November 09, 2020 10 min read
If you’ve just started hitting the gym or if you’ve been trying to get your personal bests up you might have come across the Texas method. It’s touted as an excellent way to crank up your results, a positive influence on your routine, or maybe you’ve seen it derided as an ineffective fad. Clearly, all of these things can’t be true, right? Well, let’s explain what the Texas method is, where it came from, how it works, and some common pitfalls. Once we’re done with you, you’ll know if the Texas method is right for you, and how to pull it off successfully if you decide it is.
The Texas Method is a weight lifting routine aimed at getting your rep max higher in a relatively condensed amount of time. By splitting your volume and intensity between different days and focusing on maximizing your recovery time in between, the Texas method breaks you down and builds you up, and if done right, you’ll be clocking in satisfying and obvious weekly strength gains.
Coach Glenn Pendlay was an American Olympic weightlifting coach. His 23 years of coaching came with plenty of impressive results. Between 1999 and his untimely cancer related passing in 2003, he sculpted almost 100 national champions spanning from the youth divisions and reaching all the way up to medalists at the Pan American Championships, Pan American Games, and the International Weightlifting Federation World Championship level in both genders. Glenn’s resume speaks for itself. He knew what he was doing when it came to training lifters.
In the early 2000s, Glenn was coaching the members of the Wichita Falls Weightlifting Club. Each week they did several sets of back squats every single day they trained. At the beginning of the week while well-rested and ready to kick some butt the back squats seemed trivial. The middle of the week? Simple enough, just push through, and get your back squats done. The real trouble came at the end of the week. Doing these squats daily left Glenn’s students tired. When they were doing their last sets on Saturday evening, the week had finally caught up with them. It was torture to get through, but it produced the results they were looking for.
One fateful day, a student would change everything. They asked him if they could trade their five sets of five grueling back squats in for one work set of five as long as that work set was a new personal record. That yes would be the birth of a brand new workout method. Eventually, more and more students would hear about this little trade and ask to get in on it to make their offramp to the weekend a little less arduous.
But that also led to a little bit of cheating.
An interesting aspect of Coach Glenn Pendlay’s training room back then was the York bumpers they had to work with. The weightlifting club did their training at Midwestern State University, and they didn’t have the most robust budget for weights. Pendlay had to bankroll some of the supplies in the athletic club himself, so that meant mismatched or older sets. During this era, he had anywhere between 20 and 30 members of the lifting club, and not a lot of space. There are weights all over the place, and people spanning a rather wide range of skill, age, and dedication. Needless to say, it’s a little chaotic in the Midwestern State University weight training room back in the early 2000s. The mismatched weights gave rise to accidental or perhaps “accidental” underloaded bars during the middle of the week, the class size meant that folks could get away with shorting a set or two here or there, and the carrot at the end of the workout stick meant that some members would be trying to find ways to rest up in order to crack a new personal record at the end of the week.
Of course, Glenn started to catch on to the corner-cutting, but after a little bit of record-keeping, he started to notice something. The lifters that were cutting corners ended up with strength gains than the folks lifting by the books. After taking some time to be honest about what he was seeing he started to examine the what and the why, and after sharing his finding with Mark Rippetoe the Texas method was finally born.
The Texas Method is basically about three different days. You’ve got a volume day, a light day, and a high intensity day. These three days are generally self-explanatory, but with careful consideration of your goals, and wise implementation of rest days, you’ll be beefing yourself up efficiently. It’s about taking advantage of hypertrophy, keeping your linear progression on track, and working smarter rather than harder. The Texas Method seems rigid on paper. It looks like it’s full of the same boring reps week after week with the addition of more weight to pat yourself on the back, but really it’s as flexible as you need it to be. We’ll break it down and you’ll start to see why.
The volume day is about packing on weight. This is the day that you’re doing the most. It’s full of heavier weights. This is where you’re getting your power cleans in and bench pressing the majority of your weekly weights. Aim for about 90 percent of the weight you lifted on your intensity day. Your volume day is also where you’re going to get some good sets in. We suggest starting off with a comfortable amount of weight if you don’t know what 90 percent of your 5 rep max is.
On volume day, think volume. Get your weights together, and start with some back squats. Aim for five sets of five back squats. You also want to get five sets of five bench presses, and round things out with some barbell rows. The barbell rows are going to work wonders for some of the exercises you may want to work into your intensity day.
Light Day is the day that the members Glenn’s lifting club members invented by accident. Light day is like your cheat day. Sort of. You’re going to bump yourself down 80 percent of your 5 rep max. We’re going to do basically a pared-down Volume Day. That means five sets of five back squats, three sets of five benches, and get yourself a little bodyweight exercise in with some chin-ups. The chin-ups are going to vary the most, especially when you’re just starting, but do three sets of as many as possible.
The point of light day is less about hitting it as hard as you can and wearing yourself out, and more about allowing your body to continue its recovery process. Your strength gains come from recovery days as much as they come from lifting the heavy weights.
Intensity Day is where the results get their chance to shine. If you’ve been taking your recovery as seriously as you’ve been taking your Volume Day, then you’re going to see some nice linear progression. This day here at the end of your week is where you get to marvel at your own strength. Push yourself to a new personal record. An example of a Texas Method Intensity day is quite simple: do five rep squats, five rep max bench presses, and five rep max deadlifts, maybe you don’t like deadlifts. The power snatch can also be something that shows off your results at the end of the week. It’s pretty short, but the results don’t lie. Mark Rippetoe and Glenn Pendalay spent a great deal of time on this.
What do the naysayers say about the Texas Method? Mainly the issue lies in the intensity of the program. Volume day has you lifting nearly your previous max rep every single week. The example pace set out before you seems unsustainable. If you only read the first Texas Method guide or only look as far as “how many reps on what day” you’ll run headfirst into a brick wall pretty quickly. The Texas Method is an excellent way to build muscle for young people with bodies ready to bounce back from any sort of punishment. The Texas Method is a great guideline for a short training session. Maybe you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to longer stints at the gym, or you don’t know where to start with your weightlifting. Some folks may find themselves adhering too rigidly to the method as written.
If you start out on the Texas Method and you find yourself struggling with long-term progress then you need to adjust, and the method allows for that. If five sets of five at 90 percent of your max rep is too intense, or you don’t think this is a route you can follow for an extended period of time then change it. It’s as simple as that. A trainer overseeing your workout will see where you’re struggling and adjust your routine as necessary. Are the deadlifts targeting muscles you’re not aiming for? Change it to another full body exercise. You can swap the chin-ups for burpees, you can swap the bench press for lat presses. The Texas Method is about volume, intensity, and rest, it’s not about punishment, overextension, and sloppy form.
If your age or diet doesn’t allow you to approach the Texas Method as written in a guide you stumbled across, then there are a myriad of ways you can adjust it to fit the needs of your body. If there are upper body exercises you would rather focus on over olympic lifts then, by all means.
The path of the powerlifter is winding and has many branches. You can choose to do an overhead press while someone else finds the barbell row gets their heart pumping and their chest working just the way they like it. Fitness is not about finding something that works for somebody else. FItness is about you.
Recovery is the key to the Texas Method. When you work out you’re tearing your muscles apart. The force you’re generating with your muscles has to overcome the weights. Every single session is a battle against gravity and the weights in front of you. It’s essentially you against the world. If you want to win, you need to approach this with a fresh arsenal.
If you’re going to be lifting all of the weight all week, you want to make sure you’re warming up and actively cooling down. If you’re in a gym with a treadmill, consider taking a brisk walk to bring yourself down, especially on Volume day. Light activity that promotes blood flow is excellent for your muscles, especially after something like volume day. You spend so much time on Volume day punishing your body, that you want some blood flowing to promote oxygen flow and kick start some of your repairs. It also helps to do some active warm-ups. On Volume Day you might find that back extensions will make your squats more manageable. You’re going to load up on more and more weight each week, and back extensions are great for limbering up as well as strengthening your lower back and tightening your core so your posture and form don’t suffer as you become more and more powerful.
Diet is also an important aspect of recovery. Your body is made up of proteins, and minerals. When you break down your muscle you need to feed yourself and replenish your tapped reserves. The texas method is useless if you’re not taking time to feed your body what it needs in order to repair the torn fibers. What should you eat? Foods high in protein will provide you with the building blocks your body will be crying out for after an intense session. You can get yourself some protein powders and cobble together a smoothie for after your workout, of course, but on rest days that’s not going to cut it. In between each of your days you need to be giving gas to your machine just the same as when you’re about to pound the iron. Lean red meats and eggs are great items to center your rest day meals around. You might find it easy to prep your meals ahead of time on a rest day you don’t find yourself also having to work a job on. It’s therapeutic and takes all of the guesswork out of tempering your tools in between sessions.
Your body isn’t just a brick of protein. Along with stocking up on protein while you repair, you also need to give yourself energy, or you won’t be lifting a single thing. Find some carbs you enjoy and dole them out responsibly. Nutrition is key in recovery, and if you want to get the most out of the Texas Method, then every single gram should be parceled out in a fashion that leaves you satisfied and powered up to face the next session. Moving past your starting strength is impossible if you don’t give yourself the fuel to grow.
Don’t forget that every day ends in a rest period. You will literally die without sleep. Resting allows your body to redirect all of your energy towards repairs. It clears out your mind and compartmentalizes memories. When you get a full night of rest in you’ll find yourself waking up with the motivation to continue your routine as well as muscles that have stitched themselves together with the protein you’ve provided to pump more pounds. If you’re doing the Texas Method right, you’re going to be tired at the end of the day anyway, and we don’t ignore the signals our bodies send us. The same way you want to exercise with your anatomy, you also want to make sure you trust your anatomy to send you signs that will leave you with the best results. Sleep when you’re tired, and rest when you’re worn out.
Most importantly, you want to remember to rest. Rest day is there for a reason, if you’re only breaking muscle down you’re not leaving room to build muscle back up. The Texas Method wants you to throw on more weight at the end of the week. You’re building towards huge reps at the end of the week, and if you don’t build muscle in between sessions, then you’re not going to push past your limits week after week, and you’re wasting your time. The Texas Method is a template, not a powerlifting bible.
Remember to focus on periodization, active recovery, and dynamic effort and you’ll be
The Texas Method is where beginners are going to see a lot of results. It’s easy to see a lot of growth when you’re starting from scratch. It’s also a good way to establish a good three day routine. Whether you’re working towards some Olympic weightlifting goals or trying to set a new PR the Texas Method lends a decent amount of flexibility. The most important thing you need to keep in mind is your body’s needs. If you’ve got a strength program, it’s only as useful as its responsiveness to your body. The Texas Method isn’t a magic wand, you have to do the work, and you have to really mind your recovery, but rookies looking to up their deadlift, and advanced lifters alike can find something here in the Texas Method. With careful monitoring and dedication, you’ll find yourself blasting past the intermediate lifter rut in no time.