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Bulking Tips for a FFB?

Hey everyone

I’m a long time reader of T-Nation, but don’t post often. However, I’ve hit the point where I think I need to be seriously working on bulking but want to make sure I’m doing it right, and wanted to hear any tips/suggestions from as many people as possible.

Here is my background: I’ve been seriously lifting (and by that I mean lifting 3-5 times a week and not missing workouts) for a little over a year, although I was an off/on lifter for probably the previous 8-10 years - just never very consistent.

I’m 5’10, 175 lbs., ~14-15% BF (although I haven’t had it checked since last spring, but I can tell not much has changed since then) and 31 y/o.

When I started lifting seriously, I was near 200 lbs and about 23% BF, and not a lot of muscle by any means. So yeah, I think I fit Shugart’s definition of a former fat boy (FFB).

I did the NROL fat loss workouts for about 3 months and got down to about 165 lbs. and 14% BF. The last 10 months or so, I’ve done NROL hypertrophy, NROL strength, Rippetoe starting strength, and the last month I’ve been doing a split routine that I designed.

I basically was between 165-170 most of the time between last December and a month ago, only recently eating more to try to gain some weight.

I feel like I’ve kind of been treading water so to speak since I got down to 14% BF. My thought is that I’d love to get down to single digit BF, but I don’t think I’d have a lot of muscle right now to “show off” if I did, so I’d rather bulk for a while and worry about the low BF after I have more muscle.

But, I think I know my body fairly well by now, and I think that I tend to put on fat rather easily, so I’m a little hesistant to dive right into eating a ton and gaining fat along with muscle.

Is there anyone else that’s a FFB that can give me some tips on what they did or would do if you want to get big but don’t want that gut, etc. to get too big in the process?

I’d say for right now at least, for a medium to long term goal, I’d like to eventually get up to maybe around 180-190 lbs. at single digit body fat, maybe more weight, guess it just depends on how I look when I get there.

The last few weeks I’ve been upping my cals to around 3200-3500 per day, with the higher end for workout days. I eat fairly low carb, with most of the non-fruit/vegetable carbs coming either at breakfast or post-workout.

I try to get around 240+ grams of protein or more, eating 6x per day, plus a PWO shake. The first couple of weeks I put on 2 lbs a week, which seemed like a lot, so I threw in a little cardio at the end of my weight sessions, and last week the gain was 0.5 lbs.

I’m hesitant to put on a lot of weight quickly because I think I have a tendency to put on fat more easily than some.

My split lately has been:
Mon - Legs
Tues - Back
Wed - Chest and Sprinting
Thurs - Low back and Abs
Fri - Shoulders, Bis and Tris
Sat - Running or Sprinting ~ 30-40 min total
Sun - OFF

I can get into more detail on my eating or workouts if necessary. My workouts are mainly compound lifts, sets of 3-4 at anywhere from 5-10 reps normally.

Any tips or suggestions would be really appreciated.

First, forget that being a former fatty somehow makes you “different” or “special” or that you somehow need to do anything different than anyone else. I was 250lbs+ when I started probably 30+ body fat. I sit around 205-210 at 15ish now (just a guess, doesn’t really matter), but got down as low as 185 at 6’2".

Lift progressively heavier shit and eat a lot of clean food. You’ll be good to go.

Just don’t be afraid to eat a ton. If you’re hungry at some point during the day, you’re not doing it right.

I would also suggest you try to pursue strength gains, and forget about “adding size” your diet will do that. Look into using a basic 3-4 day/week strength routine. Something like starting strength could do a lot of good, just keep at it until you stall a few times.

I think using a “west side” inspired upper/lower split would be oustanding as well. Defrancos WS4SB or EliteFTS’ Getting Ready to Powerlift programs would be great. Both are designed to lift above 90% on big movements, and the assistance/RE work is very much meant to put on muscle.

Things to check out:
Starting Strength http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=998224

Stronglifts beginner 5x5 http://stronglifts.com/stronglifts-5x5-beginner-strength-training-program/

West Side for Skinny Bastards http://www.defrancostraining.com/articles/articles.htm

Getting Ready to Powerlift http://www.elitefts.com/documents/getting_ready.htm

I’ve also had a lot of success with CW’s Total Body Training, or at least using a program similar to it.

Good luck. Again, most of getting bigger is eating. you don’t need to go crazy with the calories, but experiment for a while, see what level of intake works. Adjust from there.

Increase your energy expenditure - do some cardio along with your heavy weight sessions.

I’m prone to add fat quite easily, and for the first time in my life I am actually adding weight at a stable process (1lb a week more or less) even though I’m eating like mad - because of the extra cardio I’m doing.

[quote]boyscout wrote:
First, forget that being a former fatty somehow makes you “different” or “special” or that you somehow need to do anything different than anyone else. I was 250lbs+ when I started probably 30+ body fat.

I sit around 205-210 at 15ish now (just a guess, doesn’t really matter), but got down as low as 185 at 6’2".

Lift progressively heavier shit and eat a lot of clean food. You’ll be good to go.

Just don’t be afraid to eat a ton. If you’re hungry at some point during the day, you’re not doing it right.

I would also suggest you try to pursue strength gains, and forget about “adding size” your diet will do that. Look into using a basic 3-4 day/week strength routine. Something like starting strength could do a lot of good, just keep at it until you stall a few times.

I think using a “west side” inspire upper/lower split would be oustanding as well. Defrancos WS4SB or EliteFTS’ Getting Ready to Powerlift programs would be great. Both are designed to lift about 90% on big movements, and the assistance/RE work is very much meant to put on muscle.

Things to check out:
Starting Strength http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=998224

Stronglifts beginner 5x5 http://stronglifts.com/stronglifts-5x5-beginner-strength-training-program/

West Side for Skinny Bastards http://www.defrancostraining.com/articles/articles.htm

Getting Ready to Powerlift http://www.elitefts.com/documents/getting_ready.htm

I’ve also had a lot of success with CW’s Total Body Training, or at least using a program similar to it.

Good luck. Again, most of getting bigger is eating. you don’t need to go crazy with the calories, but experiment for a while, see what level of intake works. Adjust from there.[/quote]

^ boyscout knows his shit listen to the man. I couldn’t have said it better.

[quote]RSGZ wrote:
Increase your energy expenditure - do some cardio along with your heavy weight sessions.

I’m prone to add fat quite easily, and for the first time in my life I am actually adding weight at a stable process (1lb a week more or less) even though I’m eating like mad - because of the extra cardio I’m doing.[/quote]

RSGZ: Thanks for the input. The last couple of weeks, I’ve added a bit more cardio in - roughly 15-20 min after my weights sessions, and that’s seemed to curb the weight to about 1 lb a week gained. I’ve been doing just steady state running outside for the cardio, except for sprints 1 day. Do you think that sounds like a good plan?

boyscout:

Thanks a lot for the tips. I’ve checked out Starting Strength and Stronglifts before, and thought they were good solid plans. I’ll definitely check out Westside and EFS too.

Yeah, as far as the food goes, I think most days I’m up around 3500 cals, but I’m not counting cals religiously. Hunger is completely hit or miss though. Some days (especially leg or deadlift days I notice) I seem hungrier than others - probably since those are the more taxing workout days. I do try to eat the same meal schedule pretty religiously, especially on workout days. The weekends are a little more uneven, since I don’t lift those days normally, and I’m often out and about doing errands and what not, but I try to get my cals and protein in regardless.

So being yourself a “former fatty,” did you find while bulking that the fat came on more than you wanted, or were/are your gains mostly muscle?

boyscout:

Have you ever done the “Getting Ready to Powerlift” program before? It looks interesting. But I’ve got a question about it - it doesn’t lay out what workouts should be done in a normal week. Are you supposed to do the assistance workouts in the same week as the Max Effort days?

Could it be something like this:
Mon - Max Effort upper
Tues - Assistance lower
Wed - off
Thurs - Assistance upper
Fri - Max Effort lower
Sat - off
Sun - off

[quote]Berg77 wrote:
boyscout:

Have you ever done the “Getting Ready to Powerlift” program before? It looks interesting. But I’ve got a question about it - it doesn’t lay out what workouts should be done in a normal week. Are you supposed to do the assistance workouts in the same week as the Max Effort days?

Could it be something like this:
Mon - Max Effort upper
Tues - Assistance lower
Wed - off
Thurs - Assistance upper
Fri - Max Effort lower
Sat - off
Sun - off

[/quote]

I did it for a while, not too long as I tend to plateau super quick with weight progressions and that much volume.

You have it laid out one way to do, or you could do:
Mon: ME lower
tues: off/restoration/cardio
Wed: ME upper
Thurs: off/restoration/cardio
Fri: Ass. Lower
Sat: off/restoration/cardio
Sun: ass upper

In reality it doesn’t really matter, just give yourself time off between hitting each side of the body. do what fit your schedule. I have weekends free so I train both days back to back upper saturday then lower sunday.

[quote]Berg77 wrote:

So being yourself a “former fatty,” did you find while bulking that the fat came on more than you wanted, or were/are your gains mostly muscle? [/quote]

Beats me. I look thicker and more like I lift than I did at 185, so I think I did something right. But I also officially decided to say “fuck abs” for at least the next year and a half. I shifted my goals to include solely strength. So if you ask me what I want to look like I say (for right now): a three plate squat (close!), a two plate bench and 4 plate deadlift (I’ve hit this with straps). Maybe after I’ve acheived those short term goals and my longer term goals (compete in a powerlifting meet, 2x bW squat, 2.5x BW dead, 1.5x BW bench) I’ll think about what I want to look like again.

I think the big deal is that you just have to sort of…quit worrying about getting fat again. Chances are you eat clean religiously because you’re terrified of being gross again. I know I do. But I also know that I walk everywhere I can, hit the weights 4x/week and do cardio/bodyweight circuits on off days as recovery. So my activity level and clean eating let me not worry so much about it.

But I still have a cheat meal once a week and all that jazz.

Psychologically, I’m in a similar spot… I just worked hard to take off weight, I don’t want to put it on again. To get myself to eat, I remind myself that when I was getting fat, I wasn’t working out 4 times a week, I wasn’t growing muscle, and I wasn’t watching what I put in my body.

And it took 10 years of abuse to get to where I was, so it’s not like 6 months of eating a ton of protein will turn me into Eric Cartman.

BEEFCAKE

I’m not really a FFB (worst bodyfat ever, 29%) but am someone who adds fat almost unbelievably easily, and have also seen what happens with various advice given to various people over time.

Especially for someone prone to easily getting too fat, excellent points to watch for are:

  1. Set some limits on measurements that WILL NOT be exceeded. In fact, when they’re reached they will be taken as being a trigger point requiring losing some significant predetermined amount before resuming any bulking.

For example, completely rule out wearing larger size pants than yuo now wear. If the bigger, but still not unreasonably big, apnts you have within that size start getting tight to button, that’s the trigger point.

(Obviously, this doesn’t work if presently all your pants have very little margin. But most will have some pants that will allow a modest fat gain before getting too tight.)

Maximums can also be set for measurements such as some skinfold measurement, hip size, or waist size, though by way of warning waist size tends to have more variation independent of bodyfat than is desirable, and some have genetics where hip size doesn’t change enough with increased bodyfat to be an accurate measure.

But in these cases, there will always be some skinfold, usually ab if taking just one skinfold, that will be a good measure of whether bodyfat has increased as much as tolerable or not.

  1. Limit planned fat gain to a modest amount such as 1 lb per week or even “only” half a pound per week. I am not at all convinced that faster rates than this promote muscle growth any more than these rates do, at least when these rates occur under proper conditions,

but faster gain than this does result in either fewer weeks available for gaining before getting too fat, or more time required later to diet the fat off, neither of which is productive.

  1. Target the calories and the macronutrient intake. E.g., carbs are more productive in the earlier part of the day, carbs are more productive preworkout and postworkout than at times many hours past or before the workout, and the same is true for calories.

Also, days can be targeted. Within the weekly (or otherwise periodized) training plan, there may be one workout in particular that hits bodyparts that you most want to improve. That day can be particularly reinforced with dietary intake.

There could also be a day or two that is a rest day or even more preferably is 2 or more days removed from a workout that you’d particularly like to gain from.

That could be a day where, though the overall week is planned for gaining, half a pound of fat is lost that day thus moderating the week’s total fat gain at little or no cost to muscle gains.

I believe Bill Roberts pointed out in another thread that at a 500 calorie surplus the worst thing that can happen is gaining one pound of fat in a week, which isn’t likely.

Diet is the key to a clean bulk. Cardio is a tool to help fine tune your calorie surplus/deficit but that’s about it.

Bill Roberts made some good points I won’t repeat here.

What you eat is as important as how much you eat. Make sure you get adequate meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Many people cut out vegetables on a bulk as they don’t have many calories. That’s a mistake. Vegetables have the micro nutrients you need to support muscle growth. Fruit and berries are also important for the same reasons. For more information, look into diets like The Paleo Diet, or Art Deveney’s Evolutionary Fitness.

Cycle your carbs so you eat more on workout days, less on non-workout days. There are several good articles on the subject. I like Fred Hatfield’s Zig Zag Diet. Intermittent Fasting is another method, more like extreme carb cycling.

Stu

Berg - our situation’s are so similar I could have written your post!

I’m just about to start my first bulk. I’m also worried about fat gain, but I accept it’s going to happen. The aim is to minimise it. So I plan to eat as clean as I can. I have a (max) 1lb a week weight gain target. Then I’ll just keep an eye on things. But, I need to do this for 4+ months to really see a difference in terms of bulk. It’s too easy to panic and go on a cut. Stay focussed on your goals.

Great advice posted so far.

Good luck Berg.

Having weight gain as the factor being looked at can be very confusing. For example, if your carbs have been much more moderate, going to higher carbs can add several pounds of glycoven and glycogen-associated water weight without any fat necessarily having been added at all.

Additionally, sometimes muscle can be completely unexpectedly added at a surprisingly fast rate such as 5 lb in a single week, weight that genuinely is not fat.

On the other hand, assuming that a jump of that size is “probably all muscle” is usually way wrong.

So either direction, being determined that weight should not increase by such an amount but only something as small as a pound per week, or being blithely accepting of multi-pound per week weight increases, can be badly misleading.

On the other hand, for a 3-point skinfold total, a change of 1.5 to 2 mm total probably fairly reliably represents about 1 lb of bodyfat change. So if wanting to set 1 lb of fat gain (as opposed to weight gain) per week as a limit, it’s reasonable to accept a skinfold change such as that, but to regard for example a 3 mm total increase as indicating having overdone it, thus requiring a little less caloric intake for the next week.

Of course one can use a skinfold calculator for one’s exact case. While the absolute bodyfat value calculated may well not be too accurate – you might really be a couple or a few points higher or lower than calculated – changes seem fairly accurately calculated.

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
Having weight gain as the factor being looked at can be very confusing. For example, if your carbs have been much more moderate, going to higher carbs can add several pounds of glycoven and glycogen-associated water weight without any fat necessarily having been added at all.
[/quote]

True statement. I “gained” 2lbs overnight because I had a cheat meal last night. The massive amount of extra carbs helped put some water weight on really quick.

What does everyone think about photos as an indicator?

obviously the mirror lies, but photos with the same poses every month could be a good way to see if anything is working. At least a good way of monitoring fat gain. It might take 3-4 weeks to really see any results of dietary changes with which to evaluate and adjust as needed.

It’s awesome that you’re posting in here help us confused masses out, by the way.

Glad to be of any help that it may be! :slight_smile: