T Nation

How Should Upper Body Intensity Day Work in Texas Method?

Hi, I was looking for a new program a while back and found Texas method on here: https://www.t-nation.com/training/texas-method, been running it for a few months now and seeing some good results in the lower body, but have found my upper body progress has been slow and tends to stall out.

After doing some more research, I’m realizing that part of this is that I might have been doing the upper body intensity day incorrectly. I started with a spreadsheet I found online that marked this day as a pyramid up to a heavy single. That seems like too little, so I’ve been doing 3 singles every Friday. However now that I’m reading more about it I’m finding a bunch of sources recommending totally different rep structures for Friday, including:

-1 set of 5
-5 sets of 1
-3 sets of 1
-3 sets of 3
-1 set of 1

Even the article posted here is pretty vague about it, which is why I deferred to the downloaded template:

  • B. Bench Press, (if you bench pressed Monday) or
    Overhead Press (if OHP on Monday):: work up to one single, new 5RM

Which could be read to mean either that you should do a heavy single, or that you should do a 5RM. Pretty confusing.

What rep structure do y’all recommend for intensity? How can I start seeing better progress on my upper body lifts? I really like how this program works for lower body and how the 3-day rhythm fits into my overall schedule, so hopefully there are some easy modifications I can make to start seeing some better results in upper body lifts.

I used the Texas Method for about 3 years and really enjoyed the program and seen good results over the years.

I believe the typical set up, or at least the one written in the article you mention, has you finding your new 5RM (1 set of 5 reps heavier than last time). You may (will) require several sets to ramp up to a new 5RM set. So rest assured you are still getting in some quality work that day but it does feel too easy some days. Remember it’s about triggering a response for the body to grow stronger and not about how tired you can make yourself in a workout. The reason for the Rep Max to begin with is to make your body say “wow, that was terrible! I don’t want to do that again; I need to be better prepared next time.”

Later on if you start to find you can’t ever reach a new 5RM it could mean you are starting to get to a point where you won’t see dramatic progress in just one week of training. The best first course of action is to Deload 10% while making an extra point to eat more good food, drink more water, and sleep more. If that doesn’t work you can eventually reduce it to a 3RM on Fridays to keep moving the strength needle forward for a bit longer. I would switch to a different program after exhausting the 3RM gains as I don’t see any value in doing doubles or singles each week as new PR attempts. You will likely just drive yourself into the ground doing that.

If you read about the history/legend for how this program came into existence you may discover the story about how Glen Pendlay made a deal/bet with his athletes that if they could post a new 5RM on Friday they could cut their workouts short and didn’t have to do a full 5x5 session that day.

I used to use a similar motivation in my training where if I didn’t hit a new 5RM I would have to do 1-2 heavy back off sets. It motivates you in that moment not to give up and grind through to a new 5RM …if possible. Or suffer failure and think about it the entire time you are doing back off sets about how much you suck.

A final word of advice for you while using the Texas Method; Friday is the important day and not Monday or Wednesday. Hitting a new 5RM is all that really matters; even if it means pulling back on load for Monday’s 5x5 session. You could even try a slightly different rep scheme like 6x4 or even 6x3. This could be just a small enough change to make all the difference to continue progressing.

I always had my best progress BECAUSE of the work done on Monday. However, you can (will) get to a point where a hard, new 5x5 max on Monday kills your progress for the remainder of the week. If this starts to happen I suggest pulling back on load (weight on bar) on Monday and see if you can still continue driving up your 5RM on Friday. Doing a 5x5 weight you already did previously for a few weeks in a row can still build strength so don’t get confused about Monday having to be a new 5x5 max just to make progress as this will eventually stop you altogether.

Good luck. It’s a great program and I hope you also find lots of improvement in yourself with it.

That makes sense, I’ll try switching to doing a 5RM for upper body lifts and see how it goes. Seems like microloading with 1.25 lb plates might make this kind of progression a little more sustainable, since 5lbs tends to feel like a significant jump, especially on overhead press (my 1RM here is 155, my 5RM is 135, which seems like fairly close margin to me), which is something I might try if a new 5RM every two weeks gets hard to keep up with.

I’d also be interested in learning more about your experience running the program for that long. Where were your lifts at the beginning vs the end and how long did it take you to get them to that point? How often did you have to deload and at what points did you find your progress sticking?

I like the rhythm of this program and how the 3 day schedule allows me to spend a long time in the gym getting really into a workout without sacrificing a balanced lifestyle, so I’m interested in running it for a long time as well.

I pulled out my old log book from back then and honestly looking at it today it doesn’t look like I took the best notes. In that 3 year span I had the typical life stress and career events that have a tendency to disrupt training as well.

From what I can tell it looks like my lifts started and ended at about the following during that time:

Body Weight: 190 > 220 lb (similar body composition but slightly fatter in all honesty…an unfortunate & necessary consequence to get stronger)

Squat 360 > 405lb
Deadlift 385 > 420lb
Bench 285 > 320lb
Press 175 > 205lb

I have shorter arms than most so the pressing movements have always been easier for me but at the expense of pulls. A deadlift ends with the bar in my crotch. This equates to my lower back taking a real beating if I am not careful with the setup. My squat was bigger than my deadlift for a long period of time before this and my bench was nearly the same as them both (sadness).

There is not a much harder lift to progress on than a strict press overhead IMO. You could try the micro plates and it may work. I actually bought some 1.25 lb at one point, but didn’t ever end up using them as there is probably already that much slop in tolerance on the other plates I was using (a 45 lb plate often doesn’t weigh 45 lbs). Bumper plates are generally better accuracy for what it’s worth so if you do go that route I would try at least being more accurate with the other plates if you can otherwise it’s a crap shoot. Your strength levels will easily fluctuate on a given week by this small amount in my humble opinion. You may be better off just getting in more reps with a lighter weight (back-off set) or forcing the last few reps after missing a set of 5 with push-press cheating (don’t tell Rip). It’s a bit off topic for you but sneaking in an extra workout each week (4 instead of 3) to prioritize the press overhead would probably benefit the most rather than alternating every week bench vs press.

Weighted dips have always been a staple in my programming and I think that helps drive pressing movements also with little added fatigue each week.

I had to Deload frequently and especially in that last year of using the program as I recall. Probably should have moved on to something else at that point to keep making progress but I can be stubborn that way.

Haha, I have the opposite problem, I’m tall with long arms so deadlift is easy for me, whereas pressing movements tend to lag behind. Last time I tested my deadlift 1RM I pulled 500, whereas my tested bench 1RM is only 240. Squat is kind of in the middle, and getting steadily better since the program really emphasizes it, and it’s also the first time I’m doing lowbar, which has helped to make use of some of that deadlift strength when I’m doing the lift.

Are the numbers you posted 1RM or 5RM?

Those were my 1RM at the time.

My 5RM at those lifts were around 87-90%.

DL = 380 (5RM)
SQ = 365 (5RM)
BP = 285 (5RM)
PR = 190 (5RM)

I failed the squat 5x5 repeatedly on Mondays at 360 and 365 lbs and after several resets (deloads) was never able to make it through that particular point on Texas Method. Figured I would have had to keep gaining body weight, and mostly not in a good way, to continue progress lb-for-lb so I ended up leaving it to try other things.

It took me way longer than it should have to break through that “plateau” but what it amounted to was that I needed a break from sets of 5’s and only the basic lifts to instead work on some weaknesses I had developed (avoided).

How do you feel this compares to other programs you’ve run in terms of progress? On the squat, it looks like you gained 15 pounds each year (on average). I don’t mean to be critical, and some progress is always better than none, but most would hope for more than 45 pounds added over three years, especially on a program as demanding as the Texas Method. I have not personally tried it, but I understand that it is time-consuming, especially compared to programs like 5/3/1 or Juggernaut, and very draining. Again, I’m not trying to be a jerk and I hope I don’t come off that way, but this sounds like relatively small gain for so much hard work.

No offense taken. When I look back upon it; it is sort of sobering how hard I had to work just to gain that much strength. I haven’t found a miracle program that will reap rewards continuously or dramatically better, tbh. I am not sure there is such a thing and if someone were to try to sell me on that I would call B.S.

However with that said I think the time and energy you have outside of the gym probably has more to do with it. For my part I live a fairly stressful life with a demanding career that has had a way of stealing priority over training in the past. Hard to justify squeezing in an hour for yourself to train if you end up working past midnight after kids go to bed if you know what I mean.

However, despite my lack of progress I think the TM is a good program. Anything can be a good program if you are consistent, train close to your limits, and can recover for the next session. I would guess the recovery piece has been my biggest hurdle to figure out followed by consistency.

If you are able to see your strength increase using a program I would personally say stick with it for awhile…if you begin to stall work on recovery first, that don’t work out then switch. Maybe not wait 3 years though I guess!

Your mileage could vary quite differently than mine and perhaps you could put 40+ lbs on each of your lifts in one year. I have heard of such things happening but hell if I know how to accomplish that.