Making the most of bulking season
“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
What does 'bulking' mean?
Bulking is a widely used term in the fitness industry, and more frequently close to Christmas. Bulking is the intention to gain weight in order to build more muscle mass throughout the body. This can be achieved in various ways.
What is the best way to bulk?
Bulking is only successful when you stay within a calorie surplus. Almost immediately this is where people create problems for themselves, especially younger athletes whose aim to is get as big as possible in a short period of time. Eating quality foods is amazing to help develop muscle mass and produce energy for intense training sessions.
The quantity of food that an individual should intake is very specific and can be calculated by working out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), this can be done here. Your BMR factors your age, height and weight to figure out the number of calories your body needs on a daily basis to maintain weight and ultimately survive. Once you have a daily calorie goal, exercise must be factored and a surplus needs to be added to allow for weight/muscle gain, here's an example:
2500kcal x 1.375 = 3438 (exercise factored) + 300-500 (to ensure surplus) = 3738/3938 kcal per day.
The level and quality of your training program needs to be nothing short of exceptional, to create enough stimulus that lead's to muscle mass. Effective and educated exercise helps you to train much smarter, and allows for better development of muscle groups. If you have a particular muscle group which needs to improve, do not attempt to improve it without first understanding how the muscles work.
Bulking can be considered as either 'dirty' or 'clean'
- Dirty Bulk - A dirty bulk refers to the unbelievable amounts of junk food that is consumed throughout the bulking process! Fast foods and takeouts become your best friend which ultimately has negative effects on your overall health.
- Clean Bulk - A clean bulk is by far the best and most successful route to follow when aspiring to add muscle mass and restrict body fat % spiralling out of control.
Effective Training principles
- 5x5 - 5x5 training is a common training principle to increase strength. Typically 5x5 is used for compound exercises such as; Deadlifts, Squats and Bench Press. Working towards 5 reps per set is a great way to create a high muscle stimulus as heavier weights MUST be used.
- German Volume Training - GVT is a training principle that dates back to the 1960's and was created by legendary coach Charles Poliquin to encourage hypertrophy (muscle gain). Utilising GVT is a great way to build muscle, using 50% of your 1 rep max to achieve 10 sets of 10 reps with very little rest is extremely difficult so make sure you have a spotter!
- Push, Pull, Legs - Push, pull, legs is a fairly advanced training method that helps to bulk effectively. Using this method requires you to training 6 times per week which allows you to cover all body parts twice.
- Time under tension - Time under tension is an integral part of training and improving muscle mass, keeping a muscle group under tension for a period of time is important. The most common tempo used is a 2:2, which means 2 seconds upwards phase and 2 seconds downward phase. TUT can be manipulated to make an exercise much harder without having up the weight too far.
- Progressive Overload - Progressive overload is an excellent method to assist bulking. It is very important that throughout your training program you increase the weights being used to create much more stimulus that ultimately helps muscle to grow bigger and stronger.
Amongst the most beneficial exercises that you can put great emphasis on is the use of compound movements. Compound exercises use multiple joints and a large number of muscles to fulfil the movement required. These are the best exercises that will help you gain serious muscle and increase your strength. Here are the 3 most common compound exercises and the effects they have on the body.
- Squats - Squats are very heavy on the legs but are excellent to build and develop size and shape in much needed areas such as, the glutes, hamstrings and quads. There is a difference between being able to squat and squatting well. To perform a squat well requires much more than just leg strength, but rather importantly an ability to control your core muscles. This allows you to maintain a perfectly straight back that copes with the pressure of a heavy bar throughout the whole movement. Developing these muscles are critical to reduce the risk of injuries that are caused by poor bio-mechanics.
- Bench Press - Bench Press is possibly one of the most popular compound exercises for bulking, simply because who wouldn't love to push 140kg away from themselves as if it weighed nothing, but it's not that easy. The bench press is an exercise designed to gain size in muscles such as, Pec Major, Pec Minor, Triceps and Anterior fibres of the Deltoid, with many others acting as a stabiliser for the movement to be able to take place. Correctly bench pressing is a difficult task, it is important that you take the bar towards the bottom of your chest (below nipple line) so you adequately work the pecs, too often you see people close to their collar bone when benching which is a serious risk of long term injury.
- Deadlift - The Deadlift is the real OG, this is the Zeus of all the exercises as it works the most muscles in one movement and lowering that heavy bar down with authority and a loud bang leaves a sense of pride, until you realise you only have 60kg on the bar. Nevertheless, deadlifting is simply incredible to allow for maximum muscle gain and overall strength development.
Best foods for bulking
When we think about bulking, people automatically think proteins, increase protein and you'll become like Arnold Schwarzenegger. This could not be further from the true. Our primary energy source is from carbohydrates, that is what gives us our energy, as they are broken down and stored as glycogen within our muscles. So if you are looking to bulk then open the door and accept carbs as family or you aren't going anywhere. Below are some of the best carbs you can eat?
Sweet potato has been shown to reduce body fat and is an excellent food to eat pre and post exercise due to easily being digested.
- Beta-Carotene - Provides 5 times the daily value of Beta-Carotene, which is responsible for protecting free radicals in the body.
- Vitamin A - Vitamin A is responsible for growth, vision, immune functions and reproduction.
- Reduce Inflammation - Excellent to reduce inflammatory symptoms in areas such as the colon.
Quinoa is a popular health food and a keen favourite to those who enjoy gluten free meals.
- Protein - Quinoa is a great source of protein which contains sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids the body needs for cell repair.
- High in Fibre - Most of the fibre is insoluble, but of the amounts which are soluble the benefits have been shown to reduce blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol and decrease hunger due to feeling fuller.
- High Antioxidants - Neutralising free radicals and are great ways to fight against ageing and diseases.
Oats are an excellent source of carbohydrates which are commonly eaten at breakfast due to their slow releasing energy.
- Beta-Glucan - This extremely soluble fibre has a large number of benefits such as, reducing low density lipids which is linked to lowering Cholesterol levels.
- Reduced Blood Sugar - Shown to reduce blood sugar levels in those who have type 2 diabetes and who are overweight.
- Increasing Fullness - Oats are a great way to increase fullness, hence the idea of eating them for breakfast as they are very filling. The release of peptide YY (PYY) causes a response to eating. This hormone has been linked with reduced calorie intake and decreases risk of obesity.
Bananas are a great food source for a pre-workout snack due to them being rich in sucrose, fructose and glucose, which is fast acting.
- Potassium - Potassium is great for reducing blood pressure and increasing heart health. A medium banana provides between 320-400 mg, which is roughly 10% of your daily intake needs.
- Energy - Bananas contain 3 natural sugars sucrose, fructose and glucose which provide energy without the fat or added cholesterol.
- Vitamin C - A medium banana will provide you with around 10% of your daily vitamin C intake which helps to; protect your body from cell damage, produce collagen, helps your body to absorb iron easier and can even help produce serotonin that assists sleep.
Training aids that assist bulking
Training equipment can help you on your bulking mission in many different ways, whether you are looking for extra support, better grip or to provide stability over an injury you may have suffered in the past.
We have found that SBD Apparel and Schiek are both reputable brands which have quality products that can help take your training to the next level. SBD is perfect for those of you who taking lifting serious, their products can be expensive but the quality is of the highest order. Schiek are a great company that has many more products at a more affordable price and the quality is still excellent for what you pay. We always encourage our clients to buy products which are top class. If you want to be the business then you have to look the business!
- Belts - Weight belts are important to reduce risk of injury to the lower back and help brace your abs for lifts like squats and deadlifts. If you are prone to back problems but are looking to bulk, we advise you to purchase a belt which is high quality to give you the best protection.
- Wrist Straps - Weight straps help you if you have a poor grip strength or are lifting weights which are much heavier than your forearms can actually handle. The straps themselves keep you attached to the bar and can allow you to lift heavier than normal on exercises such as; deadlifts, rows, lat pulldowns and heavy bicep curls.
- Knee Sleeves - Knee sleeves are suggested for heavy leg days, especially when it comes to squatting. The sleeves provide an elasticity that make the upward phase of squats easier and can help you to squat much more weight while having less pressure directly on your knees.
- Fat Gripz - Fat Gripz are still a fairly new piece of training equipment which target the forearm and arm muscles very heavily. The grips attach to Olympic bars and dumbbells to make even the easiest exercises much more difficult, as more muscle fibres are required to perform the exercise.
Thank you for taking a look at our tips for bulking and if you require any assistance to help you bulk this Christmas then our Bulk-Up training program will be excellent for you.
Thank you for taking the time to look at our Bulk-Up tips
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