Tuesday, January 29, 2013

T-NATION: The Truth About Bulking

I think this is worth sharing. It's an old article from T-Nation, but one that's still worth reading. Granted, there are some points throughout it that I don't entirely agree with, but for the most part I think more people in the lifting community should be paying attention to this advice.

T-NATION: The Truth About Bulking


- Too often, people on the internet dole out the recommendation to new lifters that they should be eating to excess, trying to push the scale weight up as high as possible (as a personal anecdote, earlier today I saw someone on the bb.com forums telling a new lifter that he isn't eating enough, because the new lifter had "only" gone from 128lb to 135lb in 8 weeks; that's 7lb in 8 weeks, and in reality you really don't want to be gaining much more weight than that, if you'd even benefit from gaining weight that rapidly in the first place).
- The above point is proof that said internet people shouldn't be giving advice.
- You can only gain so much muscle mass per week, and the amount you can gain in that time frame really isn't very high. Once you start eating beyond that amount, you aren't gaining more muscle, just more fat.
- The more fat you gain while bulking, the longer you'll have to cut for. If you spend 6 months bulking and then 6 months cutting (and you will probably need to cut for at least 6 months if you follow a lot of the dietary advice given to people who want to bulk), you'll have only spent half of the year building muscle. The remainder of the year will be spent trying to maintain the muscle mass you've gained -- and you may not even succeed to do that. If, however, you bulk at a slower rate so as to minimise the amount of fat gained, you may only need to cut for 1-2 months after 6 months of bulking. You'll have gained the same amount of muscle in that time, you'll spend less time cutting, and you'll be able to get back into building more muscle sooner. That might give you 10ish months of solid building in a year, as oppose to just 6 months, and less time risking muscle loss.
- There are other seriously good reasons mentioned not to "fulk" (fat-bulk) as some call it, you can find them in the link.


  1. 'I saw someone on the bb.com forums telling a new lifter that he isn't eating enough, because the new lifter had "only" gone from 128lb to 135lb in 8 weeks; that's 7lb in 8 weeks'
    Wonder what 'supplements' they were used to people injecting, sorry ingesting.
    I have had to consider drastic changes in diet recently because I realised that the very high intake I have been using of late has meant a steady increase in weight I hadn't noticed.
    Back in August last year I weighed in at 12st 8 when I am used to being 12 stone. We had someone staying with us whose idea of balanced diet was big mac in one hand and beer in the other, and I thought it was this influence causing the issue, because in March I was 12 stone dead. Beginning of this year I noticed I was at my heaviest ever 12st 12 (about 80kg) and thought it was due to over indulgence over festive season.
    Normally my body fat is around the 15% mark, give or take 1 or 2%. The shocker when I did my most recent weigh in with body fat check was I am just under 17%, so within the levels I would normally accept. Basically it appears I have gained predominantly lean mass with a bit of excess, not what I expected.
    My running is a little slower and I may be riding slower but it's hard to tell with traffic, and weights I am pushing are higher than they have been at the reps I am doing in a while. My wife is not unhappy with the additional bulk so there is no pressure to lose the weight.
    So now I have some decisions to make. Do I want to keep the weight and possibly build more, something I was never really good at before but is happening without me trying now, or trim back down which will realistically mean losing lean mass. I am partway through a program at the moment, though with a week pause I didn't want, so will not be making changes yet. Lots to think about though.
    Cutting for me is not an issue, I don't need to be pretty on stage so if I go for bulk I can just keep going and if I eat sensibly I will keep the same body fat I am used to.

    1. While it's not unreasonable to suspect that it was a Vitamin T supplement driving the claim that this new kid wasn't eating/gaining enough, I think a lot of it can just be attributed to the Rippetoe culture on those forums. If you venture into the workout programs area there, it's swamped with people whose only education comes from Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength. Starting Strength isn't a bad place to start learning lifting technique, but then you check the whole half a page on nutrition in the book. Rip's dietary recommendations are intended to get people gaining 10lb in 2 weeks, and a great many members of the forum can't figure out/won't acknowledge what's wrong with this.

      As for your own eating habits, I recommend you do the thing. Yep, I'm helpful like that.

  2. Thank you for your decisive guidance. It matches my own current mindset perfectly. 5 weeks before I need to care anyway. I might go 10, 8, 6 or dropsets on workout and just see how my weight goes.

    Gaining 10lb in 2 weeks even with Jus d' Testes as a supplement is insane. Not read Rippetoe, but looks as though I am not missing much.

    1. The book's mostly instruction on barbell exercises. On that front, it's not perfect, but it's much better as an individual resource than anything else I can think of, even though there are points I disagree with to each exercise in the book. For someone who's new to lifting, the technical points bear a lot of benefit, and I say that even though there's not a single exercise that I do by the book. It's mostly just the nutrition where things go silly. That, and the fanclub of people who deify Rippetoe. Oh, and the low level of concern for upper back work.


For reasons that are beyond me, I like to hear what people think, so please leave a comment and let's work together to trick random passers-by into thinking this blog is actually popular.