For those seeking to gain muscle mass-admit it. You want it fast! You want it now! Unfortunately as most of us have discovered, it doesn’t happen that quickly. For the majority of natural bodybuilders, obtaining lean muscle tissue can take some time. In fact it is common for seasoned natural bodybuilders to gain only a few kilograms a year of pure muscle mass. Even that may be a little generous!
When training it is quite common for people to partake in two phases in the quest for the holy grail of muscle! The first being a bulking phase. A bulking phase involves training hard and eating a caloric surplus. This is continued until a goal weight is reached or too much body fat has been accumulated.
The next phase is the leaning down phase (i.e. cutting / dieting). The aim of this phase is to rid yourself of the body fat you have accumulated during your bulk and reveal the dense lean muscle tissue you have grown during your bulk!
The amount of time spent in each phase varies depending on the person, however it is common for bulking periods to last 6 months to a year followed by months of dieting (depending on how much excess fat was gained).
Matthew and I have recently come across a concept that has intrigued us in regards to building muscle mass. The concept is that of short bulk/cut cycles, i.e.6 week bulk, 2 week cut or 2 week bulk, 2 week cut. The rationale behind this really comes down to maximising your hormone levels to gain muscle whilst limiting fat gains.
There are a range of articles looking at this concept. One article suggests that ‘bulking’ does work, but for it to be efficient it should be done in two week spurts. The body grows during a bulk (times of overfeeding) BUT fat storage doesn’t just ‘happen’ immediately. During the first 14 days of a bulk, significant key hormones related to muscle growth are elevated. However the benefits of this hormone elevation peaks at 14 days and after this time it is suggested the body will begin to transition into fat storage mode (note: everyone is different).
It is suggested that after 2 weeks of bulking the body needs time to transition from a (potential) fat storage machine into a fat burning machine. This requires eating slightly below caloric maintenance levels which will assist in this transition process and burn a little extra fat (1). After this 2 week period of cutting, it’s time to bulk and REPEAT!
A worthy reference is that of Dr Layne Norton (PhD) (Bodybuilding/figure/physique coach, Scivation consultant, IFPA & NGA natural pro bodybuilder and professional power-lifter). Dr Norton utilised this mini bulk/cut approach but for a 4-6 week bulk and a 2 week cut. Dr Norton discusses this method in one of his video series episodes.You can watch his video here (3 minute mark)(2).
There does not seem to be one ‘standard method’ for this dieting approach. As disucssed, one suggestion was utlisising a 2 week bulk / 2 week cut where as another suggestion, as shown in Dr Layne Norton’s video, was a 4-6 week bulk / 2 week cut approach. Another example of a different way of doing this diet method is that of the ABCDE diet-The Next Generation (Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Exercise / Delta 1250 program). This method is similar to the above but utilises much shorter cycles of bulking and cutting (3).
The mini bulk/cut method is different to the standard approach to building muscle, and is one I personally find very interesting. Matthew and I have discussed the mini bulk / cut cycle method and various other strategies concerning diet in general. Every individual reacts differently to different methods so it is recommended that you partakes in a strategy best suited to your individual needs, goals and lifestyles.
As an example of this, if a person is quite thin / underweight, is a ‘hard gainer’ and is looking to bulk up, perhaps the mini bulk / cut cycle may be too complicated and time intensive for this particular person. They may be far better off doing a standard bulk for a long period of time purely focussing on getting in as many high quality calories as possible on a consistent basis. On the other hand, I may have a client who naturally holds a large amount of body fat naturaly. This client may have dieted down to a low body fat percentage but due to the fact they are prone to adding body fat quickly when they bulk (hyper caloric state), a mini bulk/cut cycle may just be the thing they need to make use of their hormones and limit fat gains during their bulk. But then again, a long ‘clean / slow’ bulk may also do the job just as well.
Just remember everything has its place. This mini bulk / cut style of dieting does give you short term goals to focus on and at the end of the day consistency is key. However what I’m most keen to find out is “What are your thoughts?”
Next week’s blog we will look at a training method that is recieving some hype at the moment and we will be doing a short interview with Marc Lobliner, TigerFitness.com and Owner MachineMuscle.com to obtain his thoughts on this particular method (Youtube Channel here) . What is this training method? Well, you will just have to stay tuned to find out.
If you have any feedback and comments please comment either on the link posted on the PumpedUp PT Facebook page or comment below on this blog page.
Untill next time, TRAIN HARD!
Personal Trainer, Lifestyle Coach and Owner
PumpedUp Personal Training
Aspiring Natural Bodybuilder
Maxs Sponsored Athlete
Matthew Ragless (BHs, HEd / HP)
Senior Project Officer
Department of Health SA
(1): Muscle and Strength Online, http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/bulking-for-natural-bodybuilders.html
(2):Youtube, Inside a Life of a Natural Pro Layne Norton, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCkFcmcMeGI
(3): TC Luoma 1999, “ABCDE DietThe next generation”,http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_diet_mass/abcde_diet_the_next_generation;jsessionid=DD2FA269D2AFB6BB074C2DCF91F54A60-mcd02.hydra