We asked Titan Nutrition Athlete and contest prep coach Robert Wichman how he suggests going about a successful “bulking season.” Robert fired back five strategies to stick to for building quality mass in your off season, keeping you on track for the stage or beach next spring. Check out his 5 strategies here:
Don’t over eat
In the quest to add muscle in the off season, I see a lot of competitors eating calories way over what their bodies need, and can handle. This is typically a recipe for adding way to much body fat, which only slows down true muscle growth, from poorer blood flow, and nutrient delivery, to you muscles. This will only mean that you will have to diet harder, or longer, when it comes time to diet down for your next contest, or for summer, if you’re a non-competitor.
Increase calories slowly
Increasing calories slowly, in your off season is an important thing to do. If you find yourself adding in too many calories, too quickly, you are more than likely going to find that your body is storing many of those extra calories as body fat. By slowly increasing your calories, you’re going to allow your body to adjust to the increased calories, and use them to fuel muscle growth, and not just adding body fat. (chasing numbers on a scale) Keeping your metabolism running strong, is just as important in the off season, as it is during your contest prep, or leaning out phase, if you’re not interested in hitting the stage, but would still like to see a leaner physique.
Monitor body fat, and body composition levels
Keeping an eye on your body fat levels in the off season is a good idea, if you plan to keep yourself in what I like to call “Striking Distance”. Striking distance basically means, staying in a range where if you needed to, you could diet down with relative easy, by not needing to drop so much excess body fat. This will allow for a better show prep. You will not have to strip off as much body fat, and will not have to resort to extreme measures to pull off the necessary body fat by show time. You will also find that you are able to maintain more muscle during your prep, and find that you have a higher level of conditioning, that you may not have previously achieved. The method that I like to use for monitoring off season body composition, 1st and foremost, the mirror. The mirror is going to show you what you need to know. This is a visual sport, and touting arbitrary body fat numbers does not always translate to a stage winning physique. If you don’t see what needs to be seen, then it is not there. I do use the mirror in conjunction with body fat measurements, tape measurements, the scale, and photos (monthly in the off season). If you’re going to measure body fat, I find the Dexa scan to be the best, and most accurate method. You can also use calipers, and a bio-impedance (hand held, inbody, or scale that measures body fat)
Keep cheats to a minimum
While it is ok to have cheat meals in your off season. You want to make sure that you’re not undoing all your hard work, with too many diet deviations. We all want to be able to go out with friends, and go to family events, or dates with our significant other, and eat, or drink, as though we don’t have larger fitness, and physique goals. The way to still have a social life, and let loose from time to time, is to understand that cheats are the few, not the mainstay when it comes to your off season program. Make sure that you are planning your cheats around your clean eating, so that you don’t find yourself quickly sliding off track, from your nutritional goals. If you know that you’re going out on the weekend, make sure that you don’t load up your weekdays with unscheduled meals. I like to give my clients a set number of cheat meals per week, in their off season, and allow them to decide when they will implement them. Every body is different, so finding the right number of cheats that doesn’t throw you off your physique goals, is going to be dependent on how your body responds to your cheats
Have a plan
Having a plan in your off season is critical to being able to stay on track with your goals. If you approach your off season program all willy nilly, chances are, you’re not going to make much progress from show to show. I’m not saying that you need to be as strict as show prep, but you definitely need to have an organized plan with your nutrition, hydration, workouts, sleep, and supplementation. This is going to lead to systematic progress, and legitimate muscle gains leading into your next show. Think of it as creating a road map to where you want to go, and then you follow that map, until you reach your destination. If something comes up, that needs to be adjusted, you reroute, and keep your forward momentum towards your goal.
Lift Hard, and Train to Win!
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