How To Bulk Up Fast: 10 Tips For Maximizing Muscle Growth

how to bulk up fast

Gaining muscle efficiently is a common struggle in the fitness world. Despite rigorous efforts, many fail to see the muscle growth they aim for, which can be frustrating.

The disappointment of investing time and effort in the gym without seeing significant muscle gains is disheartening. This is compounded by the overwhelming and often contradictory fitness advice available.

This guide gives you a streamlined approach to bulking, focusing on crucial aspects like caloric balance, protein and carb intake, and training intensity.

Key Takeaways

  • Muscle can only grow so fast, and a proper bulk takes time and consistency (the opposite of fast), especially if you want to prioritize lean muscle over fat gain. 
  • 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.
  • You should gain anywhere from 0.5 to 2 pounds per week, depending on your body composition.

10 Ways to Maximize the Muscle-Building Process During a Bulk

ways to maximize the muscle-building process during a bulk

Here are 10 tips for maximizing muscle growth during the bulk.

1. Start Your Bulk from a Lean State

Ideally, start your bulk from a lean state. Your body fat levels should be near 10% or less for males and 16% or less for females.  

These body fat percentages are not set in stone. However, the leaner you are when you start a bulk, the more your body will begin using the net calories to fuel hard training, recovery, and muscle growth. 

With Fitbod, in addition to getting stronger, users most commonly select building muscle and gaining weight as their fitness goals. We built our body composition feature to enable users to track their muscle gains and align their body composition with workouts done in the Fitbod app.

Get the Fitbod app here to track your body composition progress along with your workouts!

2. Progressively Eat More Calories

To gain muscle and weight during a bulk, 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. 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 go about adding calories. However, this can affect the makeup of your weight (and how fast you gain weight). 

Aim to eat at a rate that allows for maximal muscle growth but does not allow excessive body fat to gain during the bulk. 

You will gain some body fat. However, gaining excessive amounts will not help you gain more muscle. It may make your body more apt to prioritize fat gain over 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 monitor your rate of weight gain and maximize your muscle growth to fat gain ratio.

3. Eat Enough Protein

It’s important to eat enough protein to support muscle recovery and growth. Aim to consume 0.8-2.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight during your bulk. 

Eating less protein could result in decreased muscle growth and recovery. If you eat more protein than the recommended amount, replace the excess with more carbohydrates. They’re the preferred fuel source for your muscles.

4. Prioritize More Carbs to Fuel Hard Training

The brain, muscles, and body can function from fats and protein for energy. However, carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for muscle tissue to allow for high-intensity weight training (the type of training you must do to maximize muscle growth). 

Start by consuming 2-3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight, and increase this macronutrient if needed to match increases in overall calorie intake. 

When you eat more food to gain weight, choose more carb sources like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, grains, etc.

5. Train More Frequently

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 want 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. 

If you train your legs only once per week, you need to do 35-40 total sets in one session. This is excessive and results in doing a ton of reps that are low stimulus and low load and produce a lot of fatigue and stress to the body.

By training more frequently, you spread 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 doing fewer 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 muscle stretch and contraction. You won’t have as severe muscle soreness and injury risks as training muscles once per week.

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6. Train with More Volume

Training more frequently and in higher volumes (total sets) is key during a bulking phase. Because you are in a caloric surplus and a well-fed state, you can often train in higher volumes (total weekly sets) and still recover. 

Understanding the training volume ranges that are effective for you is important. To figure out your range, do between 12-20 weekly sets and monitor your recovery, soreness, and progression in the gym. 

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 your exact training volume. Fitbod keeps a history of your logged workouts and automatically programs your volume prescriptions as you progress. 

Related Article: The Best Bulking Back Workouts: 8 Must-Do Exercises

7. Do a Variety of Rep Ranges

Research suggests you can grow muscle with most rep ranges. However, when training frequently in high volumes, it’s best to balance out the volume, training intensity, and recovery needs.

For most lifters, doing movements in the 8-15 rep range will cover most bases for muscle growth. 

When working with compound exercises like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts, training in the 5-10 reps range is recommended. You can experiment with these ranges (5-10, 10-20, and 20-30) to see which works best to elicit muscle fatigue (which differs from systemic tiredness or fatigue).

8. Train Closer or To Complete Muscle Failure

It’s important to train with intensity to push the muscles to near failure when training for muscle growth. 

Take every set to near failure, leaving 1-2 perfect reps (not reps where your form breaks down, but you can still “complete” them) in the tank. 

When you train to near muscle failure, it’s a different place than training to complete failure. Be sure to push sets hard, but don’t lose focus on technique.

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 the recovery of the nervous system, adrenals, and muscles. 

Getting enough sleep can also improve hormone production, such as growth hormone, boosting muscle growth and improving fat loss and metabolism.

Registered Dietitian, Juliana Taymayo, advises:

“One final mistake that many people make that diminishes their chances at building muscle is lack of rest. Appropriate sleep and rest from working out are essential in allowing your muscles to rest and grow. Give yourself a couple of days a week to rest from strenuous physical activity so your body can truly see the benefits of your diet and lifestyle changes. Adequate sleep every night will also help, getting between 7-8 hours a day is a good way to ensure that your body doesn’t experience fatigue.”

10. Track Your Weight Gain

When bulking, it’s important to track your rate of weight gain to ensure you gain weight at a rate that maximizes muscle growth yet minimizes excessive fat gain. 

Aim to gain 0.5lbs to 1lbs per week, as anything faster could lead to gaining more fat than necessary.

For larger individuals, 1-2lbs per week may be acceptable. It’s important to remember the body creates muscle only so fast, so gaining weight quickly could mean you’re putting on excessive body fat.

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.

Muscles can only grow so fast. If you eat more calories than the body needs (at the max rate it can), it will store any excessive calories as fat. 

In doing so, you could make the cutting process significantly more difficult and shorten the time you could stay in a bulking process (maximizing muscle growth takes time).

How Fast Should You Gain Weight in a Bulk?

how fast should you gain weight in a bulk

Beginners and leaner individuals who have difficulty gaining weight should aim to gain anywhere between 0.5-1 lbs per week. Heavier individuals may be able to gain 1-2lbs per week, especially if they can gain weight easier than others. 

By tracking your weekly weight gain, you can ensure you eat enough calories to hit those ranges. You can also monitor your rate of weight gain to ensure you don’t gain too much weight too fast. Gaining too much could impair optimal muscle growth and increase the amount of fat you gain during a bulk.

Mistakes to Avoid During a Bulk

While we’ve provided plenty of advice and tips to follow while you’re trying to maximize muscle growth, there are also some mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

Overdoing Cardio Workouts

It can be tempting to hop on the treadmill to get a good run in when you hit the gym. But sweating too much could do more harm than good.

Daniel Castillo, Licensed Personal Trainer and Founder of advises against doing too much cardio exercise:

“Minimize heavy amounts of cardio. When you run, you burn calories, which will result in your needing to eat more calories if you burn too many. So limit your cardio if you don’t want to have to eat more. Go for light walks.”

Not Planning Meals Ahead of Time

If you aren’t accustomed to meal planning and prepping, now is the time to get on board with it.

Castillo also explains:

“With the high amount of calories you have to eat to gain weight, it helps a ton to plan what you’re going to eat either the night before or the morning before you start your day. This way, you can make sure you’re hitting your daily calorie goals without having to think so much about what to eat next.”

Not Varying Up Your Workouts

Once you get into a routine, it can be tempting to do the same exercises repeatedly. After all, humans are creatures of habit. However, doing so could halt your progress.

Deniz Efe, Founder of Fitness Equipped, advises:

“Change your workout routine every few weeks to target different muscle groups and prevent plateaus.”

With the Fitbod app, boring, repetitive workouts are a thing of the past. Each workout is customized using exercise science to build upon your progress to optimize and maximize your results.

About The Author

Mike Dewar

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.