The last couple of months have been a totally new experience for me in terms of how I’ve focused my training and diet. I’ve spent most of the last 2 years planning my workouts and food around the aim of getting more toned and trying to get into what I guess I would describe as ‘great shape’! It hasn’t been an easy road but with some hard work and commitment I managed to achieve my goals, which culminated in a 10 week plan to get as shredded as possible. You can see the results of that plan here.
But now I’m turning that plan on its head.
Instead of focusing on getting lean and popping those abs, I’m now gearing my fitness regime around the aim of building more muscle, increasing size and upping my calorie intake in a big way. Or as it’s often known ‘bulking’. Ok so I’ll admit that ‘necessary evil’ is a bit of an exaggeration – but this is the first time I’ve ever tried to do this in a serious way and it’s amazing what a change in mindset it requires. When you’ve focused so long on trying to get ripped, to be deliberately trying to gain weight (along with the unavoidable increase in body fat) requires a big change in mindset and you have to try to readjust your expectations about your own body image. You can’t get frustrated because those hard-fought abs are fading. Instead you’ve got to recognise that it’s all part of a long-term game plan. As the saying goes ‘summer bodies are made in winter’. It’s all about building now for the benefits you’ll see later in terms of overall strength, fitness and physique.
One of the big misunderstandings people have about building a great physique is that you can build muscle and get really lean at the same time. It’s just not really possible. Yes you can build a bit of muscle gradually but the reality is that muscle growth comes by feeding your body and if you want to get bigger, you need to feed it more. 15-20% more. And all those extra carbs and fats come with a price. I used to fall into just that misguided trap – I’d keep going to the gym, eating what I thought was healthy food (but was really just low-fat) and expect to see gains which never came.
On my current nutrition plan I’m eating about 20% more calories that my normal daily amount. Protein is roughly 2.2g per kg of body weight with carbs and fats making up the balance. My workouts haven’t changed a huge amount but we generally do lots of supersets with a focus on heavier weights and lower reps. I’m going to continue this plan for about 7 weeks, aiming to gain 500g of bodyweight per week. Cardio is pretty minimal with about 1 run a week as I don’t want to lose any of the gains I’ve made (although my workouts are pretty intense anyway and help to keep body fat lower).
Then after 7 weeks. I’ll change to the ‘cutting’ phase for another 7-8 weeks. That means cutting back the calories, doing lots of HIIT and shredding back the fat to reveal a better physique underneath.
So you got into shape and then threw it all away?!
Err…yeah kind of! Whilst it might seem a bit weird, I think fitness, ‘bodybuilding’, getting lean or whatever you want to call it is about more than looking great for one photo that you stick on Instagram. It’s about pushing yourself, enjoying what you’re doing and achieving new goals. That could be aiming for a new personal best on a 10k run or getting stronger at doing squats. I go to the gym because I enjoy pushing myself and seeing what I can achieve and that’s why I’m bulking up and getting lean all over again!
Wish me luck!