Bulking - what is it?
The term ‘bulking’ isn’t our favourite as it has some negative connotations. But whatever you want to call it: improvement phase, growing phase, offseason, the strategies will be similar.
You should be eating in enough of a calorie surplus to gain weight at a controlled rate. Now, this is very individual based on how large of a person you are, how lean your starting point is, how long you have been bulking and how long you plan to continue your bulk. As a rule, you want body composition to stay in a relatively good place, and if you are seeing average weight go up over 2lbs per week a few weeks in, you probably need to ease off a little.
The focus should be very much on progressive overload. With body weight increasing and more than enough calories to fuel workouts, there is no reason not to be beating your log book. If you aren’t getting stronger… the weight that you are gaining is much more likely to be fat than muscle. The more advanced you are, the harder you have to work to build new tissue. Log lifts, looking to add reps/weight each week. It’s easy to let form/execution slide as you chase new PBs so be very self-critical and record sets where possible to assess.
How does cardio fit in?
There tends to be two extremes of people when bulking:
- Doesn’t fully commit to the phase. Continues doing excessive cardio and eating around maintenance. Very little progress made.
- Commits too much. Barely moves other than to pick up weights, fitness levels become a limiting factor to sets. Progress is hindered.
The key to offseason cardio, is that it is not there for fat loss. Daily cardio, especially high intensity cardio, will only hinder your ability to recover. If this sounds like you, drop some of the cardio and lower calories slightly to match the drop in expenditure.
Offseason cardio is there to assist your weight training. Higher fitness levels will allow you to complete more reps, so that your lungs don't give out before your muscles. The increase in circulation will also aid in recovery, relieving muscle tightness and DOMS.
Not to mention… it’s simply a good idea for longevity. You’ll thank yourself in decades to come for looking after your heart health!
Omega 3 supplements are a great staple to support heart health and protect joints as strength goes up.
To avoid negative impacts on strength, cardio wants to be positioned as far away from weight training as possible. This might mean completing it on rest days, or doing fasted cardio then training late in the day.
Pay attention to things like resting heart rate to assess if more conditioning work needs adding in. 60-100 is considered ‘healthy’, but trained individuals might be in the 40s or 50s. If yours is high, you may need to up the cardio.
2-3 days a week should be enough for most. Remember that you want to have as much room to push as possible when you transition into a diet. If you are doing cardio 5+ days a week in a bulk, you are going to suffer as that increases to get the fat off.
If you are eating in a surplus, it is very unlikely that cardio will pose any risk of going into a catabolic state. Therefore, taking precautions such as sipping aminos during won’t do any harm, but are certainly not essential. If you do want to add something to your water, opt for a powder with a small amount of caffeine to increase heart rate and boost the calorie burn and/or added electrolytes to replace what is lost in sweat.
We would suggest: Muscletech Amino Build Next Gen Energized