How to Log Madcow 5x5 with StrongLifts

NOTE: this feature requires StrongLifts Pro!

Starting v3.6 of StrongLifts for iOS, you can now log Madcow 5x5 by simply picking the template.

Here's how it works:

  • Go to home - edit - program - select Madcow 5x5 - tap "start program"
  • Set your starting weights by entering your estimated one rep max and progression
  • Check if the starting weights look good to you, then tap "Get Started"
  • Done!

Go back to the homescreen, and you'll see the three Madcow 5x5 workouts created for you. With the right exercises, sets, reps, and weights. 

StrongLifts will automatically alternate three three workouts and exercises, every time you lift. The weights will progress automatically, including when you fail reps. 

You no longer need to create your own Madcow program, it's all done for you, which saves you a ton of time entering things!

Madcow 5x5 Settings

By default StrongLifts will take your current best lifts to calculate your starting weights for Madcow 5x5. But you can tweak those starting weights to your liking the following settings:

  • Estimated 1 rep max - how much weight you can lift for one rep. Tap the e1rm value if you want to calculate it based off yourbest rep x weight x rpe. By default we estimate your 1RM based off the last time you did that exercise (or the strength level you picked during the app onboarding).
  • On-ramp - how many weeks to break your PR. The default setting is 4 weeks. If you want to start with lighter/easier weights, increase the on-ramp (ex: 8 weeks). If you want to start heavier, keep it at 4 weeks. Less than 4 weeks doesn't give you much time to get used to the program, so I don't recommend it.
  • Increments - how much weight to add each workout. Default is 2.5kg/5lb. You can microload upper-body exercises like bench by setting 1kg/2lb increments. Note that on Madcow each workout is only done once a week. So it takes a week for the weights to increase against last workout. The progression is slower than on StrongLifts 5x5.
  • Set increments - how much weight between sets. Default is 12.5%. On Madcow 5x5 workout A you do ramp sets. Example: 5x65, 5x80, 5x95, 5x110, 5x125kg. Here you have 15kg increments between sets. If you lower the set increment to 5% you get 5x100, 5x105, 5x112.5, 5x117.5, 5x125kg. That's 5-7.5kg between sets, and a lot harder.

Best to leave the default settings of 4 weeks on-ramp and 12.5% set increments the first time you do Madcow 5x5. The second time you do the program, you'll be able to better play with these settings based on your previous experience doing Madcow 5x5.

5 Work Sets Limitation

  • Currently it's not possible to log more than 5 work sets. We're considering making that possible in a future version of the app.
  • For now, this limitation does not prevent you to log Madcow 5x5 using StrongLifts.
  • One misconception is that the workout C of Madcow 5x5 requires 6 work sets. It's actually 5 work sets. 
  • Consider: in the Madcow 5x5 spreadsheet, the Squat in workout C goes from 5x135lb to 5x275lb when using the default 12.5% set interval.
  • If you do 275lb for 5 reps, then 135lb for 5 reps is about 50% of your top set.
  • This set is therefore not a workset but a warmup set. It doesn't need to show in your work sets.

In fact, the app will handle it that way:

  • Enter the weights for week one Squat in workout C
  • But skip the first set at 135lb. Make the first set 170lb, and then add the 4 next sets.
  • Then go back to your workout and look at the warmup - the last warmup set is 135lb.
  • => so StrongLifts already properly handles this like a warmup set already.
  • => there is therefore no need to create 6 work sets. Make 5, and let the warmup take care of the first light set of 5 (which is a warmup anyway).

If you have any questions or issues setting up Madcow with StrongLifts, email me at and we'll be happy to help!