The Big Bad Bulk

person holding barbell
Photo by Victor Freitas on

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had another wonderful week. This article will dive into my preparation for and my first week of Bulking. I was really excited to start this process because I get to really chow down at meal time as compared to my last 10 weeks. I am going to expand on one other thing as well known as Over Training. For now, I’m going to introduce the idea of a Bulk.


What is a Bulk?

A Bulk is the opposite of last week’s topic, the cut. The goal for any bulk is to gain weight.  Personally, I want to gain it, mostly, in the form of muscle, not fat. To do this you must intake more energy from the food you eat than your body uses during exercise and its day-to-day bodily operations, but this energy surplus must only be of a moderate amount.



Bulk – Intake more energy, via the food we eat, than our body burns resulting in weight gain.



Begin with a plan

How do I know how much I need to eat, how much I need to exercise, and how do I quantify and track each? I took 2 weeks in between this Bulk and my previous cut to plan my food and exercise, and still I had to make some changes on week 1 and 2.

I started with the idea of gaining Lean Mass. In order to gain any weight fat or otherwise, you MUST intake more Calories than you burn. During a Bulk you WILL gain some fat because the body is too efficient to let the excess Calories you are eating go to waste. Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in our bodies. This means that the more muscle we have the more Calories we burn at rest. The physique pay off comes after you have built muscle and Cut the fat. It takes extremely careful planning and execution to do these things at the same time. This is why body builders, more often,  cycle between and Bulking and Cutting. This, cycling, is what I am doing. I chose the easiest programmable way to increase my Calories, doing so everyday. My goal is to eat 500 Calories over the Calories I burn everyday for 8 weeks.



Lean Mass – is equivalent to muscle mass.

Fat Free Mass – Any tissue that is not fat for example bone, muscle, and connective tissue



To figure out the number of Calories I burn everyday I needed to estimate the Calories I burn during exercise and my resting metabolic rate. Figuring out your resting metabolic rate is not too hard. Type in “Resting metabolic rate calculator” into google, and’s article should be your first link. Plug in your age, sex, height, and weight and it will give you a value for resting metabolic rate. When I did this I got 1,577 Calories/Day. This mean that if I sat on the couch and did no activity all day I would burn about 1,577 Calories simply keeping myself alive. I like this article because it talks about several frequently asked questions regarding the topic. Knowing my resting metabolic rate is an important first step in knowing how much I have to eat to gain weight.

I want to dispel a “term” misconception really quickly, the article also talks briefly about this. Resting metabolic rate and basal metabolic rate are not the same thing. Basal metabolic rate is a very precise measurement of the resting energy expenditure based on collected expired air of a person for a given time. The exhaled air is analyzed for oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations and used to determine their basal metabolic rate. This takes special equipment and trained experimenters to conduct and analyze the results. Because of these factors, this is not feasible for normal busy people, like you and me. The good news is scientists have devised an equation for people to estimate their resting metabolic rate from a few simple questions, hints the website. Resting metabolic rate is a estimated value of resting energy expenditure via an equation while basal metabolic rate is a measured from a very precise test.

The next thing I needed to figure out is how many Calories I was going to be burning from exercise. I wanted to take on training 6 days a week. I laid out a plan to lift weights 4 times a week and perform cardio exercise twice a week. For the first week I followed what my traditional education and knowledge of scientific study’s that suggest optimal protocols for muscle growth. If you’re interested in reviewing my training regiment in greater detail, feel free to shoot me comment and ask in the contact section. I used percentage of an estimated 1RM to set my weights. *see my example below if you are confused*



1RM (1 Repetition Maximum) – The most weight an individual can lift only one time through a full range of motion.

Example: I was able to barbell bench press 155 pounds from my chest to end range of motion one time. From this 155 pounds, I multiply it by the percent .75 or (75%) to get 116.25 for this lift. I always round down, so I would put weights totaling 115 pounds on the bar in this case.



My weight work outs take about an hour and a half to complete. Estimates for Calories burned per hour during weight training is about 110 Calories for someone my size (totaling 160 Calories per workout). I am doing a special kind of cardiovascular training called HITT or High Intensity Interval Training. This training is estimated to burn about 250 Calories per 30 minutes. Basically, I am sprinting the length of a football field as fast as I can then resting for a period of time before sprinting the length again. All in all I am expending an extra 1,140 Calories a week training this way. To find these estimates I just did a quick google search for Calories burned during each different type of exercise.



High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – This is a cardiovascular exercise type where the participant performs an exercise, running from my example, as hard as they can for a short amount of time. After a rest period, the high intensity exercise bout is repeated for a number of times.

Example: Sprint the length of a football as fast as possible. Rest for 1 minute then Sprint again. Repeat the sprint-rest cycle the desired number of times. For me I sprinted a total of 10 times.



My training started on Sunday July 29th; I trained lower body. The next day, Monday, I rested. The following days I trained upper body, then HIIT by running 10 field sprints with 1 minute rest in between sets, then lower body again, and another HIIT session on Friday. Saturday I planned to train upper body again, but something was wrong.



What Happens When You Train TOO Hard?

As I was set to take on my last workout of the week, I felt several signs of Over Training, systemic fatigue, trouble sleeping, and, the big one, an overuse injury. At about mid week I noticed I would wake up in the middle of the night at about 1:00 AM and not be able to sleep again till 3:00 AM or later. In addition on my last run day during my warm up I noticed a spot on my right heel that seared with pain from any added pressure from my foam roller. I have had this happen to me once before from intense long distance running. The spot becomes hot to the touch, the immune system’s response to injury, it is painful to the touch, and very tight. The ONLY cure for this type of injury is rest. After three days rest I was back to normal.



Over Training – With exercise we expect to perform better after we have practiced. Over training occurs when the body is over come by the “increase performance” stimulus of that practice; this actually results in a decreased exercise performance over time. Common signs of over training are sleep disruptions, injuries, elevated resting heart rate, and depression.



The body can take a surprisingly large beating before over training occurs. I have participated in 3 studies performed by the Applied Physiology Lab at the University of Kansas concerned with delving into the effects of over training on the body. The first one was an 8 week training study that included a variety of lower body exercises (squat, leg extension machine, sled pulls, etc.). The final day of the study began by testing my strength on the leg extension machine. Following this, I performed a weight session containing the exercises above with the goal to train to fatigue. My leg extension strength was then tested again. The majority of participates, myself included, were induced into a phenomena called Post Activation Potentiation or Potentiation for short. Without getting too scientific this means that after a hard work out I was not fatigued like anticipated. In fact, I performed better on the leg extension machine the second time! My strength was increased. This happens only in individuals who have been weight training for a long time.

As you can see, the body is very effective at enduring difficult exercise. Because I know my body and some of the science behind fatigue, I push myself very hard doing exercise. That being said, this time I did a little too much.

The other two studies were shorter, lasting only a week each. In both, muscle biopsies were used to look at chemical changes in my body before and after fatiguing squat exercises. If you would like to talk more about the science behind these studies don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. My goal with this project is to gain weight, but I am only training for recreation and myself. It would be silly to go so far as to injure myself in the process. I have reworked my diet and exercise to be better in line with my goals.



Extension – A movement or exercise where the joint angle is increased. If you sit in a non-reclining chair with your feet flat on the floor and lift one foot off the floor so your leg is straight, you have just performed a leg extension.



Let’s Recap


A Bulk is when a person eats more Calories than they burn in order to gain weight. Usually, a person wants to gain weight in the form of lean mass or solely muscle.


Programming Tips

If you are starting a program of your own here are a few steps to get started.

  1. Log what you eat for at least a week
  2. Estimate your resting metabolic rate
  3. Do your research
  4. Make small, thought out changes

When someone asks me where to start when attempting to eat better, I always have them log what they eat for a week or two. Sometimes, through our busy lives, we just don’t realize what we eat. Having it all on paper helps us see exactly what we are putting in our bodies. Plus, this log helps me understand more about the individual. Everyone has their own special likes and dislikes, and understanding that everyone is different is important. There is no perfect diet; instead there is a diet that works better for Nick or works better for you. Often the cookie cutter diets found on the internet just won’t work, not because they are bad, but because they aren’t right for that individual. Instead of tossing a diet in the trash when it doesn’t work, break it down and see what parts you liked and didn’t. Everything I try is a learning opportunity, and I learn new things about my diet and exercise everyday.

When I change my diet and exercise, I do a great deal of planning and research. I talk to people who have done what I am about to do, and I read a lot of articles. I anticipated that I would need additional protein and carbohydrates to signal for my weight gain. I set my portions at the lowest possible level knowing full well that it may not be enough. In the passed my body has done a really good job maintaining it’s current level of normal even though I am trying to change. I always wait at least 1 week, sometimes 2, before I change my plan, and I only make 1 change at a time. It is important to make small, individual changes because this is the only way to know that a particular change made the difference. If you scrap the whole program and start from scratch it is hard to pull knowledge from what worked and what didn’t. Remember there is no perfect plan, only ones that work best for you or for me. If you plan ahead you can avoid much of the frustration of watching your goals fall short.

One note on doctors. They are very intelligent people with a broad range of knowledge and skills. They know the healing process, pharmaceuticals, and many, many other things very well, but many are not experts when it comes to diet and exercise. I want to emphasize keeping your primary care doctors in the loop, but specialists are whom you should direct your specific questions to. A personal trainer or physical therapist may be a better source of exercise information where a registered dietitian (not a nutritionist) is someone to go to with your dietary questions.


Over Training

It can be easy to get ahead of yourself when starting different and new exercises and routines. Check in with your doctor, specialists, and give yourself plenty of time to rest in between work outs. Most of us don’t have to perform at the highest level athletically to make a living (sorry Dad didn’t make it to the MLS). There’s no point in hurting yourself!


If you liked my article please leave a like and follow. This will send you notifications when I post new articles. If anything I talked about today is unclear, do not hesitate to use the contact me link or ask in the comments section below to keep the conversation going. Until next time.


In the name of health,

Nick Pippert



  1. “Resting Metabolic Rate Calculator”, 11, July 2014,


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