Bill starr (madcow) 5×5 intermediate routine – jcd fitness

The MadCow 5×5 is a strength program first. It was designed by Bill Starr to elicit maximum gains in strength and was often utilized in off season football programs. If any of you’ve participated in athletics, particularly those which incorporate strength training, this type of routine will be very familiar to you. I remember them fondly; I just never knew who the author was. I also remember puking at the end of my workouts while my coach yelled at us to stop being a bunch of sissies! I would do it again, really. Who’s It For?

In short, it’s not for newbies. Newbs will make better progress using a workout to workout linear approach. They need something that emphasizes making gains every workout whether they are in the form of weight lifted or reps achieved.


Of course, gains are not always going to be predictable and occur every time you train, but beginners will make strength gains much faster than an intermediate trainee will. A good, simple remedy for this is Starting Strength.

Don’t fuck with this. Every bodybuilder seems to have Attention Deficit Disorder and an overwhelming desire to customize everything. The bottom line is that these are all the most effective exercises and just about anything one does will result in less gains. As a rule those people who want to change it don’t know enough to make proper alterations – those who do know enough, don’t have much to change. The guy who is responsible for this program is of the best on the planet at bulking lifters and making people stronger.

Now, I agree that Bill Starr’s ideas are wonderful and his programs are pure gold, but I disagree with the idea that if one chooses a different exercise, their gains will be inferior. To put it simply, if you are not a competitive powerlifter, there is no reason why you have to do the flat bench, squat, or the deadlift. You and I could be similar in anatomy and be built for squats but not necessarily deadlfits or vice versa. This is why I choose RDL’s over conventional deads.

In lieu of that, there’s always room for exercise substitutions (not synonymous with additions) but DON’T add a bunch of extra crap. You don’t have to do flat bench if there is a machine that suits your needs or if you’ve had previous shoulder injuries. No need to add extra cable crossovers or some other BS movement. The back squat can easily be replaced by the leg press but this is no excuse to do a bunch of extra leg work to make up for anything. The leg press is sufficient.

The standard cycle can last anywhere from 8-12 weeks. The first 3 weeks are submaximal and spent working up to your previous maxes on week 4. Every week, there is a programmed 2.5% increase in the excel file. Therefore, every gain you make after week 4 is a personal record. Those who manage to sniff enough ammonia and make it to week 12 and beyond are looking at a damn near 20% increase on their personal records. How’s that sound for progress?

Assistance Lifts – These are the lifts you perform that will assistyour primary lifts. There is no need to max out on these or aim for continuous progression like you do on the main lifts. Pick a weight you can do comfortably in the rep ranges suggested and make increases when you can. Quality reps and resistance is what we’re going for with these. These are also what Bill called “Beach Work”. DO NOT DO MORE THAN THE RECOMMENDED AMOUNT FOR ASSISTANCE WORK. AGAIN, DON’T DO IT. Rest Time

To me, enough is an ample amount of protein (1-1.5g per pound of bodyweight or 3.3g/kg), a good dose of dietary fat, followed up with lots of fruits/veggies and starch to fuel one’s energy needs. In short, if you even dare to be doing a program like this, you better be eating at least enough calories to maintain your bodyweight. I’d much rather you eat slightly over maintenance calories for sake of recovery.