How Long Does it Take to Bulk Up?

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When you first start working out, you want to see results right away so you feel like you’re getting somewhere, right? Us too! Today we’re going to answer your question: How long does it take to bulk up?

If you remember your first time training, you were probably like us. You would stand there in front of the mirror flexing your arms straight after a workout, and hope to see Arnold-type muscles. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t happen like that.

Muscles need a really good reason to grow. Otherwise, they aren’t going to waste their precious energy on getting bigger.

So, what is a good enough reason? The short answer — stress. And no, we don’t mean that you need to be stressed out. You need to place stress on your muscles (i.e. get stronger).

Each time you do a strength training activity, your muscles have to develop to accommodate these new levels of stress. Over time, they will evolve to deal with these stress levels by getting noticeably bigger.

But, How Long Does it Take to Bulk Up?

Sadly, it’s a slow process, especially if you’re a skinny guy looking to bulk up. As much as we would love to tell you that you can start flashing your arms around after a few gym sessions, this just isn’t the case. But, it’s nice to dream!

Usually, 2 weeks to a month is a realistic figure to start seeing a bit of growth after your strength has begun to increase. But, since everyone is different, the process could be quicker or slower depending on your age, weight, diet, training intensity and so on.

Genetics play a mighty role in determining how long to bulk up. Annoyingly, we can’t control this — most of us would if we could! This doesn’t mean your bulk won’t happen though. You just need to do everything right with the things you can control.

You guessed it! The two things you can control are indeed your exercise and diet. So, let’s take a look at sorting these babies out and you’re well on your way to bulking up good and proper.

Bulking Exercises — The “Must-Dos”

There are 5 exercises that will help you reach your bulking goals pretty quickly if you consistently up the ante each time you do them. Trust us, you should expect to ache in the morning! But, then again, no pain no gain, right?

So, let’s crack on!

Squats For Days

this is how you do squats

Yup, squat and squat deep!

They use nearly every large muscle group and is perfect for packing on mass and defining your legs and butt.

We don’t want to insult your intelligence (we’re sure you know how to squat), but just in case, here are the main pointers:

  • Stand up poker straight
  • Set your feet slightly wide than your hips
  • Keep your back straight and stick your butt out while you bend your knees
  • Try to get down far enough so your thighs are parallel to the ground
  • …and then go a bit further (go on, you’ve got this!)
  • Stand up again while squeezing your butt
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat

Okay, yes, we know we just preached to the choir!

Anyway, you can do squats as a body weight exercise if you like, but your best bet for bulking is to do weighted ones. This will ensure all your muscles are working and that you pack on that all-important muscle.

Don’t Stop Deadlifting

guy doing deadlifts

Like our good friend Sir Squat, deadlifting uses pretty much every major muscle group too — so it’s no surprise they’re one of the greatest movements for bulking!

You’ll need a weighted bar for this one (although you can just use body weight, that will not help you bulk at all). If you can’t quite remember the correct form, take a little look below:

  • Put the bar near your feet
  • Bend your knees with your butt sticking out
  • Clasp the bar with both hands
  • Keep your back straight
  • Stand up straight with the bar ending at just below hip level and then return it to the floor in one movement
  • Make sure you keep looking forward (no star gazing or ground staring)

The Military Do It Right (Military Press)

military press

This move focuses on your upper body so it’ll give your legs a chance to recover!

Again, you’ll need a weighted bar for this one otherwise it’s a pointless exercise. Once you have one, follow our top tips for the perfect form:

  • Hold the bar at the top of your chest
  • Have your hands just further than the shoulder width
  • Lift it above your head (completely extend your arms upwards)
  • Always stand perfectly straight
  • Keep facing forwards
  • Don’t move your legs or hips — all the weight should be controlled by your core and upper body

Row Row Row Your Boat (Bent Over Row)

proper way to do bent over row

This is our personal favorite and great for strengthening (therefore bulking) your back, abs and shoulders.

For great form, check out tips and tricks:

  • Use a loaded bar
  • Stand in front of it
  • Make sure your feet are below your shoulders
  • Bend your knees and crunch your abs a bit to bend over
  • Keep your back straight
  • Grab the bar
  • Pull it up to your chest and return

Press That Bench (Bench Press, Of Course)

guy doing heavy bench press

This is by far the most well-known (and widely favored) move for bulking. You’ve probably done these countless times in the gym but we’ll take a look at the proper form now, just in case you’re a bit rusty:

  • Lie on the bench
  • Place your feet flat on the floor
  • Grab the bar
  • Lower it to your chest
  • Push it upwards (fully extend your arms)
  • Never arch your back (this is where a lot of people’s form fails)

Of course, there are other exercises you can incorporate into your bulking regime but these are the “must-dos”!

Right, now we need to talk about the final thing you can control — diet.

The Right Bulking Diet

While all of the food groups are important for different things, you need to focus on protein, carbs and fats primarily.

Protein — Your Best Pal

protein foods for bulking up

Protein should be your best friend when it comes to bulking as this is what restores your muscles and ultimately allows them to grow.

However, you’ll need to let go of the myth that you need to chuck a load of protein shakes. Don’t get us wrong, protein shakes are brilliant for topping up your intake but you should always prioritize real food.

You can get your protein from all sorts of foods like:

  • White meat (chicken)
  • Red meat (steak, pork)
  • Eggs
  • Fish (salmon, cod, tuna)
  • Shellfish (prawns, lobster)
  • Cheese and milk (dairy, basically)
  • Tofu (and other vegetarian-friendly foods)

If you consider yourself to be an experienced lifter, then eat around 3.3g of protein for every kilogram that you weigh. Since this might be quite a lot, protein shakes are useful for topping it up without feeling too full.

Carbs — Your Second-Best Pal

types of carbs

When you’re bulking, most of your calories need to come from carbs. The healthiest foods to ensure you pack them in are:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Legumes
  • Oats
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Whole grain bread
  • Rice

We know that whole grain bread and pasta isn’t the tastiest thing in the world but you gain next to nothing from eating the white versions! They’re just full of processed yuckiness.

To know how much you should personally eat, you need to calculate your total daily energy expenditure first. It’s quite easy to do thanks to the internet. Try this one (we love it). Once you know this, whack on 500 and that’s how many calories you should be eating.

Fat — Your More-Than-Acquaintance Pal

fatty food

Eating fat doesn’t mean you’ll get fat. In fact, they’re necessary for bulking up healthily!

Get your unsaturated fat from foods like these:

  • Avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Macadamia nuts

Don’t shy away from saturated fat though (you just need to consume them in moderation and you’ll be just fine). For this, eat things like:

  • Fatty meats
  • Coconut oil
  • Whole milk
  • Full-fat cheese

Vegetables — Your Acquaintance…But Still Necessary…Like a Doctor

basket of vegetables

Although this one won’t directly help you along your path to Bulk-Ville, you still need to eat enough of it so your body can process all the protein.

We’re sure you know what veggies to eat, but just in case, take some inspo from our little list below:

  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Onion
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • And many, many others

Ok Enough Already, How Long Does it Take to Bulk Up?!

Now that you’re taking control of the two things you can, you’re just going to have to be patient and wait for results to pop up! As we’ve said, it could take anywhere from 2 weeks to 1 month to start seeing results depending on your genetics, age and other stuff.

However, you’re doing everything you can do to speed up the process! So, don’t worry, know that when you do start seeing your bulk, it will feel like Christmas came early. It’s definitely worth all the hard work — just stick with it and you’ll soon see!


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Mark Carnell

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