T Nation

Explain Bodybuilding Phases


I used to follow lifting a lot and am just getting back into it. This is one area I've never fully understood. Would someone be able to elaborate on the different phases of training/nutrition that a body builder goes through as he trains through out the year?

I understand there are times when you eat and lift a lot to get really huge, but then you cut down for competition. How does this come together? How much muscle mass is lost during the cutting phase? What kind of time periods are you looking at?



I think the idea of yearly "cutting" and "bulking" outlines are generally for competitive body builders. Meaning, you try for 9 months to add as much muscle as possible while gaining as little fat, and then to prep for a show you diet for 12-16 weeks to lose as much fat as possible with as little muscle loss as possible.

Now, of course the noncompetitive lifter can make use of these kinds of phases, but dont get caught up into the thought process that you need to have rigid guidelines for what you do EVERY year.

The amount of muscle you lose when dieting and fat you gain when adding mass are all dependent on training age, aggressiveness of the diet, intensity of training, length of diet, how far you drop in body fat (getting 6 pack lean is different than getting BB Stage lean), amount of cardio, etc...

For the average joe just looking to "get in shape", and have a good combo of size and leanness, you can probably get away with not going through these phases. Meaning, if you eat well and train hard, you can maintain a good look throughout the year without focusing on intense periods of gaining or losing weight, with an occasional diet to shed some body fat.

However, To excel and reach phenomenal levels of either size and/or leanness, that's where it gets much trickier and simply "eating right" and training hard wont cut it for most people.

But like I said, don't get too caught up in "phases" - Just eat well, train hard, make sure your strength is going up and your waist isnt getting out of control, and then cut back on the food intake for a bit to shed some fat.


That's my plan. I was just curious.

BTW, I saw that you lost something like 60 lbs? Was that just going from not being in shape, to being in great shape? Or were you at different parts of your cycle?

Back when I followed a lot of bodybuilding (late Yates, early Coleman years), I remember that some guys would cut something like 40-50 lbs, while others would only cut 10-15 lbs.


I had been lifting for years and years, but my diet was not good. I got lazy, and too many home made meals slowly got replaced with subway, panda express, etc...

Honestly I just got too fat. I should have never gotten over 200-205 really, but I went all the way up to 237.

This caused me to have to diet for 7 months to get into the shape I'm in in my avatar at 161 (water depleted though, probably 164 with some carbs in me)

As I plan to compete in the future, I dont ever really myself getting very far away from a condition I can diet into in 12-16 weeks. Certainly not 240 pounds :wink: