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Bulking Principles


Hammerblow

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I thought it might be good to throw out some the basics for a good reminder to help set up a successful training routine when bulking. This is just going to be the guiding principles when setting up your own routine. I am not going to be outlining specific exercises/sets/reps etc. but the basics for you to consider when designing your own specific program. This is what I am going to touch on here:

  1. Cardio
  2. Tempo
  3. Volume
  4. Frequency
  5. Split
  6. Exercise type & order
  7. Reps
  8. Rest intervals 

To build the muscle we are after we need to hit each part frequently with lots of volume. You need to be eating right for this also. This works well with the cyclic bulking approach I have talked about. You should be smashing the cals, carbs and protein which will allow you to train longer and get in the necessary volume you need for growth. Time to get on with it!

Cardio

Let’s get this cardio business out of the way first. Many may disagree with me here but that is fine. Cardio really has no place for a bulk when our goal is growth. Instead of cardio increase your volume and frequency of your workouts if you feel the need instead. Save the cardio for your cuts. LISS really serves no purpose during your bulk since it isn’t going to improve your insulin sensitivity and just uses up cals that are need for growth. The opposite of what we are trying to do here. If you are gaining too much fat to fast then you are eating poorly and need to adjust diet, not cardio. So bottom line, skip the cardio. Just use that time to rest and recuperate from the high volume/frequency or if you are really hell bent add some extra volume/frequency to your workouts instead. That is where the muscle will come from, not from cardio.

Exercise Tempo

I keep harping on this but you need to slow the tempo down to grow. Don’t just bang out your set. Keep that eccentric phase slow and controlled. 3-4 seconds/eccentric are what you should be shooting for. If you can’t complete your set using that tempo then you need to lower the weight and get rid of the ego. This is where you will grow. Slow controlled eccentrics and contract your muscles on the concentric. Get that mind-muscle connection going.

Volume

This is a biggy here and kind of the meat and potatoes of your bulk. You need the volume to get the growth. The extra cals/carbs you are eating will support this volume so make use of them. I would be looking at hitting up to 20+ sets per body part depending on your experience in the gym. Smaller body parts like biceps would be fine with 12 or sets. Don’t go crazy though with the volume. If you can’t get your workout done within 60-80 mins you need to decrease the volume. Your workout becomes to catabolic if working out much longer than that at the appropriate intensity you need to be.

Workout Frequency

The other part of the meat and potatoes when bulking is the frequency of your workout. So volume is meat and let’s calls frequency potatoes. What we are talking about here is the number of days between workouts for the same body part. You need to be training these body parts frequently enough to take advantage the growth potential that all those extra cals are giving you (see the importance of diet once again!). These extra cals/carbs will allow you to recover faster so you can obviously train more frequently and hence the more frequently we train the muscle the more potential for growth…..see the pattern here.

So here is what we do. Many of you are probably hitting each body part like once per week. I find this pretty typically. Well now it is time to actually grow. Start decreasing the number of days between workouts for each body part. Hit chest every 6 days now instead. When you have adapted to that hit it every 5 days for example.

Now you are probably thinking about hey, wouldn’t twice a day training increase frequency? Yes Sir! If you have a lagging body part this is truly the optimum way to go. Hit it once in the morning and once in the evening. There is a lot of science that goes into making 2x/d training effective so here are the cliff notes and I’ll leave it at which would deserve a full post on its own. You need to have at least 4 hours between those workouts and be sure to get in at least 2 good meals in-between those workouts. It goes without saying that you should be having intra-wo and post-wo shakes for each.

Couple of different ways to train this way and they both have merits so pick what suits your routine. Hit the same muscle group/s both workouts is one way. Go with low and heavy reps in the morning and higher reps in the evening (there is science backing up this is the way to do the same body part 2x/d….once again deserving its own post. The other way to go about it is to train a large muscle group like chest in the morning and then hit triceps in the evening. Pick your poison. They both work and I have had my best and fastest gains when I could fit in 2-a-days.

Setting up your WO Split

I talked about frequency so how do you go about setting up your workout routine to optimize that frequency. This is where you get to prioritize a specific lagging or body part you want to hit. Regardless of what you want to target I would really recommend at least training 6d/wk to accommodate the frequency you need to grow. If you are hitting 2/d then you could be looking at up to 9 training sessions/wk. *Keep in mind though that you probably can’t maintain this frequency for much longer than say a month at a time without a deload phase or you will start regressing. * I wasn’t going to put up any workout splits but after thinking about it I think I need to, to help get the point across.

Everybody like a nice set of arms so let’s prioritize that for now. Recommending working out at least 6d/wk, here what we would be looking at.

Here is what we got:
Arms….which means both bi and tri (we are prioritizing them)
Hammies/calves
Upper back/shoulders
Chest/tri
Rest day
Back/bi
Quads/abs (could hit abs every day if so inclined)

Let’s go 2/d with 9 workouts: ( I like to start this on a weekend to help accommodate the 2/d)

Sat Am: Back
Sat PM: Bi’s
Sun AM: Chest
Sun PM: Tri’s
Mon: Legs (quad dominated)
Tues: Should/calves/abs
Wed AM: Low rep/heavy weight arms
Wed PM: Hi rep arms
Thurs: Legs (hammie dominated)
Fri: rest

Lots of ways to set up the routine so pick the body part you want to focus on and that will get the most frequency. After a deload, pick a new body part to focus on or just do the same one, whatever floats your boat.

Picking exercises and ordering them properly

Well, we have lots of volume so we can do lots of exercises but there is more to it than that if you want to set up an effective program. I would pick at least 4 exercises to do per body part. Pick more if you like but we need at least four. At least half of those exercises though need to be the large compound movements so you can fully load the muscle to make it grow. So this is what I mean. Let’s take a look at legs. Your big movements are going to squats and something like leg presses and hack squats and you can finish off with some leg curls or leg extension. Don’t make the bulk of your exercises something like leg curls, extensions and lunges with some squats thrown in the mix. That is not an efficient use of all the volume we are doing to try build muscle.

It should go without saying that you need to prioritize these big compound movements first in your routine. You essentially want the exercises to become easier as you fatigue and progress through your workout. So don’t start your leg workout with ham curls is all I am saying.

How many reps?

We are trying to build muscle here and not necessarily strength, that will increase also too, so stick in that more hypertrophy range of 5-10 reps. Our focus here is volume (lots of sets) with heavy weight relative to bodybuilding standards and not powerlifting standards where we would be in the lower rep ranges to accommodate the even heavier weight. For your finisher exercises it is perfectly acceptable to be up in the 12-15 rep range and feel free to hit those higher rep ranges with the smaller exercises for muscles such as the delts and abs. We also don’t need to be doing supersets and giant sets, running the rack etc. Our main goal here is lots of sets at full capacity when we are our strongest. Maybe add one in here or there at the end but don’t go crazy with them.

What about rest?

Well, we want to be adequately recovered during all these heavy sets we will be doing. 60-90 seconds should allow enough rest to maintain the intensity we need. Squats/deadlifts may require say up to 2 minutes but don’t be sitting on the bench for 5 minutes between sets texting. For the smaller muscles like bi's and delts 45 seconds may be plenty. The point is don’t sandbag it here.

Hopefully this is enough to get you going in the right direction for setting up a successful routine for your bulk. Up next will probably be something to get your cut routine going in the right direction.

 

Rx

 

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