Posted by on Nov 28, 2014

Adam Duggan is a coach and writer living in Tennessee. Keep an eye out for his upcoming Fitocracy Team Fitness class! This post was originally published on his website, The Aesthetic Build, which is dedicated to the pursuit of the “aesthetic” physique: a physique that is strong, well developed, in proportion, and healthy.

Everyone wants to look good at the beach. Everyone wants abs. Everyone (especially dudes) wants big arms, a full chest, round shoulders, and diamonds for traps.

What about strength?

Most guys want a big bench press. They want to be able to pull heavy weight from the floor. Nothing is more impressive than a heavy strict overhead press. That’s legit. No question.

Just about every guy wants to be strong and jacked.

So why aren’t they?

Why do most of us look the same year after year? Why does beach season always end with, “Next year will be my year.”

The answer is simple, straightforward, and may be the single biggest thing holding you back from the body you want.

Muscle mass and Strength

Most guys simply do not carry enough muscle mass to look good when they lean out.

Most guys don’t spend enough time “building” and spend way too much time “losing”.

They never put in the time (and food) to build an appreciable amount of muscle mass. Unfortunately, they don’t realize until they’ve dieted long and hard that they just don’t carry enough muscle to look good “lean”.

Along with this, the constant quest to get “abs” lean keeps them from every being able to build the amount of strength required to move big weight and, in turn, build big muscle.

It’s a never-ending cycle that keeps guys skinny, weak, and frustrated.

Why Most Guys Don’t Like Bulking


I find this ironic because bulking is way more fun, in my opinion, than “dieting” will ever be.

Not only do you get to eat more food, but because of the increased caloric intake, will be setting new PR’s in the weight room on a regular basis.

Truth be told, though most would deny this, guys are scared of getting fat. They have been made to believe that gaining muscle MUST require gaining significant amounts of bodyfat. Fortunately, with a good nutrition and training program, fat gain can be held at a reasonable level and “bulking” can set you up for your best body ever.

Staples of a Successful Season of Gainz:

1) Choose an appropriate time of year

Let’s take a page from old school body building dieting and talk about the best time to add size.

Traditionally, bodybuilders “bulk” in the winter and “cut” in the summer.

There are two very smart reasons for this schedule and why I recommend it for your bulk.

Number one, typically high level body building competitions take place in summer and early fall. For this reason, bodybuilders need to be lean during those months, so their training and diet reflect this.

During the winter months the competitions slow down and body builders take advantage of this. They understand that some fat gain will accompany any appreciable muscle gain due to an increase in calories, therefore they use the non-competition season to add muscle.

We can look at our competition season as “beach season.” We want to look good on the beach so we need to put in the time beforehand to ensure we have enough muscle that, when lean, still looks good. Winter time is our “off season.”

Relating to number one, wintertime provides another very nice advantage to gaining muscle. Sweaters. Long sleeves. Jackets.

While this may seem silly and slightly superficial, it is notable nonetheless.

During the winter months clothes tend to get bulky, not fitted, and as we’ve already stated, tend to stay on in public.

You don’t have to worry about the small amount of fat gain that will come with your new muscle and strength. If you do it correctly, you will look “bigger” without gaining a significant amount of bodyfat. Sweaters and jackets will show off your new size well.

Pro-Tip: Keep your sweaters “slim fit.” Sweaters won’t typically be “slim” in the way a vintage t-shirt will. They will still remain somewhat “bulky” by the very nature of the fabric. By keeping the sweaters slightly fitted, you’ll still be able to see you’re “muscled” and not “husky.” Big difference. Big, big difference.

2) Eat. More. Food.

Calories are required to build mass. There is no way around this. You will not gain size (unless you’re a complete newbie to lifting) without eating above your maintenance level of calories. Not thousands of calories above maintenance, but certainly some.

Pro-Tip: Eating 1000000 calories above maintenance does not mean 10000000x more muscle. There is a point of diminishing returns. Your body can only synthesize so much protein/food in general into new muscle. There is a sweet spot that typically falls between 250-1000 extra calories per day. This will take experimentation to find what’s right for you.

3) Lift. Big. Weight.

There are multiple ways to build muscle. I would argue the most efficient way is to progressively overload the muscle with more weight over time. You need to lift heavy and heavier over time. This is simple but is often neglected.

Of course, eating more food will provide more fuel to lift MORE weight. You can get stronger while trying to get lean. No question. However, no matter what anyone tells you, it’s easier with food.

Take advantage of of your increased calorie consumption to build massive amounts of new strength over the winter months during your bulk.

Keeping lifting focused on big, compound movements like the squat, bench, deadlift, and overhead press in the 1-3 rep range. Throw in some intermediate rep work in the 4-6 rep range to further push strength and muscle size. Finish off with some higher rep bodybuilding type accessory work and you’ve got yourself a good looking bulking strength programming.

You can periodize your training (focus on specific reps/sets/movements) for a month or two at a time. You can train 3 days per week in one month, 4 in the next, and then move on to a more “bro” bodypart split in the next. As long as you’re trying to lift heavier weight, you’re on the right track and keeping some movements similar so you have the ability to track strength progress over each month.

The Formula

I’ve created a very complicated equation to simplify the formula to a succsessful “Season of Gainz”…

Step 1: Winter + More Food = More fuel for lifting

Step 2: More fuel for lifting + Lifting heavier weight = More muscle mass

Therefore Winter = More muscle

So, I’m not a mathematician, but I think you get my point.

Set yourself up for your best beach season by laying your physique framework this winter.

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