Most people looking to get into better shape will at some point be exposed to the traditional methods of bulking and cutting. After all, it is the most widely adopted principle to packing on muscle and getting bigger. However, there’s a good deal of scientific evidence that traditional bulking and cutting may actually lead to diminishing muscle gains and increased fat gain over time. The two main reasons why this type of approach to building a more swole physique is not ideal; the metabolic adaption and hormonal response your body has.
It’s why you’re seeing a shift of view on traditional bulking and cutting by many of today’s top bodybuilders. Top bodybuilders and fitness experts like Ben Pakulski and Vince DelMonte are recommending a relatively new technique called cyclical bulking.
What is Cyclical Bulking ?
Cyclical bulking is essentially very similar to the traditional bulking and cutting approach. The exception is that the periods between bulking and cutting are much shorter. It is a relatively new approach to building a bigger physique that allows you to bypass typical “plateaus” in the traditional bulking and cutting phases. This means that you can consistently build muscle and burn fat without the side effects of a traditional bulk.
And multiple studies prove it. In fact, one of the most popular studies on it was done in the 80’s by Forbes et al, “Hormonal Response to Overeating.” It concluded that when a group of adult women went from a maintenance caloric diet to a 1,200 to 1,500 calorie surplus diet for three weeks that blood tests showed significant and progressive increases in insulin, testosterone, and insulinlike growth factor 1 – three of the most important anabolic hormones. They also gained a significant amount of muscle weight.
What Are The Benefits Over Traditional Bulking and Cutting?
In traditional bulking, you’re faced with two major issues. When you bulk, you accumulate fat along with muscle. When you cut, you decrease muscle mass along with your fat storage. Clean bulking can help prevent the accumulation of fat. But it can only do so much. You will always lose some muscle with traditional cutting. There’s no way around it.
Cyclical bulking has neither of these problems. That’s what makes it much better than a traditional bulk and cut. When you incorporate cyclical bulking, you shorten your bulk and cut phases to a few weeks each at most. This prevents the dreaded plateau you would hit with traditional bulking and cutting. You essentially stay one step ahead of your body’s adaption to your diet.
Basically you’re reaping all the beginning benefits of a bulk and cut and you switch it up just before your body adapts to the change. Your anabolic hormones and metabolism will always be primed to do what you want most – burn fat and build muscle! This is a BIG deal because you no longer have to worry about adding fat on a bulk and losing muscle while on a cut.
How Do I Do Cyclical Bulking?
Once you understand the concept of cyclical bulking, it becomes easy to implement. The most common duration of a cyclical bulk is a 6 week bulk followed by a 2 week cut. So for example, your first cycle would look like this:
- 6 week bulk – 9 pounds gained
- 2 week cut – 4 pounds lost
- Net gain – 5 pounds
- 6 week bulk – 8 pounds gained
- 2 week cut – 3 pounds lost
- Net gain – 5 pounds
Total Gain: 10 pounds
Keep in mind this 10 pounds has a much higher ratio of muscle to fat than a traditional bulk would.
Scientifically speaking, during the bulking phase of a cyclical bulk, you’re going to increase the activity of calorie-burning hormones insulin and leptin to control the accumulation of fat. When cutting, these hormones are still elevated. Unlike in a traditional cut, which decreases your body fat levels quicker.
I recommend when doing your bulk to keep your calories 500-1000 above your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and around 500 under BMR during a cut.
The Bottom Line
It’s no wonder why cyclical bulking is gaining popularity since the results speak for themselves.
In my personal experience, I first started out with the traditional bulking and cutting methods. I was a “skinny-fat” ectomorph (tall and lanky physique). I was around 170 pounds at 6’2″ when I started a bulk at around 20% body fat. I ended up at about 215 pounds at the end of my bulk and had the same body fat percentage. That means I accumulated ~9 pounds of fat during my bulk. During my cut, I slimmed down to about 190 and lost a few pounds of muscle despite an aggressive diet and strict workout plan. Like most people, I plateaued during my cut and had to increase the intensity and amount of times I worked out each week along with an even more strict diet.
I ended up getting in noticeably better shape, but it felt like it wasn’t the most efficient way to reach my goals. I knew I’d need to do the whole bulk/cut phases a few more times to see great results.
When trying my first cyclical bulking cycle, I followed a 6/2 week approach. At the end of the cycle, I noticed I lowered my body fat AND increased my muscle size. My pump was a lot more detailed while working out too. After trying both the traditional bulking/cutting and cyclical bulking, I will be doing cyclical bulking primarily. It just makes more sense and is proven to be more effective.
What are your thoughts on cyclical bulking?