It’s that time again…hard to believe it’s already been a year since my last bulk! Needless to say, I won’t be missing the chicken, brown rice, and veggies that I’ve been force-feeding myself since May. I’ll be sticking to a clean diet in order to help keep the fat increase to a minimum- no gorging on Big Macs and pizza.
The purpose of this log is to show you how to pack on as much muscle as possible in a given period of time, without gaining a pot-belly in the process. This leads to the first and most important step in your journey to gaining mass in the off season:
1. You MUST have a DEFINED goal. As simple as this sounds, it is absolutely crucial to write down a goal for yourself. Going to the gym without knowing what you’re working towards is a waste of time. Inevitably, you will never achieve your desired physique. This rule applies to all areas of life and the fitness world is no different. Therefore, the first step is to physically WRITE DOWN your goal. Be SPECIFIC. Do you want to put on 10lbs of muscle? Write it down. Do you want to cut down for summer? Write down exactly how many pounds you want to lose, or, write down exactly what body fat percentage you wish to reach. For example, My goal is to be 240lbs at the end of my bulk.
2. Once you have your goal written down, the next step is to set a deadline. This is just as important as defining your goal. Goals without deadlines are just dreams. You’re much less likely to be successful without a set time-frame. Doing so creates motivation and something to work towards. You can also try breaking your goal into “mini” weekly goals so that the task doesn’t seem as daunting, allowing you to focus on one day at a time. Try it and I guarantee you’ll have better results. My deadline: I’m giving myself until April 30th to tip the scale at 240lbs.
3. After you’ve determined your goals and deadlines, you’ll need a plan. This should include nutrition, training and in some cases supplementation. While this can be laborious initially, you’ll be glad that you set up the framework down the road. There are thousands of different diets and training programs out there, with each claiming to be the best. The truth is that the best program is the one that works for you! Keep in mind, that If you’re new to weightlifting, then almost anything will make you grow. So pick something and stick with it! If you’re a more seasoned veteran in the gym, then you probably know your body well and are aware of what works and doesn’t work for you. The purpose of this article is not to explain how to select a program or the science behind them; I’ll save that for another article. For now, I’ll explain what I’ll be doing for my bulk/mass building plan and why.
When trying to decide what training program to follow you must think back to your goal. Someone whose goal is to bench press 315lbs for a 1-rep max is going to be following a much different program than someone who wants to lose 30 lbs. To achieve my goal of reaching 240lbs by April 30th, I will be following a periodization program that I came up with. For those of you who do not know what a periodization program is, allow me to explain. A periodization program consists of multiple phases that are each designed to achieve different goals. These phases usually last 4 weeks to 12 weeks or longer. The primary benefit of a training program is that it doesn’t allow the body to adapt to a given program and therefore you don’t hit a plateau as quickly. Here is an example:
Phase 1: Low Volume Strength Training – 6 weeks
This phase will focus primarily on getting strong and strengthening your connective tissues. You will do a few exercises per body part and focus on the “Big 3” movements (Squats, Deadlift and Bench Press). All other work would be assistance movements to help improve your “Big 3” (Good Mornings, Reverse Hyperextensions and Weighted Dips, for example).
In this phase, you will complete 3 to 5 working sets per exercise (1 to 5 reps) for the big 3 movements and 3 to 4 sets per exercise (8 to 12 reps) for your assistance exercises. Keep the rest time between sets at 4-6 minutes max, otherwise, you’ll have trouble increasing your strength- the nervous system takes much longer to recover than muscle does.
Typically your routine will be broken down to 3 training days per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for example), allowing your body the extra time it needs to recover from training with near-maximum weights. During this phase, I always recommend squatting and benching twice a week (you can squat as much as 3 days per week if you choose) and deadlifting once per week.
Phase 2: Low Volume, Moderate Intensity Hypertrophy Training – 6 weeks
Here you would switch gears and start doing a more typical bodybuilding routine. You will keep the volume low (6-10 sets per body part) but start increasing the intensity by reducing the rest time between sets to 2 minutes. At this point, you can increase the workouts per week from 3 to 4 (Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sat, for example). When doing a 4-day split I like to train Back on Monday, Chest on Wednesday, Legs on Thursday and Shoulders & Arms on Saturday. Cardio and abs can be done 3-4 times a week during this phase.
Phase 3: High Volume, High Intensity Hypertrophy Training – 6 weeks
Here our focus is to shock the body into growth. You want to throw everything at your body except the kitchen sink. Sets per body part increase from 12-20 and rest between sets should be kept between 60 to 120 seconds. In this phase, you’ll also include various techniques for increasing the intensity (Rest Pause sets, Drop sets, Static Holds, Negatives, you name it!).
The above is just an example. The possibilities with periodization are nearly endless. But when it comes to training programs, I have yet to find something that is more effective.
As far as my diet protocol, I’m currently eating 15 Kcals per pound of bodyweight. For me, that comes out to about 3,200 Kcals per day. I currently weigh about 211-213lbs. How could I possibly put on nearly 30lbs in 4 months without turning into the Michelin Man? Well, folks, much of it can be attributed to muscle memory. At the end of my last bulk (back in April of this year), I surpassed my goal of getting to 230lbs and was able to reach 235lbs. I know my body is capable of getting there; I just have to stick to my training program and diet plan!
I invite you to join me on this journey. I’ll be posting pictures and video clips of myself and my training partner throughout this bulk. I’ll also be giving weekly updates on my progress, as well as tips and pointers to help those of you who are trying to pack on some muscle in the New Year!
For the sake of keeping this article shorter, I’ll be posting my specific training program and diet in subsequent articles. Feel free to leave comments if you have any questions!
Wishing you all a prosperous New Year!