Ask Jujimufu #5 – Bodybuilding bulks and cuts

June 14, 2014 Training

You ask Jujimufu, and Jujimufu responds. Here are some questions I get through the contact form on this website and directly through e-mail, and here are my responses for everybody to see!

Question from Traindom about Bodybuilding bulks and cuts:

Juji, do you follow the normal bulking and cutting scheme (bulk for a few weeks, then same with cut)? I’ve been trying to bulk and cut simultaneously (eat more on workout days and less on rest days, simple, but nice), but I notice it doesn’t lend itself well to bodybuilding schemes with workouts nearly everyday.

The way I learnt it works well for workouts every couple of days or at least with alternating workouts and rest days.

Are you still bound by the old bodybuilding scheme or are you just maintaining?

My answer:

Hello Traindom,

In regard to the the old, bodybuilding schemes of bulks and cuts, bulks and cuts have long been mistakenly taken out of the bodybuilding context by the growing population of hobbyist trainees like you and me. What we all think of as the old bodybuilding schemes of bulking and cutting aren’t even the old bodybuilding schemes of bulking and cutting at all. Even many bodybuilders confuse themselves with the whole bulking and cutting thing. This is why there are so many mixed opinions on bulking and cutting.

The real bulking and cutting schemes of bodybuilding go by different names, they are:

  • Cutting = Competition dieting
  • Bulking = Growing

Successful bodybuilders spend the entire year outside of their competition diet trying to grow. That means they are basically “bulking” all but the 12-16 weeks out of the year they are competition dieting. If they lose too much during their competition diet they try to regrow. In fact, a bodybuilder’s entire career is just a prolonged bulk with some dieting and occasional breaks for competition and body chemistry regulation.

So jumping outside the complete bodybuilding context, most people like you and me still want to grow some damn muscle. However, we do not like holding onto a little extra fat for large parts of the year like all successful bodybuilders do (even though that’s the most effective way to foster the long term anabolic environment necessary to build muscle at the capacity, and of the quality that these bodybuilders do). Besides that, we have other things we like to do, like tricking or other sports. Thus, we make a mistake when we remove the concept of the bulk from bodybuilding which it depends upon. Then we make another mistake when we shrink it into a 1-4 month time frame. For us, these miniaturized, terminal bulks are hit and miss because they are a distortion of an idea that derives its relevancy and power from the complete, long-term bodybuilding context. That context goes beyond a mere winter break from tricking: it’s a continuous lifestyle. That context goes beyond wanting just a little more muscle: it’s about being “the big guy” and winning against others in competition. That context goes beyond basic compound lifts, whole body workouts, and low reps; it’s characterized by daily training, huge pumps, body part splits, isolation work, tons of different exercises, modified exercise angles, bands and chains for accommodated resistance, cable machines, high reps, intensity tactics like drop sets, rest-pause, post-workout posing routine practice, etc. And, so, this is why everybody has mixed opinions about bodybuilding bulks: because almost everybody, including even many bodybuilders, often remove it from its complete, long-term bodybuilding context and, thus, strip it of its power.

Jujimufu, machines.

If you want to grow like a bodybuilder, then you gotta train like a bodybuilder and that includes isolation exercises.

So, if anyone is insisting on doing a 1-4 month bulking phase for building muscle, I would recommend instead calling it a 1-4 month bodybuilding phase and make more changes than just the quantity of food ingested. This is why I wrote a page about becoming a bodybuilder. If you want the most effective muscle building bulking results, you should become a bodybuilder. Train and do the things bodybuilders do. If you want more results, do it for a whole year. Rewire your brain so that traditional bulking is now synonymous with building a body (IE: Bodybuilding). You aren’t just bulking, you’re bodybuilding. Then, since you aren’t really into the bodybuilding thing for the long run, you can then maintain what you built on that long developmental detour as a bodybuilder as you ease back into tricking or your other activities. And remember, it’s an awful lot easier maintaining things than building them for the first time.

On the flip side, it seems your simultaneous bulk and cut isn’t getting you the results you desire within a bodybuilding training context. Or maybe it is, but results are much slower than you expect and have a lower ceiling for maximum gains. This is because you substituted the traditional bodybuilding bulk with your mixed bulk while adopting bodybuilding training principles. Actually, what you’re doing may be working, but do not compare the rate or magnitude of your results to what a traditional bodybuilder gets; they’re not to be compared. Bodybuilders grow because of their type of training, and because they are in an uninterrupted growth phase for almost an entire year straight, year after year. Also, as an aside, what do you think your body is doing on your rest day? It’s recovering. What does it use to recover? Calories. And you’re giving it less on these days? Why? Hmmmm…

You asked about me. Me? I’ve been slowly accruing mass for over a decade. Slower than a real bodybuilder, and not nearly to the extent as a real bodybuilder either, but that’s because bodybuilding is not the only thing I do; I trick for God’s sake! I’ve had my fair share of shorter bulking phases, all of which were mostly a waste of time until I figured out I needed to adopt bodybuilding training principles in order to make these bulks work the way I wanted them to. My periodization schemes are mostly linear, I don’t try to maintain everything all the time. So I get fat, I lose fat. I gain strength and I lose it. I get good at tricking and I lose my tricks. I’m always losing, regaining, and gaining because the worst results I’ve ever gotten in my life were when I tried to improve or even simply maintain everything all the time. So now I happily switch back and forth when the timing is right. And I’m happy with where I am right now, so there is no need for me to do something as drastic as take a whole year off to build my body up. My body is already built the way I want it to be built. Any change I want to make past this point of development is a seasonal nudge, not an annual project.

Anyway, for some people, anticipating milder, yet still long term mass accrual is much more livable and preferable than implementing very long bodybuilding growth phases. Anthony Mychal has a program called chaos bulking which sounds similar to what you are doing. I have a lot of respect for Anthony’s knowledge. Without knowing all of the details of his program, it might be the way to go to add a more moderated amount of mass on your frame over longer trajectories of time without going head first into the bodybuilding thing or losing your leanness. His program is all about the slow accrual of muscle, over several years for non-bodybuilders. There are no bulking or cutting phases, only daily alterations of calories based on activity, like what you are trying to do.

Anthony Mychal

Props to Anthony Mychal here. As a skinny-fat, he’s kicked some ass.

So anyway if you continue to train like a bodybuilder while adopting a mixed bulk and cut eating protocol, don’t expect the speed or magnitude of results that real bodybuilders get when they are essentially in tumor mode almost year round.

11 comments

  1. Traindom says:

    Wow, this is very informative. Thanks very much, Jon. I appreciate the time you took to write this. My head is beaming with the possibilities here with the concept of periodization. I love the idea of just going into hardcore bodybuilding mode for a couple of months or a year and then revelling in the gains as I draw my focus to other things. Feels like this is going to be super influential thing in my fitness journey. Thanks very much! Great article to keep in my my fitness toolbox.

    I read those other links as well. I too noticed that despite doing heavy compound exercises (like weighted chin ups), my arms have not grown. I was afraid of losing my strength gains if I go at bodybuilding hardcore for a while but I realized in an accidental experiment, hah, that working out my main strength lifts once a week, I was able to maintain them. Not only that, I was actually able to increase my lifts ten pounds each and maintain nearly the same amount of reps! So I got that worry covered, thankfully. My body composition barely shifted either. It turned out to be a great discovery for me, thanks to my laziness, hah.

    Ah yeah, I got that daily alternation scheme from Anthony. Cool dude. He’s guided me pretty well on my fitness journey. The scheme does work pretty well. After a heavy cut to 155 pounds at five foot eight inches, in two years, I’ve gained twenty pounds, some of it being muscle. After some rough calculations using body fat percentages at the start of my slow bulk and now, I estimate about at least ten or so pounds of muscle gained. And I had already been training seriously the year before. Not that bad for going at it slow, I think, hah. Though it seems like it was just a slow bulk than a simultaneous “bulk” and “cut.” It could be better if I optimized certain things more.

    I will give Anthony’s chaos bulk a look-see as well. His stuff is fantastic.

    P.S. I thought you might appreciate that it’s thanks to you that I got into fitness in the first place. Someone posted a link on GameFaqs and that’s when my journey started. I started reading and reading and tinkering and messing around until I got to where I am today. I’m happy I have this part of my life going for me. It’s brought me much fulfilment that I might have otherwise not ever known if I hadn’t clicked that link. You sparked a new dimension in my identity and Anthony helped foster it and that’s pretty cool. I just wanted to let you know that your words changed my life for the better at that moment in time. Thanks very much, brother. Cheers.

    • Jon Call says:

      GameFaqs? Haha awesome! Thanks for the kind words man. I agree with you, it’s a very good feeling to have this part of life mastered. It’s one of those things like finances and relationships that’s very important to have a good handle on. E-mail me if you have more specific questions. 🙂

  2. Traindom says:

    Thanks very much! Will do :).

  3. PureApeshit says:

    hey Juji! i have to lobby hard for acrobolix subreddit! You have to make a overrthetop post glorifieng the our new forum on reddit!!! It must be done for the sake of humanity!!!!! Just blast the link in all caps on new blogpost! people NEED TO KNOW !!! Community is suffering with each day you delay this!

  4. Dobi says:

    Mr Call, please take another two weeks/decades/whatever off training to adjust the CSS for your blog. It does not suit my needs yet: http://y2u.be/IteyGmKz0HY

    Despite this unacceptable problem, I really have to congratulate you to this website project. It’s totally awesome. It is like Nietzsche took steroids and learned to blog. 😉

  5. drewandy says:

    This and your article on nutrition was a fantastic and fun to read! Your experience on the subject is affirming. But, I still have a problem with taking action. I’m 6′ and 173~lbs and I want to build a ton of muscle, gain unbelievable strength, and everything else almost everyone who’ve lifted weights would desire lol. To do that, I obviously need eat more, but how how can I know I’ll be putting on QUALITY weight? For this reason, I’m sort of hesitant on eating to grow. As a perfectionist, it’s hard for me to commit to “possibilities”. I heard you’re a perfectionist as well, so I hope you understand the feels… do you have any wisdom to improve my grit in this situation?

    • Jon Call says:

      Thanks for the kind words. 🙂 I have a question for you, do you trick? Or do you care about tricking? Have you read this short stub: http://acrobolix.com/buff-tricking/ ??? Because if you don’t trick, and/or don’t care about letting your tricks slide, then there is no reason NOT to go on an epic annual bulking phase, imo. It’s something I would love to do myself, and might in the future, but at the moment I still limit my growing phases to intermittent and indeterminable periods. My last real bulk was Dec-Feb 2012-2013. Before that my last real bulk was Nov 2010-Feb 2011. It’s not an annual or long thing for me, but oh how I would love to just go hog wild for almost the entirety of a year and jump up again… Does it not seem like a fun prospect for you?

      • Jon Call says:

        And as mentioned in the article above, this is why I have been slowly adding mass for the course of about a decade now… If, from the beginning, I had adopted the “grow all year round except for a 12-16 week diet during the summer” like real bodybuilders do, from the beginning, I would have been as big as I am now at 22 years old instead of 29.

  6. drewandy says:

    I do calisthenics, I love bodyweight exercises and being able to manipulate your own self in awesome ways like handstands, muscle-ups, ring work, so bodyweight can be of relevance, but when I started squatting, deadlifting, and doing bicep curls I got addicted to weights, so I do both! I just don’t know how to approach goals regarding both hobbies regarding nutrition effectively and efficiently as possible. Indecision is a nasty virus.

    • Jon Call says:

      Well, in my opinion, you’re doing the right thing by doing both weights and bw exercises… because I’ve never seen someone add as much bulk/muscle doing strictly bw exercises as someone strictly doing weights, so it’s good you have a penchant for the weights. You do know that bw exercise performance is going to deteriorate as you put on weight though… Kind of like how tricking deteriorates you put on weight…

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