PumpedUP Education Series: Mini Bulk / Cut Cycles-Is It Worth It?

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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!

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Author:

Phillip Ward
Personal Trainer, Lifestyle Coach and Owner
PumpedUp Personal Training
Aspiring Natural Bodybuilder
Maxs Sponsored Athlete

Contact:

Ph: 0421720040
Email: phill@pumpedup.com.au
Website: pumpedup.com.au

Co-Author:

Matthew Ragless (BHs, HEd / HP)
Senior Project Officer
Department of Health SA
Aspiring Bodybuilder

Contact:

Email: matthew.ragless@health.sa.gov.au

References:

(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

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4 thoughts on “PumpedUP Education Series: Mini Bulk / Cut Cycles-Is It Worth It?

  1. Thank you very much for this blog phil, I shall be reading them religiously I think. The idea of a 4 week routine to bulk and cut sounds crazy! But I think I might give it a go for a while and see if I can spot results.

    • Hello Daniel.

      Thanks for your feedback!

      Most definitely, give it a try and let us know how you go. Just remember-focus on long term outcomes.

      Kind regards,

      PumpedUp Education Series Team

  2. Great Article Fella’s! I like the concept of mini bulk/cut cycles, for myself I find that I make better lean mass gains while my body fat percentage is still relatively low, if my body fat starts getting up to much I find it hard to get a clear indication of whether I am getting the gains where I want them to be because everything becomes too soft and blurred (I go by what I see rather than what I weigh). This kind of program in theory I guess would help you gain better control over fat gains. Currently I am eating and training to add mass by eating a calorie surplus on training days but pulling it back in to maintenance on rest days (on a 5 day split) and if I feel as though my body fat is creeping up too much I just adjust my carb intake. I might give a 6 week bulk followed by a 2 week cut a go in the new year. I am thinking on a 2 week ‘mini-cut’ you would almost treat it like 3-4 weeks pre-contest. Could be dangerous to drop calories and carbs too dramatically in such a short space of time?? not sure

    • Thanks for the kind words, Anthony!

      I think your historical bulk strategy sounds quite reasonable and is a method utilized by many to keep their body fat in check through gaining lean mass.

      See how you go with the mini / bulk cut cycle. As for dropping calories, my opinion with this type of method is to just drop calories as you normally would on a ‘cut’, i.e. 300-500 calories a day.

      Personally, I do not believe in drastically dropping calories too much In the initial stages otherwise you may run the risk of metabolic damage and burn out. There is only so much bodyfat your body will burn before it will start becoming catabolic …much like when bulking- Eating a huge surplus of calories (such as 1000 extra calories) wont allow you to add even more muscle as only a certain amount of calories will go to lean mass building whilst the additional extra calories will go to creating new fat stores.

      My recommendation would be to drop calories between 300-500 calories a day and make sure your protein intake is sufficient. If you don’t think you lost your desired amount of bodyfat, tweak your strategy next round. Whilst this type of method gives you small goals, I would be looking for long term outcomes i.e. you will not gain 10kg of muscle and loose 5kg of bodyfat in a 2 week bulk / cut cycle.

      Good luck and let us know how you go.

      Kind regards,

      PumpedUP Education Series Team

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