For those of us who like to “bulk” and “cut”, it is now time to bulk or as I rather call it, do a muscle building phase. There has been some backlash on this method lately for good reason. A “bulking” phase does not mean eat and drink everything in sight. That is not the right way to build muscle and it actually makes it harder to lose fat come time for the “cutting” phase. I’m also convinced it makes problem areas more problematic. Believe me, I know too well.
To make things crystal clear, a “bulk phase” should be a time where you eat a little more than normal while keeping your food healthy. Keep the lifting intensity up and you will build muscle. Now is not the time to worry about losing body fat. I must add that you need to be lean enough to do a building phase. Meaning it works very well for those who are lean to somewhat lean: 6-15% for men, 14-23% for women. Those over this percentage will become very disappointed because they will typically add less muscle and add more fat. It is also very psychologically demoralizing to go from say 20% up to 23%(for men) as opposed to going from 6% to 9%. Ideally your body fat would not rise much if done correctly. But being the Holiday Season, it happens.
If you are above these body fat percentages I recommend focusing on maintaining it over this holiday season, but still lift to build. Eat as clean as possible knowing the Holiday parties will negate your good days resulting in maintenance over the season.
To ensure muscle gain, us an intense program and one that you are not used to
A rep range you are not used to: Do 3-5 reps if you always do 6-12 as in the hypertrophy range. Also 15-20 reps work great for lower body hypertrophy.
Slow eccentrics: Doing a slow “negative” portion of the rep is proven to increase muscle size.
Very high volume: Most are used to 3x10, 3x8, 4x6, etc. Try 10x10 or 8x12, just keep the exercises to a minimum.
Strength/power supersets: Superset a strength exercise with a power exercise. Ex: Squats/Box jumps, Bench/Explosive pushups, Lunges/Explosive step ups, Deadlifts/Kettlebell swings, Rows/Explosive pullups.
Lift to failure or do forced reps(partner assisted reps) on half your sets: Simply upping the intensity to this point is something many people don’t want to do or can’t because it requires a workout partner.
These are all great ways to build muscle, but they should be used in phases like any intensified program. 3-4 weeks is enough, then move on to something else. Some may find it hard for their bodies to handle very high volume or forced reps so shorter duration of these phases may be needed.
Don't worry about losing body fat in December
Don’t worry about losing bodyfat in December. Focus on building muscle and maintaining your body fat or allowing it to go up SLIGHTLY if you are lean. Since we are all going be consuming more this time of year, we might as well put that nutrition to good use.
1) Kraemer , W.J., Nindl B.C., Ratamess NA, Gotshalk LA, Volek JS, Fleck SJ, Newton RU, Hakkinen K. Changes in muscle hypertrophy in women with a periodized resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Apr;36(4):697-708
2) Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA. Fundatmentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Apr;36(4):674-88
3) Baechhle Thomas R, Earle Roger W, 2008 Essentials of strength training and conditioning third edition (pp. 100). Champaign, IL Human Kinetics
4) de Souza-Teixeira, Fernanda, Antonio de Paz, Jose. Eccentric Resistance Training and Muscle Hypertrophy. J Sport Medic Doping Studie 2012, S1. Retrieved from: http://omicsonline.org/eccentric-resistance-training-and-muscle-hypertrophy-2161-0673.S1-004.pdf
5) Rodin, J. N Radke-Sharpe, M. Rebffe-Scrive, and MRC Greenwood. Weight cycling and fat distribution. International Journal of Obesity 14:303-310, 1990.
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