One of the most common questions bodybuilders ask is how to bulk up. Read on for 13 bulking tips to help one get a Schwarzenegger-esque physique.
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In this article:
- Determine a Clear Goal to Create the Right Fitness Plan
- Track Progress to Know If One’s Training Routine Needs Changing
- Eat Enough Healthy Calories to Gain Muscle
- Skip Processed Foods Due to the Unhealthy Calories
- Consume Enough Protein Everyday to Gain Muscle
- Train Hard and Focus on Specific Muscle Groups on Different Workout Days
- Keep Repetitions High to Stimulate Muscle Growth
- Perform Drop Sets to Maximize Gains
- Use Time Under Tension for Better Gains
- Balance Strength Training and Cardio to Bulk Faster
- Always Incorporate Big, Compound Movements to Gain More Muscle Mass
- Keep Post-Workout Nutrition in Mind for Muscle Growth and Recovery
- Get Enough Rest to Allow Muscle Fibers to Recover Faster
How to Bulk Up the Right Way
1. Determine a Clear Goal to Create the Right Fitness Plan
The first thing to establish is whether one is looking to bulk or cut.
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking they can easily burn fat and gain muscle at the same time. Unless one carries a large amount of fat, burning it while looking to bulk up is highly unlikely.
If the primary goal is still to gain muscle, then it is important to focus on that. Gaining some fat during the process is perfectly normal.
Before anything else, it is important to make sure the body is at the correct starting point. At approximately 10% body fat, the body should be able to properly distribute nutrients between fat and muscle.
One should start clean bulking to the physique he or she wants only after reaching their desired level of leanness.
2. Track Progress to Know If One’s Training Routine Needs Changing
Learning how to bulk up involves knowing about one’s body composition. Analyze body fat percentage, circumference measurements and weight to get a good grasp of one’s starting position.
Afterward, one should measure again at least once every two to four weeks to track progress.
Slowly increase or decrease caloric intake depending on the results of the measurements. This should help avoid wild swings in body weight.
To keep gains lean, it is ideal to gain at a slow and steady rate of 0.5 – 1 pound every week. Gaining weight too fast might add unnecessary body fat that is hard to get rid of.
Tracking progress should allow one to check whether it is best to maintain the routine or alter the program.
3. Eat Enough Healthy Calories to Gain Muscle
As previously mentioned, gaining some fat while bulking is perfectly normal. One simply cannot gain muscle if he or she is in a caloric deficit.
To gain muscle, one has to take in more calories than he or she burns. Doing so can lead to a certain level of fat gain.
A lot of people try to stay shredded during the bulking phase by either doing too much cardio or not eating enough calories. While this may keep them lean, they also won’t gain much muscle.
On the other hand, some people eat everything they see just to get as many calories as possible. While this technique might lead to a faster weight gain, a lot of it will be fat and not muscle.
The best approach is to consume enough healthy calories to gain muscle while still continuing to perform cardio to help control the fat level.
A good way to estimate the number of calories one should consume is to take one’s body weight and multiply it by 16. A 200-pound man, for example, will have to consume 3,200 calories per day to gain weight.
If no progress is visible after two weeks, one should slowly increase caloric intake by 200 per day until one reaches the 0.5 – 1 pound weight gain per week.
4. Skip Processed Foods Due to the Unhealthy Calories
While an order of double cheeseburger and fries will help one quickly meet his/her caloric goals, processed foods actually do nothing for the body both on the inside and out.
One thousand calories worth of pizza simply isn’t the same as 1,000 calories from spinach, tuna steaks, and brown rice.
The sugar, salt, and saturated fat that pushes up the calorie content of these types of food are actually bad for the body. While they may give one’s calorie intake a boost, they will eventually cause that person to crash and tack on an unwanted layer of fat as well.
Junk food and refined oils also have the same effect. They can sneak in a few extra calories but will eventually lead to fat gain.
With every meal, one should instead consume plenty of lean meats, vegetables, and good fats. Some of the best sources of these include potatoes, yams, oats, rice, whole grains, etc.
Even during a bulk, one should still stick to a plan and routine as calories can easily get out of hand. Make sure to consume the recommended number of calories daily and source those calories from healthy food.
5. Consume Enough Protein Everyday to Gain Muscle
The old rule still applies: For muscle gain, make sure to consume 1 – 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight every day. And no, a juicy steak dinner is not enough.
Protein consumption has to be spread throughout the day to help the body fuel muscle growth 24/7. The body can only process 25-30 grams of protein at a time, so consuming more might just be a waste.
Pack protein intake into four meals to be consumed throughout the day. Some of the best sources of these are foods like lean chicken, quinoa, cottage cheese, nuts, beef, eggs, and salmon.
Adding in protein shakes is also a quick and easy way to boost protein intake.
6. Train Hard and Focus on Specific Muscle Groups on Different Workout Days
For maximum gains, experts recommend clocking in around four to five strength training sessions per week. Each session should last a minimum of 45 minutes.
While some people think that knowing how to bulk up fast also means knowing how to lift seven days a week, this is not the case. Rest days after an intense killer workout are actually vital, not only for recovery but also for muscle growth.
Having a certain day for a certain muscle group is also an effective way of training for one to gain size.
7. Keep Repetitions High to Stimulate Muscle Growth
To make the most out of every exercise, aim to finish somewhere between 8-15 repetitions per set. This is the optimal number of repetitions to complete for maximum gains.
If necessary, bring the weights down slightly to finish the required number of reps while still performing the exercise using a full range of motion. To stimulate growth, it is important to stress each muscle for a long enough time.
8. Perform Drop Sets to Maximize Gains
Drop sets are one of the most effective ways to really feel that burn and to maximize gains.
To do this, one should finish a single regular lifting set to failure. Afterward, he or she should decrease the weight by about 25% and quickly follow up the set with as many additional reps as he or she can.
This forces the body to use every muscle fiber it has to complete burnout. Training the muscles this way means faster growth.
9. Use Time Under Tension for Better Gains
Blending high-intensity exercises with high-volume exercises builds more size and more muscle. Completing 8-15 reps per set of an exercise, for example, increases one’s time under tension (TUT) and adds focus on hypertrophy.
Hypertrophy Definition: Muscle hypertrophy is the increase in the size of skeletal muscles through a growth in the size of its component cells. It is what causes the muscles to look bigger about 2 hours to 11 days after a workout as the body repairs tissue damage.
Traditional strength programs made up of 5 reps or less do build some muscle. To really see growth, most of those gains are actually in the neural system.
10. Balance Strength Training and Cardio to Bulk Faster
Learning exactly how to bulk up and stay fit at the same time also involves knowing how to balance strength training with cardio.
During the bulking stage, it is ideal to perform about two to three 20-30 minute cardio sessions. This should help keep away some of those fat gains, promote cardiovascular health, increase recovery, cleans the body of lactic acid and cellular waste, and keep the body at a fat-burning state even at rest.
Cardiovascular training also improves the ability of the heart to pump blood. This increases the oxygen intake of cells, making it possible to train harder and bulk faster.
Keep cardio training light and simple when bulking. Avoid performing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or other high-intensity workouts as these can lead to a loss of muscle mass.
Instead, stick to low-intensity sessions towards the end of the workout. A quick pickup basketball game or a light jog should do the trick.
11. Always Incorporate Big, Compound Movements to Gain More Muscle Mass
Blending together some isolation movements such as calf raises or curls along with big, compound movements like presses, deadlifts and squats is one of the best workouts for gaining muscle to keep in mind.
Doing this not only saves time, but it also provides tons of benefits when bulking.
While isolation exercises are a great accessory workout, compounds train multiple body parts in every lift. The more muscles one uses in each movement, the more testosterone the body releases, helping one build mass faster.
One of the best ways to check if one is getting bigger is if he or she is also getting stronger. While strength can increase without gaining size, most of the time, gaining strength also equals gaining size.
Furthermore, having more muscle mass also means a higher metabolic rate, making it much easier to clean bulk. It also keeps one’s exercises packed and maximized.
12. Keep Post-Workout Nutrition in Mind for Muscle Growth and Recovery
All meals during the bulking phase are essential. To further maximize workouts, one should pay special attention to his or her post-workout meal or shake.
Learning how to prepare a post-workout meal or shake is vital to knowing how to bulk up.
A post-workout shake made up of whey protein and a fast-acting carbohydrate (such as dextrose) is ideal for maximum muscle growth and recovery. Adding supplements such as creatine monohydrate and glutamine can also enhance the effectiveness of a post-workout shake.
As much as possible, do not skimp out on it. Adding a post-workout shake is not only vital to one’s gains, but also to the recovery process.
13. Get Enough Rest to Allow Muscle Fibers to Recover Faster
Growing muscles does not stop when you leave the gym. Workouts act as stimulants for muscle growth and as such, having enough rest and recovery time between workouts is equally essential.
At most, weight training should be kept to a maximum of four to five times every week. Having two rest days in between those training days allows the body enough recovery time.
Hitting the gym and performing high reps and high-volume exercises can lead to overtraining and fatigue. For people in a clean bulk, this state can be dangerous as it can lead to an increased desire to eat plenty of sugary and processed foods.
Having enough sleep, on the other hand, helps repair the muscles while turning off the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response) which helps manage stress.
It is during sleep that the body releases the highest amount of human growth hormones (HGH), an essential ingredient of a lean and ripped body.
As much as possible, aim to squeeze in seven to eight hours of sleep every night to give the body enough time to recover.
Check out the 10 exercises you’ll ever need to build muscle from BRIGHT SIDE:
Instead of focusing on every little detail, the 13 rules above are what one should focus on when bulking up.
Be sure to remember that consistency and patience is key when learning how to bulk up. It is a lifestyle one has to master since reaching that goal doesn’t happen overnight.
If you need help with bulking up, you can always give a muscle-building supplement stack a try.
Do you have other questions about how to bulk up? Ask us in the comments section below!
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