When I first thought about bulking the first thing that came to my mind is ‘I’m going to get fat’. I thought I would lift heavy, eat tons of food, increase my muscle mass and gain [a lot of] noticeable fat. The first 3 things happened, but the fat gain was nothing like I expected. As long as you bulk slowly, fat gain can be kept to a minimum! I will explain how in this blog post.
When I decided to venture into bulking, I could not find one article that would tell me what I need to be doing or answer the questions I had; so that is exactly what I have done for you in this blog post. If you have any questions, comment below!
1. Find your Maintenance Calories
The first starting point is to find out exactly how many calories you need in order to maintain your current weight. The best way to do it is to calculate your maintenance calories, eat there for a week and see what happens with your weight. If you lose weight then you need to increase them by 50-100 calories the next week. If you gain weight then decrease them by 50-100 calories the next week. Once you know your maintenance calories, you can then figure out how many calories you need in order to bulk while gaining as little fat as possible.
Don’t be fooled though, finding your maintenance calories can be a lot more difficult than you would expect. My maintenance calories were around 200 calories OVER what the calculators told me (2200 calories per day) so I spent a good 2-3 weeks figuring this out.
Even if you are looking to burn fat and go into a calorie deficit, I highly recommend finding out your maintenance calories BEFORE cutting. That way you know exactly how many calories you can eat (and it may be a lot higher than what you think!).
2. Add in Calories
Once you know how many calories you need to eat per day in order to maintain your current weight, then you want to add in the extra calories that will be used to build muscle. I recommend 200-300 calories above maintenance per day for steady muscle gain and minimal fat gain.
3. Find your Macros
A 40/30/30 split or 45/25/30 split (Carbs/Protein/Fat) seem to work well for most. Otherwise you can calculate your correct macros at IIFYM.com (just use the custom calorie option). I recommend 0.9-1.1g protein per lb of body weight and 0.4-0.7g fat per lb of body weight. The rest of the calories come from carbohydrates.
4. Lift Heavy
If you aren’t already, you need to be lifting heavy. The optimal amount of reps for muscle gain/hypertrophy is 8-12 reps. I usually recommend doing 4 weeks at 6-8 reps, 4 weeks at 8-10 and 4 weeks at 10-12. Sets can be anywhere between 3-6.
5. Choose a Split Routine
The best routines for mass are either a 5 day split or a 4 day upper/lower split. Here is what your split may look like:
5 Day Split
Saturday: Arms & Abs
4 Day Split
Monday: Upper Body
Tuesday: Lower Body
Thursday: Upper Body
Friday: Lower Body
How much cardio you choose to do is up to you, it is recommended to do a max of 3 low-moderate intensity 20-30 minute cardio sessions a week. I choose to do no cardio while bulking.
6. Monitor your Progress
Keep track of your weight increase each week. You want to aim to gain between 0.5-1lb (0.25-0.5kg) per week. Also remember to take progress photos!
How long should I bulk for?
That is entirely up to you. The longer you bulk, the more muscle you will gain. A lot of women start with a small bulk (6-8 weeks) and then build up to a longer bulk (6-8 months).
Should I bulk or cut fat first?
The general rule of thumb is if you are under 25% body fat then bulk first, if you are over 25% body fat then cut first before bulking, but in the end the choice is yours!
How important is the amount of weights I lift? Should I try to steadily increase them each month/week?
You want to continue to progressively overload your muscles, so you want to try increasing your weights as often as you can (I try to increase my weights weekly, even if it is only by 0.5kg (1lb). You want to lift as much as YOU can lift [with good form] for each exercise within the given amount of repetitions.
What type of supplements should I take when trying to build muscle?
You don’t NEED to take supplements, but they will definitely help your progress. The supplements I recommend are:
1. Whey Protein to be take before/after working out
5. Testosterone Booster
6. Pre Workout
You can also see a breakdown of this list here.
Do you have a question? Post it in the comments section below!