Madcow's Training Information Site


[ News/Home ] Table of Contents ] Guest Book ] Contact Me ]










Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training

New Edition of Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training I was able to check out the new greatly expanded edition of Starting Strength from Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore, a book which I have wholeheartedly endorsed since it was first published and could not recommend more strongly.  Essentially the new edition makes the book a complete reference for someone involving themselves in weight training (rather than a work more geared to coaching).  It goes well beyond the comprehensive coverage of the core lifts that made the first so useful and gives a remarkably complete picture.  Check out the site linked above and some of the preview pages to get an idea of all the new content.  Between this and Practical Programming - that's a near totally complete resource that will likely serve 99% of people for their entire training career.  I'd recommend this book to anyone involved in weight training from a brand new novice in the gym for the first time to a reference manual for a fairly seasoned coach.  I know I've said a lot of positive stuff in the past about Mark's work but really - take a look at my site and what I've tried to do...Mark essentially wrote the books that I'd have written had I the time and did about as good a job as I think anyone in the world could have (and certainly better than I could have managed).  Very impressive stuff.


Don't Shortchange Yourself - Learn

I think a lot of people tend to take the programs from this site, run them, and then go on their way looking for the next "thing".  That was never the intention.  The programs here serve to reinforce and provide working models of all the training theory material in the Table of Contents and Training Primer.  Yes, I'm sure some are better merely for just doing them and moving on, but actually understanding why something like that works will do you much more good and pay years of dividends rather than months.  This was actually why I was hesitant to put up the Excel templates as to construct the model on your own, you actually had to read and put in some kind of reasonable effort which made it inaccessible to idiots or those unwilling to devote a few minutes to reading (originally self selection for those who really wanted to do it and were willing to put in a tad of work and learn).


5x5 and Hypertrophy (Stopping Insanity 1)

Also, I keep hearing "5x5 will put muscle on you if you eat enough but it is not a hypertrophy program." 

1) No program will put muscle on you if you don't eat enough, come the hell on.

2) As discussed in the Training Primer, hypertrophy is mainly centered around relatively high levels of tension (load on the bar relative to your capacity) and volume of work.  5 sets of 5 reps enable both and strike a good balance (not golden, not directly from God, not the only rep and volume range you'll ever need, not magic - just a good general balance for highly productive core lifts).

3) Load progression (through adding absolute weight/tension, volume/work or a combination yielding more total workload over a period) is fundamental to hypertrophy.  One of the things that enables this progression and subsequent hypertrophy is neural adaptation - rapid neural adaptation facilitating progressive loading is what is behind the newbie gains that everyone enjoys early in their training career (so yes, it matters).  Sets of 5 are very good at driving the neural adaptation and far better than higher rep ranges (and so is higher frequency which is why you see 2-3x weekly sessions on the same lifts).  Combine that with levels of tension and enough workload and you get a very balanced program.  Keep in mind, this isn't about maximizing hypertrophy for a single workout.  This is about maximizing hypertrophy over a period of time, and the continued neural adaptation allows for more load on the bar and total workload - hence hypertrophy providing your diet is geared to that goal. 

4) That doesn't mean that sets of 5 are the end all be all of programming.  All that means is that it's a decent foundation, it works well, there are very good reasons why it works, and I'd venture for most people, no matter how advanced or for most specialized purposes, it would be useful for at least part of the year.

5) And just for the record, a complete hypertrophy plan is likely going to require multiple phases to bring one's physique to the pinnacle of achievement - if that is the goal and someone is narrow-minded enough to believe that I'm actually talking about a career or even a yearly plan.  Just to be clear - this is the type of work that gets the novice started or helps someone pile on the foundation muscle to move up a weightclass.  Please read the Training Primer where I address some of this more completely.


Program Origins (Stopping Insanity 2)

Final point, neither of the programs on this site are "mine".  One is a flavor that Bill Starr used for some of his athletes - this is the intermediate program or what some people mistakenly but I guess conveniently call "Madcow's 5x5".  It's the exact same program (except the row/clean substitution) that appears on the Deep Squatter site.  The only thing that I did was write an absurdly complete description as many people couldn't digest it through the original link.  The advanced program is a periodized 5x5 program developed by Glenn Pendlay.  I'll also note that there is no "Bill Star's 5x5" or "Madcow's 5x5" or "Pendlay 5x5" etc...any fixed iteration that you see is just a template for what training might look like during a point in one's career.  Yes, these templates are useful in that people can see a full program, understand, and learn from it but that doesn't mean that either I or any of those people espouse any particular layout as a standard best practice or anything of the sort.  The best program is always geared toward a specific person, at a specific time, for a specific purpose with a specific longer-term goal in mind.  But most people are here to learn and have little background so templates are useful to illustrate and get people started.




I wrote up a basic Training Primer for people since I get a feeling most aren't getting around to the Training Theory section of the Table of Contents or maybe could use a bottom up from the basics - welcome to Summer.  This stuff is really the core of what I'm trying to convey here, not the "5x5" programs and actually this is what the "5x5" programs are all about anyway.  It's important to not just have a single point in time program but to arrive at a comprehensive understanding so that you know what to do and how to plan for progress in the future.  The Primer isn't too long and covers what I feel are the basics including: Training for Size vs. Strength, Nervous System Impacts and Overtraining, Fiber Recruitment, Program Organization for Experience Level and Purpose (adding muscle vs. refining existing physique), Workload vs. TUT, Types of Hypertrophy, and the ever popular "Golden Program" topic which is a particular pet peeve of mine in that I've trying to teach the why's and how's of training theory and planning for progression through the sample 5x5 program and some people still come away with the "5x5 Linear is Best" or some other static program crap - kind of grates on me so I'm hoping this kind of deals with it as it's all in one place.


I also made some additions to the Linear program to address some issues with the ever popular benchpress, some notes about starting reasonably, and some overuse and acclimation cautions.  I also added a Caution section and linked the Training Primer from above.


The Training Primer is also linked on the Table of Contents Intro page now right at the top in the Preface.




1) I updated the Contact link in the bar above with an email form - please read the Note/Disclaimer before sending anything my way.


2) Since Summer is on it's way I added a bit of explanation and verbiage to the Linear/Intermediate version to address the headwind that loss of body weight creates in the progression.  Basically, bodyweight (even all fat) has an effect on physics/leverage/mechanics (or simply strength performance).  If you are dropping weight, your targeted 5RM is actually a PR if you drop bodyweight by the time you get there.  So you can start lighter or make smaller jumps on the way up.  This headwind is more pronounced for more experienced lifters.


3) I've also noticed a few times that this site has exceeded the bandwidth limit and some page views were denied.  99% of the time this isn't an issue but I will tell you that the days with the least traffic are Friday and Saturday.  The best times are either mornings or very late at night.  It hasn't been a major issue so far.  If you plan to refer to it frequently maybe save a copy of a page on your computer.




With the updates here (lots of new ones in the 3/19/2006 entry below) I view this work as fairly complete.  While it is nothing revolutionary it is nonetheless a decent resource for programming and weight training information that most recreational lifters and bodybuilders will likely find valuable and, given a lot of what's been put out there into the commercial gym world by bodybuilding and the captive media sources over the past 30 years, eye opening.  I originally set out to try to help some people in a fairly limited way.  I figured that if I could make some tangible difference in an activity that was important to a group of 8-10 people, that would be something good and something that would pay back some of the joy and fun I've had with weightlifting over the years.  Certainly nothing grand but nonetheless improving the world by leaving it better than I found it and passing on some fruits of my own efforts.  Basically to introduce some fundamental concepts and change some commonly held albeit inaccurate views.  I think I've at least succeeded in that and by most interpretations made a significant contribution to a fair number of people over the originally intended 8-10.  I'll state one last time for the record that the choice of using 5x5 programs in my examples and on this page is mainly because they are very easy to teach training theory from, scale well with experience, have a long history and pedigree as very effective for size and strength, and dispel some commonly held myths that frequency must be frozen in absolute and that copious amounts of isolation work are required at all times.  That seems to get lost sometimes in the 5x5 fervor so it made sense to put it down one last time for the books.  That being said, I certainly feel the 5x5 style programs are a great way to train, I certainly don't know a better template to increase big lifts and add muscle.


Anyway, with this chapter closed there won't be any more updates to this website (beyond some basic testing and patching once in a while to make sure things remain functional).  This should be enough to get most people the information they need, get them some solid progress, expand their knowledge of programming and training theory, and give them some places to look and books to read to further expand their knowledge as they deem fit.  There has been a huge disconnect in training theory (even at the most basic level) with the recreational gym culture and hopefully this can serve as something of a bridge.


And with that I'd like to say farewell and goodbye to all the friends I've made over the past year.  I hope that you guys enjoyed our conversations as much as I did.  Know that one of the things in life that I enjoy most is teaching and watching people progress through their efforts - so I too have gotten something out of this.  All things end with time and at this point I don't think there's much more I can do than just continue talking and saying pretty much the same things over and over again to new people (which is why I made this site).  Hopefully there is enough momentum and critical mass from what I've done and what so many others are doing that combined with the internet's broad user base providing easy access to information, good realistic info on training won't be some mystery or hard to find.  Our youth will understand what training entails and with effort will have the tools they need to progress steadily and reliably rather than quitting, spinning their wheels, or turning to drugs at the first sign of plateau.  Who knows, we might even see something worthwhile in the bodybuilding magazines someday.


Lift bigger, eat bigger, get bigger, but above all be happy and enjoy doing it.  Although congratulations from others might await at the destination, happiness is found on the path.


All the best,






Lots of updates here:

-I added some minor info to the main 5x5 pages (Intermediate and Advanced) the change log is on the bottom of both pages and fairly similar.  There are also updates to the Excel templates on each page but mostly just some link updates.

-I completed a Comparison page to illustrate various points about training progression, program selection, and complexity.

-Fixed links on the banner note and banner itself (that got done about a week ago).

-Wrote up a more comprehensive Diet page on Caloric Excess and put it under the 5x5 section in the TOC so people don't miss it

-Wrote up a comprehensive Sources of Info page with a list of good training books, links, and some people who offer training services for those looking for consultation and/or personalized program design.

-Just some general updates to the TOC

-With the addition of more pages this site might occasionally be out of bandwidth at time.  Just be patient, if it gets too bad I will look to put up a mirror somewhere.

-I bailed on ever making a Beginner Program.  What a beginner needs is not just some layout, they need a fundamental understanding of what it is that they are doing, how to do it, and why.  That's really a few hours of conversation or in written form, a book.  Since Mark Rippetoe has already produced something better than I could in Starting Strength I advise people to buy it just as I've been doing since it was released.  For $30 or the cost of a 30 day supply of some bogus supplement, someone can get a fantastic foundation, learn to perform the lifts correctly and have a reference for life to check their technique, and get a program that is perhaps the most successful novice program or at least as successful as any other. 




Let's see here.  I added some banners for Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength book.  Obviously, I get nothing from this and there is no association.  I did ask him first before I linked it as it pulls the banner directly.  This site is getting a lot of beginner/novice traffic and I just can't provide that kind of foundation level info (and it is so damn critical).  To be honest, I look around the gyms and I can't remember the last time I saw a decent squat or pull from the floor that didn't have serious fundamental flaws or wasn't just absurdly bad (and I don't have sky high standards) so it's not as if only the novices need it or even that there is a good chance a diligent novice will learn to perform the lifts with decent technique in a reasonable amount of time. 


I fixed a typo on Microloading (2 1.5lbs chains = 3lbs not 2lbs).  I added HST to the list of programs just because it's a good fit with what's here, similar themes and frequency, gives another view and a nice alternative to use during periods of a macrocycle.  I also included a link to a post that I thought was a really sharp and entertaining football to training theory analogy.




I added a piece on Microloading or the use of fractional plates.  This includes some nice cheap workarounds.  Ironically this is a bigger deal for newer or weaker lifters than it is for someone with big lifts simply due to 2.5 lbs plates (5 lbs jump) being a much bigger percentage of a smaller lift.  There's a neat chain solution that I really liked so in addition to providing some solutions I cleaned up the thread topic.  Of course this means, I'll have to add it to the 5x5 descriptions and spreadsheets so those will get redone eventually.




Happy holidays to all.  Excel spreadsheets are up in Zip archive format.  Direct links to Intermediate and Advanced.  Of course Geocities won't accept or allow the upload of RAR files which is ridiculous.


Some minor updates to each program including fixing the 8/9/10 thing referenced on 12/19 again.  Apparently there were 2 places in the chart where Excel screwed up and made the numbers into a series.  What a pain and in a critical area too.  Oh well, nothing likely to blow any programs but it must make people wonder why each backoff sets gets another rep.


Also made some changes to the TOC, fixed the training theory link etc...


TO DO: still need to put up a beginner program/spreadsheet and then comparison page which will sort of illustrate the "why"  behind program selection.  Also need to update some of the posts at EF as right now there isn't any indication that would tell people that totally new descriptions have been written.




Wow, had to adjust the Intermediate 5x5 description, in the chart on the Friday sets they were all supposed to be backoff sets of 8 but excel must have made them 8, 9, and then 10 as I copied down from squat to bench and row.  That page has had a lot of views, if someone catches something major like that please email me at elitemadcow<at>  Hopefully, that didn't screw anyone up but damn that's a biggie and right in the stupid chart.  Talk about feeling incompetent.


Beginner and other stuff still coming.  Been busy so oh well.




New Intermediate 5x5 description is up.  Made some small changes to the Advanced/Periodized program.  Amended the Table of Contents to reflect this, it will eventually have to be reorganized but that should be easy.  The download links for excel templates in the program descriptions aren't up yet so be patient (they are both complete) but these descriptions are at least a ton more clear than they were before (albeit simple program are now multi-page endeavors to make them comprehensive and alleviate as many questions and anxieties as possible).  I'll figure out a beginner program next and get the excel files hosted for download.




Had to pull down the sample template I added yesterday.  The excel file is 129kb and the static cut paste is almost 350kb on a web page.  So I'll go another route and have something up soon.  Likely just the excel file.  Sorry for any inconvenience.




Added a new description of the Periodized 5x5 with much better charts and organization.  I also included very detailed Sample Template with weights [UPDATE - 11/29 had to take the template down, was overloading my bandwidth - I'll have an Excel file (1/3 the size of static html amazingly) up soon].  Hopefully in the next few days I'll have downloadable excel files to serve as guidance (the template is taken from the file).  These won't be 'plug and play' forever but it will likely help people who are just starting out get setup with something that makes sense.


Right now I have Excel files for both the linear and periodized materially finished.  I'll rewrite the linear description, post the excel files, and then get to work on a beginner program.  Shouldn't be too terrible.




Okay, it's coming along but I'm waiting on some stuff.  I added a couple more things to the TOC.  Still waiting on some feedback from certain people and I'll have this all a bit better organized.


I'll have some kind of similar beginners program up there (i.e. for real beginners who are new to weight training vs. the current novice program which is really more of an intermediate level layout).  Like I've said, I never really realized that this stuff would get so popular as to attract real beginners - didn't think to provide something for them.  Oh well, it'll happen one way or another.


I'm also toying with the idea of furnishing a spreadsheet download for reference so that people 'get it' a bit better and more easily.  The main reason will be because I can include let's say 3-4 different variants from true beginner through a harder periodized 5x5  and people can see how the workload calcs come out and how this all interplays graphically as well as a sample set by set layout for reference.




Posted an updated table of contents that will eventually get edited into the thread.  Lots of new links and better organization/explanation. 

The page is based here but links to the main thread topics and a few links to sites. 

This will be the model used for this site to back everything up from the thread.





This will serve as a backup to my thread at Elite should their server ever crash and lose everything.

I'll also throw a few other things here to make sharing easier as this is a lot easier to update for me.

Essentially, I put in a lot of hard work and don't want to see it obliterated from the net forever due to a server crash or some such.

Of course, this will be "plain-jane" a la white, low bandwidth, free server stuff as I'm a no frills kind of guy.


Obviously this is still under construction for now.