a little bit.

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