Will using the "5x5" formula will build size and strength at same time?

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    Yes. Why do you think it might not? Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 22:57

2 Answers 2


There are a few 5x5 formulas out there, the first that I'm aware of being Bill Starr's.

The "madcow 5x5" variant was initially set up as modded version for body builders, with the power clean being replaced by barbell rows.

Fundamentally, between those two and all the others you still end up with a basic formula of Monday:Volume / Wednesday:Light / Friday:Heavy . Most of the changes between the different 5x5 programs are switching out cleans for deadlifts, incline for flat bench, or other things of that sort. The weekly schedule, and ~2.5% weekly increase in weights is the same.

Will using the "5x5" formula will build size and strength at same time?

I don't see how that's not possible, unless you're already pretty big and pretty strong in which case an intermediate program might not be enough for you. By that I mean you can squat maybe 3x your bodyweight, or something else ridiculously up there.

The only caveat I'd provide is that you tend to not be very lean when doing these. Your whole goal is to make your numbers, so you will (and should) error on the side of too many calories. Not stupid-too-many, but being on a strict diet of water and broccoli isn't going to cut it.

It's hard to say how anyone's body will respond to a training program, but imagine pulling 600lbs off the ground in a deadlift: you'll be pretty damn big and pretty damn strong, and the road to there is with progressive overload lifting programs like 5x5 (and 5/3/1, Texas method, etc).


To answer that question requires some basic understanding on how muscles grow. Strengtheory has a good article that provides the basics. The short answer is that it depends.

Whether 5x5 will build strength and muscle for you depends on:

  • Your genetics
  • Your training maturity
  • Whether the weight is heavy enough to cause fatigue
  • How well you manage your recovery

If you are a beginner, then the good news is:

Almost anything you do will increase strength and size.

As you mature as a lifter, it gets increasingly more difficult to focus on both size and strength. There's several general programs out there that will give you general results, and many of them focus more on the strength side than the hypertrophy side.

If you are intermediate to advanced, then the bad news is:

You'll have to pick a training focus and use periodization to leverage the results.

You'll find that many strength competitors in this situation will use an "off season" to focus on hypertrophy and just look for a mental break from trying to keep adding weight on the bar. As they get closer to a competition, the training focus moves more towards strength. This is most common in Strongman, but also very common in Powerlifting. Many competitors will also take some time off from the weight room and just work on general physical preparedness for a couple months.

Bottom Line

Too much in strength training depends on several factors that you can never truly be emphatic on most answers. There's nothing magic about 5x5 or 3x5. They are good for general purpose volume, and help in both strength and size (provided the weight is heavy enough) for a large number of people. There's always people who can get decently strong but struggle to add size. There's also always people who pretty much get stuck at a certain weight.

Most beginner 5x5 programs are geared for short term gains in strength, and then you start working with a different program. 3 months on a beginner program should be plenty, and then you can slow down how agressively you attempt to add on more weight.

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