How to Bulk up Right: A Guide to Building Muscle Mass
If you’ve tried learning how to bulk up, you’ll know it’s a lot harder than it looks. At first, you think it just takes lifting weights a lot. Then you realize you have to eat a lot too. After that, you realize that eating a lot is its own challenge.
And one thing leads to another until you realize you’re clueless about the whole process. What’s crazy about the entire process is that even those that have gained upwards of 50 pounds still say they have a lot to learn. If those beasts in the gym don’t know how to bulk up properly, how in the world will you figure it out?
It turns out bulking up is as much of an art as it is a science. Therefore, each bodybuilder has an endless amount of knowledge they can gain about how they can perfect their craft. However, there is a clear cut path for those just getting into the gym. Although the
specifics of bulking up are murky, the basics happen to be clear, easy to follow and are the most crucial part of bulking up.
THE BASICS OF BULKING
The first step to learning how to bulk up is knowing what bulking is in the first place. In short, bulking is the process of intentionally gaining weight. The main goal of bulking is to gain weight through muscle mass.
However, it’s challenging to gain only muscle mass while bulking. Anytime you’re gaining weight there’s a strong chance some of that weight gained will be fat, no matter how hard you train. That’s why bulking up is often paired with cutting weight.
BENEFITS OF BULKING AND CUTTING WEIGHT
You’ll often hear the term bulking and cutting paired with each other. That is because they’re closely intertwined. When you’re bulking up, you’re often gaining fat along with muscle. Rather than trying to avoid gaining any fat at all, bodybuilders often have a certain amount of fat they’re willing to gain during their bulk.
To counteract an excess buildup of fat, bodybuilders will have periods of cutting weight. During these periods, your primary goal is to burn off your fat rather than build muscle. Instead of building muscle, you want to preserve it while you burn off your body fat.
HOW TO CUT WEIGHT
If during your process of bulking up you ever decide to cut weight, you can rest assured knowing it’s not a complicated task. You won’t need to do an extreme diet or quit hitting the gym. The core of cutting weight is merely eating fewer calories than you burn.
To maintain your muscle mass during this period, you need to continue hitting the gym. Your focus at the gym will be to keep your current strength. Along with continuing to lift, you’ll also want to continue eating your proper amount of protein.
HOW TO BULK UP AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE
You want to get big ASAP. We get it. That doesn’t give you an excuse to do so irresponsibly though. The question of how to bulk up has a tried and true answer, and impatience will only lead to self-sabotage.
HOW TO BULK UP BY EATING RIGHT
Before discussing how to hit the gym, you first need to know how to eat right. Put simply, without an excess of calories, you won’t build muscle. It’s that simple.
Before all else, the most important factor in how to bulk up is eating a surplus of calories. During your training days, you want to eat more calories than you burn. And during your off days, you’ll want to eat the same amount of calories as you burn.
FINDING YOUR MAINTENANCE LEVEL
You have a general number of calories that keeps you at the same weight. That is called your maintenance level. It’s different for every person. If you eat more than this amount of calories, you gain weight. If you eat less than your maintenance level, you lose weight.
Creating a proper meal plan requires figuring out your maintenance level. To do this, track the calories you eat throughout a week. A convenient way to do this is through apps such as Under Armour’s My Fitness Pal. Weigh yourself before the week and after the week, and compare your change in weight to the average amount of calories you ate per day.
If you stayed the same weight, the average calories you ate per day during that week is your maintenance level. It may take a bit to figure out your maintenance level, but it’s important to find it out. Once you learn your maintenance level, it will become easy to know how much you need to eat to gain the right amount of weight.
No matter how hard you train, there’s a limit to how much muscle you can gain in a week. This limit is usually around 1/4 to 1 pound per week, and it differs between individuals. When you gain more weight in a week than your limit, you build up body fat.
There’s no easy way to figure out the perfect amount of weight you should gain per week. Therefore, you may want to start slow if you’re trying to avoid building excess body fat. It’s not a huge issue, but if you err on the side of caution, your cutting phase won’t have to be so miserable.
Once you figure out how much weight you want to gain per week, all you need to do after that is eat the right amount of calories. That is usually between 100 to 500 more calories than your maintenance level. Once you figure out your required calorie surplus, you can start thinking about how you want to split up the macronutrients of your daily calorie intake.
There are three macronutrients you’ll need to consider when creating your meal plan. These are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. In essence, protein builds muscle, carbohydrates provide short term energy (day to day), and fat provides long term energy (months to years). It’s way more complicated than that, but we’re just going to go over macronutrients in terms of bodybuilding.
It’s heavily debated what the ideal balance of these macronutrients are, so we’ll just give you the basics. For figuring out how much protein you should eat per day, the rule of thumb is to eat 1 gram of protein per day for every pound of body weight you weigh (or 2.2 g of protein for every Kg of body weight). So for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should strive to eat 150 grams of protein every day.
The necessary balance of fats and carbohydrates in your diet is a bit more up in the air. A good guideline to try and stick to is to make around 25 percent of your daily calories fat. Once you figure out how much fat and protein you should eat per day, you can fill the rest of the calories in with carbohydrates.
One of the most effective ways to perfect your diet is to create a meal plan. Decide at the start of every week what meals you’re going to eat. It helps you buy the right groceries and cook the right meals to get in your proper calories and macronutrient balance.
If you lead a busy life, it can be tough always to be cooking enough food to gain weight. Meal prepping is an excellent tool for tackling this problem. All you have to do is cook a large amount of food every week, and store it in Tupperware to eat throughout the week. That way when you don’t have the time to cook a meal you can just heat something up from the fridge.
CHOOSING YOUR WORKOUT PLAN
When learning how to bulk up, the biggest skill to master isn’t any fancy routine or set of exercises. It’s discipline. The biggest obstacle to bulking up quickly is laziness and getting sidetracked. Creating and sticking to a set schedule will help immensely in tackling this obstacle.
FIGURING OUT DAYS AND TIMES
The most important aspect of your workout plan is choosing set days and times you plan to workout. Depending on your personal goals, this could range anywhere from twice a day every day, to three days a week. Before deciding on anything, make sure it’s a schedule you can stick to. If you set your goals too high, you’ll burn out, miss a day, and then realize you love being lazy and you’ll stop working out consistently.
PICKING A PROGRAM
After setting your schedule, you’ll need to decide what exercises you’re going to do. That takes research and practice. Before committing to a program, you’ll want to get the hang of the main exercises that hit each major muscle group. Once you get the hang of these main exercises, applying them to a program will help you stay consistent and make progress.
One of the top programs for beginners is the upper/lower split. In this program, you train your upper body one day, your lower body the next, take a break, then repeat. You get to fill in the days with whatever workouts you choose, making sure to hit all of the major muscle groups for both your upper and lower body.
The program is great for beginners because you get to choose what workouts you want to do. It allows you to try things out and learn proper form rather than trying to stick to a strict routine. On the downside, as a beginner, it is tricky to figure out what workouts you need to do to hit every important muscle group. A great way to take advantage of this program is to use it to get the hang of lifting so you can advance to a more intense workout program.
Once you have the hang of the basics of lifting, the 5×5 program is a great way to reach new heights. The program revolves around five sets of five reps, with each exercise hitting multiple major muscle groups. Such exercises include barbell squats, barbell bench presses, and standing military presses. You only workout three days per week, but each workout is intense and hits your entire body. The program is less flexible than the upper/lower split, but has zero nonsense to it, allowing you to easily stick to the routine no matter how busy your life is.
COMMON MISTAKES WHEN TRYING TO BULK UP QUICKLY
While figuring out how to bulk up most effectively, there are a few pitfalls that you need to avoid. These common issues get in the way of your gains, yet often look like they’re the path to getting bigger quicker.
PUTTING SHORT TERM GAINS OVER LONG TERM SUSTAINABILITY
It’s easy to think you’re making progress when you lift heavier weights, but if you’re sacrificing form, you’re only hurting yourself. It’s true that you need to increase your weights as a beginner progressively, but if you can’t maintain proper form throughout the entirety of your last set, then you need to lower the weight. Poor form makes your exercises less effective at building muscle, but more importantly, it makes you prone to injury. It’s easy to overlook, but setting yourself up for injury will only limit your muscle gains in the long run.
WEIGHING YOURSELF DAILY
Another pitfall when learning how to bulk up quickly is the habit of weighing yourself daily. Your weight fluctuates quite a bit on a day to day basis. If you weigh yourself daily, you might think you need to eat way more than you are, or even way less. If you keep yourself restrained and weigh yourself once a week, you’ll be able to make more accurate and useful changes to your diet.
WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER
The secret of how to bulk up quickly isn’t to learn how to endure pain or put your absolute all into every single workout. It’s about learning how to push yourself to show up to the gym every day you planned. And even more, it’s about learning the proper ways to increase muscle mass. If you bring intelligent planning and the drive to stick to your plans into your regiment, you’ll be sure to get huge in no time.