In this article Kristoff who’s an amateur bodybuilder currently crushing the off-season shares his top 5 bulking tips. Be sure to check out his profiles at the end of the article and give him some support and love.
“Bulking”. I feel as though this is perhaps one of the most misunderstood terms that gets thrown around by gym bros and bodybuilders alike. I have seen so many occasions of guys just getting it plain wrong. The mentality of “HUGE AT ALL COSTS” can have catastrophic effects on the physique of aspiring “bulkers”. I’ve unfortunately experienced it myself.
My first ever bulk consisted of a diet mainly of instant noodles, cheeseburgers, Mass gain shakes and lots of chocolate/sweets. I had this idea in my head where if I dramatically increased my calories and trained as hard as I could, my body would surely grow, right?
My body grew, but it mainly consisted of body fat due to the massive increase in calories. It didn’t help that at this stage of my bodybuilding career I was not training with very heavy weights, or very intensely. So not only was I taking in this massive surplus of calories, I was not using anywhere near enough of them!
Top 5 Bulking Tips
Having recently just completed and placed in two competitions back to back, I once again find myself in a position where it’s time to “bulk”. It’s time for me to replenish my glycogen starved muscles and get back on the “GAIN-TRAIN” or whatever you call it. This time though, it’s going much better and I’d like to share with you my top 5 bulking tips for a “successful” off-season.
1. Track your food, and slowly increase the calories.
As I mentioned above, the biggest mistake I see a lot of guys making is increasing their calories too quickly, so their bodies do not have time to adjust to the massive surplus introduced to the system. My recommendation is to add no more than 300 calories a week onto your existing diet. I like to add carbohydrates to one of my meals to achieve this, but you can manage the same effect by adding a few fat sources here and there such as avocados, whole eggs etc.
2. Don’t drastically change your training!
Another crazy school of thought seems to include switching to a low volume routine when you switch to a bulking diet. Although I do think throwing in a couple of low volume compound lifts has a place in a bulking routine (I like to utilise triples and 5×5 sets on squats, deadlifts and bench during my offseason to build strength) I don’t think whole routines should be built around this. To grow, the rep range should remain around 8-12 reps at an intense pace. If anything, during your off-season you should be in the gym for longer so your body is fully utilising the excess calories you are taking in!
3. Cardio! Cardio! Cardio!
So this is a bit of a controversial point. Some trainers fully disagree with cardio in the off-season. I have run some of my most successful bulks (adding 8-10lbs of lean, grainy muscle) whilst including cardio in my bulking routine. In my opinion, there are two main benefits to keeping a small amount of cardio in the offseason.
- You are burning more calories, so you can eat more, therefore taking in macronutrients and using them to GROW.
- It is a great way to remain healthy and get your body in shape whilst gaining weight through bulking. Daily cardio will reduce blood pressure, loosen up your body and help you assimilate all the extra food you will be consuming.
4. Don’t use “bulking” as an excuse to eat crap!
The most successful bodybuilders eat the same clean foods all year round. Obviously, we can’t remain on tilapia and green vegetables for 8 meals a day, 365 days a year, but we can still be strict in our off season. You shouldnt use “bulking” as an excuse to switch your carb source from rice to chocolate, but you should be sensible with the inclusion of cheat meals. I like to use one day a week (usually a Sunday) and keep it as a “free day”. As long as I hit my protein macronutrient goal on this day, I generally tend to eat whatever I like. It helps keep your metabolism stoked and the inclusion of a different variety of foods will prompt an anabolic effect within your body. I tend to train my most lagging muscles on my free food day to fully utilise this effect. Another option is to forgo the free day and include 2 or 3 cheat meals in the week instead. As long as you can control your cravings and remain eating clean food, your bulk will be successful
5. Know when to stop! (And start to diet)
As fun as the bulking period is, we have to know when to stop. Looking big in a t shirt is one thing, but having a grainy, vascular, lean physique that you can show off is twice as impressive. I recommend bulking properly for no longer than 16 weeks before attempting a “recomp” or a “cutting” diet to reveal the solid muscle you have built underneath all the water weight/fat you may have put on through your off-season. The act of dieting makes the body more anabolic too, and once the diet is over you will have a great “rebound” period to further prompt growth into your next bulk!
I hope you have enjoyed reading these bulking tips, if you have further questions I am happy to take DMs via Instagram or my Facebook account. I am currently working on a YouTube channel to vlog my own off-season progress, so come have a look, like/share/subscribe and we can go through the fatty period together ☺
If you enjoyed these bulking tips from Kristoff, let him know via his social profiles or in the comments below. If you have a guest post of your own to submit send us an email via the contact form in the top menu.