So you want to get bigger? Ready to bulk up and increase your strength?
When it comes to workouts for bulking up, there are a few principles that have come to define the way I train when size is my goal. In this post, we’ll go overeating and training to bulk up without making you fat.
How to Bulk up & Your Diet
One common misconception, is when it comes to bulking up is that one should eat everything in sight and try to lift as much as they can and hope that the result is to gain in size. In reality, this only leads to excess fat gain. It is however, true that you should essentially eat the necessary protein, carbohydrates for the size human that you are seeking to be.
When your body has a caloric surplus (ie more than what it will burn off in the day), some of those calories will be stored as fat. However, by training hard and eating clean, whole, nutrient-rich foods, you can minimize this and gain mass consisting of muscle not fluff. Some nutrition guidelines to follow for building balanced meals consisting of protein, carbs and fat for bulking up healthily are listed below:
Protein: 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight.
Sources: Chicken, Turkey, 93%, Lean Red Meats, Tuna, Eggs, Salmon.
Note: Protein should be eaten at less than 40g per meal. Consuming more than this will be wasteful, as your body cannot absorb more than this at one time.
Carbohydrates: 1.5-2 grams per pound of bodyweight.
Sources: low glycemic index (complex) brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potato; high glycemic index (simple) pasta, white rice, bread
Note: your body is most susceptible to absorbing carbs in the morning and after your workout. Eat complex carbs in the morning, and split half simple/half complex after your workout.
Fats: Increase your intake of good fats like essential omega fatty acids.
Sources: Fish oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, nuts
Note: Without some healthy fat, your testosterone levels will drop off.
Weight Lifting Routines for Men
I get asked the questions often, “How do I bulk up? How do I grow?” And to that, I find that this is one way that training is a great analogy for life—if you want to grow as a person, you have to go beyond your comfort zone and often we grow the most fail often in pursuit of success. The same can be said for gaining size and strength through weight training.
To achieve adaptation, your muscles need to be pushed to failure, beyond their current maximum output—your muscles will not grow by continuing the same old routine. They need to be shocked with a varied and dynamic workout, and be called on to perform feats of strength beyond their current ability.
Low Rep High Weight Workouts
Perhaps the most critical element when you want to grow your muscles is the ratio of weight to reps. What I mean by this is working towards with about 75-80% of your single rep max for three sets of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. You will find with this method that you don’t need or have the energy to do tons of sets or many different exercises in a workout—you will be exhausted as your body is working closer to your maximum output. That makes it even more critical to make each repetition count.
Especially when you are working in the upper end of your maximum output, it is extremely important to stretch and warm up your body as a whole before approaching your workout. Go for a short jog, jump rope or do some burpees—get a thorough warm up and get your blood flowing. Before individual lifts, also make sure you perform each exercise with no weight to start, to acclimate your body to that motion before adding any weight.
Power Lifts For Mass
While the high weight lower repetition formula can be applied to most exercises for increasing the size and strength of your muscles as you seek to bulk up, adding power lifts to your routine will produce significant gains. There’s a reason Olympic lifters are big; take note.
Deadlift: With the barbell starting from the ground, engage your legs and core to lift the weight from the ground to a hang. As you perform the deadlift you should keep your head up and focus your eyes on a spot of ground about 7 feet in front of you. This will help to keep your spine in the right place which is absolutely critical on this lift. Another thing I like to do with deadlifts is a cross grip (one hand overhand, one under)
Bench press: From a laying position, use your arms to raise and lower a barbell from the chest. This is an exercise where a negative repetition can be very helpful if you have a partner, in order to increase your strength by taking the muscle beyond it’s current maximum output.
Back Squat: With your toes pointed slightly out, your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell resting on your shoulders, bend at the knees and sink into a sitting position, then straightening back up. If you access to a trap bar,
Clean: A weight lift starting from the ground that requires using the upwards momentum of a small jump and squat to bring the weight up to the shoulders.
Hang clean: A clean with the barbell starting from the hanging position, rather than the floor.
Push press: Starting with the weight at your shoulders, press upwards with no dip in the knees, hip drive, or jump.
Power of Squats With Weights
In my last article, I mentioned that squats work 85% of your body’s total muscle mass but also that as a result of this, no other exercise does more to promote your body’s production of testosterone. If you want to grow, never skip leg day as this lift will help your body’s overall testosterone levels and work your legs, core and back in one motion.
Negatives For Muscle Mass And Static Holds
When working at the upper end of your strength spectrum, you will experience the wall of your ability to perform that lest repetition. When you reach this point and are working with a training partner, you can do a great deal to improve your future strength by performing a negative or static hold on that last round.
For example, if you were doing pull ups, and could not achieve the final repetition, try performing a negative, where you start at the top, with your chin at the bar and slowly lower yourself down as slow as you can. This hang will burn off your last bit of energy for that exercise but without just giving up that last rep. This approach is not possible with every exercise but when possible, is a great addition to your routine.
How Exercise Can Help Us Sleep Better And Aid Recovery
One final and absolutely critical element to growth is your recovery. You should never underestimate is the power of ample rest between workouts. You grow in your sleep and you need at least 8 hours of it. If you want to bulk up, you absolutely MUST rest.
Overtraining will not produce results, rather it will only make you more susceptible to injury and prevent you from increasing your strength. You break down your muscles by lifting. Without ample rest, your body does not have the time or energy to rebuild and you will only continue to break down your muscle fibers.