Next Level Training: Bulk Up!

  What guy goes to the gym day in and day out and doesn’t want to bulk up?  The technical term for bulking up is muscle hypertrophy.  Muscle hypertrophy is when your muscles cells get thicker.  The best way to cause muscle hypertrophy is to put pressure on your muscles with extra weight so that […]


What guy goes to the gym day in and day out and doesn’t want

to bulk up?  The technical term for

bulking up is muscle hypertrophy.  Muscle

hypertrophy is when your muscles cells get thicker.  The best way to cause muscle hypertrophy is to

put pressure on your muscles with extra weight so that they grow. 


“Well, I keep lifting heavy weights but I don’t think I’m

getting bigger, what’s the deal?”  There

are many other factors that come into play with muscle hypertrophy besides just

lifting heavy weights, and we have laid them out with the most common mistakes

people make.


What are you eating to bulk up?


When it comes to your diet, it can sometimes

be difficult to force yourself to eat more, but I recommend trying to eat an extra

300-500 calories a day to bulk up. You can do this by adding a little more food

to each of your regular meals, or snacking more often. Eat higher calorie food

and add more complex carbohydrates to your diet; such as grains and beans. The

complex carbohydrates will assist by giving you more energy for your more

intense workouts.  Brown rice, whole

wheat, and oats contain great sources of complex carbohydrates.


High quality protein, which the body breaks down into amino acids, should be

the center point of all your meals. Intense exercise increases demand for amino

acids, which support muscle repair and growth. When you train to bulk up, make sure you’re getting between 1 and 1.5 times your body weight (if you

are overweight, then substitute your target body weight) in grams of protein.

For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be eating between 150 and 225

grams of protein per day if you want to consistently gain muscle.


Mistake 1- Eating too much:  If

you consume too much food, those extra calories will be stored as fat and make

you feel too sluggish, and taking away from your workouts.  Divide your meals in

well balanced proportions so you are able to do your workouts with a lot more

energy.  I have often heard that the best

food to eat when attempting to bulk up is a lot of meat.  False! The best way to get your protein

source is an egg.


The whole eggs have all the

nutrients and amino acids you need to achieve greater muscle mass. You are

better off eating two to three whole eggs with six egg whites to have better

protein gains.  This will give you the

energy you will need to keep pushing in the weight room. 

Bulking up Meal Plan example:

Meal 1:  3 eggs (two of them white only)

Meal 2:  6 oz. can of Tuna

Meal 3:  1 scoop protein shake and 2 rice cakes

Meal 4:  1000 mg of Flaxseed oil 

Meal 5:  6 oz. Steak and salad


Protein shake low fat, low carb, with at

least 23grams of protein per scoop, sugars low like three grams or lower. GNC have

samples so takes some home before you buy one, because there are some really

gross kinds of protein shakes. It should be whey protein.


Mistake 2 – Not

drinking enough water:  If you want a simple, easy and highly effective way to

maximize your muscle gains, drinking more water is it. Water plays so many

vital roles in the body and its importance cannot be overstated. In fact, your

muscles alone are made up of 70-75% water! 

Not only will drinking more water cause your muscles to appear fuller and more

vascular, but it will also increase your strength as well. Research has shown

that merely a 3-4% drop in your body’s water levels can impact muscle

contractions by 10-20%!

Aim to consume 0.6 ounces for every pound of bodyweight each day for optimal



How do you lift to

bulk up?


Your body grows due to additional pressure put on it, so you

have to increase the weight that you lift in the gym.  Do not and I repeat do not increase the

weight to the point where you sacrifice your form in the exercise.  That is a mistake a lot of weight lifters

make and all that does is cause an injury and slow your progress down in the

gym.  If however you put large enough

demands on your body to grow (with proper form), it will trigger an adaptive response which will force your

body to gain weight. 

This can be accomplished by training for strength first and reducing the

amount of reps you do to 4-6.


Mistake 3 – Too much cardio: Decrease

your cardio!  You cannot play three hours

of pick up basketball or run five miles a day and expect to gain muscle

mass.  Cardio burns off calories, and if

you burn off more calories than you consume, don’t expect to gain any muscle

mass or weight. 


Free weights are your weight of choice when attempting to

bulk up. In my gym I would see this very skinny guy doing his bench press,

incline press and every other power lift you can think of on a smith machine,

he said he did this because he didn’t have a spot. Let me state this very

clearly: the smith machine is not a machine to be used for gaining muscle mass.

These machines are very stationary, and only promote movement of your body

parts one way only. They also do not place the joints in the proper place

either. Only proper form makes you use the muscles at the right areas, not the

machines. More then 90% of all machines do not make you use your stabilizer

muscles and that’s very important in order to start improving on your muscle



“What type of lifts should I do in the gym?”  Free

weighted exercises like Squats, Dead Lifts, Bench Presses, and Push Presses are

exercises you would really want to get accustomed to first so that way you will

not have such a hard time learning proper form and gaining muscle mass in the



Bulking up weight

lifting routine example 


Bench Press – 3 sets 4-6 reps

Fly’s – 3 sets 4-6 reps



Wide Grip Pull-downs – 3 sets 4-8 reps

One Arm Dumbbell Row – 3 sets 4-8 reps



Incline Dumbbell Press – 3 sets 4-6 reps

Lateral Raise – 3 sets 4-6 reps


Dumbbell Curls – 4 sets 4-6 reps



Dips – 3 sets 4-6 reps

Overhead Triceps extension – 4 sets 4-6 reps



4  – Not stretching enough: Another way surprisingly to

increase muscle mass is to stretch regularly, this means before, after, and

during every workout.  If you do this,

you will actually increase your flexibility and give your muscles more room to

contract and add mass.  If you lift

weights and lose flexibility it is only because you do not take stretching




5 – Not sleeping enough: After you

spend an hour working your muscles out at the gym and “Water glistening all over

yo body!” (real Martin Lawrence fans get that) you should also be aware that

your body needs substantial “recovery time” from the workout. This

“recovery time” is approximately 8 hours of sleep each night and that

is each and every night not 10 hours tonight and six tomorrow, because that

does not work. Your body needs adequate sleep every night, because rest cannot

be stored and saved for later, it is something you must engage in every night.


In conclusion, if you really want to bulk up and get some

really big muscle you have to eat more meals, do less cardiovascular

activities, lift heavy weights, and get a good night’s sleep.  Bulking up is not something that you can do

over night or in a week, so take your time, and monitor your progress. 


Siddiqu Muhammad is an

ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified personal trainer and a NFPT

(National Federation of Personal Trainer) certified personal trainer and a

Division 1 Athletic Strength and Conditioning coach.  To view more of

Chicago Fit 4 Life’s training philosophy visit