T Nation

Bulking/Cutting as a "Novice" Lifter



I don’t hold that opinion to a high regard. I just need bodybuilding advice and lots of people (not 1) has told me to cut to like 10% then slow bulk for strength. I don’t know man.


Were these lots of accomplished people? If not, rather than listening to lots of people, select a few accomplished people and listen to them.



Listen to TheMightyStu or Pwnisher.

Stu is a pro card carrying natural bodybuilder. People pay for his coaching, you’re getting his advice for free here.

Pwnisher is a strongman type who’s built like a tank -check out his log, more info and examples than you’ll ever need in there.

Pick one, and stop overthinking it. All noobs overthink it; lucky for you you stumbled onto TNation.


Or his blog. Google mythical strength. I genuinely think it’s been the most influential online resource for me, without wanting to sound like a screaming fanboy.

To the main point though: there are many ways to skin a cat, and the above two examples, and many others on this site, show that.

It’s important you pick one way and one philosophy and follow it because they all work, if you follow them. They stop working if you try to mix and match.


So not sure if I want to add my two cents in


Yeah I think on line people see a in season peaking phase and assume that is how some train year round.


@T3hPwnisher just want to say that I didn’t know about your blog and just found it out because of this post. Love it! Your articles are very well written and interesting IMO.


As a beginner, you’ll get stronger doing pretty much anything. You certainly want to have some strength work in your program, but a well rounded program should address a variety of rep ranges, so you can get stronger, and bigger. There are plenty of guys in the gym who “focus on strength”, can lift a little heavier than me, and don’t look like they work out at all.

You don’t need to be in a caloric surplus to prevent burning muscle. If you’re training with weights, getting enough protein, you can keep all your muscle, even in a slight deficit. Eat maintenance calories, train hard, and let time do it’s thing.

Have all of those people competed as bodybuilders, or achieved incredible physiques, or have extensive personal experience and success in this area? Have any of them ever gotten shredded? I doubt it.

if you want bodybuilding advice, try the “search” function of T-Nation, there’s literally hundreds of articles. Here’s a good place to start. Read the top two first.

If you only did this program for a year, and ate maintenance calories, you’d get stronger, bigger, and have a completely different physique than you do now.


@robstein Can I clarify something from the linked program?

It says intensity and volume must be inversely linked. Which I appreciate.

However when going for the first / primary exercise (say 5x5 for bench press) how do you know when you have it right. That you’re at the right sort of weight to create enough intensity. But not so much you’ll burn out?
Is it just a matter of trial and error? Or as I’m guessing with experience it becomes a bit more predicable.

Also - with progression. I assume its similar. Once it feels a bit too easy add some weight?


Glad you enjoy it dude. It’s been a good outlet for me.


This, along with all the other advice I had gotten in this thread, is insanely helpful. I read those articles and I’ll be using that workout. Thanks a million for the help, you just cleared me of my headache. I’m glad I posted here.


Hey, I don’t want to turn this in a QnA, but do you agree with the statement in a T Nation page stating, “So what if you’re at 13% body fat and don’t have that much muscle? Should you bulk up? No! Cut down to 10% then gradually increase your nutrition until you reach a point where you’re gaining 1.5 to 2 pounds per month. You’d gain muscle at an optimal rate while staying at 10%.”

Can’t this work as well? The article states that it’s better to cut to 10% then lean bulk, since muslce growth is quicker when you’re leaner.


I think you are overthinking. There is ALOT of info on this site, and you will never be able to apply all of it. If I was you focus on your macros and stick to whatever lifting program you are doing. once you are solid on that then pick something that you want to try and apply it to what you are doing. If you try to do everything all at once you are more likely to be displeased with your results. You want to leave room for adjustments.

Eat Right and lift Bro.


Read the Q&A article that’s on the front page right now, there’s a question and answer directly addressing the fact that there are articles with sometimes conflicting information here. Bottom line, All the articles are written by experts, but that doesn’t mean they always agree, and peoples’ recommendations change as they grow and learn. Also, different recommendations are given with different training goals in mind. Look at any article you read critically, and think about how it applies to your goals. Any (non-stupid) program will work, whether it’s a workout or diet, if you commit to it and work hard at it for a long enough time, and make micro-adjustments as you see how your body responds.


Absolutely! Regarding weight and intensity, and citing your example of 5x5 for the first exercise (a favorite of mine to toss in every now and then.) The purpose of the 5x5 is more strength focused, so the primary driver should be resting enough that you can move heavier weight for 5 great reps. With all things bodybuilding, execution and proper muscle tension is key, so don’t be sloppy with your reps. Also keep in mind, with the 5x5 work you won’t feel the same “pump” as with the higher reps. So I’d recommend:

  • Enough warm up and feeler sets to get ready for the first working set. If I’m doing 5x5 incline dumbbell presses for example, my warm ups would look something like this:
    -25’s x 20
    -35’s x 15
    -45’s x 10-12
    -60’s x 8
    -75’s x 5
    -90’s x 3
    First working set - 105’s x 5

After that I’m sufficiently ready to crush my sets for the rest of the session. I won’t warm up like that for the rest of my exercises, but I will always typically do a quick feeler set to nail down what weight I’m going to use.

As you warm up, don’t go even close to failure, just get blood moving and warm up the muscle.

When you start the 5x5 working sets, you should have 5 solid reps, knowing you could squeeze out a 6th, somewhat sloppy rep, with no chance of a 7th rep. “Leave one in the tank” is a common term used for that. You don’t want to get to failure, and you want to make sure you’ve got enough in the tank for the rest of your session. For 5x5 I’ll rest 2-3min between sets, some light stretching between, to make sure I get enough time to have another great working set.

If my plan is to do 5x5 for the first sets for let’s say 4 weeks, the first day I’ll typically do all straight sets and won’t increase in weight. By the second week, in my 4th or 5th set, I will move up in weight if I can. I’ll gradually move up sooner each week, until the last week I should hopefully be doing all of my working sets at the higher weight.

After that, sets of 8-10 I might wait around 60-90 seconds, higher reps I’ll wait 45-60 seconds or so. I don’t look at a clock (though I used to), at this point I know when I’m ready for the next set.

Hope this helps, please always feel free to tag me anytime with thoughts or questions!


Please know that these forums exist literally for the exchange of ideas and Q&A, so always feel free to ask questions, and you can always tag me with thoughts or questions anytime.

Regarding cutting to 10%, then “bulking” (I freaking hate that term), if you are TRULY at 13% body fat, you’re fine to be on maintenence calories and train for gains, and eventually cut when you want to look leaner. If you’re more like 20% body fat, I think losing some fat first would be the way to go.

In my experience, it’s easier to cut when you’ve got more muscle.

I can totally understand the reasoning behind that statement, and yes it can, be easier to put on muscle if you’re leaner, HOWEVER (and this is a big however) putting on max muscle and minimal fat is 300% going to be determined by your nutrition (assuming training is already being consistently executed). You’ll want to eat no more than a 10% surplus to start, and I’d recommend still having at least one day a week when you’re in a deficit. Unless you’ve got a freaky fast metabolism (lucky bastards,) it’s a VERY FINE lean to gain muscle and not fat, and takes relentlessly consistently executed nutrition.

For you, I think worrying about cutting before you’ve learned how to train and eat would be counter productive. Do not overthink it, seriously. Start training and learn how to train and eat. Get in there and be sure to post with any more questions.


Thank you sir!

Pretty much what I thought. But nice to get it confirmed.




I hate it when an “expert” offers such a blanket statement like this. Forget different goals, insulin sensitivity, structure and how you carry bodyfat, and what whether you’re one of those lucky bastards that can actually use the added softness to help build muscle (ever seen a guy weighing 220 knock out 10 quality bodybuilding style pullups?)