T Nation

Bulking in Phases or Non-Stop?

Hey guys, I’ve been bulking a bit and gained 10 lbs and shooting for a total of 30lbs for this year. I’m thinking about breaking it up into phases where after I gain 15lbs I drop my calories to maintenance for a couple of weeks then get back to being in a surplus.
Does anyone have a preference for bulking till you hit your weight or breaking it into phases by adding micro-diet weeks? Curious about your thoughts! Thanks!

30lbs ? Unless your a complete novice…
Underweight for your height along with being extremely under feed

And or a teenager going through puberty

Or regaining established bodyweight from a insane diet or a extended layoff from any type of training

You may want to rethink gaining 30lbs in a year.

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I think that’s a good idea.

Take a little break from the Gaining to allow your body to adjust to the new bodyweight. And to make sure you’re not getting too sloppy.

I just got finished with my 30 pounds of continuous bulking and I ended up a little fatter than I would have liked. So I cut down ten pounds.

+15pounds, then down 5, and then another +15 then down 5 would have gotten me to the same spot. Probably faster.

Yea, that’s the approach I’m also thinking. I’m prepping for a BB contest for next Sept/Oct. So my goal is hit my weight goal (another 20 lbs left) but I’m not in a rush. I’d like to get to my weight at a steady pace, then stay there for a couple months before having to diet for my contest. Thanks for helpful feedback!
Wish everyone would put some thought into their comments!

Hey, Coach,
I’m almost 7 weeks into your 12-week High-Frequency Muscle Building program and I’ve been feeling great, getting stronger, and gaining weight, thank you!
My question is when bulking for an extended period of time 3-6+ months , do you prefer to add mini-cuts (mini-diet) breaks in between, let’s say every 10 lbs i gain, i do a 2-week mini cut or just hit maintenance?
I’ve been gaining 1.5 - 2lbs per week (I know a bit aggressive but so far so good), was wondering if adding mini-diets or just lowering my calories and target 1lb a week and just keep going is the optimal way?
Any feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks

Or juicy

Well, it is certainly aggressive. At that rate, if you are natural, AT THE MOST 0.5 of those 1.5-2.0 lbs are muscle. Another 0.25 - 0.5 lbs are added glycogen stores and other non-contractile elements in the muscle and the rest will be water or fat.

Which is not as bad as it sounds as most natural lifters will need to accept a fat gain equivalent to their muscle gain, or even a bit more, when rapid muscle growth is desired.

That having been said, the long you "bulk’ the less effective it becomes. First because of metabolic adaptations and also because you will get less and less of anabolic response to the food intake (in large part due to a decrease in insulin sensitivity and likely IGF-1 levels).

Take me for example; in my last training cycle I took my weight from 218 up to 230 in 8 weeks. I’d evaluate that out of those 12lbs, 4-6lbs were muscle. 6lbs of muscle in 8 weeks is a bit high for a normal situation, but because of golf I greatly decreased my lifting for close to a year and lost some muscle, so some of it was regained muscle.

But I have been unable to add any weight over the past 3 weeks, even by increasing food intake.

My original plan was to build up to 235 then diet down to 225 or so. But now I will likely have to start dieting right now.

Now, to get back to your situation. Gaining 2lbs per week is fine, IF you know you can diet it off. I personally know that I can diet down if needed so adding more fat than I would like is not a huge problem. But a lot of people gain too much fat for their capacity to diet it off.

Now, regarding your goal. Gaining 30lbs in the year if you are not a beginner can be moderately doable if a lot of it is from fat or water. But if you are not a beginner, at best I would expect a 10-15lbs of muscle in a GREAT year. 5-7lbs being what we more often see.

For example, a football player I train went from 210 to 230 in 19 months (his last season was cancelled because of COVID so he was able to train almost two years straight). That is a HUGE gain for a non beginner. And the guy is a genetic freak.

I think that the fact that the first 10lbs came so easily and quick. And because at that point you probably didn’t gain enough fat to look like you added a lot of fat, you started believing that you would easily build 30lbs. But it doesn’t work like that.

But I understand your reaction. I still have the same even though it’s not logical! I went from 218 to 228 super fast, like in 4-5 weeks. At that point I thought I’d easily go up to 240. But the body has a way of fighting you. The next 2 lbs took me 4 weeks to gain and now it’s been stagnant for 3-4 weeks.

So yeah, do mini-cuts. Especially if you are not sure if you can diet off all the fat in one long diet. But DO NOT expect that you can keep gaining at the same rate.

As I said in a Youtube video (and Tom Sheppard, a member of my team wrote an article about it), a normal non-drug using male has the potential to add a total of around 30-40lbs of muscle over what his normal adult weight would have been without training.

The closer you get to that limit, the slower the gains will come. And more importantly, gains normally come in spurts and a fast gaining rate normally only last a few weeks.

Short answer, yes, mini-cuts are a good strategy. But don’t expect gains to be linear. If they were, we’d all be 350lbs and ripped after a few years of training.

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I wondered if you had recommendations for calorie totals on a mini cut?

I’m planning a 3-week cut for May after a pretty successful 5-month bulk (15 pounds gained). I was planning to aim for around 6-7 pounds lost during that period with calories at BWx12 but wasn’t sure if that’s too aggressive? I’ve done it before so I know “mentally” I can do it but having had a bulk I’m happy with, I’m now somewhat psyched out about losing muscle.

Honestly it’s hard to make a specific recommendation as it is an highly indivual thing. First because of differences in body type, stress level, activity level but also because of metabolic adaptations.

For example, one of my clients Tom Sheppard (who also writes for Tnation) “bulked up” and we gradually had to increase his calories for his to keep gaining. He started his “bulk” at around 4000 calories and ended at above 5000 per day.

When we started a cut, he actually have fairly rapid fat loss at 4000 calories per day, which was his original bulking intake!

I also worked with a bodybuilder who used to diet down on low carbs and “bulk up” with around 300g of carbs… his nutritionist (Chris Aceto) VERY gradually increased his carbs and calories over years so that at one point he was consuming 1000g of carbs per day and when he would diet for a contest he could do it with 400g of carbs.

So my recommendation would be to use the last portion of your “bulking” diet to establish the mini-cuts.

Lower the caloric intake (keep protein the same or increase it slightly) by around 20-30% depending on the duration of the mini-cut and how intense you are willing to go.

But you should adjust your caloric intake weekly depending on progress anyway.

Thanks so much for the detailed response! Going based off my final bulk count makes sense - I always just haphazardly throw out a number so I really like this approach .

When I should start diet off? How do you know this is the top of “gainig phase” and now do the cut?
Last year I was 92kg (skinny fat). During 2 months I got to 78kg. Now I am gainig slowly around 1.5kg per moth (84kg now). I can’t estimate my fat% so when do you guys realize “stop” and cut now?

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