6 Mistakes Lifters Make when Bulking
As the days are now growing shorter, the nights longer, and the weather turning cooler, our daily attire will likely be changing from shorts and tank tops to baggy sweats and hoodies. As a bodybuilder, this can only signify one thing – bulking season!
During a bulk, the goal is literally to pack on as much muscle mass as possible and get as big and jacked as you can possibly get. As anybody who has ever lifted weights before will tell you however, building muscle is far from easy. In fact, it’s one of the toughest processes your body will go through.
People assume that bulking up is simply a case of eating more food and training a little heavier in the gym. The truth of the matter is that there’s a real science to bulking, which is why it’s vital that you know what you’re doing.
If you’re trying to bulk up but aren’t making the gains you were expecting, make sure you’re not making any of the following common mistakes that lifters make when bulking.
1. Dirty bulking
By far, one of the most common mistakes that lifters make when bulking is by doing what is known as ‘dirty bulking’.
Dirty bulking is basically the act of eating copious amounts of junk food, fat, salt, sugar, candy, and other calorific processed foods and drinks without any restraint or any real nutrition.
When bulking, the idea is of course to increase your caloric intake slightly to create a surplus, but that doesn’t mean that you can eat junk food several times per day and consume thousands upon thousands of calories above maintenance and then pass it off as “bulking” just because you happen to go to the gym and lift weights.
Dirty bulking is dangerous and bad for your health, it can put you at risk of countless health issues, it will lead to excessive weight gain mostly in the form of fat, it will damage your mental health, and it will leave you lacking important vitamins and minerals.
When bulking, of course you can enjoy the occasional treat meal now and then, and you can get a little more relaxed with your diet, but don’t use it as an excuse to binge and eat as much unhealthy junk food as possible.
2. Not training heavy
In order for your muscles to grow you are really going to have to put them through their paces and push yourself when training. One of the best ways of stimulating muscle hypertrophy is through heavy training.
When bulking, you will be in a caloric surplus so you’ll have more energy than when cutting, so use this energy when training.
When you lift weights, choose heavier weights for certain exercises that allow you to perform say, 4 – 6 reps to failure rather than 8 – 12 reps like most bodybuilders tend to aim for.
Training heavy will place more stress on your muscles and create more micro rips and tears in your muscle tissue, which in turn will result in greater levels of muscle growth as you recover.
Whenever you train heavy, be sure to have a spotter or use safety features such as a squat rack or cage, and only use weights which you know you can lift.
3. Not eating enough healthy produce
This next mistake could be included in our dirty bulking mistake, but as proper nutrition is so important, we’ve included it here as well.
When bulking, it’s essential to ensure that you’re consuming plenty of healthy produce packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients.
Not only will healthy produce help you to control your weight so that you keep fat gain to a minimum, it will also nourish your body so that you become healthier and so that you feel healthier, which will only serve to help you when training.
Try to keep the vast majority of your bulking meals “clean” and healthy, and include plenty of fruits and vegetables in there for their nutrient contents.
4. Not eating enough
One of the lesser-known mistakes that bodybuilders tend to make when buking is actually not eating enough food each day.
In order to build muscle and bulk up, you need to put your body in a caloric surplus. This literally means that you need to consume more calories than your body burns off to maintain itself in its current form.
If you fail to consume enough calories however, it doesn’t matter how hard you train or how much protein you consume, you aren’t going to build muscle, it really is that simple.
When bulking, work out your daily caloric intakes for maintenance and aim to create a surplus of 300 – 500 calories per day.
5. Relying too much on machines
Okay, first and foremost, we’re not bashing machines in the gym in the slightest. Machines in the home gym serve a multitude of purposes and allow you to really isolate your muscles.
When bulking, the idea is to build muscle and when it comes to muscle growth, numerous studies have found that compound exercises are the most beneficial. A compound exercise is one which works multiple muscle groups at once, instead of just isolating one specific muscle group like a machine does. Barbell bench presses for example, are compound exercises because they work the pectoral muscles, as well as the triceps, deltoids, and the core as well.
By performing a compound exercise, you are basically working several muscle groups with just one exercise, which in turn will result in greater levels of muscle hypertrophy.
6. Not getting enough recovery
Finally, the last mistake that you’ll want to avoid if you wish to partake in a successful bulk is not getting enough recovery time.
People assume that the more they train, and the harder they train, the more gains they will make, but that is not always the case. When it comes to building muscle, rest and recovery are just as important as training.
When we lift weights, we aren’t building muscle at all, we’re actually doing the opposite and breaking existing muscle tissue down. Our bodies do most of their growing and repairing when we rest and recover.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, are pushing your body too hard, and aren’t taking at least 1 – 2 full days off from the gym, you won’t allow your body sufficient amounts of time to recover so not only will you struggle to build muscle, you may actually lose muscle.