A bulking workout plan is a time-honored method for adding a significant amount of muscle mass to your frame. It involves training hard and heavy, and eating plenty of food. While the aim of bulking is to increase muscle size, some fat gain is unavoidable. That doesn’t mean bulking season is an excuse to get fat, but it’s hard to build a mound of muscle without increasing your body fat percentage too.
Don’t worry, though; if you’re smart and avoid perma-bulking, you’ll soon shed the fat to reveal your bigger, more muscular physique.
Winter is arguably the best time to start a workout bulking plan. Why? Because in winter you wear more clothes so no one will be able to see you’re carrying a bit more body fat than usual. Summer is the time for hitting the beach showing off your shredded abs, not for hiding your muscles under a layer of fat!
Plus, cold winter weather lends itself to eating hearty, filling, high-calorie meals, which is precisely what you need to pack on mass. Many people find that warm weather curbs their appetite, and to get big, you’d better be prepared to eat more than usual.
Here are some proven nutrition and training bulking tips, plus a bulking workout plan, to make sure your next bulk is as successful as possible!
1. Increase Your Calorie Intake
You can’t do a bulk without a calorie surplus. After all, the point of a bulk is to gain mass fast (1). You have to provide your body with an abundance of energy to fuel your workouts and recovery. If you don’t eat enough, your progress will be slow, if not non-existent. Repeat after me – eat big to get big, eat big to get big…
If your weight is currently stable, your calorie intake is probably more-or-less equal to your calorie expenditure. You can use a calorie-tracking app to confirm this. To gain mass, you need to eat more, so your weight steadily increases. Increase your food intake, so you are consuming about 500 calories more than maintenance per day.
So, if it takes 2,500 calories to keep your weight stable, you need to start eating 3,000 per day.
To do this, you could increase the size of each meal, eat an extra meal per day, add a few snacks, or chug down a weight gainer shake. It doesn’t matter HOW you create your calorie surplus so long as there is one.
Not gaining weight? You aren’t eating enough! Increase your calorie intake accordingly. You should gain between half and one pound per week. Remember though, some of this weight WILL be fat.
2. Eat Clean – Mostly
Even though you are bulking, your diet should still be healthy. Fill up on quality protein foods, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and fruits. These foods contain the nutrients your body needs to function at its best.
But, if you find it hard to get all the calories you need, don’t worry if you need to eat a few less healthy goods. Less healthy foods are often higher in calories than their healthier counterparts.
Bulking season is NOT an excuse for eating junk. But, if eating a few unhealthy foods is what it takes to achieve your calorie surplus, then that’s what you should do.
3. Supplement Wisely
While no supplement will magically bulk you up if you don’t train hard and eat right, they can help. Good bulking supplements include:
- Creatine for more energy, endurance, muslce growth, and strength. For details on the many effects of creatine and how to use it properly, check out the link!
- Mass gainer shake for an easy-to-consume source of calories
- Protein powder to make sure you get enough of this essential macronutrient
- Essential fatty acids (EFA) to reduce the inflammation and soreness caused by hard and heavy training
- Glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in your body, and crucial for recovery and muscle growth
- Branched-chain amino acids to provide your muscles with more of what they need to recover and grow. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein
- ZMA to help you sleep better and increase the production of the anabolic hormones
Do you HAVE to use supplements to get the most from your bulking workout plan? Absolutely not! But they can be helpful.
4. Get More Rest and Sleep
Training for bulking involves hard training, and plenty of it. These workouts are going to take a lot out of your body. Make sure you provide your body with the time it needs to recover between workouts by paying attention to your rest and sleep.
Avoid doing any unnecessary extra exercise other than your bodybuilding workouts. Bulking season is not the time to start training for a marathon. Cut back on cardio and put all your energy into your mass-building workouts. If you must do cardio, limit yourself to just 2-3 20-minute easy sessions per week.
Also, make sure you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep per night. That’s every night, and not just at weekends. This may mean you have to go to bed earlier, but that’s the price you have to pay to pack on mass.
After all, it’s only when you sleep that your body has the time and energy to repair muscle tissue, recover from your workouts, and build new muscle tissue. Anabolic hormone production increases at this time for this precise purpose. Lack of sleep has been shown to be crucial for recovery (2).
5. Get Strong!
Bulking is not the time to focus on things like triceps kickbacks and crunches. That’s not to say you can’t do these exercises, but instead, you should put most of your energy into increasing your strength on the big, compound lifts.
Stronger muscles are bigger muscles, so any good bulking workout plan should be built around exercises like squats, bench presses, deadlifts, rows, and shoulder presses. You can still include isolation exercises in your workouts, but your primary focus should be compound exercises and training for strength. Think of this phase of training as power building– a cross between powerlifting and bodybuilding.
To get stronger, focus on adding weight to the bar weekly, even if it’s just a pound or two. Of course, you should never sacrifice good lifting technique for more weight. Be sensible and, to avoid injury, do the exercises in your bulking workout plan with proper form.
6. Don’t Bulk for Too Long
Bulking is very satisfying. You’ll see your body weight increase, you’ll get stronger, and noticeably bigger too. You’re going to be SWOLE! But you’re also going to gain body fat too. If you bulk for too long, you could find yourself going from big and strong to big and fat!
For this reason, avoid falling into the perma-bulk trap, where you end up bulking all-year-round. Instead, bring your bulk to an end before you gain more body fat than you can comfortably lose.
For example, set yourself a weight gain limit of 20 pounds, and, when you hit this number, switch from bulking to a phase of clean eating and leaning out. Alternately, keep an eye on your waist measurement. Allow yourself a two-inch increase, and then end your bulk when your waist measurement reaches this cut-off point.
Finally, if you are significantly overweight, you should probably cut before you bulk. Bulking when you already have a high body fat percentage is a bad idea, as your fat mass is only going to increase further.
Bulking Workout Plan
Follow this workout for eight weeks. You’ll see there are some slight changes after week four to maintain your progress and avoid stagnation.
Start each workout with an appropriate warm-up. Do a few minutes of light cardio, followed by some joint mobility and dynamic stretching exercises for the muscle and joints you are about to train.
End each workout with another couple of minutes of light cardio and some stretching to minimize post-exercise muscle soreness.
Consume a fast-acting protein and carb shake straight after your workout to kickstart the recovery process. Also, consider these additional strategies for enhancing recovery.
|Legs||Chest and triceps||Rest||Back and biceps||Rest||Shoulders and arms||Rest|
*As Many Reps as Possible
*As Many Reps as Possible
*As Many Reps as Possible
*As Many Reps as Possible
Bulking Workout Plan – Wrapping Up
A lot of exercisers go for years without gaining much muscle mass, despite working out regularly. That’s because they don’t do anything that really overloads their muscles. And they don’t provide their bodies with the calorie surplus they need to grow.
Old-school bodybuilders gained weight and got bigger year after year. How? By following a bulking workout plan.
More often than not, this was seasonal. They’d bulk in the autumn and winter and then cut in the spring, so they’d be shredded for the summer.
If you’re frustrated with your lack of progress, maybe it’s time to try a bulk. You’re going to have to train hard and eat big, as well as pay extra attention to rest and recovery. But, in return, and in just a few months, you’ll be bigger and stronger than ever before.
And, wintertime is the perfect season for bulking!
1- PubMed: Is an Energy Surplus Required to Maximize Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy Associated with Resistance Training? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6710320/
2- PubMed: Sleep Hygiene for Optimizing Recovery in Athletes: Review and Recommendations https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6988893/
Join our list
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.