I've done the classic bulk in the winter, shred in the summer for as long as I've been in fitness.
Even while I advise people skip it for a more consistent, general approach.
“Optional” elements of fitness feel obsessive sometimes.
Macro methods like Intermittent fasting may be a lifechanging revolution for your life, or it may add mere incriments of improvement for you.
I TELL people "I don't bulk/cut”, while I literally never HAVEN'T done these phases. I do them in direct association with the seasons.
Maybe consiously, I wasn't. Even in "bulk phases"... I'm staying lean. I eat 90% healthy and I’m never going over 18% bodyfat.
Even in shred phases, I'm eating more than maintainance calories. It’s always been a priority for me to refuel the seemingly absurd efficiency of my metabolism + training schedule, so the “eat a lot” switch remains on.
I preach against bulking/cutting cycles because most of us need to focus on the reps. The consistency.
And give me a break… this is social media. We’re supposed to throw out that pesky nuance and take a hard line stance on everything 5.
Well, mine is maintaining the basics.
Eating right, working out consistently, and sleeping at or above average quality. Add some stoicism or a general sense of ability to self reflect and you're basically a superhuman... although my bad. I realize you're just here to make your muscles bulge/s
This guide stems from a desire to see myself level up.
I've been doing the bare minimum with my fitness, and that's failing. I don't just do this for myself anymore, I do it for my clients as well as all of you who watch my stuff. I do it for the greater purpose of inspiring others to get fit using minimalist methods, and although the punch-line of my philosophy is "do as little as possible"……
….it comes with the caveat that you need to be pushing yourself to the MAX every few workouts(for those desiring to reach greatness, change that to EVERY workout). In life, the moments of calm and total ease are afforded by the steadfastness of your character. That’s built through committed, and perhaps you could even say all encompassing,training of mind/body/and spirit.
So with this guide, we ARE getting into the knitty-gritty of gains-making classic method: B U L K I N G.
I’m going to lay out my personal plan to put on 20+lbs of weight and increase my strength doing it.
This is going to require effectively aligning 3 particular strategies with this goal: how I train, how I eat, and how I prioritize rest.
Now, my goals are loose.
I’m not worried about fat accumulation. As far as workouts or fitness itself goes…. I’m not really worried about much else other than cardio, ironically.
It’s because of this single-minded weight gain approach that this process we’re going to be build out is one of simple habits.
My plan is to start basic and then further update/specify the strategy as time goes on. Don’t worry, I’ll update you on those too. If you bookmark this guide, you’ll find that the steps below change as I put the practice in.
Note If your goals are more specific, I will include instruction on how to make the approach as objective as you need.
If you’re ready for a physical transformation, this is an exact example of a plan I’m using to transform… just like I’ve done countless times in the past.
Step 1. Food.
As per bulking, there is no singular factor that matters more than the mass you have access to.
It could be argued that mental health/recovery is more important than mass access. This argument gets deeply spiritual and I’d like you to rest assured that if it’s meta-physical principles that lead you to believe the next step is actually more imortant, you’re right and you should simply listen to my ideas and ignore the steps all together.
If you live firmly in our world where the laws of physics are non-negotiable, you’re who I wrote this step for.
At the end of the day, the law of calories in, calories out is to be observed.
Enter your current weight, and set a weight gain target. Mine will be 1lb per week of weight gain.
-My energy intake goal will be 4050-4200 calories per day.-
If you want to follow along, open up a note on your phone and start with: “1. (calorie goal)
Now, I’m only going to track this specifically for 5 - 7 days. I generally find that my discipline personally doesn’t lack so much in the MAINTAINING of intake once I figure it out, however my default is under eating…. so I’m going to count calories for about a week until I have a clear idea of what 4000 calories LOOKS like and FEELS like. Once I’m clear, it’s just about staying in the mentality.
We’ll talk about that next.
For now, you can use the afformentioned apps to track…. or you can sign up with Vegan StrongFit and use our app. Super easy to use. We just have you take a picture of what you eat and give it a 1 sentence description. The app will do the rest.
If you’d like to sign up, here’s the link to apply with us! https://veganstrongfit.com/pages/apply-to-work-with-us
If you’d rather go more oldschool, use a pen and paper or keep track on a notes app. If you’re tracking calories(or reflecting on anything for that matter), it’s important to do this everyday to get a clear idea of where you’re at with your behavioural progress.
If you’re over/under/incorrectly eating, you can make adjustments only as soon as you’ve reflected on your personal data.
Mini Step: Supplements
Supplements, across the board, are almost always optional. If you’re a vegan, you should probably be supplementing B12(although if you don’t, no worries because almost every “vegan” specific product is fortified with your daily b12 requirement).
When it comes to fitness though, I’m not a big pill-pusher. I’ve taken pre-workout a few times in my life. Unless I’m missing some deeper science, this is more or less an expensive caffeine-sugar coctail intented to give you those exact effects. A zap and a lack of ability to notice fatigue.
I train hard.
My movement in the gym is constant. The intention to push myself is always top of mind. Pre-workout hasn’t ever felt like something I was missing. Your experience may be different, and that’s ok. Add pre-workout if you’d like!
The ONLY supplement I’ve ever taken consistently(other than a multivitamin) is creatine. I’ll link my Creatine explanaition breakdown here.
The bottom line: It increases muscular energy production. It quite literally makes you stronger. And for bulking? The increase water retention does infact add more weight AND make you look much more jacked to boot.
Throw creatine on this list.
Daily creatine goal: 5g per day
potential other factors to track:
Daily Protein Goal in Grams:
Daily Fiber Goal in Grams:
Emotional state @each time of eating:
Step 2. Fitness
I have an unorthodox set of beliefs when it comes to fitness.
“You can reach any goal you want, doing whatever you want.”
You can get massively muscular and bulky just doing yoga. You can get slim and wirey lifting big heavy weights.
The key is in how hard you push your muscles, and how you’re eating.
My goal right now is to put on weight, and come out on the otherside looking much more muscular than I am now. When it comes to fitness goals though? I only have one main goal right now, which also happens to be the 1st rule of Zombieland.
“But Zach…. do you really think you can get big and bulky just running?”
BUT I don’t want to do the extra work that would be required to make that happen, so I’m still going to lift weights(I’ve broken down the above click-bait more thoroughly in previous content. Go look for it).
For the first time in a few months, I have consistent access to a gym with big weights…
…and now that I do I’m feeling the desire to rediscover my strength in the bench/deadlift/back squat/new strength challenges that I can play around with.
My plan right now is as follows:
(feel free to copy this)
Monday: 7am run// 12:30pm gym(push)
Tueday: 12:30pm gym(pull)// 6:30pm MMA
Wednesday: 7am run// 12:30pm gym(push)
Thursday: 7am Qigong// 12:30pm gym(pull)
Friday: 7am run// 12:30pm gym(push)
Saturday: 7am Qigong// 12:30pm gym(pull)
Sunday: 7am Qigong// 12:30pm gym(push)
Copy this. Use it. Join the Vegan StrongFit program and watch me go through the process exactly.
But I am going to stress here right now: This isn’t rocket science. I’m not going to be using a super-specific plan all of the time.
For the runs, I’m going to switch on a good podcast and go for 20 minutes. I’m going to really feel like pushing myself at certain points(I can confidently say this after 12 years of self-motivated fitness). I’m going to want to just cruise at other points. My cardio is not good enough right now that I feel the need to be more strict. Being this consistent alone will 10x my current capabilities.
For the weightroom workouts, I track my MAX in the notes app in my phone. I will continue to track my max for the bench/deadlift/back squat. I do all kinds of set/rep schemes…. differing every single workout. I have my typical arsenal, and I learn all kinds of from books and podcasts.
After 5 - 10 sets of those “big” lifts, I move on to 3-4 other exercises and finish off with some light cardio. Again, I’m experimenting constantly and the second half of the workout will probably have even more variations.
For the Qigong, I’m switching between guided sessions and self-made sessions. I don’t want to toot my own horn too much here but I have a deep understanding of how Qigong is working with your body and your spirit. As such I think it’s important to build my own routines and practice from a place of flow.
Again, my clients learn a lot of Qigong…. so join up if you’d like to see it become an integral part of you self-care.
If you’re looking at this and wondering where the hell the specifics are…. they’re in the follow up. The showing up and actually doing the work on a daily basis.
You might be at an early stage of your journey where having the EXACT exercises and a fool-proof strategy to get yourself commited is really important. That’s ok! If you know that about yourself…. good. Do it.
I know exactly what exercises I need in the moment, but again…. that’s come from years of training in supervised settings having plans made for me by world-class trainers.
It takes time.
Build out your plan as thoroughly as possible and keep it in a place that’s easy to access and easy to adjust. Clarity breeds confidence, and so the more SPECIFIC your plan is… the easier it’s going to be for you to curb the excuses and show up to carry it out.
[Have a way to get yourself in the gym everyday. Whatever you do, push hard. If you’re not experiencing regular muscle soreness, you had better be an advanced fitness practitioner or I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT if you’re not making gains.]
Step 3. Rest and Recovery.
One of my most-jacked homies always says ,"the key to big gains is 10 hours of sleep."
Most of us can’t pull this off at this point in our lives….. but you more than likely can do a little better. If right now you’re sleeping 6 hours a night, challenge yourself to add another night.
Currently I sleep between 7 and 8 hours a night on average, although the quality of my sleep has been mediocre due to a lot of factors. I won’t go too deep here right at this moment just because in my opinion, this is my own neglegence. I’m talking getting hooked on some fantasy lore and staying up an hour and a half later than I’d like just reading lore-wiki.
Easy fix: be more strict.
My goal is to set my phone on audiobook mode by 9:30. This will help my brain wind down, and if I can be in bed by 10 I’ll no doubt be asleep 10-15 minutes later.
I want to talk about is the importance of rest OVERALL. If your sole-goal is to get massive(or build muscle, period) you need to prioritize rest over workouts. For a lot of you reading this that are trying to find consistency in the gym, I’d say lower the importance of what I’m about to say a LITTLE BIT…. simply because building the habit of showing up at the gym is the most important step.
Still, I want you to understand this.
Most of your muscles are not fully recovered in 2-3 days between workouts. If you do chest day on monday, and then again on thursday….
You didn’t fully recover.
You want to make sure that you’re creating adequate time between workouts in order to fully recover. Here are a couple ways to visualize this:
Monday- Big weight chest/squat day
Tuesday- Big weight back/deadlift day
Friday- light calisthenics
Saturday- light biking
Monday - Big weight chest/squat day
Tuesday - Light calisthenics
Wednesday - Rest
Thursday - Big weight back/deadlift day
Friday - Light biking
Saturday - Rest
Sunday - Rest
All we’re doing is keeping the BIG weight training to a minimum. We can exercise on the other days, but there’s no point in pushing muscles to tear if they’re already torn and not yet fully recovered.
So if we want to get big, we want to maximize our recovery time. This means maximizing quality sleep, and minimizing muslce over-use.
Steps you can take to find your ideal bed time:
With a strong plan for each of these 3 sections, it comes down to your willingness to engage in the process and reflect.
Bookmark this post if you’d like to refer back to it. Shoot us a message if you’d like some help.
Peace family. Zach