It is pretty safe to say that most peoples' fitness goals are centred around having a muscular, lean physique. Getting to that perfect physique requires a lot of hard work and dedication. So here are 9 tips that outline the principles and keys to a successful bulking program. These tips can be used by everyone who is looking to gain muscle and perfect their physique.
Pick Your Goal: Bulking or Cutting
Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that make simultaneously building muscle while burning fat very difficult and unnecessary. For example, the dietary needs for someone trying to gain muscle vary greatly from that of someone trying to lose fat. So focus on either bulking or cutting, not both.
Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress is essential to reaching your physical goals. If you set yourself a physical goal you need evidence that you are progressing toward that goal. Monitoring your progress allows you to see where you are lagging and fine tune your program to be as in line with your goals as possible.
As a general rule to keep your gains lean; you want to gain at a rate of about 100 - 400 grams per week.
Eat Enough Calories to Grow
In order to gain muscle, you have to eat more calories than you burn, and doing so can lead to some fat gain. Some people try to stay shredded while gaining muscle by either not eating enough calories or doing too much cardio. This will leave them staying lean, but you won't gain them much muscle. At the other end of the spectrum, some people eat everything in sight to up calorie intake. This strategy will definitely lead to weight gain, but a lot of that weight will be fat and not muscle. The best approach is to eat sufficient calories to gain muscle and still do some cardio to maintain cardiovascular health.
Do Some Cardio While Bulking
Exclusively doing strenuous weight training can be aerobically taxing. Doing cardio helps with this through improving your heart's ability to pump blood and increase oxygen uptake into cells. Therefore, having an efficient, strong heart will allow you to train harder. In addition, a fit person burns more fat at rest than an unfit person, so doing cardio while bulking can help keep you lean. I recommend doing a 20 - 30 minute cardio session 2 - 3 times a week. Ideally, on non-weight training days.
If You Are Getting Stronger You Will Get Bigger
Gaining strength is one of the best indications that you are gaining muscle. While gaining strength without gaining size is possible, it will most likely not happen unless you have designed your program with that in mind. If you are bulking and not gaining strength then you will know some aspect of your program needs to change, or you may be at risk of gaining fat and not muscle.
Get Adequate Rest and Recovery
Most people don't realise that growth occurs outside of the gym. Your workouts serve as the stimulus for muscle growth, but if you are not getting adequate rest and recovery time between workouts your results will suffer. I recommend weight training 4 - 5 times per week maximum, allowing you to use the remaining days for recovery.
We all know the importance of protein for muscle growth, so make sure you are eating 1 - 2 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight each day. If you have trouble consuming that much protein from meals alone, protein shakes can be used to supplement any protein shortfalls you have throughout the week.
Don't Neglect Your Fat and Carbohydrate Intake
Protein alone will not build muscle effectively. Both carbohydrates and fats are needed to support muscle growth, so be sure you aren't skimping on these nutrients. This goes for other vitamins and minerals too. Eating fruit and vegetables daily will improve your overall health, allowing your body to operate more effectively and therefore perform to the best of its ability.
Post Workout Nutrition
While all your meals are important, special attention should be paid to your post-workout meal or shake. To maximise muscle growth and recovery, a post workout shake or meal consisting of protein and a fast-acting carbohydrate (like glycomazie) is ideal. Adding supplements like creatine monohydrate (5 grams) and glutamine (5 - 10 grams) to your post-workout shake will further enhance its effectiveness and will subsequently accelerate your results.
Hopefully these tips will help you tackle your fitness goals with more knowledge and insight into how your body responds to different nutrients, supplements and workouts.