Useful Links: Three Months Update
Nothing stops the man who desires to achieve. Every obstacle is simply a course to develop his achievement muscle. It’s a strengthening of his powers of accomplishment.
After a summer cut (you can read about that here) and a couple of weeks spent experimenting to find my maintenance calories, I started to bulk in mid-November. At the time of writing this article, I was one month into the process. The plan is to stay in this phase for at least four to six months to build muscle and increase strength. I say “at least” because I may keep bulking for longer or start another cut before next summer, depending on my rate of progress and the amount of body fat gained by then.
To reduce and eventually stop my weight loss rate at the end of the cut, I was increasing my calories week by week. For these first four “bulk weeks”, instead, I kept my intake consistent at about 50-100 kcal over maintenance.
I prefer to have more calories on resistance training days (three days a week), so I have two macro splits:
Carbs: 228 gr
Protein: 111 gr
Fat: 49 gr
Carbs: 207 gr
Protein: 111 gr
Fat: 49 gr
As you can see, my carbohydrate intake is the only variable, though one could change any macro target, provided the total weekly intake remained the same. I tend to eat the same amount of fat and protein every day, whereas I like having more carbs on days when I’m lifting. There’s no scientific benefit to having “high” and “low” protein days for strength or hypertrophy as long as you keep your intake at or above at least 1.6 gr per kilo or 0.8 gr per pound (click), so I keep things simple and only change up my carbohydrate consumption.
Since I exercise between 6:30 and 8:00am, I eat the majority of my food, especially carbs, at breakfast and lunch. On occasion, I have a bigger dinner on rest days to have more energy the following morning at the gym, but it’s not a strict rule. I’m a morning person, so more food earlier in the day enhances my focus when I’m writing, doing coursework, or studying for my PT qualification.
Three days of full-body sessions per week have been working well for my body and my schedule during the cut, so I saw no reason not to continue. However, I updated my original template. Reading Men’s Health Power Training by Robert dos Remedios, I took an interest in basic movement patterns and functional training. As a result, the workout plan I used this month looks like this:
Knee-dominant exercise – A variation of the squat
Hip-dominant exercise – A variation of the deadlift
Horizontal push exercise – A variation of the bench press
Horizontal pull exercise – A variation of the row
Vertical push exercise – A variation of the shoulder press
Horizontal pull exercise – Pull-ups, lat pull downs, chins, etc.
Two core exercises in a superset
I’m still privileging compound lifts, but there’s one more exercise and the final superset is now core-focused. I’ve been working in the 8-10 rep range, scheduled as follows:
The load is the same every time. If I can get all the planned reps in, then I add weight to the bar the following week. If not, then I keep practising the lift with the same weight until I master a total of four sets of 10 reps.
You may think 100 kcal isn’t a huge increase, but, being a small guy, it was enough for me to kickstart the process. Moreover, I struggle to stomach huge amounts of food, so a gradual increase seemed a better idea than a jump into a much higher caloric intake.
0.5-1 lbs every month is a good range to promote muscle growth and minimise fat gain. Female bodies should aim for the lower end, male bodies for the higher end. In four weeks, my net weight gain was 1.17 lbs. Judging from my daily waist measurements and monthly skinfold measurements, body fat gain was minimal. On the other hand, I’ve been adding weight to the bar quite consistently on all my lifts and I’ve seen a marked improvement in some muscles, especially core, back, and shoulders. For this reason, it’s safe to say a lot, if not most, of that pound was muscle mass.
From a mental standpoint, I’ve been able to handle the steady increase in weight without much stress, which I anticipated given my history of disordered eating. I’ve also felt energised from the moderate increase in caloric intake and I’ve been having great fun during my workouts.
At the moment I’m on week 8 of my current training programme, that is a deload week. After seven weeks, I noticed an increase in post-workout fatigue and inter-workout performance, two signals that my body needed a break.
In 2019, my first mesocycle will also be my first time trying a body part split, lifting four days a week. I’ll post another update then!
In Future Episodes:
January is that time of the year when most people are either renovating or starting a gym membership. For trans people, the gym can be a daunting experience, so next week I’ll share some tips on how to make the best of it and stay safe.
Are you bulking this winter?
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