First Time Competitor. Bulk or Cut?

Hey everyone,

Long story short I have always been somewhat into lifting, nutrition, and bodybuilding as an athlete. I am now out of college, done playing a sport and realized how much I love health and fitness and want to get more involved and a better physique. In doing so I want to compete some day and try to develop the best physique I can.

I would like to be bigger but not Mr. Olympia big, more of a classic physique look (something like Steve Cook is my ultimate goal) at around 185 lbs. I am 5’11 and currently around 185 but want my body composition to change. I have been in a calorie deficit for a while now and dropped from around 205 to my current state in about 2 months. I have always been a “huskier” kid and never really had that lean look so I would consider myself more of a mesomorph with some endomorph thrown in.

I feel like I am pretty knowledgeable about fitness and nutrition with all of the reading and research I do, yet I feel like I have been stagnant over my training because I constantly go back and forth between try to lose fat and trying to gain muscle. This has become a problem and I don’t want to be stagnant anymore.

My ultimate goal is to do a physique show for myself, however ultimately I just want a body I am proud of and to actually see change. Any help would be awesome.

My questions:

  1. I would estimate my Body Fat% to be about 18-20 ish, is that accurate?

  2. I am currently consuming about 2400 calories (170g P; 250g C; 80g F) 2800 seems to be my maintenance, so my question is should I bulk or cut, or maybe even eat maintenance, and with that how should I adjust my macros.

  3. I want to get stronger, I feel I am too small to do a show and need to build muscle and mass, yet I also feel I am teetering the too much body fat % line. I am currently benching about 255x1, deadlift 435x1, squat 335 x1, shoulder press 135x1 clean rep.

  4. Any other advice for a show would be great. i.e. how far away am I from actually seriously competing, etc.

Also if there are any coaches out there I would love to connect as I am interested in getting one.

Thank you in advance!

Pics look decent. I wouldn’t obsess about bf %, but go more based on pics. You could use a bit more muscle, AND a bit more conditioning. So I wouldn’t advise bulking OR cutting, but instead a smart program where you feed your requirements on training days, and scale back a bit on non-training days. The best word I’ve found is “recomp”, and its what happens when your scale weight stays fairly constant but you start to look VERY different.

185 at your height, for a physique, or possibly classic look would be very impressive on actual contest conditioning, and that’s going to be best achieved by intelligently packing on LBM, not getting so soft that you skew your insulin sensitivity (or are generally embarrassed to have your shirt off -lol), and then when the time is right, and your proportions and symmetry speak volumes, you can plan how best to come down without losing muscle in the process.

If your current maintenance is 2800, I’d stay around there, possibly going higher or lower on different days based on requirements for that day of the week (ie. training)



Thank you so much for your advice.

So, you would say to eat maintenance calories on days I train and a little less on off days; Should I adjust my macros on either day?

Also, when you say add conditioning do you mean Sprints or HIIT cardio? I am currently doing the stairmaster for about 20 minutes 3 times a week.

He’s too modest to say so himself, but @The_Mighty_Stu is an excellent online coach with a proven track record of getting people in contest-winning shape. You would do well to consider hiring him.

Edit: For the record, I have no financial relationship with Stu whereby I benefit from getting him clients.


I like Stu’s advice of keeping calories in the same neighborhood as you’ve been, if your ultimate goal weight is, essentially where you are now, while accommodating some variance for training days. I’ve hovered in the 185-200 range for YEARS now, and continue to make significant progress from year to year. You don’t have to make massive changes in your bodyweight, either up or down, to continually see results. As long as you continue to work hard in the gym, you’ll keep putting on muscle and shedding fat. It’s a long process, but I think this is the best approach. I think it would be less than ideal to add much more bodyfat than where you are now.

I wouldn’t plan on doing a show this year. I think you have more work to do than that, since you said you’ve been lifting awhile and this is how far you’ve come to this point. But maybe by about mid next year, if you really stay dedicated, you may have enough underlying muscle to consider competition. That being said, if you do compete a year from now, do NOT expect to step on stage at 185. You’ll likely be at least 20 lbs under that, even with all the hard work in the world. The process can be very, very humbling, so if you do decide to compete, just be aware of that, and trust the process. You can still look awesome at that kind of bodyweight.


Lies! All Lies!! Lacking a daily IG selfie habit, as well as cranking out monthly articles on how I’ve finally found the best training approach, Obviously I have no clue what I’m doing :wink:


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Keep in mind I’m 15 and have ALOT to learn so take everything I say with a grain of salt. I agree that a recomp would be the best option for you. I am far from an expert on recomps but I have heard good things on alphadestiny’s YouTube channel about 3 days in a 250 calorie deficit, followed by a 750 surplus day, repeat.

Not trying to be a jerk but it will come off that way… you are 5’11 and 187. You are a bean pole and weak.

Hire a good nutritionist and have someone write you a quality training program.

If you want to compete in classic physique you need a stage weight of 220 or so to fill the class at your height which means walking around off season at 240 with a 16 week prep for the show.

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