What’s The Difference in Bulking Cycles vs Cutting Cycles?

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question-icon-newI have been weight training for several years. I workout 7 days a week with the goal of packing on muscle mass since I want to get really big. I work each muscle group separately each day. My question is about the best way to implement a bulking and cutting cycle into my training. Right now I weight train super heavy with low reps (4-6 reps per set) and zero cardio to gain overall muscle mass and I do this bulk cycle for 6 months. Then I do a cutting cycle for 6 months where I weight train with high repetitions (15-20 reps) and I also include cardio workouts with 40-60 minutes of slow and steady cardio sessions walking on the treadmill or riding the stationary bike. I always try to do my cardio after my weight training workouts. The problem I’m having is that I seem to still be carrying a lot of body fat even after I have finished my cutting cycle. Does this look like a good bulking and cutting cycle to you? If not, what should I change?

answer-icon-newYou noted that you currently weight train 7 days per week and I recommend cutting back a little on training in order to prevent any overtraining issues. Weight training every day of the week is just too much stress on your body. Try switching to a maximum of 5 days per week for lifting weights. If you train with super high intensity, this should be all you need to gain mass and honestly, you might even benefit from cutting back to only 4 weight training days per week. You should only be training each muscle once per week for the best results. Here are a few samples of a 4 day split and a 5 day split routine you can follow:

4 Day Split (Bulking Cycle):

  • Monday: Chest and Back
  • Tuesday: Shoulders
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Arms (Biceps and Triceps)
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

5 Day Split (Bulking Cycle):

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Shoulders
  • Friday: Arms (Biceps and Triceps)
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

4 Day Split (Cutting Cycle):

  • Monday: Chest and Back
  • Tuesday: Shoulders
  • Wednesday: Cardio Only
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Arms (Biceps and Triceps)
  • Saturday: Cardio Only
  • Sunday: Cardio Only

5 Day Split (Cutting Cycle):

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Shoulders
  • Friday: Arms (Biceps and Triceps)
  • Saturday: Cardio Only
  • Sunday: Cardio Only

In terms of the overall length of each cycle, doing 6 months on each cycle is a long time to be either bulking or cutting. Most bodybuilders do an average of 12 weeks (3 months) on each phase. When you stay too long on either cycle, you tend to either get too fat on the bulking phase or lose too much muscle on the cutting phase and this is probably the reason why you’re having a hard time shedding all of the excess body fat once you transition into the cutting phase. It’s normal to have fun and overeat on the bulking cycle since its fun to eat all of your favorite foods and get huge during the process. Unfortunately, most people get a little too out of control and pack on way too much body fat. They see themselves growing and getting stronger but they really don’t realize that a large percentage of that bulk that was accumulated is actually fat mass.

Then the cutting phase comes around and it becomes difficult to diet down hard and shed all the fat that was packed on during the bulking phase. It’s much harder to limit food intake and cut calories when you’re dieting in the cutting cycle and many times bodybuilders will not be able to diet down hard enough to remove all the excess fat due to overindulgence in the earlier gluttonous phase. The worst thing that happens is if the person has a lot of body fat to burn off, they will diet way too much and cut their calories so low that they end up losing a lot of their hard-earned muscle. This is a double whammy since they end up burning too much of their lean muscle tissue and then their body holds onto the excess fat. This is not a good thing for a bodybuilder whose goal is to gain maximum muscle and burn maximum fat in order to have an extremely lean and heavily muscled physique.

So, the best advice I can give you is to monitor your body fat levels very closely during the bulking phase. You can take weekly photos to track your body and if it looks like you’re holding too much fat in your stomach, then cut back a little on your calories or add a little cardio into your bulking cycle. It takes time to fine tune your plan but stick with it and you will quickly learn how your body reacts.

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1 Comment

  1. Matt Fielding on

    This is good advice. A common misconception is that you can eat what you like when you’re bulking then reduce the food intake right down for cutting. When you’re cutting, you still need heavy weights, while too much cardio and too little food will kill your muscle. It’s about diet – keep your overall calorie intake up but eat the right foods at the right times and you’ll start to gain a more toned physique.

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