For most lifters, making initial gains isn’t a problem. If they have never trained before, then it doesn’t require much time and effort to add some size to their chest and arms, and bring out some detail in their abs, when they first enter the gym. This phenomenon is known as “Beginner’s Gains” and it is very real. Most newbies in the gym do make solid gains for the first few months into the first year. Then, everything changes…
Once intermediate status is achieved in the gym, changes become much harder to see on a regular basis. Nutrition suddenly comes into play. Early on, eating McDonalds from a drive thru following a tough workout didn’t affect gains. The lifter still saw solid improvements, gaining muscle and shedding body fat as his former untrained self fell to the wayside. Everything suddenly changed once the initial base foundation of muscle was present. Suddenly, drinking a gallon of Coca-Cola each day meant ab muscles began to blur. Suddenly, a breakfast of apple pie and pop tarts didn’t provide adequate energy for training an hour or longer at high levels. Suddenly, a diet consisting of little to no protein meant you were now gaining little to no muscle.
Training works the same way! Novice lifters can train any way and still see solid gains. Intermediate lifters hitting the wall from this normal style of reckless training suddenly see injury and lagging gains once they’ve been training for a year. Many lifters – the smart ones at least – have discovered a training system known as the Texas Method as an effective tool for extended Beginner’s Gains into “Intermediate Gains” and keep the early cycles of fast muscle gain and quick fat loss going, even as their years of training add up.
Texas Method training is simple. Mondays lifting is known as high volume, Wednesdays are reserved for active recovery, and every Friday is dedicated to high intensity training. The combination of these training methodologies gives the central nervous system plenty of time to recover, and targets the muscles of the body in both fast and slow twitch variety. One can effectively maintain beginner’s gains if the Texas Method is used correctly.
Squat 5 sets of 5 repetitions using 90% of your 5 repetition maximum weight. These are heavy!
Bench Press using 5 sets of 5 repetitions using 90% of your 5 repetition maximum weight.
Deadlift for 1 set of 5 repetitions using your 90% 5 RM number.
This is known as Volume 5 training, and Monday is your Volume Day. You’re training very heavy and intense with this system. The 5RM number is ideal for building strength AND muscle because it doesn’t commit to either process. Training for 1RM or 2RM would make you a stronger lifter, but wouldn’t lead to any significant continued muscle mass gains. Training with sets of 10-12, typical for most lifters, doesn’t build strength as one would like. The pump is nice and will lead to some muscle, but a lack of sustained strength gains means you’re not going to continue your early trends of gains, which is the point of the Texas Method.
Squat 2 sets of 5 repetitions at 8% of the weight used on Monday
Overhead Press 3 sets of 5 using 90% of the previous weight used
Chins 3 sets of bodyweight to failure
Glute-Ham raise or Back extension for 5 sets of 10 repetitions.
Wednesday is known as recovery day. Training is similar to Monday, alternating some exercises to target the major muscle groups while using only 80% of the work weight used earlier in the week. You’re hitting the muscles, but with less of a workload, and going higher in reps on the back/glute work.
Squat – Warm up then work to find your 5 repetition max.
Bench Press – Warm up, then knock out a 5 repetition max.
Power Clean/Snatch (Alternate weeks)
Friday is known as Intensity Day.
You will be training very intense on Friday, searching for your new five repetition maximum lifting capacity (5RM). Aim to conquer your Monday lift, even if only by 1 to 2 pounds. Small increments are the best friend of the intermediate lifter seeking to make beginners gains!
You’ll note that the Texas Method is very simple in terms of exercise selection. This is by design. You’re trying to add numbers to heavy compound movements, not seek out new angles for 20 sets of biceps curls. Scientifically, gains in strength equate to gains in muscle mass, which keeps you on an upwards gains trend. Gains will come slower than those you saw as a beginner, but they will be steady and consistent.
One highly important factor with the Texas Method is that you DO NOT grow bigger and stronger from lifting weights. Sure, you’ll enjoy a pump in the gym and feel inflated at the time. But the actual growth – the actual improvements to your muscle size and ability to move more weight – occurs AFTER the training session. These wonderful things take place during the recovery cycle, the 48 to 72 hours following a workout. It is during this time that you enjoy a diet rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fats, take your supplements, and enjoy 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep each night will engaging in a low stress lifestyle. Without these recovery factors in place, the work you put in at the gym will be wasted!
Beginner lifters should take this advice to heart. You only get to be new at lifting once. Making the most of this time is your best bet. Train early and often with heavy presses, squats, deadlifts, and curls. Build up a strong muscle foundation and core strength by using the heavy compound basics. Don’t live in the dumbbell curl rack. Live to build your entire body into a strong, functional muscle mass machine. Early gains are priceless, and envied by those who have been in the muscle game for decades. Embrace them, and use them wisely!