Plateauing is a bitch. At this point your muscles are working hard to sustain the growth that you’ve insisted upon them for the last few months, but it’s time to change some things up. This the point where you need to stop cutting or maintaining and fully start to bulk, the best way to bust a plateau and the funnest way to increase mass and strength.
Bulking takes sweet time, effort, and money to do properly. Without all 3 you run the risk of hurting yourself with a chance of a long term recovery. Any athlete who has been through the ropes knows that long term recovery means bulking season without the muscle.
There are three things that you need to have prepared before beginning any bulk. A nutrition plan, a workout program, and the right supplements. Unfortunately this isn’t one of those things where you get to sacrifice one to get the other two. If you sacrifice one you run the risk of losing the other two in the fold.
But when done properly it can be one of the greatest decisions you’ve ever made. Some athletes never leave the bulking phase, and unless you are a bodybuilder and planning to compete, this isn’t such a bad idea. Eating a ton of the right calories mixed with long hard sessions of whipping your muscles into shape can be almost cathartic.
It doesn’t matter your reason for bulking, everyone hits a point in their life where it becomes necessary. So it’s worth it to learn how to do it right, so you don’t f*** up the first time.
Before we even start into what format your bulk should take, there are two laws you should always follow when beginning a bulk.
REMEMBER that your body will keep 97% of the shit you take in. If it can’t be used for energy it will be stored as fat for later. (And that last 3% seems like a lot when you’re stuck on the toilet.)
You can bulk on any surplus diet, but your cut will suffer horrendously if you’re dirty.
So go forth into the coming steps with these two laws in mind.
Step 1: Pick a Nutritional Plan
This is inarguably the most important part of bulking properly. You will need to be eating at a maintained 3000-5000 calories a day depending on how long your bulk is, what your goal weight is, and how much you plan to work out a day. It’s also important to remember that your body burns between 2000-2800 a day depending on your lifestyle.
So you need to be at a caloric surplus to put on any weight.
Unfortunately as I write this I can almost hear all the lazy gymbros getting excited over the thought of big burritos and burgers on the daily with no thought about repercussions. I’m going to say right now, you’ll regret a dirty bulk more than almost any other decision in your life.
But that leaves your only option to be that of a clean bulk, which is much harder, but better for you. Probably the simplest way to break it does is by macronutrients, this helps you keep your protein ratio in the sweet spot so you’re not losing gainz on too low levels.
If you make sure that your carbs are complex, your meats are a mix of reds and whites, and your fats a mix of saturated and unsaturated, you should be able to hit each number with ease.
It’s okay to take cheat days, but you will regret including crap every day while you try to hit your carbs or fats.
Step 2: Supplements
This is the expensive part, unfortunately, but it does seem to pay for itself in proper gainz. Professional level athletes will have set specific supplements they use on the daily to ensure they are getting the most out of their bulking season. They use these to help hit each necessary nutrient that can build muscle and improve strength.
This is your Basic Essentials List of Bulking Supplements:
This is your No-Duh supplement. This helps you hit that perfect protein zone and kicks in a few extra clean carbs and fats that you won’t regret later. Most mass gainers are nasty and make you feel like shit. Thankfully, Calum built the Kanga Milk for the Staunchest bulkers. You get 50 grams of high quality protein, 7 grams of essential fats, and 139 grams of complex carbs.
This matters nearly as much as the mass gainer. Without creatine you might as well be throwing away that hard fought gym time. Not only does the Staunch brand creatine contain 5 of the top creatines available, but it will pump your workout higher as your muscles build faster and stronger.
The BCAA will never stop being important, whether you are cutting or bulking your body will thank you for supplying it with Staunch’s BCAA+Hydration, the coolest, most refreshing BCAA on the market. And if you’re already Koala Freaky you might already be set with this awesome product.
There are 20+ other supplements and products you can invest in that will make your progress a little easier, but these are the most essential, have to have, basics. Without these you’re going to regret the bulk really quick.
Step 3: Don’t Forget Full Body Lifts!
There are thousands of programs out there claiming to be the best, Staunch even offers a plateau buster for the Koaliest Koala Freaks. But your best bet is going to be to look for a few specifics and then pick what works best for your body.
Each program should have full body lifts. This means squats, cleans, clean and jerks, snatches, etc. get your whole body involved a few times a week and you’re going to see muscles come in in places you hadn’t yet found an accessory movement for.
Full body movements allow you to build the big muscles as you bump up the weight, while also attacking those stabilizers which can accumulate a lot of growth when used properly. These can get you jacked and you won’t have to spend 2+ hours at the gym trying to hit each group fully.
Each program should have both high and low reps/sets. This is the time to play with strength and muscle endurance. Long endurance gives you dense muscles while heavy weight gives you big muscles, a good mix of both means that each bit of nutrients you take in will be utilized to it’s maximum capacity.
And one thing to keep in mind is that the speed at which you increase weight will also dictate what kind of bulk you get and if it busts through your plateau. This is a personal choice and depends on the program, you might build faster with fast weight change increments, or you might build better with slow and steady.
An easy rule of thumb is to never do your lowest weight twice. Every time you start you have those little warm up rounds where you are a few pounds less than your working max. Every time you do that muscle group you need to start five pounds higher than your last time.
Step 4: REST
I sincerely hope this is not the most underappreciated part of weight lifting. Rest is vital for muscle growth, and it’s so fragile that even stress can completely f*** up your gains.
Muscle strength (and size) is ultimately the accumulation of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) which is used when you contract your muscle fibers. You get ATP from the chemical processing of stored information (like fats, or unfortunately, proteins) so you can continue to function as a human.
Resting comes in 3 parts and each is vital for optimizing ATP.
- Between reps
- Between sets
- Between sessions
Your rest between your reps only maybe for a second or two, this is the release in tension in your muscles as you straighten your arm in a bicep curl, or as you’re stood up in a squat. If there wasn’t this rest you wouldn’t be able to reengage the stress of the movement and there would be no surge of ATP.
Your rest between sets is a little easier to notice, when building strength you’ll typically lift heavy with a 1-5 minute rest between sets. This is the optimal way to increase strength significantly and after a few weeks of working like this the changes you will see will be considerable.
Rest between sessions. This is the most heavily debated, I feel. It’s typically prescribed to wait 48 hours before reworking a muscle group, but you will see crossfitters doing squats five days in a row. This really does depend on your program and how your body works.
Working out overtrained muscles will get you hurt, and you can tell pretty easily if the muscles are overworked. If your legs are shaking in your warm up squats, don’t squat heavy. Rest helps maximize your ability to increase size and strength, and should be the most celebrated part of this entire process.
During your 48 or whatever hour break between sessions be sure to get lots of sleep, 8+ hours at night and maybe a nap during the day (if you can swing it) will help you ensure that your body is being taken care of while you build quickly and strongly.
So What Now?
At this point you have all the basics for a good bulk, and really all that’s left is to implement it. There are powerlifters who never leave the bulking phase, and there’s a reason professional bodybuilders rarely fail to implement it, you’ll find your body doing amazing things! And when you look at those progress pics you’ll realize how much of a twig you were before.
It’s a cool process when you do it properly, and if you actually maintain the proper diet (instead of following the call of a dirty bulk) come beach season you’ll be jacked.