This week we have a special treat … one of our very own readers has posed a question. This individual was interested in learning and understanding the differences between bulking up and leaning out as well as how to accomplish either or both.
So inspired by the question and emphasizing the point that I do this blog for you the reader, I took the question and ran with it. So this week, continuing on our gym based themes, we will be learning the differences of the aforementioned topics and how to achieve them ourselves!
First things first, let’s define our two categories for a better understanding of where we are coming from.
Bulking up: This is a term used (mostly by guys, sorry ladies, on average most of you just don’t have the testosterone levels to really “bulk up.”) when referring to the training concept of modifying one’s body to increase the current mass (of muscle.)
Leaning out: This is a modality of training in which the goal is to increase muscle tone over mass while simultaneously concentrating on decreasing fat mass and body fat percentage.
Got it? Good. Moving right along!
With these two concepts in mind, we must address the “pillars of fitness” with regards to how they fit in to these ideas.
Nutrition: When one is bulking up, the aim is to increase their muscle mass. Following our pillars for a guide line, the first thing to consider is your nutrition. If you want to look big, you need to eat big. Anything you believe about calorie counting, throw it out for this training modality (and no, that doesn’t mean binge eat or fill up on crappy calories from sugars and carbohydrates) and repeat this mantra, “I will eat when I am hungry.” With that in mind, feed your body well as the toll your workouts will take on your muscles will be harsh and remedied quickly and efficiently through ample sources of calories, proteins, vitamins, and amino acids.
Don’t skimp on the protein! This is one of the most important parts. Muscle growth requires protein and lots of it. Traditionally the body cannot process much more than 0.6 – 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. If you’re trying to build muscle, I recommend shooting for 0.8 grams of protein per pound of your desired bodyweight (Important Note: desired bodyweight, not current.) So, for example, a 150lb trim individual is looking to pack on 15pounds of muscle. My recommendation is to shoot for 132grams of protein per day (Super Important Note: ingesting high levels of protein, especially if your digestive track is not used to it will result in “protein farts” yes they are heinous, no they are not going to kill you, maybe someone standing nearby though. Use the gas as an indicator to your ideal level for your training regimen, the gassier, the less protein you need.) Our next example, say we have a 260lb individual who is overweight and wants to bulk up, but their ideal bodyweight is around 190. Rather than accommodate protein for the 260lbs they should formulate protein for their desired weight of 190 (154g of protein.)
As well as increasing your protein, increase your fiber intake. It will help your digestive track work more efficiently at breaking things down, absorbing nutrients, help flush your system of excess things that you don’t need or use, and provide you with a fuller feeling longer. A good goal is 60g of fiber per day (Note: 60g of fiber per day is INCREDIBLY difficult to hit, even with a supplement. Don’t worry about falling short, just worry about increasing your fiber intake beyond what you are currently doing if it’s waaaay under 60.)
Last but not least, get your vitamins and minerals in! Your body will thank you and your muscles will reap the rewards and benefits of having an ample supply of everything they need to grow big and strong.
Resistance: We’ve all heard the term “Go big or go home” and this has some validity to it when considering the resistance we choose for bulking up.
My first tip to you is to choose exercises that are multi-faceted or “complex” exercises such as the Squat, the Deadlift, the Bench Press, and the Bent-Over Row. These exercises have been scientifically proven to encourage the release of more growth hormone due to the recruitment of many prime movers (Muscles that do the work) and synergists (muscles that assist and keep form / balance)
Next, remember how we talked about volitional fatigue and set ranges? So here’s the scoop, for bulking, you will want to favor lower ranges (still hitting volitional fatigue of course) with heavier weights. Take ample rest between your sets (3 – 5minutes for fullATP recovery and maximum strength output)
Modality: When training, one’s modality is super important to the desired results. Have you ever looked at a distance runner next to a sprinter? Sprinters will generally have much more bulk to them and be built like a professional Football player; on the other hand a distance runner will generally have very lean structures. Now, consider the activities Football Players do; they run short distances in quick bursts of speed, they push around other gents who weigh in on average more than 200lbs, and all of their motions are quick, deliberate, and powerful.
So you want to look like pro athlete? Train your body and muscles to move in a similar fashion; heavy weight moved for short durations as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Favor resistance training (with weights that cause volitional fatigue between 4 and 8 repetitions) over long periods of cardio.
Train with high intensity and no-bars held, take no prisoners and never surrender!
Provide the body with ample amounts of recovery and good nutrition after workouts.
Implement advanced training techniques such as Drop Sets, Super Sets, Plyometric, and Failure Sets (Do not attempt these advanced techniques until you have a comfortable understanding of the exercise, its form, and have given your body time to condition to your current workouts. These topics will be addressed in a later post)
You must also understand that bulking up takes time beyond your initial gains. Bodybuilders weren’t built in a day, and you shouldn’t expect too either.
Nutrition: If leaning out is your goal, paying attention to the number of calories and types of calories going in to your body is a HUUUUUUGE factor (I cannot stress this enough, Bodies are built in the gym, weight is lost in the kitchen.) However, this is not an excuse to starve yourself, in fact, calorie restriction CAN be detrimental and negativelyaffect your weight loss goals if not done properly. Personally, I forgo calorie restriction in favor of creating a deficit by hard work and sweat. That being said, taking in too many calories can be a contraindication to your weight loss goals as well!
So you are probably wondering now … “Ferret, if too few calories is wrong, and too many isn’t right. How do I know what I should be aiming for??” Never fear, Ferret here! Our bodies (on average) require a certain range of calories per pound of bodyweight for basal metabolic rate.
For women, you are looking at roughly 11 calories per pound of bodyweight (or better yet desired bodyweight) and 14 for men. So, an example, a 110lb woman requires roughly 1210 calories for the body to perform basic metabolic things; a 170lb man would require 2380 calories as a ball park figure. It is important to remember that everyone’s metabolism is a little different; these are not hard faced numbers, just figures based on an average.
Now, beyond your BMR the body also requires calories for our everyday activities. To give you another rough estimate, multiply your figured number by:
30% if you are lightly active throughout the day.
40% if you workout lightly a couple times a week.
50% if you workout with good gusto most days of the week for 30+ minutes.
60% if you train like an athlete.
Make good habits, and start cleaning up your diet. You will lean out and begin your journey to sculpting the new you.
Resistance: Here’s where it gets tricky, because a lot of this advice will sound similar to what I said for bulking up! You still want to work out with gusto and push your body to new limits through volitional fatigue, but, you will want to keep your rests between your sets shorter and aim for higher ranges between 8 – 12, and in some instances as high as 16 (still hitting volitional fatigue.) By keeping your rests shorter, you will force your muscles to rely less on the instant energy sources and instead start to transition over to fibers that rely more heavily on oxygen. As well, through sheer muscle exhaustion you won’t have to put up heavy weights to produce a similar “tearing” effect that damages the muscle tissue for growth. Overcoming duration, versus force; sprinting versus distance running, etc.
As well, you will want to include some HIIT training cardio to help you cut any extra calories your muscles may be demanding from your resistance exercises (Cardio exercise of 10 – 20 minutes where you spend intervals at low intensity, matched with high intensity.)
Ultimately, keep your heart rate elevated and your rests short, you will burn more calories and create the desired slimming look while simultaneously building the muscle to produce a toned physique.
Modality: Don’t be afraid to use advanced training techniques and really push your workouts. Muscle growth is inevitable, but as long as you focus hard on your nutrition you should have no worries about getting bigger than you want. Plus, if you do, just “tone-back” your regimen and keep up the light weight training.
To end this super long but super informative post, I want to let you all know, that one can also do BOTH of these simultaneously. Follow the guidelines for bulking up with some calorie shredding HIIT training; most of your success will ALWAYS be built on a strong foundation of good nutrition and eating clean.
As always, stay classy folks and if you have a question about fitness or some other aspect of health and mindful living, feel free to shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by my Facebook page and send a message. I’ll do my best to answer your question, address it as a topic in a future post, or point you to someone who can.