It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s fall, football is back, and Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are right around the corner.
But most importantly, it’s the start of bulking season.
As the days begin to get shorter and your metabolism begins to slow down due to the lack of natural vitamin D via daylight & summer sunshine, it’s time to start planning out this years bulk.
So, before you ditch the cardio, up your macros to epic ratios, and settle into a nice low-rep scheme, let’s get a few details sketched out to ensure you acquire lean muscle mass this fall.
And maybe, just maybe, you won’t have to work twice as hard when spring has sprung and cutting season rolls back around.
1. Have a goal in mind
Rule number one to a successful bulk is having a goal weight in mind. Obviously, this weight should be a realistic number attainable in the given number of weeks you’re planning on bulking.
Personally, while bulking, I aim to add 0.5lb-1lb of bodyweight per week to my frame. So, if I begin bulking at a weight of 210lbs in September, I would set my bulking goal weight at about 220-225lbs by January (~16 weeks of bulking).
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, “why is this guy talking in terms of pounds when we all know body fat percentage is the best unit of measurement when tracking progress?”
I don’t disagree with you. Utilizing a bodyfat caliper while bulking isn’t the worst idea in the world and is something you should actually try to incorporate to make sure you are in line with your goals.
However, it’s not easy to gain strictly muscle mass while bulking. You’re almost guaranteed to add a few percentage points in terms of body fat. And that my friend is why your goal weight is going to be so important. Keep an eye on your body fat percentage to make sure it stays within a healthy range, but don’t be too alarmed if it increases during your bulk.
If you’re reaching your goal weight faster than expected, cut back on the cals and readjust your macros accordingly. If you’re not making any progress, it’s time to up them slightly until you are seeing progress.
2. Count Your Calories
It’s easy to eat with reckless abandon. Fun for a while too. But if you plan on adding lean mass to your frame instead of fat this bulking season, it’s probably in your best interest to count those calories.
First thing’s first, you’re going to have to establish a baseline for the amount of calories you burn just living and breathing in a day. We actually have a great BMR calculator here for you to test out. Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to figure out how we’re going to get you in a caloric surplus to gain weight.
So, taking into account how much you burn being alive, add in the amount of calories you burn with exercise. Next, make sure you eat enough to match that amount. Then, make sure to add in 250-300 calories a day to remain in a surplus. Test that amount for a few weeks and track your weight. If you’re gaining to fast or slow, adjust the amount of calories you’re taking in accordingly.
I know counting calories can be a bit meticulous, but luckily for you we live in century where there’s numerous programs that will do it for you. I recommend downloading MyFitnessPal and following the prompts.
Now, I’m not trying to rob you from enjoying the best part of bulking season and indulging in extra carbs or other forms of macronutrients. But be smart, don’t over-indulge. You’ll regret it when it’s time to turn around and cut weight.
Besides, if you end up having an epic cheat day on any of the given upcoming holidays, we won’t tell anyone if you don’t.
3. Don’t abandon Cardio
One of my biggest pet peeves that people do during bulking season is cutting out cardio. I understand, nobody likes doing it and social media memes have type casted this valuable form of exercise as a gainz stealing, muscle robbing, Spanish verb.
I’m not going to suggest you do as much cardio as you would if you were trying to get lean. Instead, focus on utilizing cardio as a means to build additional muscle, manage your body fat while in a caloric surplus, and as a tool for recovery.
Up the resistance on a stationary bike and perform some sprint intervals to get those legs nice and pumped. Second thought, hop on the rower and sprint your way to some killer legs and lats.
Too much? You could simply set the treadmill at a steep incline and jog at a slow pace for 15-20 minutes to help build up your likely lagging calves. On lower intensity days go for a brisk walk to improve blood flow and circulation to help aid in the recovery of your muscles.
Change your train of thought from skipping cardio for fear of it robbing your gains, to seeing it for what it actually is: A form of exercise that serves to keep you heart healthy, functional, all with a better body composition.
4. Build up Your Lagging Areas
You’ve likely been cutting for a while now. You’ve seen your summer shred come to fruition right before your very eyes.
In doing so, what did you notice? Personally, it’s the same thing I noticed last year, my lat development some how managed to take the backseat to the rest of my body.
Make this year’s bulk different. You know your weak points and lagging body parts, now attack them and command them to grow. Figure out a plan of action and make sure all those extra calories you’re currently consuming are going to aid the rebuilding process of those muscles.
For me, maybe I will add in an extra back day and hit it twice a week this year, or maybe I’ll add in pullups to my dynamic warmups. Whatever the case is, I know my weakness and you know yours. The difference between this year’s bulk being a success or a failure is whether or not you’re going to decide to improve upon it.
5. Find a Training Program & Stick to it
It’s really not rocket science, but it’s definitely a reason most guys/girls won’t have a successful bulk. Whether you have workout ADD or you didn’t follow my advice in tips 1 & 2 and the scale/your body fat percentage skyrocketed, switching workout plans week to week isn’t going to help out your cause here.
Progressive overload is a proven concept1. To increase muscle density and make gains this bulking season, you have to be committed to a workout long term and gradually progress either the weight your using for each set and/or the amount of reps/sets you’re doing per lift. When bulking, I prefer the former.
You’ve got 12-16 weeks to bulk before it’s shredding season again (at least in most bro’s & bro-ette’s periodization). Make them count. We’ve got plenty of workouts for you to select from on M&S.
I encourage you to run one for the complete 12-16 weeks, increasing the weight you use gradually week to week. If you’re worried about your workouts getting stale, pick 2 that have similar compound lifts and run them each for 8 weeks.
By the time the New Year ball drops and your goals are realigned to shredding for spring, you’ll have plenty of mass to uncover. If you work hard enough, you might not even have that much fat to burn.
You’ve got your work cut out for you and it’s going to be a fun fall adding some additional calories/macros back into your diet while dialing back the cardio. But be smart and don’t go overboard.
Focus on putting those calories to good use by attacking your weak areas and being consistent with your workouts. Managing your calories and building those weak links is going to make you feel complete when you reveal those lean gains and everyone else is still struggling to lose the extra 10lbs of fat they gained.
Take it a step further. Make yourself accountable and help out other’s embarking on their own bulk. Throw your goals, progress, and any additional tips you may have down in the comments section below.
- Hass, Christopher J., Matthew S. Feigenbaum, and Barry A. Franklin. "Prescription of Resistance Training for Healthy Populations." Sports Medicine 31.14 (2001): 953-64. Web.