Bulking is a term which is freely branded about these days – it’s something that most people involved in exercise know about and in short, most people also want a piece of it.
For those not in the know, bulking is the course of your body increasing its muscle mass. In the process, you’ll be getting stronger and losing that dreaded fat.
Suffice to say, it’s something that’s closely associated with body image. Let’s be honest, we all want the toned arms and the ripping six pack – it’s what’s flashed in front of us on all of the magazines and we all want a piece of it.
The guys who are on the front pages of these magazines have got bulking down to a tee. Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to conquer.
Of course, some people won’t be at all bothered about how they look – they’ll be bulking purely for health reasons. With stronger muscles, you’ll find that you’ll be able to complete your day-to-day activities much more easily and if you are involved in a particular sport, there’s every chance that your performance will be boosted as well. Additionally, you’ll be less likely to injure yourself – muscles can protect your body remarkably well.
As we’ve already touched upon, bulking isn’t at all easy though. It’s something which does require firm commitment and it’s not just hitting the gym on a frequent basis. Fortunately, the results can be life changing and instead of looking at those magazines in awe – you can actually feel good about yourself.
Therefore, without further ado, here’s how to bulk “the right way”. Read on how to do it without making all of the common mistakes that blight most people.
It’s not all about the gym
This is perhaps the biggest misconception about bulking. Most people think that a gym membership is a ticket to the bulging arms but unfortunately it doesn’t quite work like that.
Instead, you firstly need to fine-tune your diet.
If your diet is poor to start with, you’re not giving your body any sort of platform to bulk up. We’re not just talking about consuming lots of the wrong foods either – if you’re not eating enough, you may also struggle to bulk. It’s all about consuming the right foods which can fuel your muscle growth.
Firstly, let’s talk about calories. The trick here is finding a happy medium – consuming enough to give you the fuel to build muscle, but not taking too many which is going to cause obvious weight management problems. If you do sway towards the latter, the additional calories will be stored as fat and while you might get bigger – this will only because your fat levels will be increasing (not your muscles).
The good thing is that most people don’t need tremendous amounts of extra calories to reach their fitness goals. In fact, sometimes it just takes around 200 calories more per day – this equates to an avocado, so it’s hardly massive gains.
As well as the calories, you also need to be concentrating on what’s in your foods. Sure, you can reach your calorie targets by eating ‘X’ fast food burgers every day – but it’s here where you will be tuning into too much fat.
Instead, you need to be looking towards food which don’t have excessive amounts of fat, but instead are comprised largely of protein. Fortunately, there is such a demand for high-protein foods that you’ll be quick to find them in the supermarkets. We’re talking about meats, fish, poultry, nuts and grains – all which don’t add much fat to you, but boost your protein intake significantly.
We should also add a point about carbohydrates. While you shouldn’t be consuming too many carbs, they are an important energy source and will help you plough through those workouts.
Into the workouts
Like we said, most people associate bulking with heavy workouts.
As you probably will expect, lifting weights is how most people bulk up quickly. While we could go into great scientific detail to explain exactly how this happens, we’ll instead simplify it. Every time you lift a weight, your muscle will start to break down. Your body will then start to repair these muscles which have deteriorated – but the difference is it will develop bigger muscles so you can withstand more weight in the future. Like we say it’s an extremely simplified overview of the muscle-building process – but that’s exactly what it is in a nutshell.
In terms of your workout itself, you need to be concentrating on heavy compound weight lifting rather than isolation exercises.
The difference between the two is simple; while isolation exercises might not concentrate on the movement of one joint and one muscle group, compound lifts will target multiple. An example could be when you perform dumbbell kickbacks to work the triceps. This is an isolation exercise as you are only really moving your elbow and its solely your triceps which are being worked. Then, we have narrow-grip bench presses – using both the elbows and shoulders to focus on the triceps, pecs, deltoids and several other muscle groups. This is an example of a compound movement.
The reason why compound movements are so much more beneficial is because they produce much faster results. Rather than just concentrating on the odd muscle, you are going all-out and developing several at a time.
It’s worth remembering that when you’re building muscle, it involves the whole body. You’re not trying to make one muscle huge and the others much smaller. This is why compound weight lifting will put you in a much better position if you are looking to bulk.
What are the problems that most people run into when they start trying to bulk?
Considering the fact that a successful bulking strategy taps into both a healthy diet and a solid workout regime, it goes without saying that people often run into problems.
Bulking isn’t simple – and there are a whole host of mistakes that occur because of this.
To stop you falling into the usual traps, we’ve compiled some of the common mistakes that you need to try and avoid in a bid to bulk correctly.
Mistake #1 – Ignoring cardiovascular exercises
This is probably the most common mistake of all and in truth, it’s completely understandable. In a bid to generate that ripping physique – most people simply ignore cardiovascular work.
The philosophy is simple – cardio work isn’t going to build you muscle, so you simply ignore it.
Unfortunately, in practice it’s not quite as simple. While cardio work certainly isn’t going to build muscle, it does contain plenty of benefits which can help you develop indirectly.
The main one most definitely surrounds your appetite. If you embark on any cardio work, you will be provoked into eating more. As we’ve already discovered, this can help you meet your calorie goals and allow you to bulk much more easily.
Also, it should go without saying that cardio work is great for overall health. This is something that shouldn’t be ignored regardless of your specific fitness goals.
Mistake #2 – Not bothering to rest
This is another mistake which is to be expected. Most people believe that you should be training whenever possible in a bid to deliver the biggest gains.
However, if you go too far, you can push yourself over the edge and not make training efficient.
Umpteen studies have concluded that those athletes who don’t receive sufficient amounts of sleep are more likely to overeat – and even eat the wrong types of food. Therefore, by having a lack of rest, you are immediately risking your diet.
Then, there is the science involved in workouts itself. It’s absolutely essential to have at least some rest days, as this is the time where your muscles will start to recover and rebuild to be bigger and better than before. If you neglect the rest periods, your muscles don’t have chance to do this and all you’ll be doing is effectively hacking away at them through the course of a workout.
Mistake #3 – Eating too many calories
If you happen to be on the small side, or just think you need to completely overhaul your approach to eating, there’s every chance you might end up in this group.
Eating is a massive component of bulking – yet you’ve got to be careful not to overeat and gain too much fat.
Even if you’re really on the skinny side, don’t be tempted to just shove an additional 1,000 calories onto your daily intake. Instead, slowly work your way up and increase your caloric intake by small amounts.
It’s at this point where you can take a step back and analyse whether your new portion sizes really are making the difference – or whether or not you need to adjust them accordingly.
Mistake #4 – Not eating enough calories
Unsurprisingly, there is also the group that doesn’t eat enough calories.
There can be a whole host of reasons behind this; we’re not going to speculate. The fact that you need to keep in mind is that during the bulking phase, food is actually even more important than exercise. While you definitely need both to succeed – there’s no doubt that the correct diet is the most important element.
If you are struggling to eat the required amount of calories, it may even be some simple lifestyle changes that can help you succeed. It might be the case of preparing your meals every weekend – so there are no excuses regarding time. You merely need to identify why you aren’t eating enough, and act upon this.
Mistake #5 – Not being patient enough with your approach
Our final common mistake revolves around patience.
The media certainly don’t help with this – but if you think you’re going to go from nothing to that magazine-model in the space of weeks you need a reality check. The old saying “patience is a virtue” could not be more correct here – and it’s not all about just waiting for those elusive results.
When we talk about patience, we’re also on the subject of being patient with your goals beforehand. Attempting to gain 30 pounds in your bulking progress in a short space of time is going to be tricky and even if you do succeed, it’s going to be very difficult to continue with such intensity.
Instead, you should be more patient with your approach – gaining smaller amounts incrementally in a bid to reach your overall goal. This is a long-term approach, which is proven to yield more permanent results.
A summary on bulking the right way
As you can see, bulking is by no means easy. It’s a lifestyle choice; one that incorporates diet and exercise and leaves little room for error.
Fortunately, we’re now in an era where the human body is understood better than ever before. It means that bulking workouts are incredibly efficient and you can put on muscle mass relatively quickly if you work using the principles detailed above.