T Nation

To Bulk or Not To Bulk

Having read CT’s article on bulking basically made everything more complex.

I am currently at the end of my cut in which I lost abour 30 lb, yet I havent reached a point where I can see my abs. I’m at about 13-14% bf right now. However I also weigh 165 lb at a towering 5’10".

Seeing how winter is about to hit off I dont know what to do, should I continue cutting? I’ve been cutting for about 5 months now. Should I do a 4 month bulk and go back to cutting again? My goal is to be with abs in 7 months or so.
Looking forward to the advice!

Here are some photos taken today:

At this stage in the game your main priority should be muscle mass increase and staying at a bodyfat you are happy with. I know you said you want to see abs in seven months, but what is your real long term(several years down the road) goal? Whatever it is, are 4 month “bulks” and 5 month “cuts” going to get you there fastest? Those aren’t meant to be rhetorical, I’d like your input on what your goals are and whether or not you think you are using the best approach right now.

Here’s my advice:

Cut down to 10% body fat, eat maintenance for a month to recalibrate your body composition so you don’t gain it back rapidly when starting to gain lbm. Then, start to gain lean body mass (shoot for a pound of body weight per week), if you can do 2/3 lean body mass gain a month you’re awesome.

Gain lbm until Feb then take another month to recalibrate your body comp, then diet and sprint the fat off.

That way you build through the winter when food is way more abundant (thanksgiving, christmas, etc.).

I usually try to keep my body fat between 8-15%.

Here’s something I hope gets discussed more often. People are coming around to the opinion that if you get very lean it might be advantageous to hold at around the same leanness and not go straight into a gaining phase. However, the opposite doesn’t seem to be an agreed on as much.

If you spend time gaining size and try to strip bodyfat right after that I would fear losing some of that hard earned muscle I just gained, just like people fear putting on large amounts of fat after a “cut”. I have lost muscle I just gained, but never lost any muscle that’s been mine for months to years. Some thought to maybe put into effect when you are planning out your goals.

I think i would try to gain as much lean mass as possible while limiting fat gain. To do this I would read up on carb cycling and CT’s the truth about bulking, and go to elitefts.com and read all of Justin harris’s posts on the subject. if you have a goal “date” for single digit bodyfat. paln your training year accordingly and leave 12-16 weeks for a cutting phase so you can do it at a moderate pase and not loose any of your new LBM.

I personally have fallin victim to the all out bulk and all out cut and one thing I have taken away from the experience is to allow yourself more time to reach your goals.

First off, I do not believe a fat loss phase should be five months long.

If you have that much fat that it takes that long, then you weren’t eating correctly for a building phase. You were getting fat.

Secondly, yo-yo dieting is not wise. Pick a strategy (building, maintenance or fat loss) and stick to it until you achieve your goals. If it takes two years of “bulking,” then so be it. If it takes five months for fat loss, then you’re not doing it right.

I’m just guessing, but I bet your carbohydrate intake was far too high and your protein far too low. That’s the way towards fatness with minimal muscle gain.

Eat more protein and less carbohydrates. Cycle your carbs (one day none, one day low and one day high).

And to answer your question… if you’re concerned with your abs, then you’re not concerned with your muscles. At 165, you’re skinny. Keep losing fat without building muscle, and you’ll be scary skinny. But hey, you’ll have abs.

What’s your diet like?

Honestly, you don’t look like you lift weights. If I saw you out on the street I wouldn’t think you weight trained at all.

The aim of a bulk is not to gain FAT, it is to gain muscle. A small amount of fat gained is accepted because you will still be overfeeding even on days where the muscles don’t necessarily need to recover, because you are trying to provide the best environment for muscle growth.

If you are that concerned about you bodyfat–which seems stupid, because you aren’t fat at all – then I would recommend moderate amounts of cardio supplemental to your bulk. Not in an attempt to lose weight, just for extra calorie partitioning.

In general, under 10% bodyfat (abs clearly visible), your body’s levels of anabolic hormones have been shown to drop significantly.

However, above 15% bodyfat, your sensitivity to those various hormones drops as well.

This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it is a good tip to keep in mind for most people.

Conclusion: Don’t be a chump. Real bulks last years not a couple months.

My long term goal is and has always been similiar to propably most on this website. I want to get big and lean.

The 7 months I mentioned isn’t something set in stone it was just some goal I had in mind. I have been training for about 5 years now and I have tried different approaches. I am unfortunately aware that when someone saw me on the street they wouldn’t think I weight trained, this is why I constantly keep reading articles, changing up things and posting here for suggestions.

You guys say “bulking” is a long term commitment. I have been there and done that. Prior to this cutting phase I have been bulking for about 1.5 years. Sure the diet hasn’t been clean (too many carbs) but I always got enough protein. Perhaps this was my mistake. Basically, all the years I have been training were some sort of bulking. I attempted cutting maybe 3 times during the period I am training and so far this has been perhaps the most successful bodyfat wise. I always end up loosing the goal amout of kg I set in the beginning but it never seems to be enough to get lean.

The reason I said 4 months bulking was an assumption that perhaps a shorter bulking phase would yield more results, lbm gain wise and not gaining too much fat.

Personally I don’t believe 1 lb of muscle gain per week is possible, for me. Sure I could eat more and gain 1 lb of bodyweight a week but how much of that would be muscle is unknown.

My current training consists of the following:

  • Upper/Lower routine performed twice a week (4 training sessions total).
  • 2 moderate intensity cardio (uphill walking) for 25 minutes
  • 1 long duration cardio session around 50 mins running.

The diet like this:

Meal 1:
Half a cup of raw oatmeal cooked in water + 250 gr Cottage Cheese

Meal 2 (2 hours later, just to kill the hunger):
A cup or so of some cornflakes thing with milk

Meal 3:
Rice/Pasta + Salad + 100/200gr of Some meat (Red/Chicken)

Meal 4:
A can of tuna + Some cottage cheese + A piece of bread or a salad

Meal 5:
2 whole eggs + 3 egg whites + some cottage cheese + salad + sometimes carbs

Meal 6 (Pre workout):
Boiled potatoes + 150 gr of chicken breast

Meal 7:
Protein shake + Dextorse 40gr of protein + 50gr or so of carbs

Meal 8 (Before bed):
Cottage cheese + Few pieces of bread + Natural peanut butter

Basically this is the template, sometimes it happens that I miss a meal due to work constrains. The large amount of cottage cheese is due to the fact that I’m in the army and I have access to heaps of it.
On non training days meal 7 is skipped.

If your goal is to be bigger and lean you should in my opinion be eating protein by the shovel load(along with plenty of water), training like an unleashed gorilla to get your lifts up to your strength limits for reps, and doing cardio and timing of fats and carbs to keep yourself leaner. Don’t think about bulking and cutting, think about gaining muscle mass and keeping your bodyfat low.

To be well built in my opinion you’d have to be around 225 and higher with a reasonable bodyfat(like you have now). If you continuously “bulk” for a period then panic diet off some weight(and muscle) over and over you’ll be very slow getting to that point if you ever do. Take 2-4 years and just put some commitmnet into getting this done if you really want it.

Every meal is a chance to grow(or shrink) every lb you add to the bar is working towards building up to the future you, don’t forget it.

Ok so you suggest the carb cycling phase and stick to it for a long while? Can you please be a little more specific? Should I eat slightly above maintainance calories and cycling carbs etc?

I like carb cycling diets for people that are dedicated. Look up Justin Harris’ posts over at EliteFTS or Christian’s aritcle called Carb Cycling Codex I beieve. Or hell if you’ve got the money contact Justin or one of the other nutritionists at www.troponinnutrition.com and tell them what your goals are.

You do look like you train, but definitely not five years worth. Your lat spread is coming along nicely, but most of the rest is not so far along. To me it really looks like your nutrition strategy isn’t correct. If you can afford it, I’d try hiring a decent trainer to show you what you’ve been missing, preferably someone with good nutrition info, perhaps the team over at Precision Nutrition?

Follow WS4SB 3 (the four-day template), eat enough food to gain some size but not too much to gain fat (you’ll have to monitor this on your own each week by adding 100-500 calories per day or week) and add additional conditioning work to stay lean.

But Naaaate that’s not exciting!

[quote]scottiscool wrote:
But Naaaate that’s not exciting! [/quote]

I know. Just eating a little above maintenance isn’t rocket science and doesn’t require elaborate spreadsheets or calorie/nutrient tracking, but it works. And WS4SB is not new or revolutionary and uses many “traditional” and basic exercises. So most people find it boring. Adding some sort of “conditioning” work to your weekly plan seems ass-backwards from many of the articles you read on here, but it works too!

Ironically, WS4SB is open to so much variation that I don’t get bored and progress from week-to-week using the overall template. I’ve changed it around for my needs, and it works great.

After years of trying different things, I’ve found what works best for me, and it’s a mix of WS4SB, Renegade Training and Ross Training methods. As for food, I just eat healthy and add more or subtract more depending on how I look in the mirror and how my clothes fit.

That seems like a pretty long cut… i’d say try and gain some lean muscle mass and keep the fat to the minimum, and make sure you leave yourself a few months to cut so you don’t lose to much much

Nate Dogg funny that you mention it, I have been following the WS4SB program for about a year or so now with several tapers for 2-3 months in between switcing to some high volume bodypart split training.

At the moment, having read the article on “Design your own program” I am considering of perhaps doing something similiar that is outlined for mass/hypetrophy training in that article. Relatively high reps and moderate/high volume, try this for a while.
It’s either this or perhaps try the WSB4SB v. 3 program.

I would really love to find out what exaclty im missing either in my training or the diet. Take in account that I just hit 20 years old yestarday. While I know there are some huge guys at this age some people tell me my slow progress is due to the fact that I haven’t stopped growing yet.

My bones are still pretty narrow (wrists and such), perhaps this is the issue. Some people told me that they were just like me and during their early 20ies they balooned up and gaining muscle was easier to them. While it does sound abit contradicting, considering the fact that test leves should be at their highest during the teen age. Whats your take on it guys?

Strength wise I think my results are pretty decent, at 165 lb my “big three” are as follows (all done during the WSB4SB training program):
dl - 340 lb - 3 reps
squat - 315 lb 3 reps (with knee wraps)
bench - 260 - 2 reps

I would love to hire a personal trainer who knows something but I don’t live in the US and dont have this commodity avaliable to me, atleast at this point in life.

It’s diet almost 100%. The guys I recommended are done primarily via email so if you’ve got the drive and aren’t too strapped for cash see if they(or someone else trusted) will take you on and set you up where you need to go.

just a comment, not to be too critical, you cant see your abs because you really dont have any

I can see no definition around the obliques, which should protrude somewhat even with a higher body fat

a lot of people say just getting under a certain bodyfat will show the abs, thats really not true. whats true is having trained abs and then getting below a certain body fat. Lots of guys cut, drop 30 pounds, get below 10% body fat and still dont have great abs, its just looks kind of flat. its because when they were bulking they ignored heavy ab work because they could not see them on a day to day basis. therefore had little motivation to attack that area