Building bulk like the hulk
So, you want to bulk up, you say… Problem is, you’ve probably heard 50 different opinions from people at the gym, personal trainers, YouTube videos, your colleague, and maybe even Men’s Health.
Where do you actually start and what’s the best way to go about it? How do you bulk up without getting fat? Let’s bust a couple of myths before we dive into the detail:
To get big you need to eat big
Truth: You just have to eat enough
Protein intake alone affects muscle growth
Truth: Protein intake PLUS calorie intake helps muscle growth
What about weights?
Before you head on over to the weight section overly confident and start curling away, make sure you are able to do the movements correctly. If not, you’ll only hurt (and embarrass) yourself. Many people engage the wrong muscles when lifting weights. One of the most important techniques to remember is that it needs to be a controlled movement with only the designated joints working.
How heavy the weights should be is dependent upon a couple of factors. If your goal is to get significantly stronger, you’ll for instance need to opt for a heavier weight versus if you are trying to get bigger muscles. If you’re training for endurance, on the other hand, you’ll need to use an even lighter weight.
Today we are however focussing on bulking up. So, when it comes to choosing your weights, you’ll need to choose weights that will allow you to do 8-12 reps. The 8-12 rep range has shown to maximise muscle gain.
Health and training experts also advise that you need to perform a “true” set of 8-12 reps – that is, you won’t be able to do another rep on your own keeping the right posture and form. This can also help you identify if your weights are too light – if you are able to do another rep without a problem, the weights you’re using are probably too light. Similarly, if you can do only 4-5 reps, the weights are probably too heavy for you.
When you reach a point where you feel like you can do two more reps with a given weight, for two consecutive workouts while keeping the right form, you probably need to increase your weights.
It’s a well-known fact that protein is of utmost importance when it comes to building muscle. Protein provides the amino acids which are used as the building blocks of muscle protein. Try to eat lean animal proteins such as fish, chicken, turkey, beef, eggs, and dairy.
Many people also wrongly think they have to eat excess calories in order to gain muscle. The reality is that if you take in more than you need, you will gain fat. No doubt about it. Carbs are essential for growth, however. It’s the body’s first choice for fuel, meaning more accessible energy. It also boosts recovery post-workout and helps keep cortisol levels down.
Each person’s body and metabolism is different. It’s strongly advised to see a health and nutrition specialist that can advise you on what diet will be most effective in gaining muscle.
Last but not least: if you think you’ll skip all the steps and simply start popping some pills or drinking protein shakes to see results, you’re thinking is wrong. You will only achieve your goal through dedicated training and a balanced, healthy lifestyle. That’s not to say supplements can’t help or shouldn’t be taken – they just shouldn’t be first on the list. Supplements can definitely improve training performance and may allow you to build muscle and burn fat with greater ease.
Take care though that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that more pills will equal greater bulkiness. If you neglect your diet, you’ll only sabotage yourself and end up breaking down muscle instead of building up.
Make sure you speak to a professional to find out which supplements are effective and safe to use.
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