Bulking is the term used to describe a process that people use to add muscle tissue. To build muscle, you must be in a calorie deficit (meaning that you consume more calories then you burn). You must also engage in resistance exercise.
There are many different ways to bulk and not all are created equal. Most people categorize bulking phases as “dirty” or “clean.”
Previously, we discussed why “clean bulking” is the best way to go. We also provided some guidelines on how to correctly do it. There are some common mistakes that people make when attempting to “clean bulk.”
This article will cover some of the most common mistakes people make when cleaning bulks and how to avoid them.
What is clean Bulking?
Let’s first review Clean Bulking. Two concepts distinguish Clean Bulking: 1) the magnitude and quality of food consumed, 2) the amount of calories surplus.
A Dirty Bulk is when individuals eat as much food as possible, without worrying about a calorie surplus or the quality of their foods. A Clean Bulk, on the other hand, is focused on achieving a surplus of calories that maximizes muscle mass while minimizing fat gain. Although the perfect, exact surplus isn’t clear, surpluses between 300 and 500 calories seem to be a good goal.
When following a “clean bulk” diet, individuals should also aim to eat whole foods which are nutrient dense and don’t have many extra calories due to sugars or fats.
CARDIO IS NOT DONE CORRECTLY
Cardio is one of the most common mistakes made by people during a bulk. What does this mean? Cardio is often seen as a way to burn fat, and it can be, but when you are bulking, it’s more about maintaining cardiovascular health. In fact, when bulking, the goal is being in a calorie surplus. Doing cardio to increase calorie consumption makes it harder to be in surplus.
The goal of cardio in a clean bulk is to improve or maintain cardiovascular function by using smart, specific programming which provides minimal stimulus to induce cardiovascular adaptations. It is not the goal to maximize calorie consumption.
The type of cardio program will differ from person to person, depending on the individual’s cardiovascular capacity at the start and their calorie requirements. However, very long duration cardio is not always necessary or suitable during clean bulks.
During a clean bulk, people often “overtrain” which is more of an overtraining and not taking enough rest days. It is not necessary to train the maximum volume to achieve muscular adaptations. The goal of resistance training in a bulking phase is to provide enough stimulus to cause muscle adaptations.
There is no perfect number for the volume of sets that will grow muscle, but most research indicates that 10-20 per muscle per week are sufficient. It is also likely that novice lifters will fall on the lower end and advanced lifters will fall on the upper end.
There is no perfect answer to the question of how often people should train and rest. However, it is important to keep in mind that recovery is crucial for growth. For most people, taking at least two days off a week to rest is recommended.
Not Eating Enough for Long Enough
Last but not least, people who bulk up make the mistake of not eating enough and for too long. A calorie surplus is required to build muscle over a long period of time.
Even in optimal conditions, the average person will gain 1-2 pounds per month. You are gaining muscle if you achieve your daily calorie surplus, have a well-designed lifting program and recover adequately.
Add 2-3 days per week, or one week per month, where you do not achieve your calorie excess. You can now reduce that number by 25-50%. Now you gain maybe 0.5-1 pound per month.
Most people find it difficult to maintain high food quality and high calorie intakes. Some people may reach their calorie target for a couple of days, but then find it difficult to maintain that level. Others may do so for a while and then struggle to keep up the pace.
These mistakes can be easily corrected with these tips
Do not overdo it. Do enough cardio to achieve your specific goals, but not more. Limiting calorie intake is the goal to build muscle. The guidelines recommend exercising between 75-150 minutes per week. Aiming for the lower end of this range is a good strategy when bulking up.
Be purposeful with your resistance training. It is important to have health stimulation to stimulate growth but not too much. Sometimes, more is not always better. Ten to twenty sets per muscle group should be done per week. You can start at the lower end and gradually increase your sets over your bulking phase.
Also, make sure you are getting enough rest. You don’t have to train every day unless you’re an advanced student. Plan at least one rest day each week to ensure that you recover between sessions.
Create systems and plans for your nutrition, and adhere to them. Eating with a structured surplus of calories for a long period can be more difficult than dieting. You’ll need systems and plans to reach your calorie goals.
Some strategies to help you include tracking your food intake, planning your day in advance, and meal preparation. You can also find lower-volume, higher-calorie foods to help you achieve your calorie goals.
Foods like nuts, trail mix, and other high-calorie foods aren’t the best choices for those trying to lose weight. However, they are great during Clean Bulk. When made correctly, smoothies with whole milk, nut-butters, fruits and protein powders are also high in calories.
You can also make changes to the protein you use to choose higher-calorie options. For example, opting for chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts or 80/20 ground beef rather than 95/5 and choosing whole eggs over egg whites.
It’s important to know that cardio should not be used to burn calories, but to maintain cardiovascular fitness. It is likely that 60-75 minutes of moderate intensity cardio per week during this phase of your training cycle will be enough to maintain cardiovascular fitness.
More is not always more when it comes to resistance training. It is important to have enough stimulation to stimulate muscle growth but not too much so that you cannot recover adequately between sessions. As you clean bulk, aim for 10-20 sets of each muscle group per weekly. Start at the lower end and work your way up.
If you don’t, then you will spend hours training for very little results. You can create systems to ensure that you consume your daily calorie requirements, including logging your meals, planning ahead and even pre-preparing your meals. It is also the perfect time to introduce more calorie dense foods into your diet. They can help you increase your daily calorie intake while not increasing your total food consu