So we know that bodybuilding is about cycling, right? No I'm not talking about steroids or pro-hormones, although it seems many bodybuilders wimp out and take this route. I'm talking about bulking, then cutting, then bulking, and then cutting, then... you get the point. Pretty simple right?
While most of us understand this, we don't seem to know where to start. Do you we start our bodybuilding journey by following a program based on gaining mass? After all that's what bodybuilding is, right? Building muscle? Or do we begin by shedding away excess fat? Well I have some tips that might help you make the right decision.
The first thing you should do before starting any program is evaluate where you are currently at. It is a good idea to look at your body composition numbers. There are a number of ways you can do this:
A) Self Evaluate
- Take a look in the mirror. Are you under weight or over weight? While this is an easy and simple method, it does come with a number of concerns. The biggest one is that we don?t usually see ourselves as we actually are. It may be helpful to get a second, unbiased opinion.
- You should also step onto the scale. Yes we all hate them and they may not always be the most accurate way to asses your body since it cannot tell the difference between muscle and fat, but the scale number can be a good guideline.
- Bring out the tape measure and take some body measurements. This can be a good way to track progress. Especially for leaner people. Try to take make a note of where on your body you are measuring (how far up the thigh, how far down the arm ect.) and make sure that the tape is straight and that it is snug but not too tight around the body.
- Pull out the camera. Taking progress pictures is another great way to look at yourself and follow future progress.
- This is a simple and easy calculation that takes into account your age, weight and height. This method is a lot more accurate for people that are heavier however, because like the scale, the calculation does not take into account the amount of muscle you already have and people that are overweight are more likely to be carrying less muscle mass than someone who is athletic.
C) Body Fat Percentage
- There are a number of ways to get this done. I will just list a few.
There is the caliper method - very common and can be quite accurate.
The more areas measured, the more accurate the number will be.
There is the BIA (bioelectrical impedance) method - While it is quick and
easy it may not be the most accurate. It works by sending an electrical
current through your body and estimates the amount of water in your
body. Well if you are over or under hydrated this can cause an
Probably the most accurate, but more expensive method is a DEXA scan.
It scans the entire body and is able to differentiate between bone,
muscle and fat tissue.
After determining these numbers and taking a good look at yourself, you should know where you stand. Now it's time to decide whether to bulk or cut.
One of the first things to consider is if you are over or under weight. It is best to not start a bulk cycle if you are overweight. While doing a bulk, even a clean and lean one, you will gain some body fat. Being overweight and doing a bulk will only make it harder to drop the body fat later. The recommended body fat percentages to start a bulk are 10-12% for males, and 19-24% for females. Anyone considering entering a competition may even want to start out leaner so that it takes less time to lean back down after gaining.
What can you expect to gain? Of course we all want as much as possible but I don't think people realize how little this actually is. If you are doing a good clean bulk, men can expect to 1 lb per week and women about 0.5 lbs per week. These numbers should give you the most muscle gains while gaining the least amount of fat. I know you don't want to hear or believe it but gaining at a faster rate only increases the gain of fat, not muscle.
So when do you cut? It has been considered that men with body fat percentages of 15% for men and 24-27% for females, the bulking cycle should end. Of course you can stop and start cutting when ever you feel ready since some people may not want to gain this much, but these are good guideline numbers to go by. Just as you don't want to gain to fast, you don't want to lose to quickly either. A weight loss of 1-2lbs per week is a good pace. Of course more obese individuals will lose at a greater rate than an individual that is leaner, but the key is to follow your progress and not jump at things to quickly.
So there you have it. Some information on bulking and cutting. I'm not trying to tell you what you should or shouldn't do, I'm just trying to help you make the decision of what to do. It is up to you to decide on where you stand and what is best for you and your goals. I wish you all the best, and remember that hard work, dedication and consistency are the key to any goal.
*Body fat percentage numbers and other information are based from articles by Lyle McDonald
Thread: Bulk or Cut?