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Bulking; How To Put On Mass & Add Quality Muscle

by: Maxwell Sanchez

Bulking is not the same as it used to be.  Those that say it is have either never bulked, do not know how, are old school, or probably never read this article.  You, my friend, will be better off after today! 

You just finished your “shredding” phase and now you are ready to get your “bulk” on.  I know what you are thinking; “I am going to eat everything in sight”. Hold on rookie! To put on quality muscle, you’ve got to eat the right foods. More specific, what you do in the kitchen will determine how well your “bulk” will be. After all, do you want to be 225 lbs with lots of Lean Body Mass (LBM) or 225 lbs with high body fat percentages? Yeah, I knew lean body mass would be more appealing to you.  You probably had your bulking phase all planned out though! Your approach was probably to eat 6,000 calories and that was to be accomplished with 3 stops to your favorite fast food restaurant then ending the night, just before bed, with your favorite dessert. Do that and you will find yourself bulking all right; “dirty bulking” that is. Bulking is not as easy as you may think but I will help you find out how to bulk properly to build-mass and put on good quality muscle.


Dirty Bulk

For years, there has been so much confusion around how to bulk properly. In the fitness world, bulking properly implies you will get good clean solid food in your diet throughout the day and your macronutrients are accounted for aka “clean bulk”. Yet, you hear “dirty bulking” and “clean bulking” tossed around so frequently. These terms are as clear as night and day. I will let you decide which is night and which is day or better yet, let me help you. Believe me, one will make you feel alert & energetic while the other will make you feel gloomy & tired. The gloomy & tired bulk comes from “dirty bulking”. Dirty bulking was a highly used way of bulking years ago during the bodybuilding world. It referred to eating a surplus of calories through flexible eating. So yes, fast food was part of the menu, so were desserts, and anything else the bodybuilder could get their hands on. Old school bodybuilders simply ate anything and everything to help them eat above their maintenance caloric level. I know, “So what is the problem? I am all for that”. Doing a “dirty bulk” comes at some expense to you.

  • You will increase your levels of body-fat quickly. Therefore, you will be heavier but your Lean Body Mass (LBM) will either remain the same or increase slightly but not enough to account for the huge increase in body-fat.
  • Your energy levels will be unstable compared to eating clean foods. Having unstable energy levels will be a sure way to compromise your heavy lifting workouts; which by the way is needed to increase your muscle mass.
  • Say bye to your abs and ripped muscles! If you had abs and ripped muscles, no chance you will have them anymore. You will be covered in layers of adipose tissue (fat).

As you can see, there is not much benefit to you to do a dirty bulk. Put that dirty mentality away and let’s get clean here.

Clean Bulk

Clean bulking refers to eating a surplus of calories just like dirty bulking. However, the biggest difference is how macronutrients are accounted for and what foods are being consumed. Unlike dirty bulking where the food is typically crap, a clean bulk will consist of good quality proteins and the calories may also be consumed with the help of a weight gainer. Good quality types of proteins will include lean cuts of red meats, egg & egg whites, chicken, cottage cheese, and lean ground turkey, just to name a few. Eating a surplus of calories above maintenance level is a pretty hard thing to do especially doing it in a “clean” way. Your lifting will be your go to assistant to help you put all that food down. We will talk about that in a moment. The benefits are very rewarding during and after a clean bulk. A few of those rewards are:

  • High levels of stable energy throughout the day and during your workouts. This allows you to give your maximum effort during every lift and gym session.
  • Minimal amounts of body-fat increase. Your LBM will increase quicker than your adipose tissue.
  • If you have abs and ripped muscles, you will still be able to see them even though you are at a heavier weight
  • When it is time to “shred”, you will have a much easier time reducing the body-fat levels since you gained minimal amounts of fat.

Now that we have a solid foundation on dirty bulking and clean bulking, I think you would agree a clean bulk will take you further on your quest for some solid muscle mass.

Length of Bulking Phase

I just shared with you the differences between two types of bulking. Hopefully, you have chosen to clean bulk. Once you start to bulk, do not make the mistake to bulk forever. Like the saying goes, “More is not better”. If the doctor tells you to take medication for 10 days would you go 20 days? Probably not! Same goes with your bulking phase. The biggest mistake people make is going 6-12 months on a bulking phase. I won’t say that is wrong because that could be the case for someone who is on a specific program to achieve a specific goal. That is for a small population of lifters though. Generally speaking, you will want to keep your bulking phase at 3 months. The reason is so you can then transition to a maintenance or “shredding” phase for another 3 months, which will help your body with fat reduction and give your body a rest from so much food and heavy lifting. After another 3 months, you can return to another bulking phase. Keep in mind, typically, you can gain approximately 1 pound of muscle per week. During every bulking phase you should be adding some Lean Body Mass and make adjustments as needed. If you see yourself adding too much adipose tissue, gradually reduce your calories. A good bulking phase requires you to be in tune with your body week in and week out because adjustments will be necessary before you can hit the sweet spot.


Lift To Look Like The Hulk

Lifting is the fun part of bulking. Let’s face it, everyone wants to lift so heavy they feel they can lift the world. During your bulking phase, lifting is paramount to your success. One thing is eating right but the other component is lifting right. Just as there are different phases to transforming your body, i.e., Bulking, Maintenance, and Shredding, there are also phases to lifting. To build the most strength and muscle, you will need to lift heavy. Heavy implies repetition counts of 6-12 with sets of 3-4. Your lifts need to be comprised of compound exercises such as barbell chest, barbell squats, barbell back rows, and others that include the barbell. Machines and cables should not consume your workout. If done right, every workout should leave you wanting that post-workout shake of yours.     

Putting It All Together

Hopefully by now, you are fired up and ready to start your bulking phase. A few things to keep in mind as you put your program together:

  • Know your maintenance caloric level and add 15-20% more calories (To get a quick and easy maintaince calories use Men - BWx11 or Women - BWx10)
  • Shakes are calories so don’t forget to account for them
  • Eat 6-8 times per day
  • Your highest caloric intake should be post workout
  • Do not forget about cardio, minimal amounts will do (3/week 15-20 mins of light cardio)
  • Lift heavy but safe and within 6-12 rep range
  • Rotate your bulking phase every 3 months

Ok! Now you are ready to start your bulking phase!

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