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To Bulk or To CutThe term "bulk" has historically been used to describe a state of muscle mass gain while consuming excess amounts of calories (most of the time any type of food also) and gaining a bit of body fat in the process. This time is fittingly practiced in the fall and winter months when gym-goers are appropriately covered under baggy sweats to hide their smooth, puffy physiques underneath. This is a time to get as big and strong as possible without any worry of maintaining a six-pack.
The term "cut" traditionally denotes a time of calorie restriction, high-tempo training and the goal of burning as much body fat as possible. Muscular, shredded, peeled and cut become interchangeable terms to describe the ultimate physique you want displayed in time for beach season. The thoughts of gaining significant amounts of muscle mass and strength take a backseat to getting in the type of shape you're after.
Normally, as summer approaches, many will shift toward the "cut" phase of diet and training so they can display a physique to be proud of. Melting off body fat and increasing training tempo becomes the new normal. But what if you could grow into the summer? Add muscle while burning fat.
This isn't a trick or some cheap gimmick to get you to believe. By cleaning up your diet and adopting a bulking mindset towards training virtually anyone can get bigger and more shredded as the days get hotter and longer.
Mass Gain Guidelines
Now, as with any plan (especially this one) some guidelines will have to be adhered to rather strictly. Below is a cheat sheet to help you start to structure the right plan.
Continue to lift in the hypertrophy rep rangeShifting to a higher rep range in hopes to burn off fat is a misnomer. Many gym-goers use this as an excuse to go lighter and not train with enough intensity. Stay in the hypertrophy (muscle size) sweet spot of six to 12 reps per set for most body parts. Of course you can go a bit higher for lower body if needed but ultra-high reps of 25, 30 and beyond will do little for sustainable muscle size increases.
Keep training to muscular failureThis goes right along with the last point. Stopping sets short of failure puts your progress in neutral. You must give it a reason to change to shift its metabolism in high gear as it uses more and more fuel for muscle gain instead of fat storage. Now, this isn't a green light to use every single intensity technique invented use those purposely and sparingly, but do practice intensity safely and effectively.
Clean up your trainingWith all this said about rep ranges and failure you next need to do some spring cleaning with your training. Do you perform too many isolation and other specific exercises that you could live without? Single arm cable curls and press-downs, for example, aren't all that effective in the big picture. Drop them and focus on the bigger, multi-joint lifts that train the most muscle with each set.
Clean up your dietAs with training so it goes for your diet as well. Clean out the junk and be sure you are getting in the "cleaner" foods. Little-to-no processed foods allowed. Normally, carbs are the big challenge here. Stick with rice, potatoes and oats for energy sources, fish, chicken, eggs and whey and casein supplements for protein and avocado, nuts and oil dressings for healthy fats. The less junk you eat the more that healthy food goes toward building lean muscle.
Stay consistentThe most important factor is that you must stay absolutely consistent. You can't go half way here. You must practice these habits day-in and day-out to see any progress at all. Some weeks you'll feel unstoppable while others will have you questioning your decisions. The important thing to keep in mind is that no matter if you are currently ebbing or flowing to stay the course. In the end you will get to your intended goal.
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Weapons of Mass ConstructionHere's a quick list of what you may want to include in your summer mass gainer plan.
- Chest: Barbell and dumbbell incline, flat and decline bench presses, dumbbell and machine flys, Hammer Strength machine presses and dips.
- Back: Barbell, T-bar, pulley and dumbbell rows, close, reverse and wide-grip pull-ups, deadlifts, Hammer Strength machine rows and pull-downs and inverted rows.
- Shoulders: Barbell and dumbbell presses, dumbbell and barbell upright rows, side and bent-over dumbbell lateral raises, Hammer Strength machine presses and barbell and dumbbell shrugs.
- Biceps: Barbell and dumbbell curls, incline bench curls, preacher and spider curls, reverse curls and hammer curls.
- Triceps: Close-grip bench presses, dips, cable press-downs, lying and overhead barbell extensions and diamond push-ups.
- Quadriceps: Barbell back and front squats, split squats, hack squats, leg presses, leg extensions, lunges and step-ups.
- Hamstrings: Barbell and dumbbell Romanian deadlifts, lying, standing and seated leg curls and glute-ham raise.
- Calves: Standing and seated calf raises, leg press calf raises and single-leg calf raises.
What to do after the programYou will find the 8-week summer mass gainer program below, but many will ask what to do after the eight weeks are up. You will have two main options depending on your individual goals and progress.
If you progressed on the program nicely and enjoyed the workouts then by all means take a few days of low intensity or complete rest and continue the program for another eight weeks. If you progressed on the program and want to shift gears and try another program for its own uniqueness then go for it.
Whichever you choose be sure to give it the same focus, attention and intensity as you did the first eight weeks.
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The 8-Week Summer Mass Gainer ProgramThe following program will be performed four days per week such as Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesday and the weekend off from lifting. You may use those other days for structured or recreational cardio exercise or other physical activity.
Each training day is alternated with supersets and straight sets. Feel free to adjust exercises where necessary and always adhere to a general and specific warm-up before each session.
|8 Week Mass Gainer|
|Incline bench barbell press - Warm-up sets||2||12|
|Incline bench barbell press - 60 to 90 seconds rest between sets||4||6-12|
|Flat bench dumbbell press - 60 seconds rest between sets||4||6-12|
|Reverse-grip pull-up - Warm-up on lat pull-down machine||2||12|
|Reverse-grip pull-up - 60 to 90 seconds rest between sets||4||AMAP|
|Bent-over barbell row - 60 seconds rest between sets||4||6-12|
|Wide-grip barbell upright row - 60 seconds rest between sets||4||6-12|
|Seated dumbbell shoulder press - 60 seconds rest between sets||4||6-12|
|Hanging leg raise - 30 seconds rest between sets||4||20|
|8 Week Mass Gainer|
|Superset: Barbell curl with cable press-down - Warm-up sets||2||12|
|Superset: Barbell curl with cable press-down - 60 seconds rest after each superset||3||6-12|
|Superset: Incline dumbbell curl with dip - 60 seconds rest after each superset||3||6-12|
|Superset: Standing calf raise with single-leg calf raise - Warm-up sets||1||12|
|Superset: Standing calf raise with single-leg calf raise - 60 seconds rest after each superset||3||8-12|
|Superset: Leg press with dumbbell Romanian deadlift - Warm-up sets||2||12|
|Superset: Leg press with dumbbell Romanian deadlift - 60 seconds rest after each superset||3||8-12|
|Superset: Barbell front squat with dumbbell lunge - 60 seconds rest after each superset||3||8-12|
|Superset: Leg extension with seated leg curl - 60 seconds rest after each superset||3||8-12|
|8 Week Mass Gainer|
|Superset: Flat bench barbell press with wide-grip pull-up - Warm-up sets||2||12|
|Superset: Flat bench barbell press with wide-grip pull-up - 60 after each superset||3||6-12|
|Superset: Incline bench dumbbell press with bent-over dumbbell row - 60 after each superset||3||6-12|
|Superset: Machine fly with Hammer Strength row machine - 60 after each superset||3||6-12|
|Superset: Seated dumbbell side lateral raise with front plate raise - 60 after each superset||3||6-12|
|Superset: Bent-over dumbbell lateral raise with dumbbell shrug - 60 after each superset||3||6-12|
|Superset: Lying leg raise with floor crunch - 60 after each superset||3||20|
|8 Week Mass Gainer|
|Standing dumbbell curl - Warm up sets||2||12|
|Standing dumbbell curl - 60 seconds rest between sets||4||6-12|
|Close-grip bench press - Warm up sets||2||12|
|Close-grip bench press - 60 seconds rest between sets||4||6-12|
|Seated calf raise - Warm up sets||1||12|
|Seated calf raise - 30 seconds rest between sets||4||8-12|
|Barbell back squat - Warm up sets||2||12|
|Barbell back squat - 60-90 seconds rest between sets||4||8-12|
|Single-leg split squat - 60 seconds rest between sets||3||8-12|
|Lying leg curl - 60 seconds rest between sets||3||8-12|
|Barbell Romanian deadlift - 60 seconds rest between sets||3||8-12|