As a regular weightlifter, you’ll be well acquainted with bulking season. As the months start to feel colder, there are less opportunities for whipping your shirt off and more thoughts pointed towards supersizing those gains. In a nutshell, it’s about eating and lifting big to bulk up before cutting season hits.
Bulking seasons focuses on two core principles: consuming plenty of food to keep yourself in a calorie surplus and regular exercise to trigger hypertrophy – aka, muscle gain. Sounds easy enough, right? But there are downfalls. Don’t worry though, we’ve made the mistakes for ourselves so you don’t have to.
Here’s how to bulk up – fast.
Biggest mistakes when bulking
One of the biggest bulking mistakes is the assumption that a so-called “dirty bulk” will get you those gains. This is typically a diet of fatty fast food and crazy shakes, with very little nutritional benefit. While a total binge-fest on your favorite cheat meals may sound like a dream come true, excessive weight gain and minimal muscle growth isn’t where you want to be!
This kind of routine will result in an expanded waistline, all while causing havoc with your internal organs. Let’s look at it this way – you wouldn’t put cheap fuel in your Ferrari, would you?
How to bulk up the right way
Instead of filling your face sitting on the couch, try filling your diet with good quality protein, antioxidants, essential fats and carbs and fibre. A healthy diet and decent sleep will stand you in good stead for a healthy bulk.
In other words, keep training hard, eating smart and resting plenty. In order to support sustainable muscle growth, you need to be optimising your body’s natural anabolic (muscle building) hormones. So instead of filling your body with takeouts and greasy foods, support the health of your internal organs.
Before throwing yourself in at the deep end and not seeing results, plan ahead and keep track. A long-term strategy of nutrition and training hard will help you throughout your bulking cycles and beyond.
How much should you be eating?
Much like losing weight, everyone is different when it comes to the best way to bulk up. Although it’s great hearing advice from your gym buddies, bulking tips that work for them may not necessarily work for you.
When it comes to gaining weight, there are typically three types of bulkers.
The dudes with a fast metabolism, making weight gain a struggle. If you fall into this category, you’ll need to consume a hefty amount of calories to bulk up.
These guys are the lottery winners when it comes to genetics, gaining muscle quickly.
These bulkers typically gain weight and store fat pretty easily, but be warned, too much fat may lead to a huge waistline boost instead of bulking.
One of the best ways to work out your calorie intake and resting or basal metabolic rate (BMR), is by using an online calculator.
Once you know which category you fall into, you’ll begin to understand the amount of calories your body requires to fuel metabolic processes on your average day. With that nailed, you’ll quickly discover how many calories you need to consume to kick into a calorie surplus.
But let’s put that into perspective a little. A 75kg man that’s relatively active has a BMR of around 1,750 calories, requiring roughly 2,715 calories per day for maintenance. If you’re feeling totally lost on how to bulk up with calories, aim for around 10-15% above maintenance. Going by our previous example, bump your intake up by anything between 270 – 410 calories each day.
Tips for creating a bulking food plan
Before heading out for your favorite takeaway, you first need to establish the macronutrient breakdown of your diet. Sorry guys, now’s really not the time to load up on the wrong foods.
For the ectomorph hardgainers, you should ideally load up with a daily 3g intake of protein, 5g of carbs and 1g of healthy fats per kilogram of bodyweight. If you fall into the mesomorph and endomorph categories, aim for around 2g of protein, 2g of carbs and 1g of fats – adjust these amounts each week to boost lean muscle gain.
As we mentioned earlier, you’re gonna need a plan. Keeping track of how many calories and grams of each macronutrient is super important. MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular apps for keeping tabs on your diet and help you remember what fuel you’re putting into your body. Much like weight loss, it’s key to pay attention to what you’re eating when you’re trying to bulk.
If you prefer to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may find it a little trickier to get enough complete proteins (containing all nine amino acids, such as eggs, milk and meat) to support your training goals. Difficult, sure, but not impossible. If you’re vegan, there are plenty of protein-rich sources – including buckwheat (perfect in porridge), quinoa, tofu and quorn.
If you’re looking for a quick snack, you can’t go wrong with a peanut butter sandwich. Get yourself some wholewheat bread, two thick tablespoons of peanut butter and you’re taking in 15g of complete protein – delicious!
What are the best supplements for bulking?
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This incredible bulking supplement pushes more oxygen to your muscles, meaning every rep gives bigger results. With ABULK, your fatigue will decrease and your muscle mass will increase. This incredible formula will allow you lift more weight, push your stamina and recover faster.
If you’re looking to bulk up, you’re looking for TBULK. This incredible 100% natural steroid alternative will allow you to push more weight, bulk up FAST and cut stubborn fat. With natural ingredients and zero side effects, you can’t go wrong.
This cutting edge formula is a hot favourite for those looking for ways to bulk up FAST. Designed to mimic the effects of Sustanon (testosterone), be prepared for big gains in muscle, strength and performance.
Caffeine and beta-alanine
This combination is a popular go-to for bulkers, with good evidence revealing that the combo of stimulant and amino acid can boost your workout performance and therefore increase muscle growth.
No matter where you’re at in your bulking cycle, probiotics are a great top up of good bacteria for your gut – supporting your immune system. A daily supplement can help keep your body on top form while you push for those GAINS.
Best bulking exercises
When you’re on a drive for massive gains, the time you spend working out needs to be spent on maximising time under tension. This will result in micro-tears, inflammation and increased blood flow to the muscle fibres.
A mixture of maximised time under tension, high quality diet and plenty of rest will allow muscle fibres to repair – resulting in huge strength and muscle gain.
For the best results, when planning your bulking exercises, be sure to base your workout around compound movements – such as deadlift, bench press, squat, chin-ups and bent over row while limiting calorie-burning metabolic conditioning.
Muscle groups to train in your bulking exercises
When you want to bulk up, you want to bulk up fast, right? For maximum results, you need to train each major muscle group twice a week. Start with four sets of 6-8 reps of the compound exercise in each workout. As you progress each week, increase the weight and gradually overload your muscle for maximum returns.
After working your ass off in the big lifts, allow the rest of your bulking up workouts to focus on accessory work. Incorporate single-joint movements, such as pec flyes, lateral raises, tricep pull-downs and bicep curls.
Our best advice? Go hard or go home. Allow yourself plenty of time on each bulking exercise, working until your muscles can’t take much more. Don’t rush your workout.
One tip for achieving this is through slow tempo rest-pause sets – such as the incline bench press. Select a weight you can rep ten times before you can’t do anymore.
Kick it off like this:
- Press the weight at a tempo of two seconds up, four seconds down
- Rest for 20 seconds
- Press the weight for two seconds up, two seconds down until you run out of juice
- Rest for 20 seconds once more
- Final set with as many reps as you can at a faster tempo
Feel the burn!
What are the best exercise to bulk up?
Want to get the most out of your bulking exercises? We’ve got you covered.
Targets: Glutes, lower back, hamstrings
Go heavy with four sets of 5-8 reps. The deadlift is one of the best total-body moves for building muscle and burning fat. To complete, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp the bar with both hands just outside your legs. Keep your spine strong and your head neutral.
Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, quads
Start off strong with a goblet squat, building your way up to the full barbell squat. Get yourself a dumbbell and hold it at chest height with both hands. Keep your chest up and lower into a squat with your knees wide. Push the movement through your legs to return to the starting position.
When you’re ready, take your time with a barbell and lower for two to three seconds before driving your body back up.
Targets: Core, upper back, biceps
A chin-up is one of the best bulking exercises around. Their key benefits include targeting your abs and deep core muscles, which protect your spine and build a foundation for packing on that extra muscle. Incorporate resistance bands into this bulking exercise to help pump up those biceps on the eccentric (lowering) part of the movement.
Incline bench press
Targets: Triceps, shoulders, chest
This bulking exercise – when on an incline – can double up on your deltoids and pecs. If you’ve got a workout buddy to spot you, hit it with the barbell. If you’re unsure about lifting a heavier weight on a barbell, opt for dumbbells instead. Go slow and steady, lowering the weight under control, keeping your muscles under tension for longer – resulting in huge gains.
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