T Nation

Am I Lean Enough to Start a Bulk


Hi guys, last year lost a lot of weight like an idiot (2.5 months = 25 kilograms) because I was depressed by how fat I was. (No knowledge of macros and stuff like that - endless cardio and skipping eating). I ended up slim (everyone said I was not even close to fat) but I knew something was wrong - those people don't see me with my clothes off and I knew something was off when I look at myself in the mirror because when I do, I see someone fat.

The case might be a skinny fat situation + some excess skin = either my mind is playing tricks on me or I look like a non-clothes flabby and clothes slim-like aka skinny fat.

But I think I know for sure is that I am depressed and something is wrong. That's why I need your help. Stats are: 65-66 kilograms at 174 cm height, BF probably high but I will be including a picture for you to determine.

I want to be muscular and I don't want to be ashamed taking of my shirt and I want to not see someone who is flabby or skinny fat when I am naked. I have educated myself with the stickies ( for which I thank the authors) and I have all the concepts of how to break down the calories to my macros, how to create a diet and how to calculate my maintenance. For what I have read - I just calculate the calories, 1gr of protein per pound of body weight, 0,45gr fats per p/bw and rest carbs. I will be eating only whole foods so micros won't be a problem.

The help I want from you is to tell me if the situation is really bad as it is in my mind or I need to talk to someone just for encouragement. I want you guys to tell me what would be optimal for me: to cut; to bulk; to lean bulk or what ?


This is troubling. I suggest you seek some outside help for that if that's a big issue for you. I'm concerned too because a bulk will require putting on a little fat if you do it right. You need to get over the fat thing because bulking requires huge eating and lifting. Cutting does not mean "quit eating" either.

I hope you can forget the word fat, and just eat big and lift to start. If you break down your daily diet and program I'm sure some of us could help too.


You're not fat, you just don't have much muscle. I'd start lifting and eating in a way that allows you to get stronger and slowly gain weight. Don't try to force the weight on or you're liable to end up adding lots of fat. That said, don't starve yourself either. At this point you're going to see the biggest benefits from adding muscle. In a few years when you have a solid base built you can worry about losing any fat you might have left.


Oh, and dump the gloves.


You're not fat.


So you guys are suggesting lean bulk ? Can you take me through it so I don't fuck it up. As far as training is concerned, is a famous beginner's program like starting strength and ice cream fitness novice routine really necessary ? I mean, is it EXTREMELY important for me to start with only compounds ? I asked someone pretty jacked and he told me not to go down with that road but to use them isolations, hit every muscle 2x a week if I can recover quickly enough and that's that. What's your guys take on this ? I am interested ?


1)You're not fat

2)You're goals seem a bit vague for anyone to give you any specific advice, can you give us some idea of what you're aiming for physique-wise? Some lifting numbers would probably be helpful as well.


At this point your training approach is probably less important than your nutrition. It's probably wise, without knowing your current strength levels, to just pick a beginners program that suits your goals and stick with it while you get your nutrition down.


Eat 90% clean. Moniter calories. Cut back if you are getting too fat.

No. Listen to the pretty jacked guy.

Just make sure you increase the weight or number of reps every week for the compounds and heavy isolations.

P.S. You're not fat.


No lifting numbers. I don't want to lift much. I don't want to be a strongman powerlifter I want to have an awesome body. I know that lifting heavy is extremely important and I will be doing it but my goal is not benching a ton and brag about it. I want to go to the gym to look good. As you can see from my post, I have been traumatized pretty much with how I look when I was fat and even now. And I think I should be lean bulking but I want you guys to tell me further about it if it is the optimal for my situation and about my question for training (compounds isolations and 2x muscle per week).


You guys will actually be surprised by how much I pay attention to nutrition right now. I used other sites to educate myself and I am an idiot no more :). I am tracking everything with MFP and currently I am at 2581 calories 258 protein /258 carbs and 57 grams fats. That's a 40/40/20 ratio and I KNOW that much protein is not required for optimal growth ( 0.8-1.0 gr per pound BW is) but I was told it wouldn't be a problem if I like eating lean protein foods and I do so that's why I am currently on this. Clean eating ?

How about this- sources of protein - chicken breasts; egg whites; of carbs - oatmeal; white rice; vegetables; of fats - the fat I get from chicken; egg yolks and raw almonds (majority of course is from almonds). I've been a week on this and my weight hasn't changed. I know that to fully determine that it will take more than a week but I am reporting what has been going on. THe thing that concerns me is the routine I made up for myself and I have been using :smiley: I go chest/triceps back/traps biceps/shoulders forearm/legs and that I do on 4 consecutive days after which I immediately repeat. So no rest and each muscle group is hit 2x a week. I will give you a look at what my routine for day looks like - basically I pick 4 top rated iso exercises and do 4-5 sets of them in the 8-12 range for example chest/triceps
Bench press
Incline bench press
Hammer press machine
pec dec machine flyes

close-grip bench press
triceps pushdowns
triceps pushdowns but with the rope
triceps extension - machine

I have been adding weight to everything but I think that I am about to be bombed by how "my method is full of shit and won't yield results" If it is truly this case, let me know.


You're asking the wrong question.

The issue is not whether you are 'lean enough to bulk,' because bulking success does not depend on being lean. Rather, the question is whether you are carrying enough bodyfat to be able to successfully re-comp (ie, gain muscle while simultaneously losing fat). Judging by the photos, I would say the answer is yes. So, as you mentioned in your first post, set calories at maintenance and adjust from there based on how your bodyweight responds.

As for whether your BW should be increasing vs decreasing, that is a function of your short- and long-term goals. If you said 'My goal is to be huge and ripped 5 years from now, and I don't care how I look in the interim,' then you should aim for a slow-but-steady increase in BW, while recognizing and accepting that, inevitably, some of your increased mass will be fat, with which you will have to contend at a future date. OTOH, if said 'My goal is to look lean and mean at the beach next summer,' you should aim for a slow-but-steady decrease in BW. Note there is no right/wrong answer here--it's all a function of your goals. Best of luck.

PS Re training, I agree with dt79. Listen to the jacked guy.

PPS Re the gloves, I agree with rockscar. Ditch 'em.


Actually, I am NOT surprised by how much you pay attention to nutrition, because without trying to get TOO carried away here, you sound like someone with at least a sub-clinical eating disorder in your past, if not a full-blown one. A classic symptom of most ED patients is borderline-obsessive tracking of every calorie, and combined with a handful of things you've said here, it's not terribly hard to connect the dots.

With that said: your current intake sounds pretty darn good.

As someone else already told you, if your diet is dialed in, you will make physique progress on most any SENSIBLE training program. Whether you do this with heavy compound lifts, isolation exercises, dumbbells, etc...is not as important as picking a program that works you hard, STICKING TO THAT PROGRAM, and making progress. Keep eating well and working hard, whatever training approach you choose, and good things will happen.


You don't have to lift big weights to get big, BUT you must have the ABILITY to lift big weights to get big.

Which means though you may be using 80lb dumbbells with a pause and stretch at the bottom and a 1sec squeeze at the top with no lockout for 4 sets of 10 reps, you still have the ability to grind out the 110lbers for a double if you wanted to.


Ok I got it. Just please answer 3 questions of mine.

  1. So let's say I continue to not change body weight at those calories for 3 more weeks. That would be my maintenance. I then should stay at those calories and keep lifting ? What if weight drops, should I try to keep it the same with more cals ? And how do I judge if that body recomping is working ? I mean, is weight staying the same the factor ? I just want to point out that I have been doing no cardio just weights everyday. And some dudes which were also in pretty good shape told me I would be spinning my wheels with recomping, and that I should lean bulk but I will listen to you.

  2. As for the jacked guy, he told me not to do the compound lifts, but I didn't explained what I was doing as I explained it to you guys in my previous post. As far is training is concerned will my self-made ( look at my post where I explain chest/triceps and other ) yield me even better results or at most - not less results than a beginner routine ( split or compounds full body) in the web ?

  3. Dunno if I am overreacting but I think that my lower body is more developed (maybe cuz of the cardio I did to lose weight like an idiot) or has more bf than my upper body. And if i train my legs (where I have 6 exercises, none of which are squats or deadlifts) as frequently as I said in my post about my routine, can I expect them to lean out first before bulking up with muscle ? Because If they get all muscle and fat is still there, they will be even bigger and this disproportionate look will tear me up. Thanks all


Where you're at now, I'd say you have at least a better than average physique because you are not fat and do have some muscle tone. That being said, you have relatively low levels of muscularity (and I'm assuming strength) so you'd be best off developing a basic level of strength before focusing on hypertrophy.

Start off with something like stronglifts or starting strength. Or Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 so you can add in some isolation work if you really want to.

If you want to look good you're gonna have to do the compound movements. They activate the most musculature and burn the most calories. You don't need to go super heavy. Youâ??ll probably put on more size in the 8-12 rep range anyway, but I recommend you learn to love them.

You could do something like an upper/lower split or add in some full body workout.

Monday- OH Press, chin-ups, dips or db press, lat pull
Tuesday- Squat, lunges, leg curl, leg extension, calf raise
Thursday- Bench, BB or T-bar row, incline db bench, one arm db or cable row
Friday- Dead lift, step up, RDL or stiff leg dead, leg press

OR (what worked for me)

Monday- OH Press, chin-ups, dips or db press, lat pull
Tuesday- Deadlift, step up, RDL or stiff leg dead, leg press
Thursday- Bench, Squat, Row, isolations
Saturday- Squat, bench, row, isolations

Some good beginning strength goals would be to be able to squat 1.5 times your body weight, bench body weight for reps, and do at least 8 consecutive pull-ups.
Pull-ups are a really good metric because they demand a pretty high level of relative strength and they're hard for fat people. If you can't do at least 8 pull-ups youâ??re fat, weak, or both.

So that's my training advice to make sustainable, long term progress. I weighed 165 around 12% bf in Christmas, and I'm at 205 around 12% now.

As far as nutrition goes, I suggest you release notions of "cutting" and "bulking" in the conventional sense. Life is a lot easier if you just don't let yourself get fat (you are not fat right now, anyway) and eating everything in sight will leave you with more fat to lose later. Youâ??ll gain the most muscle in the 10-12% bf range, and if you decide you're big enough when you get to the size you want and choose to focus on getting to single digits, that's your call.

It sounds like your diet is decent, just keep eating clean. Keep the meat and veggie intake high, healthy carbs moderate and sugar low. Drink your protein post workout. If you train consistently and keep eating more calories than you burn, your body won't have a choice but to grow.

Like I said, that's for long term progress and consistency.

If want to go balls out for the next couple months and you have the time and the money, get yourself some MAG-10 and Plazma from the Biotest store and buy Ben Pakulski's MI40-X. That'll put on a lot of size fast, too.


Sounds a lot like I want lots of money; I just don't want to work or get a job.


First of all, like almost everyone has said, you need to solve your body image problem before anything else. Perhaps seek help from people qualified to deal with this type of disorders. If you can't do that, you will just be spinning your wheels because you WILL gain some fat if you want to put on an appreciable amount of muscle mass. There is no way you can recomp indefinately.

Second, your jacked friend is right. You can use only machines and isolations and get big provided you get progressively stronger and your diet is good. But can you put in the required intensity in the gym if your goal is only bodycomp? Can you be motivated to grind out that extra rep if you didn't want that bench PR so badly? The ones that i always see progressing the fastest develop both the love for the weights as well as building their bodies.


So, I am adding reps or weight to the bench and every isolation and machine I do. So I will be sticking to my own designed thing but what should I do about goal ? Some people above said I should eat at maintenance and do what is called body recomp. Others say I will be spinning my wheels and that I should lean bulk to add mass. And I get confused


Eat at maintainance for the next 3 weeks. Hit the weights hard. Post pics.

We'll evaluate results together and then plan the next move. Ok?