We have partnered up with Lee Boyce to bring you a new series called Boyce Talks!
In this series, Lee will address several key topics that come up in weightlifting. This week, Lee talks about the common myths of bulking up and what you should actually be doing if bulking up is your goal.
After you’ve read Lee’s article, sign up for an Exercise.com PRO plan to start putting on muscle mass today!
When it comes to putting on size, a lot of people have it all wrong.
Eat big, train heavy. That’s the basic mentality that pervades the recreational lifting ‘sphere. Unfortunately, there’s a little more to it.
Especially when it comes to a novice lifter, the basics (though they are indeed basic) have to become a little more complex. It’s time to debunk some myths about putting on size, especially when it’s your first time doing it.
For the record, I consider a “novice” lifter anyone who hasn’t had a few solid years of training under their belt, especially years full of training-induced results. It doesn’t count if you’ve been training like crap for 9 or 10 years and are consequently still a twig.
Myth 1: Isolate Your Workouts
If you’re a skinny mini, you’re going to have a tough time putting on size if you’re isolating single muscle groups in each workout. Your body has to be put under stress covering as much of its surface area as possible. The big barbell movements like squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups, and standing press need to become and remain staples in your program. They’ll benefit you for many reasons:
- You’ll be able to lift the heaviest weights with these movements.
- You’ll spike your CNS activity.
- You’ll release more growth hormone and testosterone.
- You’ll get stronger, faster.
It doesn’t mean you necessarily need to train total body style every workout (though that’s not the worst idea, either), but each of those five major movements should be the hub of each of your workouts for the week. Remember, big movements hypertrophy everything due to the effort you’re putting out. They don’t just hypertrophy the muscles you’re trying to work.
Myth 2: Train Very Frequently
Gym rats will take examples from their favorite athletes or wrestling stars who, in their hackneyed braggadocio, state that they’re in the gym six days per week. Rest and recovery are very important, especially for a younger trainee. While you sleep, testosterone release is heightened to a significantly higher value than during the day.
Overtraining and avoiding rest days can actually act against building muscle and adding size. It’s important to remember that other life circumstances all contribute to the levels of cortisol our body releases. Cortisol is a hormone that responds to elevated stress levels. Rest days are important. I like to keep my personal clients limited to four lift days per week with an optional 5th.
You don’t grow while you train – you grow while you rest!
Get More Out of Your Health and Fitness Routine. Go PRO!
Myth 3: Eat Big, but Eat Clean
If you’re on a quest to keep your razor-sharp abs while you train for size, you’re in for a long haul. Eating particularly clean isn’t going to help you put size on and increase your muscle mass.
There are a couple of things we need to think of here. First, eating “clean” – usually referring to keeping carbs to a low and protein as tops on the list – can promote muscle gain, but eating more carbohydrates (again, especially if you’re a younger lifter) can actually facilitate the process of building muscle mass.
To gain weight and add size during a bulking program, our goal ultimately is to slow the rate of metabolism in our body. If you’re skinny and are a hard gainer, then metabolic rate issues have been plaguing you as it is. Larger, calorically dense meals eaten less frequently throughout the day will be just what the doctor ordered.
Eating seven meals per day will only encourage the body to continue to metabolize the food you eat at the same rate it’s used to. Try three to four squares a day, and make them BIG. Also, don’t be afraid to throw back some carbs. You can expect your body fat percentage to jump up a couple of percentage points by the time you’ve finished your bulk, but that’s incredibly necessary.
A larger body will mean a greater surface area. Greater surface area means more force can be applied against a resistance. That means more weight can be lifted thanks to a stronger body. Lifting heavy weights can add more muscle. See where I’m going with this? Worry about dropping fat in your cutting phase. It won’t take long.
Myth 4: Advanced Lifting Methods Are Your Friends
Nothing can be worse than too much of a good thing. Focus on your consistency and getting solid sets using full ROM in the weight room. If you do this, you will see results. It’s that simple.
Too often, I see kids in the weight room who just read the latest scientific research on training and are quick to try all the “cool” new exercises under the sun. You can add as many bands and chains to barbells, do 1.5 reps, and clusters, and supramaximal holds as you want. But if you’re fresh to putting on muscle, I strongly advise that you get really good at the basics. It’s as complicated as it is simple.
Say goodbye to the advanced techniques for now, young grasshopper.
Myth 5: Keep Your Long Cardio Days
Cardio in the form of long runs, swims, or bike rides doesn’t do well to keep muscle and size on the body. Unfortunately, doing so burns calories which is the complete opposite of what you’re looking for in a bulk.
Many forms of cardio don’t encourage fat loss anyway and instead capitalize on using carbohydrates for energy and possibly feeding on muscle. If you do any cardio at all, make sure it’s sprint intervals. This way, you’ll still be training the fast-twitch muscle fibers to be active, and they’re the muscle fibers most responsible for lifting heavy things and being strong and explosive.
The message in this article is clear – keep it simple. If you do, you can expect to see results. To really make gains in the weight room, it’s a mental conditioning game that involves dedication, effort, and consistency.
Follow these tricks of the trade, and you’ll start to resemble a superhero in no time.
Lee Boyce: Who Is He and Why Is He Awesome?
Lee Boyce is one of the bright young talents in the fitness industry. By age 22 he had his first fitness article published by a major company.
Since then, he’s become a sought after strength coach based in Toronto, Ontario, and is a TV fitness expert, public speaker, and regular contributor to the most popular fitness magazines including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, TNATION, Musclemag, and Muscle&Fitness.
You can view his blog, videos, and articles at LeeBoyceTraining.com. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How many calories should I eat?
How many calories you should eat depends on a number of factors. To get a rough estimate, check out this article.
What is bulking? What is cutting?
Bulking and cutting are techniques used by bodybuilders to grow muscle and shed fat. Bulking requires eating in a surplus while weight training in order to build muscle. Cutting requires eating in a caloric deficit to shed body fat in order to “expose” the muscle built during the bulking phase.
Do I have to bulk? Do I have to cut?
No. Unless you are a professional bodybuilder, you do not have to bulk or cut to lead a healthy, happy lifestyle.
For workout routines that you can pair with your bulk, sign up for a PRO plan today.