The Basics of Lean Bulking
To bulk, or not to bulk, that is the question that a ton of beginner bodybuilders ask online before they embark on their journey to becoming muscular.
In reality, they’re asking the wrong question.
Bulking is a necessary step towards building a physique that every single athlete –male or female- has to take.
The question that they should be asking is HOW to do it.
The answer –and also the subject of this article- is called lean bulking.
Lean bulking is a dieting method/strategy that is as old as bodybuilding itself; and one that has proven to be quite useful at that.
By the time you finish reading this post, you’ll fully understand everything there is to know about the popular diet strategy and why it’s the best way to gain muscle without adding (too much) body fat to your physique.
What Is Lean Bulking?
Let’s begin with the definition of lean bulking, shall we?
In theory, lean bulking consists of increasing your daily caloric intake so you can build new muscle tissue without gaining crazy amounts of fat.
This type of bulk is a lot slower and less aggressive but a lot more effective than traditional bulking; which is sometimes known as dirty bulking.
Unlike traditional bulking that consists of eating everything that crosses your path; lean bulking focuses on steadily building quality muscle, while maintaining your body fat levels (relatively) low.
A rising bodybuilding star, Wesley Vissers, is a popular advocate for lean bulking.
In the video I embedded, you can see a detailed explanation, done by the classic bodybuilding star himself.
He has often mentioned that this particular dieting style allows him to successfully analyze his weak areas and improve on them on the spot.
This couldn’t possibly be achieved through dirty bulking because the excess body fat gets in the way and cloaks the body's shape and muscularity.
Advantages of Lean Bulking
I think that it’s safe to assume that this article wouldn’t be complete without a comparison between the advantages and disadvantages of bulking in a lean manner.
As far as the advantages go, there are plenty of them to choose from. With that being said, the ones that I’m going to talk about right now are –in my opinion- the most important ones.
Perfect for Natural Bodybuilders
One of the biggest mistakes that rookie bodybuilders make when bulking for the first time, is falling under the dirty bulking trap.
It’s completely normal to get carried away with your progress and eventually fall off the wagon. I mean, who doesn’t love getting stronger and seeing their clothes fit tighter?
The problem begins when we take it too far and end up getting fat.
For a natural bodybuilder, losing body fat without sacrificing too much muscle is a very difficult task.
It’s not uncommon to see natural bodybuilders weight over two hundred pounds after a dirty bulk; only to weight a fraction of that when leaned out.
Lean bulking is perfect for natural bodybuilders because it allows them to make steady (visible) progress without sacrificing their shape.
Once it’s time to diet down for summer, or maybe a fitness competition; it will be a lot easier and faster to achieve the desired look.
Avoid the dreamer bulk and aim for a dream physique.
High Success Rate
Bulking in such manner possesses a very high success rate for both natural and enhanced athletes.
This happens because building a physique at a steady and controlled rate won’t tax the body like a dirty/aggressive bulk typically does.
The margin of error regarding this dieting style is relatively low due to its controlled nature. It allows the athlete to experiment with his diet in a low-risk environment.
The success rate will be high, and let’s admit it – who doesn’t like building muscle while being able to see their abs and cuts?
A lot of people also don’t often talk about the psychological impact of dieting and how it can affect the person’s overall state of well-being.
Bulking the dirty way -where your physique is carrying a lot of fat and can’t function properly- can’t have a negative impact on both your body and your mind.
If you keep a low body fat level, not only will you look good and feel incredible, but your mind will also greatly benefit from it.
Disadvantages of Lean Bulking
Now it’s time to move on the negative aspects of this dieting strategy and the potential impact that it can have on your bodybuilding progression.
I think that you will be pleasantly surprised with what I have to say, as it will only confirm that lean bulking is superior to dirty bulking.
The biggest issue associated with slowly increasing your caloric intake, instead of doing it aggressively, is slow progression.
No matter how you put it, the lean bulking strategy is designed to be carried out slowly in order to maximize the results while minimizing the risks.
Although this means that it may take a couple of years to build up your desired physique; you won’t have to go through a long and painful process of dieting once you finish a dirty bulk.
Question: Would you rather gain a pound of muscle every month for two years with no added body fat or gain fifty pounds in six months only to lose forty of them once you diet down for another six months?
It’s Too Safe
Another common “negative aspect” that some athletes often associate with this style of bulking has to do with the fact that “it’s too safe”.
If you’re an enhanced lifter, I could see why you would be against bulking up slowly. As it would probably be a waste of PEDs to use an unaggressive approach to building muscle under their use.
If you’re a natural bodybuilder, you can’t just melt the fat away -from eating way too much food- in just a couple of months.
As a natural athlete myself, I would strongly disagree with those that say that lean bulking is “too safe”.
I’ve gone the dirty bulk route before, so I can tell you first hand just how much of a pain it is to get shredded after you become a walking balloon.
Is Dirty Bulking Worthless?
I just read the article over a couple of times to make the necessary corrections before publishing it and I came to realize that my opinions towards dirty bulking sounded a bit negative.
Dirty bulking is not worthless and I honestly think that it can be a great tool in certain situations.
I think that the biggest mistake new bodybuilders make with dirty bulking is taking it way too far.
I'm personally guilty of it but I’ve luckily learned from my mistakes.
If an aggressive bulk is performed in a controlled manner, for a short time frame; I can see how it can actually be beneficial and offer superior results to other dieting techniques.
Planning and Implementing Your Lean Bulk
Let’s say that you’ve decided to begin your lean bulk, right now. Here’s how you should –probably- move forward regarding nutrition, training, rest, and supplementation.
These are just my personal recommendations and I highly suggest that you look at other sources before designing your game plan.
Nutrition is the most important part of the bodybuilding lifestyle. If your body is not receiving an adequate amount of nutrients, it will not grow.
During a lean bulk, you’ll want to steadily increase your macros, prioritizing your protein intake.
Protein builds muscle but it won’t add much in the way of body fat.
Your carbohydrates should also be increased but in lesser increments than protein.
Carbs are your main source of energy but if they’re overdone, they will lead to increased body fat and lethargy.
You will probably want to keep your fats low but don’t shy away from incorporating good fatty foods into your diet.
Your training should never change, regardless of your current diet regime.
If you feel good and strong while on a caloric deficit; you should always take advantage of it and have a good workout.
In this case, the extra calories will allow you to train harder and longer which will ultimately lead to better results.
There’s no need to modify your training style to accommodate your diet. If your current routine is working, keep making use of it until you hit a plateau.
With that being said, I would highly recommend that you incorporate some form of cardio training so you can stay on top of your game (perform better) while staying lean.
Rest and Supplementation
Rest is also an extremely important part of the bodybuilding lifestyle. A good night’s sleep is crucial, but knowing when to take a day off is even more important.
The extra calories will definitely help you train harder on a frequent basis but don’t overdo it. Your muscles don’t grow while you train, they grow while you rest.
Supplements aren’t really necessary, but they can prove to be extremely useful when trying to add an extra source of quality nutrients into your diet.
If you’re considering using a quality supplement stack that’s perfect for lean bulking -and that won’t break your wallet- I would take a look at the Max Gains Bulking Stack.
Just remember that a structured diet and training plan is a million times more important than any supplement.
I want to conclude this article by saying that there is no right or wrong way to approach bodybuilding.
I know a lot of bodybuilders who’ve successfully built great physiques though unconventional dieting and training methods that others wouldn’t approve of.
With that being said, I think that if you’ve never attempted to bulk before -and you’re scared of gaining too much body fat along the way- lean bulking is your safest bet.
At the end of the day, you need to physically get out there and see what works for you and what doesn’t.