T Nation

What the Hell is a Bulk?


I'd never felt the urge to start a thread until now. Sure, I'd venture out of the shadows to make the occasional comment, which more often than not went unnoticed. I felt like the internet equivalent of the weirdo in the corner. Sometimes, purely for attention, I'd engage a troll or two, but in time, I came to learn that trolls -fickle, heart-breaking creatures that they are- don't lavish their attention on one person. No! they like to spread their sticky lovin' all over the internet like the two timing bastards that they are. But that's another story...

Trolls came and went, as they always do. I drifted across a sea of loneliness on a raft of creative impotence (with a sail of extremely pretentious poetry). That is, until one day, a muse of inspiration fluttered down from the heavens, perched delicately on my shoulder, and whispered in my ear. She, the source of all imagination, inspiration (and in my case, perspiration and dehydration) asked me a question that in spite of all her divine power, she was unable to answer. A question so sacred...so ageless and beyond human understanding, that it must have been asked and misunderstood a million times over...and will continue to be asked and misunderstood until the end of time. No, it wasn't the answer to the meaning of life, but something far,far more profound. "What was the question that the muse whispered in my ear?" you may ask - well, I'll reveal to you the six simple words that have plagued me for an answer ever since....."What the hell is a bulk?"

That's right.What the hell is a bulk? It seems simple enough. My instincts told me that I should post it in the beginner's section and present the question Sesame Street style. I quickly rejected that idea when I realized that using Sesame Street level terms to describe a bulk to beginners would result in them having a better chance of winning first prize at a Cookie Monster lookalike competition than a Bodybuilding contest. It's not the first time, right?

I immediately realized that most beginners resent being called "beginners" and jump straight to the bodybuilding section to save themselves the trouble of doing any actual research (duh!),preferring instead to present themselves as intermediate or advanced trainess, only to ask convoluted hypothetical questions that betray their lack of training experience. By posting it here, I've hopefully anticipated that move. My question is to you all is this: What the hell is a bulk?

Beginner or advanced, young or old, rich or poor. please leave your answers. We all think we know what the answer is, but so many get it wrong. Roll up, roll up and give your definition! Only then can we put this very large, obstinate, ravenous, muscular baby to bed......


My definition of a bulk is an endeavor to put on muscle mass progressively in a smart manner, knowing you will put on a great deal of muscle with the small sacrifice of gaining some fat to achieve this (notice I said some, not a lot).

All while using methods when needed to for minimal fat gain via cardio or adjusting calories/food intake when needed.


Eating enough calories to gain muscle mass.


gaining weight. This is accomplished through a surplus of calories and hard lifting so that most though not all of that weight is muscle. You're not just trying to get fat.

A bulk is a total body/mind commitment, meaning you're not just "trying to get fit" or "put on a little muscle," It should be more extreme than that, so the methods and goals may be a little more extreme. I don't consider wanting to add 5lbs going on a bulk.

It also should have an end. At some point you stop bulking. However, when that endpoint is depends on your goal and how efficient you are at getting there. This could be measured in months or years, I doubt any less than that (i don't think you go on a bulk for 2 weeks)


In my opinion, it's your regular diet when not cutting to lose large amounts of body fat. Saying that, I don't understand the logic behind the traditional bulk of "eat everything", and I'm not a wordy person but they I feel was described in a recent article here.


"What the hell is a bulk?" = 6 words.

I know, I know, everyone hates the internet grammer teacher, sorry. Just one of those things that caught my eye.


This is why I started this thread: hopefully by discussing it in one place, the more experienced guys will get the message across that a traditional bulk doesn't automatically mean "eat everything".


Thanks for the heads up, smartass. I was originally intending to post the question as "What is a bulk?", hence the unforgivable mistake :slight_smile: What can I say? It was a long post and I lack your pedantic eye for detail.

P.S. Counting words is more to do with Math than grammar.

P.P.S. It's 'grammar', not 'grammer'. Unless you're talking about Kelsey Grammer. Which is ever so slightly off-topic. Frasier will be the subject of my second thread...


Only a dumbass would "eat everything" with absolutely no regard for what they are gaining. However, if people actually trained as hard as they pretend they do, just about anything someone under the age of 25 eats should be going to the right places unless they have a very slow metabolism.

It is always the hopelessly skinny guys who act like this means we are saying become obese.

Why this needs to be explained 50 times a week is just stupid.

Bulking up means focusing on gaining the most muscle mass in the shortest period of time. Period.


I'd like to add to this question.
For guys in the 220-270 range, is there a good body fat range to be in for "easier" muscle gain? ie: not trying to maintain 4.25357%BF, or using 'A Bulk' as an all-encompassing excuse for going back to being a fatass.

(Assuming the lifting is heavy & the eating is relatively clean)


The OP made me laugh. Good intro Roybot.

That said, this is pretty much my definition. Bulks can be dirtier or cleaner, but they are not "getting in shape" or "adding 5 pounds". It's total commitment to putting on the most muscle mass you can for a period of time. I would say the practical lower limit to a bulk would be 12 weeks. Any less than that and you're not really able to focus all out. Besides, the results you'll reap from a shorter gaining phase will be too sub par.


A period of time where one aims to gain muscle at the fastest rate possible by progressing in the weight room along with supplying your body with a caloric surplus.


I don't really think so. If you've been lean for a while, your body accepts it as normal and you can continue to keep lower body fat while gaining muscle. If you're not, or you just cut, or whatever, your body sees low body fat as a stress on the system, and thus you will probably add an amount of fat while bulking to alleviate the "stress". The body likes homeostasis. Short short answer---it depends on how long you've been where you are.


Not just that, but it is completely individual. Not everyone gains more muscle from being at some magical specific body fat percentage.

Also, anyone acting like "10%" somehow makes your hormones work better than "13%" needs to stop giving wrong advice.

If we are talking HUGE differences in body fat between a lean person and someone who is morbidly obese, that is completely different.


I made a thread about bulking on here a while ago, and some of the replies consisted of things like "eat everything", "eat everything that can't run away from you", and I've experienced similar attitudes on others boards, and I was saying I don't agree with this.


Thanks Aragorn! I started this discussion partly as a response to claims made on another thread that muscle mass can be achieved in a caloric deficit regardless of your level of bodyfat. Which obviously is disasterous advice to a newbie that doesn't know any better.

I hoped that by allowing people to state their definition of what a bulk is, then the senior members of the forum could step in and correct them if they were wrong. I thought it might be a good idea for people to ask questions about a bulk, and pick the brains of the bigger guys.

The last thing I want is for this to turn into a flame war or a science project. Hopefully, the less experienced dudes will listen to what the senior members have to say and try to apply some common sense to the concept of eating to gain, instead of giving priority to a science text book. Somehow, I think I'm being extremely optimistic :slight_smile:


The way I see it, bulking or gaining is when you focus on your muscles and cutting is when you focus on bodyfat.

The endless parade of people focusing on some version of both at the same time, I am now thoroughly convinced, will not end in my natural lifetime.


thx, both answers make sense. I guess had been curious if, say a ballpark of 10-15 or 15-20%, etc had made for faster lean gains in people who HAD added a lot of lean body mass. (as opposed to the 150 lb lab rats who have proof it can't be done) :')


I'm by no means an expert, but I've noticed that a lot of weight training newbies have a hatred of bulking: no matter what their starting point is, they fear it for the same reasons. On the one hand, you have the ab fanatic, on the other hand you have 'recovering fat guy'. They come from oppositie ends of the physique spectrum, but both suffer from a morbid fear of getting fat.

Neither realize that a bulk isn't as drastic as stuffing their faces the moment they step into a gym. If someone reads 'eat more' and interprets that as stuffing their faces to the point of vomiting, then they've missed the point.

An individual that has eaten like crap for most of their life and wants to gain muscle is going to have to re-think their dietary habits before embarking on a bulk. Continuing to eat Cheetos and Coke isn't going to get them very far. They may be overweight, they may be scrawny, but training and eating correctly might just be enough to redress the balance until they gain enough mass to warrant eating more.

It seems that the people who immediatley equate a bulk with "getting fat" are either ignorant or confused as to what a true bulk entails. Either that or they are deliberately ignoring it to push their own point of view ahem...

Bulking is not eating to excess for the sake of it; it is eating to support muscle growth as and when required.


If you aren't big, why does it matter what you disagree with?

No one ever went from rail thin to massive by being overly restrictive with their food intake. That attitude is what creates big muscular bodies.