The bulk, or "bulking" is more or less the act of eating in a calorie surplus and "ideally" weight training in order to put on more muscle tissue onto your frame.
If you're a person who has interest in having a muscular frame, it's very important to go through cycles of gaining lean mass via diet. I.e. Bulking. There's no way around the fact that past a certain point, training alone can only take you so far and you need to allow the power of food to help you achieve your natural limits.
Dirty or Clean
The issue with bulking is that there is often a misconception on how it should be done. Even the phrase "Bulk" has a feeling of gross indulgence.
- The mass or magnitude of something large.
- Be or seem to be of great size or importance.
- Treat (a product) so that its quantity appears greater than it in fact is.
Many take these times of "bulking" to be an excuse to hit up all-you-can-eat buffets on a daily basis, pig out on all the things they "couldn't" eat while they were dieting, and more or less make eating fast food their new job.
This is called a "Dirty Bulk." You're not concerned with how you look, just as long as you are gaining weight, getting bigger, and outgrowing all of your clothes while you settle into a wardrobe comprised entirely of sweatpants and hoodies. Many try to distinguish this by saying that the difference between a "dirty bulk" and a "clean bulk" are the food choices you use to bulk.
This is False
You can get plenty fat eating chicken breast, rice, olive oil, avocado, or whatever you consider to be a "healthy" or "clean" option.
Rather than a "Clean" bulk, think of it as a "lean" bulk. Use the math. Use the numbers. And most importantly, use the mirror.
You should know your Basal Metabolic Rate, or at least have a range of what you can consume in order to maintain your current weight. This data is important to know. It will help you to continually make progress without forcing you to chub out.
Let strength be your guide/The law of diminished returns.
If you're reading this I'm assuming that you're an un-enhanced, natural, and/or steroid free athlete. I say this because whenever you introduce exogenous hormones the rules change a bit, and since I don't play that game I don't really know the rules. But, from what I can tell, you can have somewhat limitless strength progression with increased weight, workload, and food. The obvious example being Strongman Competitors.
But, if you're like me and play by the parameters naturally set within your body, you're going to notice that after a certain point you stop gaining strength no matter how much more body fat you put on. The weight becomes just as taxing as the actual training, so your recovery is impeded on many fronts.
Strength should be your guide. If you're gaining strength, you're increasing muscle mass. You're building metabolic material that will aid you in your next "cutting" cycle. You can stare at the mirror and think "I'm growing, look how juicy my delts look." But, if your overhead press isn't climbing up, then you might just be getting juicy and not juiced. Mirite???
Another reason I encourage a "lean bulk" over a dirty bulk is that your natural gains that you slowly introduce via a strength progression scheme will be MUCH more loyal. They won't be a fleeting moment spawned by shortened range of motion in the bench press or more bounce out of the bottom because your belly gives you more support. You want strength that sticks around, that's reinforced by technique, motor patterns, and muscle tissue, and doesn't leave you as soon as you stop eating a snickers bar after every meal.
Until Next Time,
Lift Big, Sing Big, and Look Great Doing It.
The Opera Bro