by Tom MacCormick
I don't recommend bulking. It's not that I disagree with the fundamental strategies which underpin bulking. I don't have a problem with spending a focused period of time maximizing muscle gain by being in a calorie surplus. In fact, that's a great idea.
So what's the problem? The associations people have with conventional bulking and the term itself. For whatever reason, the word has been bastardized over the years and become an excuse to binge on junk food, all in the name of chasing gains.
It's strange. People who decide to bulk don't just try to build muscle; they chase overall scale weight and try to force muscle growth through overfeeding. They'll often call it the "dirty bulk" or "fulk" (fat bulk). This aggressive bulking strategy causes most lifters to get unnecessarily fat.
This is a terrible idea if physique development is your goal.
Gaining excessive fat means you'll need to spend more time dieting at the end of your mass phase in order to showcase your physique. And all-out "fulking" is a counterproductive strategy. It’s not just a waste of time and energy, it can lead to anabolic resistance, which will stop you from being able to build muscle.
Instead, you want to increase weight at a sensible, measurable rate, and try to avoid falling into the bulking mentality of just eating everything in sight. The solution to avoid the bulking mindset is actually very simple.
Change the name you give your muscle-building season. Don't refer to it as a bulk. Instead try calling it a "mass building phase," a "muscle building phase," a "growth phase," or my personal favorite, just a "building" phase.
Sure, this is semantics. But it's not JUST semantics. The word you use to describe what you're doing will affect your perception of it. And if you choose to "bulk" then instead of using a calculated method to gain muscle, you may end up owning the huge gut and double chin that usually come along with most sloppy bulking strategies.
None of the alternative terms I recommend have been tarnished by chubby, wannabe bodybuilders on a perma-bulk... or their eating habits. Get your mindset right and you can start on strong footing to maximize your muscle while keeping fat gain to a minimum. It'll help you get bigger, but stay leaner.
Not convinced yet? Think of it this way. Swapping out the word "bulk" for something else creates a more positive mindset. It describes what you're doing – building your body. It has connotations of laying foundations, of being something built to last, and a process of gradually improving brick by brick. Envision it that way.
Your mind is a powerful thing. So is your self-talk. Very few people care what training you're doing and why. You, of course, care deeply and probably think about it plenty.
Make sure your internal dialogue uses the right terminology and positive self-talk. It'll help you, even if only at the subconscious level. If you can visualize incrementally building yourself brick by brick, workout by workout, meal by meal and feel what it will be like being in great shape, then it'll also help to keep you focused and motivated.