I’ve been lean bulking for the last 4 months, steadily gaining weight. Today I realized I’m starting to lose pretty much all ab definition so it’s time to get lean again.
The philosophy of gaining muscle without getting fat is very simple. You need to alternate your lean bulks and cuts in the range of 8 to 15% body fat.
You start your gaining phase lean, around 8-10% and you steadily gain weight until you hit 13-15%. Once you reach the point where I am now, where you start to lose your abs, you cut back to around 10% and restart the whole process.
The awesome thing about doing this is that you spend the majority of the year in a surplus. You can lose fat much faster than you can gain muscle. Usually it will take you 5-8 weeks to cut down from around 15% to 10%. But if you’re disciplined on your lean bulk, you will spend 5-8 months in a surplus to go from 10% to 15%.
Read my Complete Guide to Lean Bulking to learn exactly how to set your nutrition. It is exactly what you need to maintain low body fat while bulking.
The problem is most guys overestimate how much muscle they can gain in a few months. The reality is that at the intermediate level you will do well if you can gain a kilogram of muscle over the course of 3 months.
Should you pursue Lean Gains?
It is possible to gain muscle without any fat. But you can’t maximize the rate of growth while preventing fat gain 100%. Calorie partitioning is never perfect.
To make exclusive lean gains, you probably need to cut the rate of muscle gain in half. For this reason I believe beginners and intermediates (who can gain a lot during one year) are better of accepting some fat gain during their bulks. This way they get to their is goal physique faster. Here’s an example:
Let’s say two people have the potential to gain 10 lbs of muscle in one year.
- One guy lean bulks and gains those 10 lbs + 10 lbs of fat during that year.
- The other guy makes exclusive lean gains and only grows 6 lbs during that year.
The first guy is at an advantage right now as he can lose those 10 lbs in 8-10 weeks. The second guy needs another year in order to get to the same level.
The story is different for advanced lifters though. If one can gain only 5 lbs of muscle in one year, bulking doesn’t make any sense. Even if they gained 20lbs of weight, only 5 will be muscle.
When the rate of muscle growth is low, lean gaining is just as effective as lean bulking.
How to Track the Quality of your Physique
Remember that the best way to track physique changes is through relative strength. Every time your strength compared to your bodyweight improves, you will look and perform better. That means when you cut, if you maintain your strength, your relative strength improves. If you bulk and you gain strength faster than you gain bodyweight, your relative strength improves.
Even if you lose overall size as you’re cutting, if you maintain your strength you’re actually making progress. You’re lifting the same weights at a lower bodyweight.
The easiest way to track body fat percentage is through your waist measurement. A few months ago I came up with this table to show how your waist measurement around the navel correlates with your body fat:
[table id=20 /]
This works well for around 80% of men and you can use it to get a general idea of where you’re at.
Please note that it’s not accurate for everyone. For example I have a naturally slim waist for my height. I know that when I’m around 8% my waist is about 75cm – which is around 41% of my height. Even if there is an error of 2-3% you can still be in the ballpark.
[lgc_column grid=”50″ tablet_grid=”50″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”][/lgc_column][lgc_column grid=”50″ tablet_grid=”50″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”true”]
The Program I use
The program I follow right now is The Greek God Program. It’s great for gaining muscle while minimizing fat gain because you track muscle growth by strength gains, not scale weight.
Strength gained in a medium rep range is a VERY good indicator of muscle development. If one gains bodyweight but their lifts don’t go up, they won’t have bigger muscles.
Or click here to read more about the program[/lgc_column]