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How to Bulk up? | A Complete Guide to Gaining Mass

Date Posted... 2nd Sep 2020

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Bulking, adding bulk or bulking up is when someone tries to gain as much muscle as possible. During this time, adding muscle mass is the sole focus rather than focusing on strength or fat loss. Many often bulk throughout the winter and have less strict diets.  Then they will go into a ‘cut’ aka focus on loosing body fat going into the summer or their competition season.
Bulking Up Fast…

Sadly, bulking up fast is a lie... Even if you’ve used anabolic steroids, you’re still not going to be the size of the guy that’s been training 10 years already. Building muscle is HARD. If it was super easy every man and woman would be 200lbs… imagine tube journeys then! So, whilst your first year’s progress will be solid and noticeable, you’re not going to look like The Rock in 2 years, 5 years or even 10 years.  However, what I will say is before writing this article we saw a number of places saying only 3kg in your first year is possible… We highly disagree with that. A 19-year-old male with good genetics will have a very different set of results from a 35-year-old male with or without good genetics. Most people make loads of mistakes in their first year or first few (I know I did!). But you’ll make less mistakes with great guidance so if you make sure you’re listening to the right people in the industry then your results are going to be more again. I am not saying you’re going to put on 15kg of pure muscle in your first year but 3kg could be conservative.  

Looking into a DIRTY BULK?

A dirty bulk is a pitfall of many and really is just an excuse to eat lots of terrible but tasty food and justify it by saying it’s for your gains… Whilst a dirty bulk will provide you with the calories to grow and probably the right amount of protein, it also provides you with excess calories that will lead to fat gain as well as all the issues and complications that come from excess sugar, salt and bad fats. The point of bulking up is of course to look good and improve your health. But, what’s the point if on the inside your body isn’t anywhere near as healthy as you look? Also, a crucial part to muscle growth is optimising your hormones to work for you, but by doing a dirty bulk you are working directly against this by increasing your chances of lower testosterone and increased estrogen.

What are the basics of bulking up?

Train hard and progressively. 

Eat the right amount of quality food for your goals. 

Get plenty of rest and sleep.  

In a nutshell, this is bulking up. Just 3 simple points. However, getting them right and then consistently sticking to it is the hard part. But if you can find a way to successfully do these things, you will begin to see gains in quality muscle mass.

What is different for ladies?

Female muscle growth works in the same way a male’s muscle growth does and fat burns in the same way too, it’s almost like we are all human or something!? Don’t let so called ‘experts’, internet warriors or greedy companies tell you otherwise. Yes, woman do have lower testosterone levels and it is harder for women to build muscle but there is absolutely no reason why training techniques, cardio or non-hormonal supplements should be any different. Also, chances are if the company has a sub brand in pink, women are probably just being charged extra for the sake of it compared to the mens alternative that is the same product.

Training HARD and PROGRESSIVELY

Firstly, I can tell you with 100% certainty that no one else in the gym cares that you’ve just picked up the 2’s, the 10’s, the 20’s or the 50’s. Don’t try to run before you can walk, make sure you only lift weights that are safe for you to do so. I can tell you from personal experience and so will most other successful bodybuilders… If you don’t and go too hard to quickly it’ll just lead to injury which will lead to less gains. đŸ‘ŽđŸœ

It is also important that you train to maximal effort. You can do 8 reps with the 20’s easily, but you can also do 8 reps of the 24’s where the last 2 are a struggle. Those moments that seem like the biggest struggle, they are the moments that MATTER. But don’t destroy yourself for the sake of destroying yourself, remember you are going to have to train the following day! 💯

Secondly, train everything and stick to the BASICS. Make sure that you train your legs, but not just your quads, you’ve got to remember those diddy calves too! This will offer a well-rounded physique and, we promise, far less ridicule from others. You need to make sure that every body part gets trained once a week. Once you have formed your base training, you can look at your strengths and weaknesses and say “Okay I’m going to train triceps twice a week because this is a weak area for me.”  đŸ’ȘđŸŒ

If you read any other article on bulking up, Arnolds book, most flex magazines or spoken to anyone that is in the know, then they will tell you that multi joint, heavy basic exercises are the best way to build muscle mass and strength. Of course, you can add in some other things but you should build your workouts around these exercises; 

Bench Press  

Barbell Squats 

Deadlifts  

Bent Over Rows 

Calve Raises  

Pull Ups  

Dips  

Shoulder Press 

Now go and write those down because you’ll be needing it for your next gym session!

Your Workout Routine

When first starting out and you’re looking to add size it is best to split your workout into 3 days, to allow your body optimum time for recovery. From here you can eventually split the workouts further into 4 or 5 days.

When starting with 3 days a week the workouts should be split into;

  • Workout 1 – PUSH workout – Chest, Shoulders and Triceps. 
  • Workout 2 – LEGS workout – All about the legs.  
  • Workout 3 – PULL workout – Back & Biceps. 

Repetition range and the way you do your repetitions for each exercise are also crucial to your results. You must make sure that each repetition is done correctly in good form, at a controlled speed and focusing on using the muscles that are supposed to be working. A common pitfall from people who are just starting out is just trying to move the weight from A to be B without thinking about it. For example, a bench press is primarily focused on building your chest but also involves your arms and shoulders. If you’re not focusing on using your chest, you’ll end up using arms to push the weight making it more difficult and yielding less chest gains. This will also increase the chances of injury in your shoulders and arms as your chest isn’t taking the weight it should be during that exercise.

As a guide rep range are as follows;

Strength and power: 1-5 reps  

Focus on strength and some size: 5-8 reps 

Focus on size and some strength: 8-12 reps

Muscular endurance: 12 reps plus 

Making sure you use the right amount of repetitions is also essential to your success. Anything lower than 6 repetitions in a set is considered an emphasis on strength gains over muscle gain. Reps from 6 to 12 are normally considered the best muscle building range and above 12 or 15 is used to build endurance. This doesn’t mean you should stick to 6-12 forever, but when you are starting out it’s the best range to be in for the first 3-6 months depending on progress.

How long should you rest between sets?  

About 1-2 mins is best. This allows you to properly recover between sets. But don’t wait too long as you don’t want to get cold, lose your pump or lose focus.

In regards to the number of sets you should do per exercise; it really depends on the rest of your workout. If you are only doing squats and calf raises then your number of squats can increase.

An example workout week using these principles would be; 
Day 1 – PUSH  

Bench Press – 3x 8-12  

Shoulder Press – 3x 8-12 

Dumbbell Flys – 3x 8-12 

Dips – 3x 8-12 

Lateral Raises – 3x 8-12 

Day 2 – PULL 

Hyper Extensions – 3x 8-12 

Deadlifts – 3x 8-12 

Bent Over Rows – 3x 8-12  

Pull Ups – 3x 8-12 

Dumbbell Rows – 3×8-12 

Day 3 – LEGS 

Squats – 3x 8-12 

Walking Lunges – 3x 8-12 

Front Squats – 3x 8-12 

Stiff Leg Deadlifts – 3x 8-12 

Calf Raises – 3x- 8-12 

Rest Days

Sufficient rest between workout days is crucial to your results and your recovery. You should space the days evenly throughout the week. If this is not possible you should make sure you still avoid your back and legs workout on back to back days. As many leg exercises use to some extent your back, and back exercises such as deadlifts and bent over rows are dependent on the stability and strength of your legs.

Whilst it’s important to make sure you don’t go too heavy and injure yourself, it is almost important to challenge yourself and continue to challenge yourself every day. If you stay at a particular level then your results will plateau there until you can take it to the next level whether that be heavier weight, more reps or extra sets. When you see a rep range of 8-12, that should not be all easy. The end of every set should be pushing you.

Eat the Right Amount of Quality Food

Firstly, everyone is different so there is no exact amount of food you should be eating. One rule for one will often not work for another. We all know when it comes to diets, genetics and metabolism play as massive role.

It is also important to understand that you can be categorised into 3 body types;

Ectomorph – Someone who struggles to put on muscle mass but also struggles to put on fat. 

Mesomorph – Someone who gains muscle mass quite quickly and struggles a little to put on fat.

Endomorph – Someone who gains muscle mass quite quickly but also finds it easy to put on fat.

An ectomorph will have to consume far more calories than a mesomorph to fuel his or her muscle growth and an Endomorph will have to consume far less calories but also be more careful with the foods used to help bulk up.

When we say quality food there are two parts to what we mean by quality food;  

NOT Supplements/Shakes/Weight Gainers – Supplements are to supplement not to replace. We are not saying you shouldn’t use them, because you absolutely should. But they need to be used on top of your diet and not instead of it. A common mistake is eating your normal 3 small meals a day and then have 5 protein shakes to supplement to need for more protein. That sadly isn’t going to cut it.

NOT Rubbish Food – If it was made in a factory, your body probably doesn’t need it. Again, we are not saying you should eat perfect all of the time, who doesn’t love McDonalds? But most of time you should eat quality food that contains what you need for your goals without all the extra crap that comes with a big mac.

To understand how to calculate your calories and figuring out macros we have a full article HERE âŹ…ïž

Protein, protein, protein!

The purpose of protein is to repair and rebuild the muscle after you break it down by training. A common mistake is to only care about protein consumption and have that ‘more is better’ attitude. But, there comes a point where your body can no longer utilise it for building muscle and recovery during that meal or day. Therefore, any excess will just turn to fat or be removed from the body.

Protein can come from a number of sources;

Meat such as chicken, beef or pork.

Plant Based meals – Due to the rapid rise in veganism, more and more people are turning to plant-based alternatives with a good source of protein. These are easy to find in most supermarkets today. 

Cheese and dairy.

Fish such as salmon and cod.

Legumes such as black beans or chickpeas.

How much protein do you need?

This varies from person to person and can be wildly different based on factors such as metabolism and level of activity throughout the day. As a starting point though you want to aim for around 2.2g of protein per 1kg of body weight or if you are the other side of the pond, 1g of protein per 1lb of body weight.

Carbs

Carbohydrates should also NOT be avoided; they are often spoken about in mainstream media like they are the devil. As with everything there are good carbs and bad carbs, but they are crucial to your results especially when bulking up. DO NOT IGNORE THEM. Carbohydrates provide your body with fuel!

The best form of carbohydrates are; 

Rice
Oats
Legumes
Sweet Potatoes
Potatoes
Whole grain pasta
Whole grain bread

What about Fat?

Fat due to the media seems to only have negative attention most of the time. But actually a necessary component of everyone’s diet is fat. It provides energy and has associated nutrients such as vitamins A, D and E.

But the right fat is healthy and can be found in foods like; 

Nuts such as Almonds and Walnuts
Avocado
Peanut Butter
Oliver Oil

IMPORTANT REMINDER:  1g of protein or carbohydrate is 4 calories and 1g of fat is 9 calories. So, whilst it is healthy for you that doesn’t mean eat 1kg of nuts per day.
Anyone say veg?  

Literally no one… Look veg sucks for the most people but it is vital to your health. Our bodies are highly complicated with more working parts than a Ferrari. But if you owned a Ferrari, would you constantly fill it with the worst quality fuel that you 100% knew was not good for the car leading to small and big repair costs in both the short- and long-term future? HELL NO, you wouldn’t. So why is everyone doing it with their bodies? 

Dirty Bulk vs Healthy Bulk?  

A dirty bulk is an excuse people use to put on fat whilst building maximal muscle. There is no scientific evidence to suggest this is any better than eating clean food at the right amounts. Yes, it may look good on the scales during a dirty bulk, but we promise when you look in the mirror it’s not going to be good weight.  

Supplements

Will supplements instantly make you big with no effort? NO. Will supplements instantly make you big with a lot of effort? NO. As previously discussed, building muscle takes TIME. Can supplements greatly aid me towards my goals when used correctly? Absolutely!

Now let’s define supplement; a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it. 

Therefore, a nutritional supplement/dietary supplement/food supplement is there only to be added to your arsenal of muscle building weapons to complete or enhance your results. They are NOT what you should rely on to get your results. Sadly, this view was not aided by certain conglomerates of this industry for years claiming certain creatine products add 14lbs of muscle to top level IFBB bodybuilders… Yeah you know who they are…

Creatine is never going to add 14lbs of muscle, it’s not possible, sorry kids. But Creatine absolutely will help your strength and power during your workouts, aid your recovery and help to increase muscle size. Creatine is fantastic and basic supplement that is proven to work. But 14lbs…. lol.

When first starting out you can absolutely use supplements, if you are over the age of 16-21 (depending on the label) and healthy, you can start using supplements to help you towards your goals right away. But to start with we recommend sticking to the basics.

Protein

Vital to building muscle and recovery. This should be part of every bodybuildings supplement regime whether you’re just starting out or you’re competing at Mr Olympia.

Creatine

Most proven supplement ever. Due to a rapid increase in ATP production and cellular expansion, it helps accelerate not only your performance but also your recovery and strength.

Complete Health Supplement

What’s the point in looking great on the outside if you are rotting on the inside? Adding a health supplement to your everyday routine will aid towards making you feel good inside as well as looking good outside! Fruits and greens can also be used for extra goodness!

Pre-Workout

This is not an everyday supplement. BUT motivation isn’t always present in every session, use it on the down days so you can fuel that fire every session!

Of course, we have put this complete stack together alongside a free funnel and a free shaker for only ÂŁ99.99 – Check it out here! 

It’s also worth mentioning if you are a male and over the age of 30, there is a high chance that you would see great benefits from a testosterone booster for both results and wellbeing.

Alongside protein you will also hear a lot about weight gainer supplements (Mutant Mass or Serious Mass being two of the most popular over time). Weight gainers are great for anyone who just needs that extra few hundred calories but just cannot get any more food in or if you are just a hard gainer. We suggest training and eat properly for 6 months before you even go to consider yourself a ‘hard gainer’. However, with mass gainers READ the label carefully, some companies use a lot of sugar as their carbohydrates because it tastes great and is cheap AF to put in their products. On top of this check what kind of protein and carbohydrates are in there. You want to make sure they are not just filling it with cheap ingredients that are not as effective.

“But, I don’t want to get too bulky?”  

You won’t. By saying this you are seriously underestimating the level of work and commitment it takes to get “too bulky”. People dedicate 10+ years of their life to this and still have not reached what many would consider “too bulky”. It is much more probable that you will struggle to put on muscle. Not struggle to stop gaining so fast. If it was easy everyone would be massive.

“You need to eat every 
 hours”

You don’t, but it is a lot easier in our opinion to do so. The total calories consumed each day is important, however it is easier to split 3500 calories into 6 meals than 3 huge ones. Equally if you just love big ass meals, feel free to ignore this part of advice.

“Okay but what’s the secret sauce?”  

Unfortunately, there is no secret sauce. Everyone that has great results does their version of everything written above. It comes down to 3 very simple steps;

ONE: Pick up heavy stuff and put it back down…. safely.

TWO: Eat enough GOOD food.

THREE: Don’t underestimate your rest. You need it.

“What about steroids?”  

Steroids absolutely work, but taking them will not instantly make you massive and it certainly won’t have you looking like Phil Heath in a 1, 5 or even a 10 year period. Why? Because he has been doing all of the above for the majority of his life. Results that good take that long.

“Gyms are shut” or “I have limited gym equipment” 

Top gymnasts who focus mainly on bodyweight exercise are crazy strong, crazy big and crazy ripped! So, no gym no excuse. There are ALWAYS ways to improve your home training which doesn’t include spending a crazy amount on gym equipment.

Our No.1 Rule: Stick to the Plan 

It is so important that you stick to your plan and don’t stray from any of your training or diet, you’re only hurting your own results. Consistency is king. You CAN do it and you WILL achieve the results you want if you’ve got the right attitude! 

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