It’s that time of the year again, its bulking season! As winter draws in and opportunities to be shirtless recede, most of us gym goers turn our focus to getting big as possible. It all falls down to eating and lifting basically.
Even though the principal may be simple, bulking is still an endless cycle for some guys. Turning them into fat slobs during bulking, and then crash dieting to burn the belly fat and to reveal those “abs.” Needless to say, that’s definitely not the best way to go about building muscle and improving your physique.
That is why you are going to learn how to actually bulk up properly, and finally get to the results you’ve been after for so long. Just keep reading!
1. Increase Calories
You can’t gain muscle or weight if you are not in a calorie surplus. Just take in more calories daily than you consume. But, how can you know how much you really need?
A good estimate of how many calories you should be consuming is to take your body weight and multiply it by 16. (Example: 200 pounds x 16 = 3200 calories.) If you don’t see the scale go up after two weeks, try increasing your calories by another 200 per day, until you hit the right amount.
2. Follow a Healthy Bulking Diet
Bulking doesn’t mean you can eat whatever and whenever you want. You still need to eat healthy, aim for a 40/30/30 percent breakdown of protein to carbs to fats.
You’ll want to save most of your carbs for workout days, just to take the advantage of the quick energy they provide (and if you can, eat the biggest meal post-workout). Carbs are actually the most important macro-nutrient for bulking, it’s the fuel you need in order to keep going.
3. More Protein!
Two or three eggs for breakfast won’t cut it – protein needs during a bulk are higher than before. You need at least 0.7-1g of protein per pound of body weight each day. Have protein with each and all of your meals. Sources like lean chicken, beef, salmon, eggs, tofu, quinoa, cottage cheese, and nuts are great.
4. Avoid Junk Food
A big cheeseburger and fries certainly sound good, they have the necessary calories you need, however they are overly processed and contain way too much fat. Sugar, salt, and saturated fat can cause you to dirty bulk real quick and put on unnecessary fat that is going to be a nightmare to lose during summer.
That is why you should always opt for veggies and lean meats. For carbs, go for potatoes, yams, rice, whole grains, oats, etc. You still can have a cookie or pizza slice here and there, but just don’t go overboard!
5. Train Hard
Training hard and frequent is a must if you’re really determined to bulk up this winter.
A classic push/pull/legs split will probably be the best option you can choose. During push days, you train chest, shoulders, and triceps. For pull days you hit back and biceps. And lastly, on leg day you obviously do all sorts of squats, lunges, and other leg dominant exercises.
6. Moderate Reps
Before I talk about the adequate rep range, I first need to address the phenomenon of “half reaping.” Don’t be that guy with terrible form and half reps, lower the load and do full-range of motion, please…
Now, as far as the proper range goes, for most exercises aim to do anywhere from 6-10 reps per set. That will be enough to stimulate growth.
7. Try Drop Sets, Super Sets, and Negatives
Finish your regular set with some muscle building tools.
To do a drop set, simply grab a weight that is around 25% lighter and rep out as many additional reps as you can, after your major set of course.
For a super set, perform a different exercise right after your major set. For example, after your standard barbell curls, do some extra dumbbell ones.
And lastly, try out negatives. After you reach failure at your last rep, crank the weight up again and do the negative portion of the rep. You’ll definitely feel the burn!
8. Still Do Some Cardio
Cardiovascular focused exercises boost metabolism, and with a faster metabolism you’ll minimize fat gain and actually improve muscular development.
A day or two of cardio per week will be just enough. Keep it simple, pickup basketball, a light jog, or just walk on the treadmill.
9. Track Your Progress
Track your body fat percentage, measurements, and weight every two weeks to ensure you’re on the right path. If you lost weight or stayed at the same measurements, you’ll need to slowly increase calories. If you gained a bit too much fat, carefully lower your calorie intake. This is the best way to avoid excess fat and time waste.
10. Sleep and Recovery
During sleep, your body releases a number of crucial hormones, one of which is HGH (Human Growth Hormone) which helps you build muscle mass. It’s also the time when your body repairs itself from all the stress and muscle tears you induced during training and everyday activities.
Avoid shortchanging your results and get at least seven to eight hours of quality sleep per night.
11. Using the Right Supplements
Supplements are not mandatory, but they sure can help you achieve the results you’re after.
The only supplements you really need are creatine monohydrate, a quality protein powder (preferably whey protein), and a multivitamin.
Creatine monohydrate is one of the most researched sports supplements out there, it provides a proven increase in energy and strength. Use 3-5 grams every day, generally the best time would be after your workouts.
A protein powder is just a convenient way to get your vital protein dose. Use it sparingly, and focus more on real food.
And lastly, a multivitamin supplement can be useful as it provides all the necessary micronutrients and vitamins in just one capsule.
12. Be Lean First, Then Bulk
Before starting your bulk, check if your body is at the right starting point. If you’re at a reasonable body fat (10-15%), and have at least some visible abs, then your body can optimally distribute nutrients between muscle and fat and you’ll minimize any fat gain.
If you’re a beginner with the skinny-fat look, you’ll have a disadvantage in insulin sensitivity gaining muscle versus fat.
Get your desired level of leanness first, and then bulk up to your dream physique.