12 Week Bulk to Gain Lean Mass Program - Phase 3 Results
I started my Bulking Program on February 25th, 2017. View the details of what my bulking plan consisted of in the first post here. The program is broken into 12 week phases.
My top surgery is scheduled for December of 2017, so I decided to stop bulking after the 3rd 12 week phase and give my body some time to get really healthy and ready for surgery. I will not be able to train normally for at least 6-8 weeks post-op, so I will not bulk again until February of 2018. I am happy with what I have been able to accomplish in 2017 as far as mass gains, strength gains, definition, and overall body structure.
I've learned so much about training, nutrition, and my body during these last 36 weeks. Tracking your training and nutrition are keys to being able to evaluate and fine tune your training methods. Looking back, I'm so glad that I did this and jumped into the scary zone of doing everything you can to make gains. There were so many moments that I felt terrified that I was just going to gain body fat and that my aesthetics would be far off from what I was trying to achieve. Gaining lean mass is a slow and patient process. You have to trust the journey and be ready for victories and times when things seem to be stagnant. I hit plateaus and then accelerated patches during these bulking phases that played tricks on my mind. There were times when I felt that I was making no progress, going at it with the wrong approach, or overdoing it calorie wise. All of these mind tricks proved to be false. I kept coming back to my plan, the numbers, and the work. I put in the effort and stayed consistent... in the end, it all went according to plan.
The goals for Phase 3 (8/5/2017 - 10/28/2017) were the following...
- Gain 1/2lb - 1lb of lean mass per week
- Keep body fat below 15%
- Strength gains every week, especially in heavy compound movements
- Take caloric intake up by 50 - 100 calories a week (based on how I was gaining)
- Drink 1 gallon or more of water daily
- Train 1.5 hour sessions at least 5 days a week
- Make Leg gains and feel confident about training legs
- Widen the back and create more of an X shape on the frame
- Get a better bicep peak along with sharper tricep definition
WHAT WAS ACCOMPLISHED
I managed to accomplish ALL of my goals for Phase 3. I worked hard, but noticed that I was able to get through most workouts without feeling totally depleted. Overall, the biggest changes in these past 12 weeks are my strength and the definition of my muscles.
- Weight Stats: Starting Weight Week 1 was 156 lbs and End Weight at Week 12 was 161 lbs. My height is 5' 7". Total Weight Gained: 7 lbs (just about 1/2 lb a week).
- Size Stats: Flexed Biceps same (14in). Flexed Calves the same (14in). Shoulder Circumference same (47in). Chest Circumference up 1in (40in to 41in). Upper Leg Circumference same (22in), Waist down 1in (33in to 32in), and my Butt is up 1in (39in to 40in). Overall, I didn't experience much size growth, but the fact that my weight is up shows me that I am still gaining lean mass.
- Strength Gains: All gains are for working sets which I do at least 3 sets of during a workout. Chest: Barbell Bench Press up 30lbs (from 70x10 to 100x10). Incline Dumbbell Fly up 10lbs (from 25x12 to 35x10). Back: Close Grip Cable Row up 15lbs (from 135x12 to 150x12). Wide Grip Pulldown up 15lbs (from 105x12 to 130x12). Shoulders: Dumbbell Overhead Press up 15lbs (from 35x10 to 40x12). Side Lateral Raise up 5lbs (from 20x12 to 25x12) Arms: Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Press up 10lbs (from 45x12 to 55x12). Cable Curls up 15lbs (from 80x12 to 95x12). Legs: Barbell Squat up 10lbs (from 80x8 to 90x8). Leg Press up 20lbs (from 220x10 to 240x10). Highlight is pretty even across the whole body. I put emphasis on shoulder and back.
- Diet / Nutrition: I kept very consistent with my diet. I ate pretty much the same food during these last 12 weeks, I just go so used to having certain meals at certain times. My nutrition plan during this bulk phase was 80% plant based. The only dairy I ate was Greek Yogurt, whey protein, and string cheese. My macros ended up being best a 23/56/21 (23% Protein, 56% Carbs, and 21% Fats). I played around with higher protein levels during these last 12 weeks but I still perform best with a high carb intake and a close to even protein/fat intake.
- Caloric Intake: This phase, eating became very routine. I was less sick of food than I was during phase 2. I think my got used to the intake because my weight stayed the same for weeks at a time even with slightly increasing my calories. Starting caloric intake was 2,500 daily and at week 12 I had it up to 2,700 daily. This is a 200 calories daily increase and I was able to increase this in slow increments so that my body could properly adjust. I was feeling sluggish at the start of this bulk phase but about midway through, I got used to all the food. I think I could have even pushed my calories higher, but that scared me a bit. I still want to keep my body fat below 15% while bulking, so I'm careful not to go too overboard.
OUTCOME AND LESSONS
Phase 3 taught me that strength is priority number one. When you're bulking and your mind starts to wander... this is key. There were moments where I felt that my physique wasn't changing and the scale wasn't going up, but I tracked my workouts and saw that slowly but surely my strength was improving. This is your number one teacher and proof provider. If you are stronger, your muscles are growing and you are improving. Keep at it.
- Athleticism: In the gym, I felt more like an athlete than ever. My technique was better and I was methodic in my movements. I cruised through my workouts, they were hard but doable. All that I learned over these past 36 weeks went into my training sessions towards the end... I found new ways to hit muscles more effectively and with less soreness the next day.
- Core: Don't skip training your abs. I learned this over these last 36 weeks. I've been taking ab training seriously than ever during these last two 12 week phases. I used to not make it a priority or skip it... it showed. These muscles need to be trained at least 3 times a week. I no longer skip them and work them hard, the effort is showing.
- Calves: Same as above. Don't neglect this area. Especially if you want to achieve a nice X shape.
- Metabolism: I'm finally used to eating a LOT of food. My body is a machine at it now. I noticed that I would weigh in the same for weeks on end, I really had to ramp up the calories. This will be interesting now that I'm heading into maintenance. I hope I don't lose gains.
- Rest: Be careful with yourself. I am a believer in super hard training and pushing you personal limits, but during this last phase I went through some mental health stuff that forced me to reprioritize rest. I take it more seriously now. I don't take more of it but how I spend that time has changed. I make healthier choices and take rest as a to-do and not just time to fill. On a rest day now I make sure that I treat my body with respect and make healthy choices. Less drinking and less social outings... more downtime and emotionally enriching activities.
I'm heading into top surgery on December 5th. Post surgery will leave me off of training for 6-8 weeks at least. It will be a time of healing and rest. I plan to work on emotional and mental strength during this time. I'm so excited to be on the other side of this surgery. This year has been amazing, especially when it comes to my fitness journey. I've grown so much as a person and am filled with hope for 2018. Pretty soon I will be able to show off these chest muscles that I've been working on for almost 2 years. Pretty soon I will be able to go into the gym without a sports bra on and not worry about looking like I have "boobs". This will be huge for me. This is the only surgery that I want (... at this time). Once it is complete, I will feel more complete. All of the work that I've put in over the past 20 months has been to feel more present in my body... it has worked. I feel better than ever and hope to keep progressing in this positive change.
This post is an informational update to my intro bulking program. I posted at the end of each 12 week phase to share if I met my goals, what the overall outcome was, and also what lessons I learned.
This is not intended to be instructional but rather a way to share my experience with this method. For more in depth information on developing your fitness and nutrition plan, click here. Also, this post was created during my first two months of hormone replacement therapy. All images are from my first two months on testosterone.