How To Bulk Up Fast: Maximize The Muscle Building Process

Max Riley
Written By: Max Riley
March 13th, 2013
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Nutrition
281.9K Reads
Forget six pack abs - it's time to bulk and pack on some serious muscle mass! Maximize the muscle building process with these seven workout and diet plan tips.

This article is not for those of you who want the skinny, 160 pound six pack look. If that's your goal you might as well click away because you won't find help here.

This bulking plan is strictly for lifters who want to build muscle as rapidly as possible.

Let's get something is anabolic. It should be used to your benefit. If you are training your cajones off in the gym but not eating enough, guess what? Right, you get it: you will cut your gains short.

So many bulks fail. You see it time and time again on forums. There are only a few reasons this occurs:

Not eating enough food. This is the most common reason bulks fail. These types of bulks are not generally called "bulks." The lifter usual has some unusually fear of fat gain, so he walks a tight line with his food intake and gains no weight at all.

This wasn't a real bulk attempt. It was more of a personal fairy tale; an attempt to find some amazingly quick way of packing on 30 pounds of muscle while also losing fat. This won't happen unless you're a muscle building freak of nature who can gain arm size by simply rolling dumbbells around on the floor.

Not progressing in weight. You can eat all the food you want, but if you're not aggressively pursuing strength increases in common hypertrophy (muscle building) rep ranges, all you're going to do is gain fat. Simply stated, a bulk without progression is a fat gain program.

Maximize Your BulkDon't Fear The Bulk

A properly structure bulk isn't going to turn you into a sumo wrestler. Yes, you might see a weight spike the first week or two, but this generally isn't fat gain, so stop panicking. When you start bulking, and eating more calories, a few things occur:

Carb Intake Increases Water Weight

Bulking generally involves eating more daily carbs. Extra carb intake increases bodyweight in several ways. First, your bloodstream with carry more water on average, due to the fact that it is trying to dilute the sugar running through your system.

Second, extra water in the bloodstream leads to increased sodium retention. You are also eating more sodium than you did pre-bulk, due to increased food intake. This combination leads to more fluid in your kidneys, and more overall water retention.

Lastly, increased carb intake leads to more intra-cellular water. This extra water retention can cause some nice dramatic swings on the scale, especially if you are moving from a cut to a bulk.

More Food Equals More Waste

Eating more food means you are processing more waste. Bottom any given moment you have a greater degree of raw materials in your system.

The Bottom Line

Don't panic. When you start a bulk you are probably going to gain weight the first week or two. This is not fat. Relax. Most of it is water and waste.

The Importance Of Strength Gains

Before we get into tips on how to properly bulk, let's take a moment to reiterate what was stated earlier:

A bulk without rapid strength gains is merely a fat gaining plan. End of story.

You must attempt to maximize every set. Never waste a set! Keeping good form, perform as many reps as possible on each set. Stop a set when either your form starts to slip, or you feel you might fail on the next rep.

There is no need to train to failure. Progression is important, not failure. When you reach the top rep range for your set, add weight. Easy.

Rinse and repeat this pattern in conventional hypertrophy rep ranges, generally 5-12 reps per set, and you will build muscle during your bulk. Waste sets and don't focus on progression, and you will simply waste your bulk.

How Strong Is Strong?

You don't need to get as strong as an elite powerlifter to build muscle, but you also can't mess around with slow progress. The following are first year goals.

  • Bench Press - 225 pounds
  • Squat - 300 pounds
  • Deadlift - 400 pounds

If you are well short of these strength levels, something is seriously broken. Either you aren't trying hard enough, eating enough food to encourage strength gains, doing 20 hours of cardio a week, or a combination of one of the three.


In any case, if it's broken you need to take a long look in the mirror and be honest with yourself about what is wrong. These are not Herculean strength levels. Beyond year one, your next mission is to progress as hard and fast as you can until you reach the following:

  • Bench Press - 300 pounds
  • Squat - 400 pounds
  • Deadlift - 500 pounds

Nearly everyone - and I do mean everyone - who lifts for size should be able to hit these strength levels. It might take 2 years, and it might take 5 years, but if you are not experiencing consistent monthly strength gains and making good strides towards these numbers, then something is (once again) broken.

But, But, But!

No "buts" allowed. I've been in the lifting game for over two decades. I've seen the work habits, drive and determination of those that are successful - they get the job done. They don't make excuses, progress consistently, eat what they need to eat, and build muscle at a (seemingly) alarming rate.

On the other hand, for every lifter like this who packs on muscle at a fast rate, there are also 500 frustrated forum members who continue to maintain mediocre physiques.

Oh, they say all the right things and have all the right programs. They might even rarely miss workouts. But at the end of the day their lack of results simply boils down to wet noodle drive.

4 years in and they are squatting 225 pounds, have not reached 200 on the bench press, and have alternated between 22 cycles of bulking and cutting. These types of lifters deload every time they have an average workout, which is frequently, and switch workout programs more than they change pairs of underwear.

Here's a simple rule to remember:

If you're not making consistent progress, something is broken.

BulkingPeople who are stalling, or experiencing a period of sub-par progress almost always have something broken. It might be their eating plan, it might be a wimpy approach to progression, it might be too many missed workouts - but something is ALWAYS broken.

It's easy to find what's broken for beginners in no time. When someone states they aren't making gains, ask the following questions:

  1. How many calories and grams of protein are you eating per day? If they waffle before providing an answer, they are guessing. If they say I am eating healthy, they have no clue. Even if they do know, 9 times out of 10 they aren't over 3000 calories per day. Not many young lifters can come close to gaining weight with this paltry amount of food intake.
  2. What does your progression scheme look like? People love to create unique workout plans. It's like picking and choosing from a buffet - a little of this on chest day, a little of that on leg day. Guess what? A list of exercises is not a muscle building program. Progression is key, and without knowing HOW you will progress, all you've made is a ineffective list of your favorite exercises. Believe it or not, 95% of people asked this question have no concrete, rigid progression plan. They just kind of add weight here and there - on occasion. When they feel like it. If they feel like it.
  3. How often are you missing workouts?  Um, um, um...not often. Don't lie. Let's be honest. You've missed at least one workout every week for the last 9 months. You deload every third week, take a few extra days off here and there to change programs, and take long weekends every time you feel a minor ache or pain.

There are other things common wrong, such as avoidance of the most effective exercises (squats, deadlifts, etc), trying to add endless amounts of volume and training sessions, especially for biceps and chest, and focusing too much on advanced training protocols when they should just be focused on getting stupid strong.

So enough blather. Here's how to bulk to build muscle as quickly as possible.

Bulking Plan Tips For Muscle Building

1) Eat enough food. Stop trying to eating like a stage-shredded bodybuilder. Can't eat enough? Consume calorie dense foods and drinks. Avoid low fat this and that. Eat the egg yolks, and drink your whole milk. Add butter and olive oil, cheese and sour cream.

2) Stop trying to micromanage ratios and macros. Just get your protein and calories in. Carbs and fats will take care of themselves.

3) Structure your eating around your habits and needs! If you are hungry, eat. If you need large meals post-workout, eat. Listen to your body and eat when you feel hungry. This is a far better option than sticking to someone's random eating plan.

4) Choose a good program. Pick a workout plan with a track record; something that is popular and has worked for many lifters. By choosing a proven plan you will know that if something's broken, it's either lack of a focus on progression on your part, or lack of proper food intake.

5) Gain weight at a proper rate.  Natural lifters should aim to gain about 1.5 to 2 pounds per month during their first year, 1 to 1.5 pounds per month during their second year, and 0.5 to 1 pound per month during year three.

On average. It's OK to add SOME fat. A good bulk will not turn you into a sumo wrestler. A good bulk will not result in a 50 pound fat gain per year. If you add fat too quickly, cut your calories by 300 per day and reassess.

6) Supplements are not evil. Some members of the lifting community like to lump all food supplements into a big pile called snake oil. This is a ridiculous practice, and helps no one. There are plenty of helpful supplements, from creatine to pre-workout formulas to sleep aids. Do research, ask questions and ignore generalizations.

7) Focus on one goal at a time. Why not try to lose fat AND build muscle at the same time? Good question: because it's inefficient for most. You might gain a little muscle while losing some fat, or if you're young, hormonal and training hard, you might gain more muscle while losing fat, but you're still cutting your gains short.

Final Thoughts

Build, build, build. When people start asking what your secrets are, then it may be time to cut. Until that point, keep bulking!

Posted on: Thu, 08/11/2016 - 22:37

Good article, i havecan issue im 35 i have a very physically demanding job with a condition that makes have to take a lot of im almost been lifting for a year now and have seen some gains but not enough. What is the matter

Joel Odegaard
Posted on: Mon, 03/28/2016 - 10:50

I had throat cancer and can't eat that much I lost 100 lbs and am back up 2 160 but thefiods I am able to eat are unhealthy tyoes. Any ideas on things that are high calorie but easy to swallow. All meat is hard to get down

Noa Lunsford
Posted on: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 23:52

Great article, I am 16 years old weighing 160lbs. And trying to stay lean but build muscle so I won't get pushed around on the soccer field. I max out on bench at 160 squat 180 due to muscle issues. What can I do to build up more but not to much?

Posted on: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 17:12

Hello there! So I'm doing my best to bulk without any supplements. Any thoughts on how I can do so???

Posted on: Fri, 10/02/2015 - 00:51

make your own weight gainer shakes. look some up

Posted on: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 06:07

I just want to say that I've been lifting for only a year. I'm 5'1 and I was quite chubby when I started, bordreing fat, but I started at 8 kg in bench, and only reached to 20 kg in a year, due do me lacking motivation, skipping days etc. This year, though, I will not. Do you really think it is reasonable for me to reach 225 kg in bench 'till october next year? Don't think so.

Posted on: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 01:21

Come on guys not every plan is specificly designed to meet everyones standard. take things at your own pace but push limits. I started out 16 years old, 138lbs and 6'0 tall skinny and made fun of. Could not do a pushup, Pull up, or Dip. Started with 10lb dumbells. Couldnt bench the bar no joke. I was made fun of... alot! Then i worked out and Im 17 now 6'3 and i can bench 140lbs and i am 13% bodyfat... not bad for a year of sweat, tears, better eating habbits, and dedication... Point is, take it at your own pace! but beat yourself, everyday! im not big, not close, not perfect, but i have changed and im proud to be better than i was yesterday everyday!

Peace, Lift, and eat on fellow lifters, no need to hate, no need toyell. after every rep either...

Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 21:36

i started lifting i weighed 165 at 5' im 225

Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 21:34

I often exceed 20 hours of cardio a week and i exceed those those weight range but I have been lifting for over 15 years, im 46 and I run marathons....and thats with spinal arthritis.

Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 21:09

One of the best articles I've ever read

Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 20:42

this is sick, cheers for the article, just a question to anyone who commented, im studying and im trying to loose my weight and get all leaned out but im shit with diet plans and need some help with doing a nice and simple but effective weekly plan,

Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 19:33

great article, but I would like to point out something.

The article starts off by stating "Forget six pack abs - it's time to bulk and pack on some serious muscle mass! "

I understand that BUT why show pictures of some ripped dude with 6 pack abs in this article? Show an actual BULKER not a ripped dude.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 20:06

It pictures the end result. Quite frankly people want to see the end result. If we put up off-season pictures of guys at 15 to 18% we would never hear the end of it.

Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 18:11

So I'm 5'9 190 I'm 20 I can squat385 bench 305 and deadlift 405 how do I increase my strength without gaining lots of fat but achieving my goals as being 220 lbs an raising my lifts by 100lbs

Steve Breen
Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 17:57

I would love I couple recommendations for good bulking plans.

Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 17:13

Good article. I've been "bulking" for the last 8 months but after reading this, I've realized The last 4 months have been wasted. Only gained 5lbs. The next 6 months I'll try to gain 15-20. What's too fat for bulking? I'm at about 15%bf and would like to be at about 10% in June.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 19:06

That's certainly not wasted unless you are not pursuing progressive overload. I would bump to that aggressive of a bulk. I would aim for about 9 to 12 pounds in 6 months.

Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 17:06

One of the best articles I have read in a long time. Could not have said it better myself!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 17:11


Posted on: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 11:44

Love this , much easier to plan your diet hit my proteins and calories carbs and fats will look after them self :)

Posted on: Tue, 05/28/2013 - 18:46

How do you bulk up when you're a diabetic? I have to watch carbs or die! A diabetic also has to watch fat and cholesterol as that keeps the excess sugar in the system longer. I haven't been able to find anyone to explain how to bulk healthy for persons with diabetes. Thanks for your comments. Bulk safely.

Posted on: Mon, 05/27/2013 - 12:42

I have been using creatine monohydrate and whey protein and pre workout and testosterone boosters and mass gainers by GNC and amino acids and fish oils and eating a ton over 10,000 calories a day no joke. And lots of carbs and doing sets of 4-8 with 2-3 min rests between and I can't seem to bulk up I am very strong for my size but not big at all.. Any advice?

Posted on: Mon, 05/13/2013 - 23:12

Awesome article, man. I'm finally starting a bulk this summer.

The only point I disagree with is the "pick a program" part. For me, I've always just grabbed a weight, repped it out, and increased until I got to two or three hard reps, and as long as I could handle that weight for more reps next time, I was cool. But that was for big compound lifts, I had a similar principle for assistance lifts, but the order and "style" of them varied.

Still, I'm hoping that doing a real bulk this summer, I might be able to hit a 600 pound deadlift. After all, if my dead increased so quickly with no nutrition or consistency, what'll happen with right diet and recovery? Also, a 4 and 3 plate squat and bench for reps, respectively, would be cool.

Overall, solid article. I love it when I hear this stuff, because all the big guys I know do this stuff exactly.

Posted on: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 23:31

Steve I'm 5'9 195lbs and I have a lot of muscle mass that you can see but its covered by a small amount of fat from poor nutrition in the past. I want to be between 190-195 solid muscle so should I bulk up first and then start cutting or should I cut some fat first and the build more muscle from there?

Posted on: Mon, 04/29/2013 - 21:50

hey Steve so does that mean I couldn't eat anything as long as I hit the gym?

Posted on: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 01:26

Hi max

Thanks for the article. I'm gaining weight in a nice rate and also strength, but 225/300/400 in a year seems like a to big task. I've gotten from 55/66/66 to 100/132/176 in the past 3 months. I'll keep working hard and do my best to get there :)

Posted on: Tue, 04/02/2013 - 20:32

I am 16 and starting weightlifting. I am the skinny kid on my basketball team and I get picked on. It's the offseason so I want to get big by November. Yesterday I began the 8 week beginner plan on this site and today is a rest day.

Is it stupid of me to start with a bulk phase while on a beginner plan? So far today I've had three egg/turkey/cheese/hummus sandwiches and two protein shakes and I'm having turkey burgers for dinner. Is it pointless to do this? Will I just gain fat?

Posted on: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 05:21

You gotta eat big to get big! Even more if your the skinny, you wont gain fat if you keep hitting the weights.

Posted on: Sun, 03/24/2013 - 20:16

i weigh 153,, bench 200, squat 300, deadlift 415, is that good? im in the 9th grade

Posted on: Sun, 05/19/2013 - 20:20

i dont believe you

Posted on: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 05:42

That 225 target for the first year. i try to do 8 reps per set, so after 1 year my target will be to complete 8 reps of 225 pounds, yes?

Posted on: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 10:34

this article is so dangerous especially for newbies. setting specific weight goals that apply to everyone is just plain stupid and dangerous. This isn't 1982

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/28/2013 - 09:24

I disagree. Everyone should be able to achieve these goals if they work hard over time. These are reasonable goals and certainly not inherently dangerous in any way.

Posted on: Mon, 03/18/2013 - 01:34

I'd say I'm doing pretty good for a just turned 17 y/o male.. I mean I'm half way through my first year weight training and I just recently hit 225 on bench, I've attempted 400 in the past for squat, however it was my Freshman year when I would lift a few weights in my gym class here and there and I almost crushed my spine trying to show off. Now I take it slower on squat and I'm standing at about 330, dead lift is at I would like to presume a stable 405-415. Though most of my strength has been natural up until this year, I have began to love weight training and even started Whey Protein. All I can say is lifting is 110% mental capacity and heart. I push myself harder and harder every time I go to the gym.

Posted on: Sat, 03/16/2013 - 16:35

At first he says:

" if you're not aggressively pursuing strength increases in common hypertrophy (muscle building) rep ranges, all you're going to do is gain fat."

But later:

"A bulk with rapid strength gains is merely a fat gaining plan. End of story."

Surely that is a typo...he meant to say "A bulk WITHOUT rapid strength gains..."

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/28/2013 - 09:23

Correct, that was meant to read "without."

Posted on: Sat, 03/16/2013 - 04:00

What are the standards for millitary press and barball rows?

Posted on: Fri, 03/15/2013 - 20:39

i don't understand what you're trying to insinuate joey, but he says:
You don't need to get as strong as an elite powerlifter to build muscle, but you also can't mess around with slow progress. The following are FIRST YEAR goals.

Bench Press - 225 pounds
Squat - 300 pounds
Deadlift - 400 pounds

nearly everyone cannot hit those goals in a year.

what you're quoting is from a different section of the article.

Posted on: Mon, 05/13/2013 - 23:02

I must be awesome then, because I squatted 225 after six months, deadlifted 405 after about 10 months or so, and benched 185 in about the same time-span (actually, close-grip bench...I REALLY should start benching again). And up until this summer, I haven't been able to afford proper food and supplement (thank god for BJ's). So, inconsistent training, poor diet/inadequate macros, little sleep and high stress-levels (math major), and I've almost hit those goals.

So, anyone, with dedication, and masochism, should be able to meet those goals in a year, give or take a month or two.

Posted on: Fri, 03/15/2013 - 13:54

the 1 year goals you mentioned are invalid. different people grow at different rates. for example, if a guy at 130 pounds was starting out, a year later he puts on about 15 pounds of muscle, you expect him to be benching 225, squating 300 and deadlifting 400lbs at 145lbs? you wrote those goals out like they're what everyone should be doing after a year. everyone is different, they start out at different points, so i don't think its valid to have the same set of goals for every person.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 03/15/2013 - 16:05

Quote from the article - "Nearly everyone - and I do mean everyone - who lifts for size should be able to hit these strength levels. It might take 2 years, and it might take 5 years, but if you are not experiencing consistent monthly strength gains and making good strides towards these numbers, then something is (once again) broken."

Posted on: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 18:19

everyone is diiffrent when evryone start .. if u train hard and take a good diet and some supplementation ,u wd b lifting that in 6 months bro :)..or i think i was a god gift ?

James Wilson
Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 23:13

Yeah for real. I have a real hard time gaining weight, and in 4 years i went from 120lbs to 135lbs, benching 45lbs to 245lbs, and there is no one even close to my size and weight who can bench that much. Im an exercise science student and according to one of my new text books, pound for pound strength, im in the top 1%.

This article along with almost every other one on this site has a lot of good information but there is always something wrong with them. The authors must be those naturally big but lean guys who think that they worked harder than everyone else to get as big as they are, and anyone smaller must be a slacker.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 23:57

I started at 145 pounds and small boned. I was skinny fat and incredibly weak. Never lean, not naturally big at all.

James Wilson
Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 23:22

Ohh as for my last reply, I was right. Since the author led with, "160 pound 6-pack look" assuming that anyone who weighs 160 or less is just super skinny.

So to the author- I'm 21, 5'5", I weight 135 pounds, I eat well over 3000 calories a day, usually aim for 3500, sometimes hit 4000. My diet is flawless. I do minimal cardio. I max out at 245 on bench, 420 on squats, and 380 on dead lift. I guarantee that over the last 6 years I've worked harder than you in the gym, have had a better diet, used more legal supplements, and know more about exercise and nutrition. Within the next few years expect to see me writing my own articles that will make you and all your little bro science buddies look like fools.

ryan grande
Posted on: Thu, 03/14/2013 - 18:29

Yippee ki-yay, motherf*$'er!!!!!
This article was awesome, Screw toeing the line and not gaining fat, im gonna bulk, hit those year one goals and put on some muscle!!!!!

Posted on: Thu, 03/14/2013 - 15:31

I've recently returned to lifting for the first time in about a decade and fair to say whilst I tried hard in the past I never really added much mass purely and simply cos I wasn't eating enough! Since starting back I've been training hard and eating right for about the last 6 wks and have put on about 6 lbs and strength has increased markedly. What I find most useful is the advice on realistic weight gain as well as strength targets after a year in the 'big 3' exercises. Having read articles about celebrity bulks (eg. Tom Hardy supposedly adding 30 lb in 6 wks to play Bane!) it's nice to hear what is realistic.

Posted on: Thu, 03/14/2013 - 10:53

Great article, I am an experienced natural lifter, but have only been focusing hard on progression for about 6 months and have seen an efficient increase in both my strength and size gains. I just recently took the next step in focusing on diet by bulking properly (real food every few hours, not mickey Ds and whataburger) and am realizing that I dont HAVE to eat 100% clean or precisely every 3 hours, just need to eat ENOUGH to fuel my body properly. Its a marathon, not a race. Great tips here for your average every day guy who lifts as a hobby and personal challenge but wants to do more than just show up at the gym a few times a week.

Posted on: Wed, 03/13/2013 - 23:33

Thank! You! Loved it!

Posted on: Wed, 03/13/2013 - 20:36

Tip #1 had some great insights for me. I'm a small guy and find it hard to eat the proper amount to bulk. At the same time, I'm drinking low-fat milk because that's what the program says. Screw that, I'm following your tip on eating from now and just concentrating on getting the protein and carbs in.

Great article, cheers.