JDP Top Trainer Jackson Hinch provides you with his ultimate bulking plan for winter.
Winter is officially here. The temperature drops, clothes layers come on, meals get heavier and heartier. The winter months mean different thing to different people, but for lifters, winter means one thing, Bulking!
Bulking is the term used to describe when a trainee is eating and training to try and increase their muscle size and bodyweight. Without the chance to have shirts off and with the weather cooling down so less beach time many lifters use the winter months to get a little softer and eat to increase muscle mass before getting lean again come summer.
Bulking may sound simple enough on the surface, but it is most definitely an art form that takes some refinement with experience. To gain muscle you must be eating in a calorie surplus, more calories than you burn so that your body has energy and nutrients left over to build muscle once all the other priorities like eating, breathing and moving are taken care of. This is a delicate balance to uphold as with increased calories you run the risk of storing unwanted body fat. While this is a give in when bulking, hence why it’s generally done in winter under numerous clothing layers, our aim is always to minimise unwanted fat gain otherwise it will just prolong our dieting period later on coming into the next summer.
Having realistic goals of how much muscle you can build in a given time frame is a must when it comes to bulking. People routinely brag about putting on a kilogram a week of bodyweight when eating big, this is unnecessary and not what we’re after. Realistically depending on your circumstances, training age, age, background etc you can build around 3-5kg of muscle per year in a perfect world. So this 1kg a week over 12 weeks that people are putting on is what? Bodyfat they’ll have to diet off later!
Obviously to gain the maximum amount of muscle possible you can’t afford to shortchange yourself and not gain at an optimal rate, so something a bit more conservative such as 300-500g gained per week for 12 weeks is ideal. This way we save ourselves having to diet too much later on, plus also the negative health and hormone effects that come with carrying too much fat.
How do we manage to keep the weight gain in check with what we want? We diet! Instead of just following a general “Eat Everything and Anything” approach, a calculated diet makes much more sense and produces far better results. Dieting isn’t saved merely for those trying to lose body fat, a diet also works wonders for gaining muscle, albeit eating in a calorie surplus rather than a deficit.
To find what your maintenance daily calories are it’s a relatively simple calculation that goes as follows:
Convert your bodyweight from kgs to lbs (Multiply by 2.2)
Multiply your bodyweight in lbs by 6.5 and add 370
This is your Basal Metabolic Rate. Now we adjust for activity.
Multiply by 1.2 if sedentary mostly, 1.375 if lightly active, 1.55 if moderately active, 1.725 if very active, or 1.9 if extremely active
This is now an estimate of your maintenance daily calories.
From here we’ll add 350 calories a day and that is your calories to begin your bulk from!
From there weigh yourself twice a week, same days each week, and when you have 3 weigh-ins that are the same, add another 350 calories a day to get the scale moving again.
Ideally, we want a lot of these calories to come from protein. Whatever your bodyweight was in pounds above, equal that in grams of protein per day. Easy.
Next up we need a base level of fats in the diet to keep the body running smoothly and the hormone levels healthy. For females take your bodyweight in lbs and multiply by 0.7g, this is your daily fat intake. For males the same but multiply by 0.5g.
The rest of your calories available are from carbohydrates! These are the real king when it comes to bulking. Carbohydrates are your body’s most efficient form of energy, thus saving proteins and fats for their intended purposes in the body, rather than having to be used as energy.
Carbs also increase your body’s insulin response. Insulin is one of the most anabolic hormones in the human body. It is effectively a storage hormone, meaning it helps shuttle protein into the muscles for use in recovery, repair, and building.
All of this effort going into your diet is all well and good, but futile if you don’t have a solid training plan to make sure the nutrients go to the right places. There’s no magic recipe when it comes to training that beats effort and consistency though. Pushing yourself every session and working harder than you did the session before will give you much better results than any set or rep scheme. We do however need some order and planning, follow the plan below to get on the path to gains!!
Squat – Warm up with the bar then 3 sets gradually taking the weight up, then 3 working sets of 6-10 reps
Romanian Deadlifts – 3×12
Lunges – 3×8 each Leg
Dumbell Box Squat – 2×15
Leg Raises or Sit Ups/Mason Twists – 3×12 or 3×10/10
Bench – Warm up with the bar then 3 sets gradually taking the weight up, then 3 working sets of 6-10 reps
Incline Bench – 3×8-12
Standing Overhead Press – 4×8-12
DB Flys – 3×10-12
Skull Crushers – 3×8-12
Deadlift – Warm Up with 3-4 lighter sets gradually taking the weight up, then 3 working sets 5-8
Bent Over Rows – 3×8-12
Pull Ups or Pulldowns – 4×8-12
Cable Row or DB Row – 4×8-12
Barbell Curls – 3×12
Alternating DB Curls – 2×24
Seated DB Press – Warm Up with 3 lighter sets gradually taking the weight up, then 3 working sets of 8-10
Low Incline DB Bench Press – 3×10-12
Standing DB Side Raise – 4×10-15
Cable Face Pull – 3×12-15
Rope Pressdowns – 4×10-15
A programme like this is well balanced, while still being basic enough to suit beginner and advanced trainees alike, and focused on compound movements to maximise muscle growth response and strength gain. We put as much effort into the compound movements as possible while we are freshest as they can be performed with the most weight while also requiring the highest level of concentration to avoid injury risk. As the workout progresses we move to smaller, more isolated movements to increase the overall volume of work performed and to help target the smaller muscle that have a greater recovery capacity for volume and frequency.
Use these winter months of being covered up wisely, a little fat gain is acceptable as mentioned above so being able to hide it under 3 layers of clothes is handy. Commit to this plan and be as diligent as you would be when dieting to get leaner, and I can guarantee you’ll be in a much better position to diet for the upcoming summer and unveil the newly built muscle underneath.