Dead Lift

Big Picture Gains

he process of ‘Bulk and Cut’ is one that causes a lot of debate in the locker room. Some believe it’s better to pile on a lot of size then cut over a long period, others believe in shorter cycles and staying relatively lean all the time.

Which of these method is right though? Well, the way I see it is both are … it all depends on the person.

For competitive bodybuilders the big off season can be invaluable. It’s about bringing their best one one day. However, for someone who wants to live their day by day life looking and feeling good a slower, bigger picture approach may be more appropriate.

As a health and fitness enthusiast and ambassador I take pride in staying in shape. For me it’s important to hold a good looking physique year round while remaining the picture of health. Ultimately I train to feel and look good. I’m a big fan of the lean look so big off seasons of looking soft and round don’t really appeal to me.

For these reasons I have a simple and sustainable approach to gaining size and progressing as an athlete. The system isn’t fast, requires good discipline and is a lot of hard work but it leave you feeling great, looking great and allows you to better yourself year after year.

I start by getting into peak condition (very lean). Take my bodyweight and measurements etc and record. I then try to gain about 10% bodyweight at a sustainable rate (taking photoshoots and events into consideration) but usually over 8-10 weeks or so. At this weight i’ll be my fullest and strongest but still holding low levels of body fat. From here I reverse the system and cut back down to my peak. The aim is to be about 2-3% heavier than last time I was at my peak.

Now, I know these seem like small numbers but it’s not all about this year … it’s not even all about next … but think over 10 years! You could be 25% bigger with insane condition. For me I started at 75kg, then I did 76kg this time I bought just over 77.5kg, next time I want to bring 80kg. By the time I’m 30 I want to bring about 88kg of shred and I don’t want to have looked soft or out of shape once along the way. If I get called out of the blue for a photoshoot I want to know i’m ready at the drop of a hat.

This is the way I tend to look at it:

  1. Skinny and fat – skinny muscles surrounded by fat
  2. Fat – some muscle surrounded by fat
  3. Smooth – no visible separation between muscle groups but not a lot of fat
  4. Hard – starting to see distinctions between muscle groups with less body fat
  5. Defined – All muscle groups clearly stand out (cut)
  6. High Def or striated – major separations within muscle groups, vascularity (ripped)
  7. Extremely striated – cross striations appear within separations in each muscle group

For peak condition level 7 is the goal, it comes with caution though. Level 7 is like climbing Everest, you may reach the top but it’s not wise (or healthy to stay there). You have to put your body through hell to get there.

While gaining many people ‘bulk’ tend to drop down to about a visual level 3 (or even level 2 i’m sorry to say). Good, competitive bodybuilders usually manage to stay around the level 4 mark but will sometimes drop into level 3. For a 365 physique enthusiast like myself I like to try and hold level 5 and will rarely drop into level 4.

Essentially, I believe in a 2 steps forward 1 step back approach as opposed to a 10 steps forward 8 steps back approach. I’m not by any means saying this is for everyone, if you look at my fellow TeamON athletes such as Jamie Do Rego he will take a big off season but look at the form he brings to the stage. When it comes to gaining size each individual needs to sit down at the start and consider what it is they ultimately want to achieve. Only once they’ve thought this through at length should they develop plan, strategy and approach.

Ultimately – do what’s right for you, not just what the meat head at the gym told you to do.

Photo Credit: Bailey Image

  1. Jake cooper

    I’m looking to bulk up to about 90kg from 82, but hoping to stay as lean as possible. I’m at about 7/8% body fat and I’m not wanting to go above 11 percent. How much of a calorie surplus would you recommend?

    • BrynRayFitness

      Hey – really depends on how you train and what you’re diet has been like. I’d usually say 500kcal excess a day but if you’re looking to do it steady but keep gaining i’d recommend working with a prep coach. That way they can monitor and adjust accordingly.

  2. John Lewis

    This article is awesome.

    I’ve never really thought about the 2 variation of athlete, and always believed in gain then cut. But after reading this I’m more inclined to be the same as you, maintaining a lean look all year round.

    Im not professional and only train for me, so I seriously need to re-think my training schedules.

    Cheers.

  3. so you cycle between being in a surplus which you stated 7-10 weeks and cutting. How long do you usually cut for after being in a 7-10 week surplus if you weren’t to have any photo shoots or events coming up? thinking of adopting this method if you could get back in touch, thanks mate

    • BrynRayFitness

      Hi – It all depends on where I get to but I aim to loose about 1% my bodyweight per week. An easy way to do it is measure your body fat, gain, then come back to that bodyfat but heavier.

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