Should You Bulk Or Should You Cut?

 In Bodybuilding, Non-member

mind muscle academy, justin woltering

Should you Get Ripped or Build Muscle First?

It’s one of the oldest questions in bodybuilding: should you bulk, or should you cut? Should you focus on size at all costs,  or should you get lean before you get huge? Nobody has a definite answer, nor should they; the answer ultimately boils down to your personal goals, your genetics, and your time frame. That said, there are certainly some basic questions everyone should consider. Here are a few ways to assess yourself before you make the decision to get big or get lean.

One Goal at a Time

Have you ever wondered why so few lifters make long-term progress? Why so many kind-of-big, kind-of-chubby guys never seem to get bigger, stronger, OR leaner? In most cases, these lifters are trying to serve two masters at once. They’ve bought into the lie that you can pack on slabs of muscle and drop tons of fat in one fell swoop. It’s utter nonsense, and it holds people back from ever sticking to a plan.

Can you gain a little bit of muscle while losing fat, or get leaner by slowly building fat-free mass? Sure. But if you’ve got a lot to gain AND a lot to lose, you need to pick one goal at a time. A solid cutting diet and a workable mass-gain plan will be worlds apart, and you’re not going to magically accomplish all your goals at once. Unless you want to look and feel the same a year from now, commit to one goal, and see your plan through to the end.

Where You’re at Now

The first things to consider are your current body fat levels, muscularity, and strength. If you’re even struggling with this question, then chances are you’re not satisfied with any of those. You’re probably too soft for your liking, but you’re nowhere near your ultimate muscle mass or strength goals.

So, be honest with yourself. How fat are you really? You’re probably not “gosh, that guy is fat” fat, and you may even look pretty dashing while fully clothed. But would you take your shirt off in public? Would you feel “pool-ready” if summer was approaching? Would anyone think you’re a bodybuilder if they saw your gut? If you answer negatively to any of these questions, then I’d advise you to lose the fat first.

Even if you’re not the self-conscious type, you might want to think twice before embarking on a plan that will probably lead to more fat gain. In general, fatter guys tend to pack on a higher ratio of fat to muscle while they’re gaining – even when their diets and training plans are on point. If you start gaining at 15+ percent body fat, chances are you’ll be packing on a few more pounds of flab in the near future. If you get down to the single digits first, however, you’ll gain a higher ratio of muscle to fat, making all your efforts count for more. If you can’t tell, I’m massively in favor of getting lean first!

Where You’ve Been

Your genetics and prior body fat levels may be just as important as your current state. Have you ever noticed how easy it is for former athletes to get back into shape once they start training again? They tend to have a combination of above-average genetics and a body that “remembers” their formerly lean and muscular condition. In fact, these guys can often just eat clean, train hard, and let everything fall into place at once.

That’s probably not you, however, else you wouldn’t be reading this article. Bottom line, if you’re a former fatty, you need to be more careful with your mass gain plan. You’ve probably done some long-term damage to your insulin sensitivity with too many carbs and calories, and you’re liable to balloon up quick if you start bulking while already soft. Fortunately, you can give your body a whole new “set point” for leanness if you lose the fat first! If you use a low-carb or ketogenic diet to get ripped (which you should), you’ll also dramatically improve your insulin sensitivity. That’ll help you to handle more carbs later on, making future mass gaining efforts far more productive.

Of course, you might also be a little flabby because you just haven’t started training yet. If you’re the typical “skinny-fat” beginner – low body weight AND high body fat – then you’re playing by a different set of rules. Assuming you haven’t eaten downright horribly in the past, you can probably get away with some big eating right away. Gradually ramp up your calories, and make sure you’re only eating carbs around your workouts. One of the great things about being a beginner is that CAN make rapid progress in both strength gains and fat loss in one swoop. Don’t piss away your newbie gains with a crappy plan!

Your Ultimate Goals

This is what it all comes down to: where do you want to be six months, a year, five years from now? Assuming the typical lifter’s ambitions, my recommendation stays the same. Lose enough fat to get yourself into the single-digit range (ripped), and THEN embark on your mass gain plan. Eat clean, eat big, and gradually pack on strength and size while staying comfortably lean.

If you aspire to be absolutely HUGE, though, you might need to take a different approach. Sure, you should still get lean first, but just understand that you’ll probably have to spend a year or two as a chubster to realize your ultimate potential. Except for a handful of true mesomorphs, most guys need to allow for a considerable amount of fat gain to pack on fifty or more pounds of lean mass. Whenever you see a truly impressive bodybuilder or powerlifter, you can bet he had a few uncomfortable years before reaching his current condition. Is massive muscularity worth that much to you?

mind muscle academy, justin woltering

Recommended Posts