Strength in Numbers - Results from One Year of Bulking - 2018
2018 BULKING & TRAINING
I get asked a lot what I did to start training and putting on muscle. I point people to my blog because all I have is my own experience. I've never trained anyone else, but I've documented ALL of my progress. This post shows the numbers of my success over this past year of training and bulking.
Learn the methods that made me successful
I started taking training seriously in March of 2016, but I wasn’t on a calculated nutrition and bulking program until February 2017. This was the year I started bulking, tracking all my meals, and lifting with targeted purpose. It was also the same year that I started hormones and my gender transition from female to male. I had incredible gains in 2017 and learned so much. See the results from 2017 here.
At the end of 2017, I had top surgery. This gender confirming surgery involved removing my breast tissue and surgically making my chest have a masculine appearance. It changed my life. A life changing surgery like that requires healing and recovery. I had my surgery on Dec 5th, 2017 and took off training all of that December. I entered back into weight lifting mid January, 2018. At about 6 weeks post op. It took 2-3 weeks after that to be back to lifting heavy and really bulking again. Once I was back to regular programming, I was motivated to grow as much as possible and fill out my new chest!
My 2018 training year was Split into 4 separate 12 week phases...
Phase I - January to April
Phase II - April to July
Phase III - July to September
Phase IIII - October - December
Each Bulk Phase ended with a deload week. For those weeks, I lifted light and for short durations. Deload weeks let me catch up on rest, cardio, and focus on blood flow for recovery of the muscles.
My training varied a lot throughout 2018. I purposely tried some new approaches to see how they would work for me and what I could learn from them.
Single Body Part
I used this method for Phase I of my bulk. I trained on main body part (chest, back, shoulders, arms, or legs) and paired it with either abs or calves.
Body Part Split
I switched to training body sections in Phase II. I did this after looking at how many top bodybuilders train. I think that it pays to switch to a body part split after having a strong foundation of training. I’m glad that I waited until I had been training well over a year before I switched. I did hit some plateaus when learning how to train this way, but eventually figured out how to have it work for me.
Body Weight Training
During Phase III, I played around with adding in total body training movements. These included push ups, mountain mans, kettlebell swings, more pull ups than usual, heavy carries, planks, etc. They pushed me mentally and made my workouts long/difficult. After analyzing my results, I think that they movements are great for conditioning but not so great for gaining size/strength. This was one of the worst bulk phases I’ve ever had, I lacked in the gains that I was used to obtaining through more traditional methods of lifting.
THE BIG ONES
Here is a quick snapshot at some of the BIG gains that were achieved for me in 2018.
Weight: 30lbs gained. Measurements: Biceps up 1.5in, Shoulders up 4.5in, Chest up 2.5in.
Strength: Flat Barbell Bench Press up 75lbs. Barbell Curl up 25lbs. Deadlift up 100lbs. Barbell Squat up 115lbs.
Below are the charts that show my strength gains for chest, shoulders, arms, back, and legs. The numbers on the left show the working set (8-12 reps) or, in some cases, heavy set (4-6 reps) weight hit in pounds. The bottom shows the month. There is also a chart for my body weight and my daily caloric intake.
In late October 2018 I decided to switch gyms after my local Planet Fitness changed all their lifting equipment. The smith racks were replaced by racks that made any type of deadlift impossible, enough was enough for me. I started training at an Anytime Fitness that had numerous squat racks, free barbells, and even a deadlift platform. The numbers are reflected in my November stats. This was a change for the better. I was nervous to see how I would do with free barbells, but I got the hang of it quick and my lifting improved!
WHAT I LEARNED
This year was a big year of growth for me. Recovering from surgery was a first for me and to come back as strong as I did surprised me. At this point, I’ve been training for almost 3 years and bulking for a little under 2 years. Below are some of the top lessons after this full year of lifting.
TRACK CHANGES TO YOUR PROGRAM
I highly recommend that you track all your training and nutrition, but especially if you make drastic changes to your training routines. I switched up my training quite a bit throughout this year and if I wouldn’t have tracked and then analyzed the results… my progress would have been halted. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but come back to your numbers and be honest with yourself when deciding if they are working or not.
DON’T OVERDO IT
I learned this lesson hard this year. During Phase III of my bulk, I was training 2+ hours every session, 5 times a week. It really hurt my gains. I stayed strong but my muscles just weren’t being properly stimulated for growth. I hit plateaus and felt rough. If you start to feel completely exhausted by your training, scale it back and try to shorten your workouts. One thing that helped me was reducing the amount of sets I did.
WARM UP AND THEN ATTACK
After coming off of my not so great Phase III, I tried a new method of including warm up sets for almost all my exercises, except towards the end of the workout when I am just focused on maximum pump. I really enjoyed the results of training this way, I felt looser and more ready to take on heavier sets. I recommend doing at least 1-2 warm up sets before hitting any heavy or working weight… throughout your whole workout. This method is often only used on the first major lift or two, but I found success using it during the first 3/4 of the workout.
DON’T SWITCH TOO MUCH
Although it may seem appealing to always try new things, I recommend sticking to the same main exercises for at least 12 weeks. You need to be able to keep progressing on a movement. Make sure that you do major lifts every week or at least every other week. For example, if you decide to not deadlift one week… make sure you hit that movement the next week. Too many skipped weeks for a certain exercise will hinder progress. I know because I made the mistake!
YOUR GYM MATTERS
I made the best of using smith racks for a long time. I think that making due with what you can is a great way to be creative with your lifting and helps develop your understanding of how get through it no matter what. That being said… I noticed a big difference when I switched to free weight barbells. It makes a difference with squats, deadlifts, and presses. If you have access to a gym that caters more towards lifters, try it out. It may make a difference for the better in your training.
SET STRENGTH GOALS EACH MONTH
When you have enough trackable data to determine what strength gains are possible, you can take that number and apply it as a goal moving forward. I looked back at my gains and was able to figure out just how much weight I can put on my major lifts month to month. For example, I was able to put roughly 5lbs a month on my bench press. Now… you won’t hit that every time, but it’s a fun way to keep progressing! I started doing this type of goal setting in Phase IIII and plan to implement it more in 2019.
Ready to get started lifting? Learn how to gain mass and size by using the 12 Week Beginner Bulk Program.
This second year of bulking was surprising. I am finally starting to really see my physique emerge. By back has blown up and my chest has filled out. It feels so good to be developing real core strength and to see my stability improve. In general, it was a year of BIG lifts. My strength went way up and I am so excited to see just how much I can grow in 2019. I already know that I want to cross over the 200lb mark… will I make it? Step by step, lift by lift… with dedication and consistency… it’s all possible.
Whether you are just starting out or have been training for awhile, best of luck to you on your fitness journey. Please feel free to reach out to me with specific training/nutrition questions.
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I am not a nutritionist or personal trainer. This post article is based off my own research and personal experience with nutrition, supplementation, and training. For more in depth information on developing your fitness and nutrition plan, click here.