While there are plenty of things you can do to maximize muscle growth during a bulk, the idea that you can gain muscle “fast” naturally can be misleading to those who think they can build 10lbs of muscle in one month.
The hard truth is that muscle growth occurs at a much slower rate than you can gain fat, which is why you need to make sure to monitor your diet and training on a weekly basis if you are looking to maximize muscle growth and minimize fat gain during a bulk.
Muscle can only grow so fast, and a proper bulk takes both time and consistency (the opposite of fast). However, factors like eating more calories than you burn, increasing protein/carb intake, training with more volume, and monitoring your rate of weight gain can maximize your muscle-building during a bulk.
In this article, we will discuss:
- How fast you should try to gain weight during a bulk
- What are the risks (if any) of gaining weight too fast
- 10 ways you can maximize your muscle growth during the bulking process
Can You Gain Weight TOO Fast During a Bulk?
Yes, gaining weight too fast during a bulk could result in you gaining more body fat than is standard during a bulk.
Muscle can only grow so fast, so at a certain point if you are eating more calories than the body needs to grow muscle (at the max rate it can), your body will store any of the excessive calories as fat.
In doing so, you could make the cutting process significantly more difficult, and could shorten the length of time you could stay in a bulking process (maximizing muscle growth takes time).
Related Article: Can You Eat Anything When You Bulk? (Dirty Bulk Science)
How Fast Should You Gain Weight in A Bulk?
Beginners and leaner individuals who tend to have difficulty gaining weight can aim to gain anywhere between 0.5-1lbs per week.
Heavier individuals may be able to gain 1-2lbs per week especially if they are able to gain weight easier than others.
By tracking your weekly weight gain, you can make sure you are eating enough calories to hit those ranges, but also monitor your rate of weight gain to make sure you are not gaining too much weight, too fast.
If you gain too much weight, too fast, it could impair optimal muscle growth and increase the amount of fat you gain during a bulk.
Related Article: What Should Your Calories & Macros Be When Bulking?
10 Ways to Maximize the Muscle Building Process During a Bulk
Below are ten (10) tips for maximizing muscle growth during the bulk!
1. Start Your Bulk from a Lean State
Ideally, you would start your bulk from a lean state, meaning that your body fat levels would be near 10% or lower for males, and ~16% for females.
While these body fat percentages are not set in stone, the takeaway here is that the leaner you are when you start a bulk, the more your body will want to begin using the net calories to fuel hard training, recovery, and muscle growth (and increase glucose stores in muscle bellies).
Related Article: How To Bulk After A Long Cut (8 Tips)
If you start from a less lean state, you may run the risk of introducing more calories to a body and metabolism that already is keen on increasing body fat stores or imply shorten the total time you gain bulk for.
At some point, you end a bulk when your body fat gets too high, since at that point, you’re gaining excessive amounts of fat in relation to muscle.
Related Article: Should You Cut Or Bulk First If You’re Skinny Fat?
2. Progressively Eat More Calories
When looking to gain muscle and weight during a bulk, you need to eat more calories than you burn off (resting metabolic rate + calories burned from lifestyle + calories burned from physical activity).
It’s a basic math equation that has been repeatedly proven. To gain weight, you must be in a caloric surplus. To lose weight, you must be in a caloric deficit.
Eating anything you want is one way to do this; however, it can affect the make up of the weight you are gaining (and how fast you are gaining weight).
As discussed above, you want to make sure you are eating at a rate the allows for maximal muscle growth yet does not allow for excessive body fat to be gained during the bulk.
You will gain some body fat, however gaining excessive amounts will not help you gain more muscle, and in fact may actually make your body more apt to prioritize fat gain than muscle gain as your bulk goes on.
The key here is to progressively eat more calories, rather than just eating anything in sight out of the gates. This allows you to make sure you are monitoring your rate of weight gain and maximizing your muscle growth to fat gain ratio.
Related Article: 16 Healthy Bulking Foods For Hard Gainers
3. Eat Enough Protein
Odds are if you are eating enough calories, you will get a good amount of protein in the process. That said, it is important to make sure you are eating enough protein to support muscle recovery and growth. Aim to consume 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight during your bulk.
Eating less protein could result in decreased muscle growth and recovery. Eating more protein than that may or may not be necessary, as your body can only use so much protein.
If you find you are eating large amounts of protein, I recommend you replace the excessive protein with more carbohydrates as that is the preferred fuel source for your muscles.
Related Article: The Best Bulking Chest Workouts: 7 Must-Do Exercises
4. Prioritize More Carbs to Fuel Hard Training
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for muscle tissue and the brain. While the brain, muscles, and body can function off of fats and protein for energy, carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy to allow for high intensity weight training (the type of training that you will need to be doing to maximize muscle growth).
I recommend you start by consuming 2-3 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight, and increase this macronutrient is needed to match increases in overall calorie intake (so, when you eat more food to put on more weight, opt for more carb sources like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, grains, etc).
Related Article: 7 Bulking Breakfast Ideas With Calorie Breakdowns
5. Train More Frequently
Training a muscle more frequently is a great way to increase training volume without performing too much in a single session (which can lead to excessive soreness, low stimulus work sets, and injury).
If you are looking to grow massive legs for example, you may need to perform 16-20 total sets a week of quadriceps exercises, and another 16-20 total sets a week of hamstring training.
Related Article: The Best Bulking Leg Workouts: 10 Must-Do Exercises
If you trained legs only once per week, you would need to train 35-40 total sets in one session, which is not only excessive, but often results in doing a ton of reps that are low stimulus, low load, and just produce a lot of fatigue and stress to the body.
Instead, by training more frequently you can spread up the total work sets across 2-3 leg focused training sessions, in which you can perform 5-6 total sets of quadriceps and 5-6 total sets of hamstrings per session.
By training less total sets per session (as compared to doing it all in one session), you also allow yourself to potentially move more weight, with more control and focus on the muscle stretch and contraction, and not have as severe muscle soreness and injury risks as training muscles once per week.
Need a workout program? Get 3 free workouts on Fitbod right now.
6. Train More Volume
During a bulking phase, training more frequently and in higher volumes (total sets) is key. Because you are in a caloric surplus and in a well-fed state, you are often able to train in higher volumes (total weekly sets) and still recover.
Understanding the training volume ranges that are effective for you is important. You can do this by training between the 12-20 total weekly sets range and monitoring recovery, soreness, and progression in the gym.
Generally speaking, start a program in the lower end of the range, and progress the total volumes over the course of the month. There is an upper limit for training volumes, so be sure to track your progress and recovery, and focus on effective work sets, not just endless volume.
Using an app like Fitbod can help you manage the exact training volume that you should be doing. Fitbod keeps a history of your logged workouts and will automatically program your volume prescriptions as you progress.
Related Article: The Best Bulking Back Workouts: 8 Must-Do Exercises
7. Train a Variety of Rep Ranges
Research suggests you can grow muscle with most rep ranges, however when trying to train frequently, and in high volumes, rep ranges work best to balance out the volume, training intensity, and recovery needs.
For most lifters, training movements in the 8-15 rep range will cover most bases for muscle growth.
When working with compound exercises like squats, bench press, and deadlifts, it is recommended to train in the 5-10 reps range. You can experiment with these ranges (5-10, 10-20, and 20-30) to see which works best to elicit a muscle fatigue (which is different from systemic tiredness or fatigue) response.
Related Article: Foods to Avoid When Building Muscle
8. Train Closer or To Complete Muscle Failure
When training for muscle growth, it is important to train with intensity to push the muscles to near failure.
I recommend taking every set to near failure, which means leaving 1-2 perfect reps (not reps where you form breaks down, but you can still “complete” them) in the tank.
When you train to near muscle failure, that is a different place than training to complete failure. Make sure to push sets hard, but at no point should you lose focus on technique.
Related Article: Female Bulking Workout Plan (Complete Guide)
9. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is key for recovery and muscle growth.
As cliche as it may sound, getting at least 7-8 hours or more of sleep can make a big difference in recovery of the nervous system, adrenals, and muscles.
Additionally, getting enough sleep can also improve hormone production, such as growth hormone, which can boost muscle growth and improve fat loss and metabolism.
10. Track Your Weight Gain
When bulking, it is important to track your rate of weight gain to make sure you are gaining weight at a rate that maximizes muscle growth yet minimizes excessive fat gain.
Shoot to gain .5lbs to 1lbs per week for most lifters, as anything faster than that could lead to gaining more fat than necessary during abilk.
For larger individuals, 1-2lbs per week may be acceptable. It is important to remember (as discussed above) that the body creates muscle oly so fast, so gaining weight faster than that may mean the weight you are gaining is excessive body fat.
Gaining muscle during a bulk is a great way to improve long term muscle growth and strength gain.
When looking to bulk up fast, it is also important to understand the rate of gain at which your body can achieve, as gaining too much weight too fast could result in excessive bodyfat gain.
Use the tips above to help maximize you next muscle building phase and learn to bulk up as fast as possible.
About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.