So, you want to get swole? Bulking is a concept that was once uniquely reserved for the bodybuilding community. These days, bulking up has hit the mainstream. Men, women, grandmothers, gym newbies, and everyone else are looking to gain muscle for many different reasons. Some want to build a more muscular or toned physique, while others are chasing weightlifting PRs or seeking to improve in strength-based sports.
Whatever your reason, if you’re looking to learn how to bulk up, this article will give you all the bulking tips you need to start getting some #gainz. Most importantly, this article will show you how to bulk properly. You won’t find bulking shortcuts or unhealthy information on how to bulk up fast. This beginner guide is all about bulking up right so you improve your health and build results that last.
What Is Bulking?
Bulking is the practice of increasing body weight and muscle mass. In bodybuilding circles, bulking is part of a tried-and-true cycle to prepare for competition and is followed by a “cutting” phase where competitors try to cut weight without losing muscle in order to achieve peak muscular definition.
No matter who you are, what your body currently looks like, or how much fitness experience you have, the method to successfully bulking up is always the same. It requires two equally important steps: eating surplus calories to fuel muscle growth and performing resistance training to trigger muscle growth.
Let’s look at each of these steps in greater detail.
How to Eat for Bulking
Building muscle is hard work for your body and requires lots of energy. In order to fuel this process, you’ll need to eat progressively more calories. By eating surplus calories and performing resistance training, you’ll put your body into an “anabolic” state, where it has enough calories to begin constructing new tissues, including muscles.
If you don’t eat enough calories, you could trigger a “catabolic” state, where your body breaks down your existing fat and muscle for fuel. This is the opposite of what you want to do, so make sure you up your calorie intake.
How many calories do you need to eat to trigger hypertrophy, or muscular growth? That depends on the person, but generally, a bulking diet includes 10% to 15% more calories than your total daily energy expenditure (which you can determine by using an online TDEE calculator). This typically works out to 250 to 500 more calories per day.
Focus on eating enough protein and complex carbs. According to Bodybuilding.com, you can create a bulking meal plan that includes 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight and base the number of complex carbs you eat on how much you exercise.
How to Exercise for Bulking
The second ingredient in bulking is resistance training or weightlifting. Bodyweight movements or light weights won’t do the trick here. In order to trigger hypertrophy, you’ll need to put your muscles through some serious work. The best way to bulk is to lift heavy and perform enough reps that you get close to failure.
This type of exercise programming will create microscopic tears in your muscles, which will trigger a repair and growth process known as muscle-protein synthesis. Your body will build back your muscles bigger and stronger.
What does a bulking workout plan look like? That depends on how much time you can devote to weight training. You’ll want to work every muscle group two to three times a week. If you can only hit the gym three times a week, then you’ll need to perform full-body workouts. If you can swing by the gym five times a week, it’s often easier to only work a few muscle groups each day.
Start your bulking workout with big, compound movements, like deadlifts, squats, and bench press to hit your largest muscle groups. Follow that with accessory work on individual muscles, like bicep curls, triceps pull downs, and quad leg extensions.
There’s no one way to develop a bulking workout plan, but beginners would do well to perform four sets of each exercise. Try for 6 to 8 reps of compound movements and 8 to 15 reps of accessory movements. Remember, try to get close to failure with each set so you really force your muscles to work beyond their comfort zone.
What about cardio during bulking? Cardio exercise is important for everyone, even those seeking to bulk. However, you’ll want to limit your cardio exercise while you focus on bulking up. Performing a half-hour of biking, rowing, or swimming during a rest day can help maintain your aerobic capacity, but don’t overdo it. Too much cardio may force your body to burn the fuel it needs to help you build additional muscle.
Which Supplements to Use to Bulk
The right supplements can help improve your bulking results and even speed up your progress. However, they should never take the place of a well-designed bulking diet. Some of the most helpful supplements for muscle gain include:
Whey Protein and Plant Protein
Protein powder is filled with amino acids, which are the building blocks of your muscles. If you find you’re having trouble getting enough protein in your diet, protein powder can be a big help. Add it to water or make a delicious protein smoothie. In the EōS Fitness shop, you can find plant proteins and whey protein blends.
Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, help you preserve muscle glycogen stores and lower the breakdown of proteins in your muscles during exercise. BCAAs are most often found in meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish, so BCAA supplements can be helpful to vegetarians and vegans. The EōS Fitness shop offers BCAA recovery supplements in tasty flavors such as watermelon and lemonade.
This supplement may reduce fatigue during your workout, allowing you to increase your exercise performance.
Rather than taking a single supplement, post-workout mixes often combine several supplements to provide a more well-rounded offering. Post-workout supplements are designed to aid in muscular recovery and muscle building. They may contain glutamine, BCAAs, and protein. Some mixes are designed to be taken within 30 minutes of completing a workout, while others are best taken just before bed.
Pre-workout supplements are formulated to give you a helpful boost during your workout so that you can go longer and harder. While every formula is different, common pre-workout ingredients include caffeine, creatine, BCAAs, and beta-alanine. Nutrition 2 Go has some great options!
How Long Does Bulking Take?
One of the most common questions people have about bulking up is “how long should you bulk for?” The answer is, probably longer than you think. Anyone offering to teach you how to bulk up fast is likely trying to sell you something. Bulking the right way is generally a slow and gradual process.
In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science found that subjects who performed three full-body strength training sessions a week gained just two pounds of muscle mass in eight weeks. Your body can only change so quickly, and it’s not a good idea to try to push it too fast and too hard.
New exercisers will generally see bulking results the quickest, simply because they have a much wider range for improvement. Experienced bodybuilders who have gone through the bulking and cutting process multiple times will usually see much slower improvement.
How long to bulk will really depend on your goals and how quickly you progress. A good option is to work on bulking up for three months and then assess your progress. This will give you time to gradually increase your calorie intake and help your body get used to workout sessions with higher volume at the gym. After three months, you should notice a difference in your weight, the way your clothes fit, and your strength.
Ready to jump aboard the bulk train? Before you start grabbing the heaviest dumbbells on the end of the weight rack, here are a few bulking tips to help you learn how to bulk properly.
Tip #1: Avoid “Dirty” Bulking
Dirty bulking refers to a strategy where you gobble up candy, potato chips, and other junk food in order to consume the extra calories you need to gain weight. Sure, you’ll get bigger, but a lot of your gains will come from increased fat, rather than muscle. You’ll also be putting your health at risk.
Tip #2: Make Changes Gradually
Bulking shouldn’t be a race. Or, if it is a race, consider it a half-marathon. Slowly add calories to your meals and gradually increase the volume of your workouts at the gym. This will give your body the time it needs to adjust and will help you develop good health habits.
Tip #3: Focus on One Change at a Time
For bulking beginners, it can be difficult to turn your lifestyle upside down in order to start bulking. Instead of trying to make a ton of changes at once, consider focusing on one change at a time. Once it becomes a habit, you can focus on adding another habit. These changes can include: Going to the gym twice a week, adding one extra meal a day, cutting fast food out of your diet, drinking a protein shake before bed.
Tip #4: Hire a Nutritionist
Not sure what ratio of macros you need… or even what macros are? Eating the right foods in the correct portions is incredibly important to your bulking up success. If you want to cut through all the noise, hire a nutritionist who can put together a bulking meal plan for you.
Tip #5: Hire a Personal Trainer
Likewise, if you aren’t sure where to begin at the gym, hire a personal trainer. Keep in mind that personal trainers have different specialties, so you’ll want to find a trainer who specializes in helping clients build muscle.
Tip #6: Track Everything
The only way to know if you’re making progress is to track, track, track. Use apps, like MyFitnessPal to track your calories and macro ratios. Write down all your workouts so you can gradually increase your weight over time. You’ll also want to measure your arms, chest, legs, and glutes before you start bulking and then re-measure each month. Finally, don’t forget to take before and after photos. Tracking will help you manage your eating and training as well as help you see your progress, which can be incredibly inspiring.
What Comes Next?
After you’re happy with your bulking progress, you have two main options. You can either transition into maintenance mode where you stick with your current calorie and exercise load, or you can follow the bodybuilding playbook and start a cutting phase to focus on attaining a more defined look.
Your nutritionist and personal trainer can give you the guidance you need to continue in the direction you want. It helps to have a well-stocked gym to be your fitness base of operations. Try EōS Fitness, which offers a huge selection of free weights and resistance machines. EōS Fitness also provides friendly, knowledgeable, and certified personal trainers. Sign up for a Complimentary 7-Day Pass at an EōS Fitness near you.