Some people just want to build muscle (aka “bulk”). Others just want to lose fat (aka “cut”). In cases like these, knowing what to do first is pretty easy.
But what if you want to do both? Which goal are you supposed to start with?
In this article, we’ll determine whether you should bulk or cut first, and we’ll also figure out if losing fat and building muscle at the same time (aka doing a “recomp”) is something you should try instead.
Bulk vs Cut vs Recomp
If you want to build muscle and lose fat, there are 3 options for you to choose from:
Bulking is a term used to describe a muscle building phase. This entails eating an amount of calories that causes a small caloric surplus to exist so that a slow rate of weight gain occurs. The goal here is to gain muscle mass while keeping gains in body fat to a bare minimum.
Cutting is a term used to describe a fat loss phase. This entails eating an amount of calories that causes a caloric deficit to exist so that a moderate and sustainable rate of weight loss occurs. The goal during this time is to lose body fat while maintaining as much muscle mass as possible.
Recomp, short for recomposition, is a term used to describe losing fat and building muscle at the same time. This entails eating at your maintenance level each day, or perhaps being in a deficit on certain days and a surplus on others so that you break even in the end. The goal here is to stay around the same body weight while making small changes to your body composition (more muscle, less fat) over time.
In the case of bulking and cutting, you’d typically alternate between phases of each until your long-term goal has been achieved (additional details here: A Guide To Bulking And Cutting).
In the case of a recomp, you’d either stick with that approach until your long-term goal has has been achieved, or until a short-term goal has been reached at which point you may switch to bulking or cutting instead.
The only question is, which option is best for you right now?
Should you bulk, cut, or recomp?
Let’s find out…
Who Should Bulk First?
The simple answer? Those who are “lean enough” to do so. Let me explain…
You see, bulking will almost always result in at least some body fat being gained along with the muscle you’re building. That’s just the nature of being in a caloric surplus.
It’s a normal part of the process.
Of course, there’s a huge difference between gaining a ton of excess body fat because you’re doing things incorrectly (like many people do when bulking), and gaining a small amount of body fat because you’ve adjusted your diet/workout to keep gains in body fat to a bare minimum.
(Note: my Superior Muscle Growth program is built entirely around making these adjustments.)
But even when doing everything perfectly, you should still expect to gain some fat along with the muscle.
You Need To Be “Lean Enough” To Bulk
For this reason, you don’t want to begin bulking until you are “lean enough” to do so, as attempting to bulk when you’re “too fat” means you’re just going to end up getting even fatter.
And no one wants that.
In addition to potentially being detrimental to your health and worsening your calorie partitioning (i.e. the ratio of how much muscle and fat you gain while in a surplus), it also means you’re going to look like crap throughout the entire muscle building process, because going from “fat” to “fatter” isn’t exactly a pretty transformation.
But when you’re “lean enough” before you start? Now you have some room to work with.
You can gain some body fat along with the muscle you’re building and still look fairly decent throughout the process because you never end up getting “too fat” along the way.
So the question is, how lean is “lean enough” to bulk? Here’s what I recommend.
Ideal Body Fat Range For Bulking
- Men who are 10-15% body fat (or less) can bulk first.
- Women who are 18-23% body fat (or less) can bulk first.
Exactly where you choose to start within these ranges mostly depends on your own personal preferences. For example…
Option 1: Start Lower, End Lower
I think it’s acceptable, realistic, and often ideal (in terms of maximizing muscle gains) to allow yourself to go up about 5% in body fat during a nice long, slow, successful bulk phase.
That means if a man starts bulking in the 10-12% range, he’d switch to a cut once he reaches the 15-17% range. And a woman who starts in the 18-20% range would switch to a cut once she reaches the 23-25% range.
In my experience, this is an excellent approach for most people to use, and it tends to be my default recommendation.
Option 2: Start Higher, End Higher
However, if you’re someone who doesn’t mind being in a slightly higher body fat range during the muscle building process, or you just want to focus on building muscle right away rather than spending any extra time getting leaner first, you can feel free to start bulking while you’re at the higher end of these ranges.
For example, if a guy starts bulking at 13-15% instead of 10-12%, he’d simply switch to a cut at 18-20% instead of 15-17%. And a woman who starts to bulk at 21-23% instead of 18-20% would switch to a cut at 26-28% instead of 23-25%.
So, the specifics mostly come down to your own preferences for how you want your body to look and what body fat percentage is acceptable and comfortable for you.
In the end, as long as you’re starting within these ranges and never going more than 5% higher than your starting point, you’ll be getting the best balance of muscle building results while still looking good (i.e. never getting “too fat”) in the process.
Bonus: If you want a free workout for building muscle or getting lean, you can check out My 3 Most Effective Workout Routines, pick the one you like best, and then start building your ideal body faster than ever.
Who Should Cut First?
Simply put, those who aren’t lean enough to bulk should cut first.
This would obviously include anyone who is overweight or obese, as well as anyone who is above the ideal range for bulking that we just discussed.
Ideal Body Fat Range For Cutting
- Men who are above 15% body fat should cut first.
- Women who are above 23% body fat should cut first.
Once you’ve gotten lean enough, that’s when you’d make the switch from cutting to bulking.
And like I mentioned a minute ago, exactly how lean you get before making that switch depends on your personal preferences. Some will prefer cutting down to the lower end of the ideal bulking range, while the higher end may be “lean enough” for others.
But You Still Need To Weight Train!
One important thing I need to point out here is that you should definitely still be weight training while you’re cutting.
Some people seem to be under the impression that if they need to cut first, that means they should hold off on weight training or making any attempt at building muscle until it’s time for them to start bulking.
This is absolutely NOT the case at all.
For starters, weight training is extremely important during a fat loss phase, because it’s a requirement for maintaining muscle while you lose fat.
In addition, some people will be able to build muscle while cutting. No, this technically isn’t a recomp, because you’re in a caloric deficit (rather than at maintenance) and you’re losing weight (rather than maintaining it).
But even outside of a traditional recomp scenario, some people are capable of losing fat and building muscle at the same time (basically, the fatter and less experienced you are, the more likely it is to happen, and vice versa). So, an intelligent weight training program will be needed during this time to take advantage of that possibility.
(Note: my Superior Fat Loss program contains the diet and workout I recommend for this purpose.)
Who Should Recomp?
And finally, we have option #3.
Let me start this section off by saying that there is really only one group of people that I think a recomp is going to be ideal for. I’ll tell you who those people are in a second.
The Problem With Recomping
I don’t recommend recomps very often.
I know the idea of building muscle and losing fat at the same time sounds amazing, but people fail to understand that a traditional recomp approach – where you’re eating maintenance calories and hovering around the same body weight the entire time – is going to be an extremely slow process for most people.
We’re talking very minor improvements in body composition over very long periods of time.
Fat loss and (especially) muscle growth already happen slower than everyone wants them to, and with a recomp, they’re going to happen much slower than that.
So, for the majority of people looking to lose meaningful amounts fat and build meaningful amounts of muscle, a recomp will be a bad option for making that happen.
Instead, alternating between bulk and cut phases will be the best approach.
Now about that one group of people who a recomp will be ideal for…
Ideal Candidates For Recomping
- Men who are beginners to consistent, intelligent weight training (or are returning to it after a long layoff) that are between 13-20% body fat.
- Women who are beginners to consistent, intelligent weight training (or are returning to it after a long layoff) that are between 21-28% body fat.
Basically, a recomp is a great option for “skinny-fat” beginners.
To be clear, a “skinny-fat” intermediate or advanced trainee within these body fat ranges should still bulk or cut. A recomp would not be a good option for people fitting this description.
A skinny-fat beginner could actually do the same if they preferred to. It’s fine. However, this is the one group of people that I’d consider recomping to be an ideal option for, especially during their first few months of consistent, intelligent training.
Reason being, the untrained state (or detrained state in the case of those returning from a layoff) that these people are in primes them for rapid improvements in terms of muscle and strength gains.
And this, combined with the small amount of excess body fat they have, often leads to meaningful improvements in body composition during those initial months.
Once this recomp progress begins to stall, that would be the time to switch to bulking or cutting depending on what your body fat percentage and personal preferences are at that point.
Bonus: If you want a free workout for building muscle or getting lean, you can check out My 3 Most Effective Workout Routines, pick the one you like best, and then start building your ideal body faster than ever.
What Is Your Body Fat Percentage?
Once you’ve seen that the decision to bulk, cut, or recomp is largely dependent on your current body fat percentage, you’d probably like to know how to determine what your body fat percentage actually is.
Well, the methods most people use tend to suck. For example…
- Body Fat Scales
Typical body fat scales (which use Bioelectrical Impedance) are quite common, but they are well-known for being crap in terms of accuracy. Studies have shown they are often off by as much as 8%. I never recommend them.
- Advanced Methods
Then there are more advanced methods that are a bit more accurate on average (sources here, here, and here) – such as a DEXA scan – but 1) you have to actually go somewhere and pay to have it done, and 2) it’s still not as accurate as most people think.
The Best Method For Finding Your Body Fat Percentage
With all of this in mind, I’ve always found that the best method is to…
- Find Accurate Examples And Compare Yourself
Meaning, look at pictures of what various body fat percentages legitimately look like, and then compare yourself to determine where you’re at.
There’s just one problem.
Most of the examples you’re going to find are terrible.
They’re either not accurate, or they only show a tiny portion of the example person’s body, or the examples are all super muscular bodybuilders which makes it impossible to compare with.
I Created A Better Option
I call it The Body Fat Percentage Picture Guide. It includes…
- A men’s and women’s version.
- 39 full body pictures showing examples of what each body fat percentage looks like for men, and 33 full body pictures of what each body fat percentage looks like for women.
- Men’s examples start at below 10% and go all the way up to over 35%. Women’s examples start below 18% and go up to over 45%.
- Examples show body types with very little muscle, an average amount of muscle, and a very high amount of muscle.
- Examples show body types that are underweight, skinny, skinny-fat, lean, muscular, overweight, obese, and everywhere in between.
- The men’s version even includes examples with body hair.
Basically, if you want a quick and easy way to accurately find your body fat percentage, and clear recommendations for using that number to determine when to bulk, cut, or recomp, this is the best resource you will ever find.
Check it out: The Body Fat Percentage Picture Guide
Summing It Up
It’s pretty simple.
If you’re lean enough to bulk (10-15% body fat or less for a man, or 18-23% or less for a woman), you should probably bulk first.
If you’re above these ranges, you should cut first.
And if you’re a beginner who’s somewhere in the middle, you should recomp.
And if you want a simple way to accurately estimate your body fat percentage so you know for sure what you need to do (and exactly how to do it), check out The Body Fat Percentage Picture Guide.
I created it for this specific purpose.
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146 thoughts on “Bulk or Cut: Should I Build Muscle Or Lose Fat First?”
Hi, Thakns for the pointers, I have doubt, If I am already in the fat state and want to lose fat what are the kind of exercises/routines I need to follow, alongwith the weight training sessions. I am currently doing the beginners 3 day workout/week routine and my body fat is around 18-20% i guess.
Could you provide some info regarding that.
As far as fat loss goes, you need a moderate caloric deficit. This deficit can be created through diet alone, which is usually my first recommendation. If preferred of course, cardio can be used as well, although it’s completely optional.
As far as weight training goes, if you’re a beginner, continue using the beginner routine. You’ll actually be able to make some good strength progress (and possibly build some muscle) while you’re in that deficit losing fat. One of the perks of being a semi-fat beginner.
When lean enough, you can switch to a surplus and start bulking.
Thanks for confirming this and also on your other blog about how to cut fat without losing muscle. For the last couple of weeks I have cut my calories down ( buy 20%, per your website) watched my intake of carb, protein and fat grams. And not to the point of obsession, but to give myself an idea of when I eat too much or too little. I have used your beginner workout routine and have kept a small amount of cardio in the mix. The results are crazy noticable. I am losing fat, but my body is also changing in shape in a good way. I have also started measuring myself and the inches are coming off, but my weight is not dropping too fast, only at 1-2 pounds a week. Just wanted to say thank you… I talk to people and the things they say about losing weight just kill me after I have started using your site. Its amazing how little people know about their own bodies or are willing to learn. Thank you so much for your knowledge! You rock!
Awesome progress Samantha! Sounds like you’re doing everything right and it’s all working exactly as well as it should be.
Keep me updated if you can… I’m building quite the collection of success stories.
I use this website like my bible, will keep you posted!
Hi Jay what is your opinion about body recomposition diets/training ?
Depends on the exact approach. But if it’s the typical surplus on training days, deficit on off days, and you break even at maintenance for the week… then while it can work, it will typically work so painfully slow and the improvements will be so small and so gradual that most people just shouldn’t bother.
Deloading while cutting is no good yes?
I have been without a deload for a at least 2 months, still progressing but my joints are almost destroyed. I can hear my shoulders while benching. What do?
Nope, you don’t really want to deload (specifically reduce intensity) while in a deficit. But if you want to deload while cutting, the solution is to temporarily come out of the deficit and go back up to maintenance for a few weeks while deloading.
When you’re done, go back into the deficit.
What do you think is the optimal length of time for each cut and bulk cycle? You use the (extreme) example above of a workout-day-bulk, off-day-cut cycle as being too rapid, and obviously if you continually bulk until you’re BF% is 20+, or cut until you’re skin and bones, you’re not doing it right either. But where’s the balance point? On average, how many weeks of each should most people aim for?
Unless there was some special time sensitive goal, I wouldn’t base the length of a bulk or cut on weeks or months. I’d base it on a few factors, the most important of which is body fat percentage.
For a guy, 15-16% body fat would be the generic end point for bulking, where you’d then cut until you hit the 10-13% range or whatever level of leanness you’re aiming for (at which point you could start bulking again).
How long it takes for a person to reach that bulk end point will vary based on their diet and training program (and their consistency and execution of it), genetics, etc.
But there are other factors involved too. For example, personal preferences. Some guys can’t accept being 15% body fat, so they may start bulking a little leaner (say 8-10%) and start cutting a little sooner (say 12-14%). They’d rather stay a little leaner even if it means they may sacrifice some muscle/strength progress.
Other guys may not give a crap about leanness in which case they won’t mind bulking a little higher and getting a little fatter if it means more strength/muscle.
And then of course there are just different approaches to it where shorter cycles of each (e.g. 4 weeks of bulking followed by 2 weeks of cutting or something similar) are part of some specific program/method.
It can all work… although I tend to prefer the first way.
I found that after taking a break from workingout (about two months), I find that my shoulders are extremely sore. Do you have any tips?
Not sure what this has to do with the article, but… are you saying that you took 2 months off from lifting, started back up and now you’re extra sore (and by “sore” I’m talking about delayed onset muscle soreness, not pain associated with an injury)? If that’s what you mean, that’s normal.
If you stop doing something for a while and then start doing it again, you’re going to be significantly more sore than usual. Kinda like you were when you first started working out.
I followed the links and read your articles on diet, and maybe it was too late when I read them or I just missed the point, but I’m confused about the carb/protein/fat percentages and macronutrient requirements. It seems that you’re simultaneously saying they types of carbs and amounts don’t matter, but that they do (because you give recommended daily percentages of each).
I understand that gaining or losing weight is simply a calories in minus calories burned equation. But from everything I’ve read (and that is probably way too much), the way you control whether you gain or lose fat vs. muscle is in WHAT you eat, and the ratios in which you eat it. I realize that the *timing* of caloric intake may be less important than once thought, and that if you ate nothing but Twinkies, but only three a day, you’d lose weight. But what would happen if those same calories (as the three Twinkies) were made up of chicken breast, broccoli and quinoa?
Create a caloric deficit. Get a sufficient amount of protein and essential fatty acids, and weight train correctly. Fill in the rest of your diet with whatever amount of fat and carbs from whatever sources, and you’ll lose body fat just fine and maintain most if not all of your muscle.
The deficit (calories in vs calories out) is ALWAYS the cause of fat loss. So you can screw around with macronutrient ratios and food sources all day long and it won’t do anything in terms of fat loss without a deficit being present.
And when the deficit is present, and the sufficient protein/EFA intake are there, and you’re weight training correctly… everything else (nutrient timing, food sources, exact ratios, etc.) becomes just minor details that will be insignificant (at best) in terms of their direct effect on your fat loss results.
Now obviously for overall health and function it’s a much better idea to eat more higher quality, natural, nutrient dense foods than crap. Controlling hunger is another good reason to do this (and in this regard eating crap may make you eat more crap, in which case “eating more” can negatively affect your fat loss results).
But in terms of a direct effect on body composition… nope.
So assuming all else (training, calorie intake, protein intake, etc.) remains equal, getting 200 calories worth of twinkies vs 200 calories worth of chicken/broccoli/quinoa isn’t going to yield different results.
As for the reasoning behind the dietary recommendations I give, it’s all based on what is A) best for fat loss and/or muscle growth (or muscle maintenance), B) best for overall health, function and training performance/recovery, and C) most enjoyable and sustainable.
Well, the Twinkie vs. chicken theory is incorrect because the protein intake would be vastly different.
More to *gaining* weight, I’m getting conflicting conclusions from your articles. If one wants to increase his weight by 10 lbs. of lean muscle in 20 weeks (as an example), he must consume calories at a surplus. Am I to understand that as long as the ratios of protein, carb, fat, are correct, that can be accomplished, regardless of source?
“Well, the Twinkie vs. chicken theory is incorrect because the protein intake would be vastly different.”
Nope. There’s a reason I started that sentence with “assuming all else (training, calorie intake, protein intake, etc.) remains equal.” Protein intake could easily still be exactly the same in this example.
As for your question, first… you’re not going to build 10lbs of nothing but pure muscle in 20 weeks (and outside of some beginners, genetic freaks and steroid users, you’re not going to build muscle at that rate in the first place.)
Basically, you need a surplus to build muscle. Once that surplus is created, those extra calories can either go towards the building of that new muscle, or towards fat storage. This is referred to as calorie partitioning.
Genetics, the size of the surplus and your training program (and execution of it) are the major factors influencing it. Macronutrient ratios and timing and that stuff plays a role too. And no matter how perfectly you do everything, some fat will almost always come along with the muscle gains.
But with all else begin equal, the specific food sources won’t change this. Even if it’s all 100% “clean” foods.
Thanks for the replies and explanations. Yes, my example of 10 lbs. in 20 weeks was purely for illustrative purposes. And I get that “all else being equal”, but they cannot theoretically BE equal if you’re comparing UNequal foodstuffs (Twinkies are not the same macronutrient makeup as chicken/broccoli).
I appreciate the civil discussion here. Sure beats T-Nation.
The individual foods might be unequal, but you can easily adjust the rest of each diet to get the total macronutrient intakes to be exactly the same.
For example, twinkies have more carbs and less protein than chicken. So, subtract x amount of carbs from the diet containing the twinkies (from other carbs sources of that diet) and replace it with x amount of protein.
One diet may have chicken for dinner, and the other might have a twinkie for dinner. But, both diets can still have equal totals of X protein, Y carbs and Z fat for the day.
You are THE MAN!
AWorkoutRoutine is the best source of information on the Internet!
It compares to no other, the zenith!
I currently have a 6-pack. I just started a bulking phase and was afraid I would become fat during the summer… It’s comforting to know that I am actually in the perfect time to start bulk phase and less at risk of gaining too much fat in the process. Very good article thanks!
Yup, a visible 6 pack would clearly indicate that you’re lean enough to bulk. Keep the rate of weight gain slow and gradual (which means avoid anything more than a small-moderate surplus) and train your ass off.
I’m confused to where I stand, I’m 5’9 , 165lbs, I’m reg. active (sports) I started hitting the gym, been about 3 weeks and I feel like I’m in the middle but I wanna lose belly fat :S, thoughts ?
Since losing fat is the thing you want to do, do it. Create a moderate deficit, get the rest of your diet right (sufficient protein, etc.), and focus on progression using an intelligently designed beginner routine. Being in the untrained beginner state you’re currently in, you’ll temporarily be able to make some good strength gains AND likely some muscle gains as well during this time.
Is it possible to build muscles while cutting.
I’m still beginner, started around a month and a half ago. I’m doing your full body routine and I’m staying on a 500-700 calories defeceit. My diet is very high in protein, some carbs and fish oil supplements.
Every week, I’m weighing myself. My friend is a nurse and she let me use a scale that gives BF %. While every week it is going down (0.5 KG – 0.8 KG), my weight is not going down by less. Meaning, I lost 3.5 KG in BF in 6 weeks but lost only 2.2 KG in total. While i do not notice any change in the size of my muscles, a lot of friends have told me that they noticed. Is it possible?
Possible? Yes. For most people? Probably not.
The main exceptions however are steroid users, people regaining lost muscle and fat beginners.
You may very well fit into that last category, in which case yes, it’s definitely possible that you’re building some muscle while losing fat. A moderate deficit, sufficient protein intake and an intelligent beginner routine focused on progression will make it happen.
Hmm, I started out on a 17% BF, so I do not think I count as a fat beginner. I def don’t take steroids and I’m not regaining lost muscles. I think it could be just water weight or something.
Also, one more question, what do you think about diet cole and Red Bull Sugar free during cutting, do they have any bad effects for reaching cutting goals?
@Mohamad: sugar-free drinks won’t have any direct impact on your cutting goals, because…they don’t have sugar. As far as the caffeine – a lot of people in the medical community have tried very, very hard for a very, very long time to prove some sort of negative effects from caffeine, and have failed epically. If anything, it’s the safest stimulant known to man, and one of few performance-enhancing substances that works, is legal and doesn’t involve steroids. So go ahead, chug all the red bull you want (personally, i find it gross and prefer coffee, but to each his own).
Mike pretty much nailed it, although I ‘chugging all the red bull you want’ may be a bit much. 😉
But yes, as long as your total calorie and nutrient intake remains what it needs to be, some diet soda or red bull is fine.
Hey thanks for the reply. I always must start my day with coffee and I have another cup with the pre-workout, but I like to have a red bull every once and a while. Not for caffeine but I like the taste. Anyways, thanks and good to know. This is the greatest site ever. I wish you’d add some forums for discussions.
Forums are something I’ve thought about. Nothing coming yet, but maybe at some point in the future.
I am a 37-year old stay-at-home mom, and freelance health and wellness writer. After my third child, I took myself from 165 pounds to 105 pounds and 17% body fat (I’m only 5’2”). I did most of this with a mix of weight training (which, I am learning, was not the best plan), a good amount of cardio, and ridiculously good nutrition.
Now that I have proven that I’m disciplined, committed to my health, and understand the basics of weight lifting, I need to make some tweaks. I love that I transformed my body, and I feel like I’m really close, but if I want to look more “toned” (stop rolling your eyes), do I need to keep cutting? Will the muscle I built in the past year show at 17% body fat? OR, is the answer here – “Good job, lady. You’ve made it. You’re lean enough to start bulking up, gaining mass, and beginning a non-idiotic muscle building workout routine that focuses on progression.”
Thank you in advance. This is, by far, the most comprehensive and well thought out (not to mention well intentioned) piece of literature on food and fitness that I have ever read. The depth of knowledge you have shared on your various sites is so impressive, and you have done a stellar job making it relevant, easy-to-understand, and ridiculously enjoyable.
And one more thing, after reading a ton of pages from your various sites, I have only found one typo in all of your text. ONE. As an ex-high school English teacher, you need to take some time to thank your mom, dad, editor, college professor, or whomever it was that taught you how to write so well. Now, put that on your “to do” list. 🙂
Ha! Finally… the approval of a high school English teacher! About 12 years too late, but I’ll gladly take it.
For a woman, 17% body fat is fairly lean, typically to the point where you should look pretty “toned” right now (assuming of course you have an at least semi-decent amount of muscle to see). So my first question would be about where you got this 17% number? Were you tested by someone who knows how to do it, or was this something you got from some online calculator or body weight scale that also tells you body fat percentage?
In the latter cases, there’s a good chance you’re not actually as lean as 17%. But regardless of what your BF is, getting more toned is just a matter of having less fat covering muscles and/or just having more muscle.
So if you’re not as toned as you’d like to be, then you either need to keep cutting and losing fat, or, if you truly are as lean as 17% (or even a little higher) and your lack of tone is a mostly a result of a lack of muscle mass… then good job lady, you’re lean enough to start building some muscle.
I just bought your ebook – not because I need another workout routine – but because I think you deserve to be supported. This time around, I’m going to weight train your way. (I miss my sucky pink dumbbells already!)
Thanks for the support!
Sucky pink dumbbell withdrawal is normal. Hang in there though, it gradually fades away as your results gradually get better and better without them.
After hours of confusion,browsing the web for information I’ve finally found your websites.Everyone gave such different and vague advice,but now all my questions have been answered ,except for one.I can’t go to a gym,the reasons aren’t important.But I want to ask you.Is there any point in pursuing home training?I want to first lose fat,then build muscle(obviously I am a beginner also).How far can I get with 50 lbs dumbbells ?(50 lbs each) They are adjustable so I plan to start much lower than 50 lbs.I can do exercises for every muscle with pretty much dumbbells,except for the back muscles.
Just wrote something a week or so ago about this very subject. Check it out.
Yes I read it after I already posted this comment.Hate it when that happens !
I don’t know if this is a pertinent question but can you please tell me how much muscle can I build with 2 dumbbells of 50 lbs each before I have to progress to heavier ones?The reason I’m asking is because I’m buying other things too now,like a heavy bag for cardio and others.I have to organize my spending somehow and I want to know if I will need heavier weights soon or much…much later.
That’s honestly impossible to answer. Depends on the exercises being done, how strong you are at them, how strong you are in general, how fast you progress, etc.
No way of knowing.
whats the story about hormone response particularly insulin after consuming high gi foods with regards to fat loss. is there any merit in keeping insulin stable throughout the day. what about foods affecting other hormones like gh and test.
In terms of fat loss, get your total calorie and macronutrient intake right each day, and put it all together in whatever way is most sustainable for you.
Everything else is either a tiny insignificant detail that won’t matter, or complete and utter nonsense.
I have currently 14% body fat, i am 511 and weigh 190, and i wanted to do a bulking then cutting phase and was wondering how long each phase would last for optimal results.
Someone asked a similar question in the comments earlier… this was my reply.
I am currently 159lbs, about 13% body fat (measured with calipers), and 5,9 (175cm). I have been following a cutting program for the last 3 months and I am currently two weeks out of finishing this program. The caloric deficit I am in right now is around 500-700 calories. My question for you is, once I finish this program I would like to start bulking but I don’t know if to start with the beginner’s routine or not. I have been consistently weightlifting since Feb 2012. Would I qualify as a beginner even though I don’t have much muscle mass and have been cutting since Feb 2012?
Also, when I do make the change to bulking, how true is it that if you have not given your body enough fat or carbs for a prolonged period of time (3 months), once you start bulking your body will just “suck it all up”? Should I start with a moderate surplus or straight out surplus of 300-500 calories?
Thanks a lot for your help, wish I would have found your sight a long time ago! A lot of extremely good information!
Regarding what routine to start with, what have you been doing in terms of weight training since February? Some other intelligent beginner routine? And what type of strength progress did you make during this time?
If your answers are “no” and “not much” then you’d probably do well with the beginner routine. But if your answers are “yes” and “good” then you may be ready for an intermediate routine.
As for your other question, there is some truth to the idea that once you’ve been dieting for a while and get fairly lean, your body is sort of primed to regain fat when you go into a surplus. Coming up from the deficit and spending 1-2 weeks at maintenance to ease the transition can help (also a good time to deload and switch over to a new routine). After that, assuming you’re going to have a daily surplus, bump up your calorie intake by about 300 calories and monitor what happens over the next couple of weeks. If you’re weight is going up at the ideal rate, you’re good. If not, adjust until it does.
I have been doing Kris Gethin’s 12 week hardcore trainer found in the bodybuilding.com website, this is my second time around and I have seen considerable improvement. However, the program is more designed for intermediate/advanced bodybuilding. I have gained more endurance than strength.
Thanks for your reply! So in the transition, I shouldn’t expect to gain weight right? Or would gaining weight be normal?
Assuming the calorie increase is coming from carbs, there’s a good chance you’ll see a little weight gain in the form water and glycogen.
great articles, thanks. I am currently only 3 KG’s over my minimum weight for height. 3 kgs less and will be under weight. Now i have started on a fat loss training to shift the belly fat i have but to maintain muscle i do one day metabolic resistance training, next day weights (as heavy as i can lift with 6-10 reps) for 6 days and have one day off. eating enough proteins, carb’s and good fats but keeping a little deficit to get fat loss. i am avoiding wheat gluten and sugers.
I only have fat round my belly.
Am i on the right track or should i change to achieve belly fat loss and keep muscles?
Am i over working my muscle’s with weights and MRT?
Have you read this yet?
It covers most of what you need to know.
Thank you sir for your wonderful sites, posts and straightforward replies.
This particular post of yours made an impact on my weight loss and training goals. I was stuck at 166 lbs. for the longest time and lost around 6 lbs. just by understanding and following some of your posts. I still work out 5 times a week on a different routine, completely removed cardio exercises afterwards and closely monitor my calorie intake. My goal now is to reach the ideal weight for my height and get lean before embarking on a bulking journey. I realized the wrong things that I’ve been doing and removed my illusion of gaining a lot of muscles while on a caloric deficit.
Again sir, thank you! You made my weight loss & life easier.
You are quite welcome… glad to hear how helpful it’s all been. Let us know how well your bulk goes!
I would like to know which type of cardo is the best to lose fat with the less risk of losing muscle, HIIT CARDIO, SLOW LONG CARDIO or MODERATE SPEED CARDIO?
Honestly, it can all work and it can all cause problems. The issue is rarely the type of cardio, but the specifics of how that cardio is implemented and how it fits with your diet and the rest of your training.
Hi, im 5 ft 8 and weight 131 lbs. Im getting married in July and looking to lose body fat but also want to keep shape and definition. Am i best to bulk first before cutting and for how long? I currently train 5-6 days per week, based on 3-4 days weights, circuits and HIIT training
If your primary goal is to lose body fat, I’d lose body fat… not bulk.
Hey! Thanks so much, was very informative indeed, i think im at the point where im unsire whether to shred or bulk, at one point i was trying to bulk while trying to lose the excess fat. I’m 5’11 73kg not fat or anything, but have fat on my stomach and sides enough to easily notice when shirt is off. Should i lose this fat first ? or just Bulk, and try and lose it while cutting? PLEASE help 🙁 !
THANKS HEAPS !!!!
The article pretty much explains the answer to your question. But if the issue is that you still can’t decide which to do first, getting leaner is usually the safest way to go.
Sir, I’m the ‘fat’ one, and so have to cut first. To make that happen the fastest or best way what should be my course of action? I should watch my diet, do cardio and what sort of weight training? Isn’t the last thing equal to bulking?
Create a moderate caloric deficit, get a sufficient amount of protein and weight train properly to maintain muscle and strength.
Hey great site, thank you for the effort involved. I’m 5’10, 172 with about 25% BF. Ideal would be something like 175 @ 13-14%. In line with your article I want to lose fat, so am cutting, but my question is where to stop? Do I go all the way in one extended cut, get BF right down and never go about 15-16% while training again.
It seems I’ve a long way too go. I mean I did a calculation there, which I think is right, I’ve got 43 pounds of fat now, so if even I lost 30 pounds (20 fat and 10 muscle) I’d be down to 142 but still would only be around 16%. What do I do to avoid looking too skinny which I understand 140-150 at 5’10 would be.
This article might have some of the answers you’re looking for.
But generally speaking, yes, you should get lean now (ideally in the 10-12% body fat range) and then switch to bulking at which point you’d set a max limit for fat gains at that 15-16% range. When it reaches that point, cut.
I’m not sure how you estimated your body fat percentage, so it’s impossible to say how accurate your calculations are. There’s a good chance you could be way off.
I have been weight training with a PT for the past 4 months. I started at 166 lb. (and I know its not accurate but my body fat falls around 29-31%). I am 5’6 and 28 years old. I am following a high protein lower carb diet, and it seemed like maybe I was not eating enough with the extra cardio and weight training I was doing. As you mentioned to lose the fat…which is my main goal–I need to reduce the calories and increase the calories burn and the results should be fat loss. Its now 4 months later and I weight 169 lbs. I lost some inches but not a noticeable amount…clothes fit about the same… some areas clothes are tighter (legs and arms) and when I did the body fat test… it is exactly the same. I did the HCG diet at one point during the 4 months and dropped some lb. but not much of a change being at the gym 4-5 days a week. After I finished the HCG diet I increased 3 lbs. MY PT sessions run an hour 2x’s a week andI have another 30 min session 1x a week. Cardio wise I was doing an hour after PT session and cardio on days in between but switched to doing a 20-30 min interval cardio session recently. I have never pushed my self this hard and feel disappointed in the results. I can see muscle tone but I still have way too much fat still that won’t seem to go away. I do have under active thyroid disease but am on medication and its stabilized with the medicine. I Just don’t know what to do? Should I eat more?
How many calories are you eating per day?
First of all, thank you and congratulations for the amount and quality of info. you collected on your site… it really helps, for the massive, contradicting overload there is on Internet (and i’ve read a lot!).
i’ll be really grateful if you can give me a hand on some questions….
1) any not-so-expensive ‘home’ method you’d you recommend to measure BF%? i’ve bought a cheap caliper from internet but i really suspect its effectiveness, besides i have some loose, low fat skin
2) i’ve made some progress the last year, training an dieting very carefully. however i can’t really appreciate as i’d like, because of loose skin on my abdomen area. Not ‘was obese and now i have flaps’ kind, but to a point that i think a tummy tuck would leave me uglier than what i look like now, if you get my point.
I’ve been trying to bulk for some time, and i am very confused as to how much really is of ‘loose skin’, and how much can i really improve by removing fat…
the one time i tried to cut, this ‘folds’ of skin persisted.. can you give me any advice on to improve this situation? it really is hindering all my efforts, and it stress me a lot (you know, a flappy abdomen can be as ugly or worse than being fat for me).
I hope i was clear as i am not a fluent english speaker… thank you in advance!
PS i am 6’1″ and weigh 175lbs..
(Love your work)
Weight: 15 st 9.3 pounds
BF: 3 st 13 pounds
I’m a skinny-fat guy; I’ve got nearly no upper-body muscle (never been to the gym/Strength Trained before), though I actually have naturally very powerful/big legs, and all my fat is on my belly. I realise now that I need to lose weight first (vitals above). I read your beginner’s guide for fat loss, however, it would be far more convenient for me to get my calorie deficit from diet-cardio I can do at home whilst doing the minimal ST needed to just maintain my little muscle (by going to the gym say once a week) but more so for my big legs, rather than all ST.
My question is, is it possible/acceptable for me to do the minimal amount of ST required for maintaining my tiny muscle amount and still prevent muscle-wastage/other negative effects during fat loss? And crucially, what would this minimal amount look like; i.e. would I follow the maintenance path of your Ultimate Weight Training guide, or would I take the frequency/volume etc of your beginner’s path and cut it into 1/3rds, etc?
Thank you so much for your help Jay, I’m looking forward to putting all your advice to use as soon as I can find a ST-overall routine that fits my busy-as-hell week!
Assuming you want to lose fat AND build muscle, you’ll temporarily be able to do both right now. So, rather than focusing on muscle maintenance during fat loss, you should be focusing on muscle growth during fat loss. Read this one.
Thanks for your speedy reply. I’d like to build muscle best I can whilst losing, but unfortunately my schedule only allows me to hit the gym once a week (maybe twice if I’m not too exhausted the day after the second time as I’d need to work).
What I’m wondering is, if I follow your Ultimate Weight Training Routine with the once-a-week frequency, intensity, etc (i.e. the maintenance routine) would that sufficiently maintain my muscle so I can lose fat not both? I’m guessing that if it is enough, and I can find the time to progress somewhat from the maintenance routine to the next intense, that will help me build at least some muscle?
Thanks a lot, you’re really helping!
So just one full body workout per week? Not quite what I’d consider ideal (that would be 3 workouts per week for maintaining muscle) or slightly less ideal but perfectly effective (that would be 2 workouts per week). 1 workout per week would be more along the lines of “better than nothing.” It will definitely help a significant amount, though I wouldn’t guarantee it being entirely sufficient for this purpose.
Yeah, unfortunately due to everything being so tight, I’ve had to compromise on a lot of goals recently. Thus I realise that I won’t be able to go often enough to build muscle, but I should be going at least once/week, so I’m hoping that that will be enough just to maintain what little muscle I have, whilst I lose fat with a daily calorie deficit – that’s my big goal. Does this the idea of going once-a-week for muscle maintenance, whilst I’m losing fat seem realistic?
Also, if I do manage to crack in say 2 days a week, are you saying that that will go some way to going beyond maintenance and building me muscle? Thanks a lot, man!
Don’t really have any experience with training just once per week to know exactly what degree of effect it will have on muscle maintenance in a deficit, so I really couldn’t say for sure. What I am saying though is that twice per week would perfectly sufficient for this purpose.
Ah, great. Thanks for all your help Jay!
I started lifting weights in Feb/2013 in a crossfit/boot cam hybrid gym. I’m very thin so they recommended bulking and training everyday, that led to fat gains and over training. After some months and lots of reading I found someone with a similar view like yours but with a much restricted diet which I hated but help me with the decision to stop paying the gym and instead got my own barbell and pull up rack. Since I started reading your articles and following your advices I have lost around 22lbs and have being able to maintain my strength and even able to add weight to my main lifts but as of now I have reach plateau which leads to my question:
I have read that men shouldn’t eat less than 1500-1600 cal per day for healthy reasons. I’m currently calorie cycling, 1950cal on training days and 1509cal on off days, but to be able to get rid of the lower chest fat and belly fat that I have left, and based on my calculation I would have to go bellow the 1500cal mark on off days to be able to keep getting rid of the fat I have left. Would that be a problem?? I know some of the numbers are just guidelines and can change from person to person but would like your input since I couldn’t find any mention about this when doing calorie cycling.
Beginners routine B but I don’t do curls or pulldowns and do 6 x 15sec sprints with 60sec rest after each workout.
Bodyfat % hard to know. Mirror evaluation shows fat on the chest and lower abdomen and I’m starting to see my ABS.
Thanks for you help
As long as you are legitimately still in need of fat loss (and not a crazy person or someone with an body image disorder/eating disorder… and at 140lbs I’d wonder how tall you are, because that’s pretty light for a guy), and are in a sane deficit (10-20% below maintenance), then I wouldn’t worry about it.
Plus, cycling calories is the main reason your calories need to get that low, so your average calorie intake for the week still works out to be something higher.
I’m 5’9″ and don’t believe to have a disorder. I’m very thin like I said before. Doing a 20% deficit off maintenance. Will try to measure bf% soon to get an idea where I am so I can decide when’d go start the bulk.
Hello 🙂 i’m 24 years old female and weigh 71 kgs (or 156 pounds). My aim is to be around 60-62 kgs. should i be building muscles to burn these calories? my question is : will my weight decrease when building muscles?
looking forward to your reply
Read this one, this one and this one.
I’m still sort of confused… I want to start off by saying that you have plenty of good info on this site and the best part is that its legit and free. To break it down, I’m 17 years old, 5’9”, and weighing 150-155lbs atm. My body fat percentage is somewhere around 16-20%, but its just a guess. When I look in the mirror, I feel fat! I want to cut, but many tell me to take advantage of my youth and start with a bulk. What is your take on this? I know if I bulk I’m going to end up spinning my wheels. I just want an impressive physique but I just need to lose this damn fat! What should I do first? Thanks
This article answers your question. If you are near 20% body fat, you should not be bulking.
I’m 30, a guy, and was skinny all my life until 5 years ago, gained weight due to age and stress I guess, at first I was happy, I was getting weight after all the skinny embarrassing years, but now Ppl can’t believe it’s me after seeing me, face is chubby, belly fat is crazy, but my arms and legs still slim but not skinny, I am 6’3 248lbs…use to be only 170lbs at this height. What do I do? I like how big my frame looks I just wish to turn the fat into muscle cause if I get as skinny as I was with muscles, I wouldn’t like that, I finally got weight but too much yet I wanna maintain the look, however that stomach and this chubby face has got to go. Do I cut with minor bulking, I want bigger legs and arms, but lose the fat. I’m confused, I have little knowledge with the fitness. I got a pair of bowlex dumbells adjustable, a bench, and p90, I don’t know how to eat or train. Help.
You need to lose that fat while maintaining the muscle you currently have. Read this one.
As someone who is just starting to seriously work out at age 26, this is probably one of, if not THE, most helpful articles I have read in regards to working out for beginners. Thanks for the info!
Thanks man, glad you liked it!
Hey, so I’ve been working out now for about 2 months and 2 weeks, in that time I’ve gone from 155 to 175. I’ve been doing a bulking phase. My strength has gone up considerably, I’ve lifted the most I ever have. The only crappy part is, idk if that weight is good or not. I mean, I can tell, yeah, I’ve gotten a little bigger, but not noticably, I feel like that weight might be mostly fat, but then how could it if o have gotten stronger? I just feel like I don’t really look good. I’m 5’6. But the strength is definitely awesome. I’ve only been bulking for a month and two weeks. The month before that I was doing high volume training. I just don’t really know what to do
For most beginners, I’d recommend gaining 2-3lbs per month to max out muscular gains while keeping fat gains to a minimum. So in 2 months you should have ideally gained 4-6lbs. You gained 20lbs. There’s your problem. 😉
I’d suggest losing that fat and then bulking again… properly.
Hi I love your article but I’m still a little confused and don’t want to do the wrong thing.
I am 5 foot tall 20yr old female and I have just lost weight by eating 1200 kcals a day while doing weight training and cardio. I went from 160lb to 107lb which is my current weight it has taken a year an a half. According to my bodyfat scales i am 22% body fat.
Basically I want to get away from eating this little a day as I know my weight training will not progress with this little food. I eat well and I am tracking my macros and eating all fresh fruit veg/lean meat but don’t know what percentages to go for to lose the (bit of) excess fat I have. I know there is no magic formula but can you give a starting point as I keep doubting my decisions?
It is a mental challenge to get away from eating 1200-1400 kcal a day as I have been doing it for so long and seem to be maintaining at this level 🙁 I love my food and this is upsetting haha. The only way I know how to lose weight is by a kcal deficit but if i seem to be maintaining at 1200 something is surely wrong. I just don’t want to undo all of the hard work I have done by doing this wrong. I have been looking at weight lifting women and they eat ALOT a day. I want to be them.
My overall aim is to be ripped and improve my strength and to generally be lean and drop this body fat percentage down as much as possible.
Any advise you can give would be amazing where do I start?
Have you read the diet guide yet?
Hi! I’m a 16 year old teen girl with my height being 5’1. I weigh 104 and have a BMI of 19.7%. I used to have a BMI of 25% but after HIIT and walking almost everyday I was able to lose over 5% BF. I want to build muscle and gain strength on my whole lower body,arms and waist. But the only problem I have is my stomach sticks out a little but when I measure my waist it comes out 26 inches. But looking at my stomach in the mirror I can see slight definition. Is that fat or my abs starting to develop?
Impossible to say what you’re seeing without seeing it.
Ok can I send pictures so you can see if it’s muscle or fat via email?
You can try. Use the contact form.
Hi thank you for this wonderful site. I have been struggling with losing body fat for the last 5 years ( maybe even 10 years) since I always thought of losing “weight” instead of fat prior to that.
So i’m 30 years and i weigh 130 pounds and 5 feet 5 inches tall. While my “weight” is not bad, I have excessive body fat at 33% and it only shows in my midsection – i have a very weak core and back and good strong and toned legs. I used to only do cardio for the longest time and hence while i did lose both fat and muscle and drop dress sizes, I easily gained the fat back. As per the diagnostic sheet, I need to gain about 12 pounds of muscle and lose about 15 pounds of fat. I did try only a calorie deficient diet but to my horror, I only lost muscle mass! Should I focus on first gaining the muscle ( since I am deficient and not even at normal levels of muscle mass ) or go into a calorie deficient diet with weight training?
Thanks for your help on this
If you are a legit 33% body fat, you should be in a small/moderate deficit to cause fat loss. And since you sound like you are probably a beginner to weight training, that deficit should be combined with a sufficient protein intake and an intelligent beginner program focused on progression. Doing this, you’ll have the ability to build some muscle while losing fat.
Again, awesome site! In short, my BF is at 10%, i’m 147 lbs and 5.6 foot in height. I’m following the guidance given in both your diet and workout plan (full body beginner workout #2) with the goal of losing fat, only because I want to reveal my abs, as my 2nd goal is to build some muscle to have a more leaner look.
Problem: I’m new to diets and working out and I have a few of things i’m unsure about. Your six pack guide mentions to lose more fat and perhaps train your abs, yet i’m on 10% BF and still cant see much. Do I now go down to 8%? (Is this healthy? will this affect my performance when working out?) The article above recommends to start bulking rather. Yes my end goal is to build more muscle eventually but I really want those abs as well.
What would you recommend I do? This is really the last thing that’s bugging me.
I guess my first question would be what makes you think you’re legitimately 10% body fat?
Well that’s what the Biokineticist told me when I went for my yearly fitness assessment, If i recall she used one of those calipers to measure it. Measuring my back near the shoulder and the side of my stomach, near my right hip.
I bought one of these, but I just cant get the hang of it.
I ask because at 10% most guys will see some abs + most people claim their body fat is much lower than it actually is as a result of just inaccurate measurements. Not saying that is your problem here, but if you are a legit 10%, odds are you’d see some abs. And in most cases when a person claims to be that lean but CAN’T see their abs much if at all, odds are they are just not quite as lean as they think. Without seeing what you look like I couldn’t say for sure, though.
Thanks for the advice, what Ill do is go to another Biokineticist and just have it double checked (they could have been wrong), and like you say, I might not be lean enough, ill continue with my cutting phase until I see something developing. I started using a workout tracker before I found your site and I put some images up on their a month ago. Still needs to be updated with the full body workout i’ve done over the last two weeks.
Are you currently as lean as you are in those pics?
Sorry for the major delayed reply, but that’s exactly what I look like now.
Nice article but still a little confused.
I am guy . I am 5’9″ and I weigh 71 kgs. I used to weigh a little over 105 kgs last year during the same month. Now my upper abs do show but I still have love handles. What should I do ? My primary goal with my body is to be fit and athletic, beach body kind of .
Can’t really say for sure without seeing you or knowing what your body fat percentage legitimately is.
Great article! Still confused. I’m really starting to try and take fitness serious now and really want a decent set of starting tips. I’m 16 years old (male). I am 6″2 and I’m bouncing around 195lbs. I want to get bigger (as in muscle mass) but i want to barely have a thin layer of fat over that muscle. I don’t want to look like an offensive lineman (more toned and chiseled). Am I going to have to gain more weight and almost look fat to get the results I’m looking for. I’m new to this, but really want to get as fit as I can. I do not know my BFI. Is there any tips? Thanks
Read this one and this one.
Thanks for the great article! I am basically a newbie to weight lifting, and just started 14 weeks ago (with one week of rest). This entire time (other than the week of rest), I’ve been lifting heavy 5x per week, and on a 20% calorie deficit. I want to get big and muscular, but knew I had to cut fat first. I’m about 5’11” and 173lbs. I am making progress almost every week I go to the gym on my lifts, so I know I am getting stronger. Visibly, I am less fat than when I started, and a little more shapely (muscular).
Fourteen weeks is about three months, and though I have been cutting this entire time, my weight is exactly the same as when I started. Granted, the whole reason I am cutting while lifting is because I have read that newbies can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, which you mention in another article. This is clearly happening with me; however, I am a bit confused as to why my weight is the exact same as three months ago. From what I’ve read, losing weight comes much faster than gaining muscle, so since my weight is stable despite the “recomposition,” am I really gaining muscle faster than most people do, or am I not losing as much fat as I should be? For example, maybe my TDEE estimate is off, and I should be eating less calories and losing fat faster. Any opinions?
I would consider myself somewhat lean at this point, and while I am more lean than I have ever been in my life, and definitely improved over three months ago, I am not as lean as I want to be. I have no clue what my real body fat percentage is, but I definitely want to have less belly fat than I do now, so I have decided to continue cutting until all abs are visible before I bulk. Does this seem like a good idea, or am I “wasting precious newbie gain time” in terms of eating a caloric surplus and lifting?
Thanks a lot for the help!
If you look leaner for sure and can tell fat loss has clearly happened (measurements would be a good way to tell, especially stomach), then it’s possible there is a recomp happening. If you’re happy with that, awesome. Keep doing what you’re doing until it stops.
However, if you’d much rather be losing fat as fast as you could be, there should certainly be some degree of net weight loss happening even if you are building muscle at the same time. Like you mentioned, fat loss can happen waaaaay faster than muscle growth can. So if they are in fact happening at an equal rate, it would mean fat loss is happening quite slow (not extra fast growth).
That makes a ton of sense. Thanks! I do have body fat calipers, and though I don’t trust them to give me an accurate reading, the relative number it provides has been going down over the past three months ago. I also have pictures from Day 1, and there is at least a small difference compared to now.
If I want to lose fat faster, I should just lower calories further, right? The problem is 20% deficit is basically already my BMR, so lowering calories further would theoretically put my daily intake below my BMR. Do you think that’s an issue to consider? Then again, since I’m not losing fat very fast at all, maybe my BMR is actually lower than the calculators tell me?
That’s the thing though. If you’re only barely losing any fat now (or possibly not losing much fat at all), you’re not legitimately in a 20% deficit.
I’m 5’11 male and weight 163 lbs. I’m at around 11% body fat(got it measured at my gym). I’ve been working out 6 days a week for about 8 months now. I can barely see my top 4 abs. My goal is to get to get down to 8% bf and also put on 5 more lbs of muscle. Can I do those simultaneously, or does it have to happen separately? Thanks for your help.
Read this one.
Hey great article man it really cleared things up! I’ve decided I need to lose fat first before working on building substantial muscle. Im not even close to being considered fat but I’ve got a beer gut you could say like I can’t wear the same tight shirts I wore 2 years ago cuz it would look gross lol. What I’m wondering is what kind of routine to do. Like should I continue to lift heavy weights 4 times a week and just incorporate more cardio and a better diet? And if I go into a caloric deficit will I lose strength and be unable to maintain my current muscle mass? Thanks
This one would be a good place to start.
Can you bulk using body weight exercises? (Push-ups, pull-ups, etc)
Love the Article. I’m 6’4 and weight around 175-179 pounds also 22 going on 23 years old soon, I’m at this point skinny but is soft around the edges in the belly area just a little bit. I think I’m at 20% body fat or 18% maybe If i took a guess in a mirror. I was told different paths i should take and not sure which one should i go first. I’m planning on buying a Gym membership soon and is trying to work on a good diet plan. I have in place a diet plan where i take in about 2300-2500 calories a day with high protein so i may gain muscle as I lose fat when I’m on the workout routine 5 days a week. I was told to bulk as I get lean but I’m scared i will get fat or chubby. Should I work on Leaning out first? Then bulk up after I see enough muscle and possible visible abs showing? I am completely new at this and also do you have anytips on workout routines I should follow for a guy who has little muscle?
If you are truly 20%, then you should focus on fat loss first. But at 6’4 175lbs, I dunno if you’re actually 20%.
But regardless, assuming you’re a beginner you’ll be able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Details here.
Thank you So much for the quick reply! Nice article you linked. I found out I’m actually 16% in-between 17% body fat. Should my main focus still be to lose fat? I’m not sure if i fall into the fat beginner category in the article.
If you’re 16-17%, then yes. You should ideally get down to 12% or less before going into a surplus.
But as a beginner, if you combine the beginner routine (and a focus on consistent progression) with a diet designed for fat loss (a small deficit, sufficient protein, etc.), you’ll build some muscle while you lose that fat.
Thank you so much! beginner routine and with a diet plan for fat loss with high protein.Got it! I’ll work my hardest! Thank you again for helping me point towards the right path. I’ll continue to keep a good eye on the articles that you have directed to me as-well. Thanks!
Glad to hear it! Let me know how it goes.
Excellent article! I’m extremely glad to run across your site today. Starting tomorrow, I’ve decided to use your upper/lower split routines.
I am skinny-fat currently 167lbs at 5′ 10″. My body fat percentage currently hovers around 20%-22% (2 years ago I was at 23.7%BF at 178lbs). My protruding belly and love handles bother me but I do want to gain muscle like a fitness model. Do you suggest I cut down to your suggested 10-13%BF before bulking? I’m thinking that’s what I want to do before beginning the lean muscle gaining phase. Thanks!
If you are a legit 20-22% body fat, then yes… I’d definitely recommend focusing on getting leaner first.
Hi, this forum is really insightful and I feel you’re the best person to ask, so here goes.
So i am a 29yo male, (1m85 / 72kg) i decided to start weight training at home using a multi gym and thus started bulking to progress. Before i started i was ultra lean and skinny with a visible six pack that i was quite content with, and now i have gained muscle on my arms, shoulders and back. However i have also put on some fat and my six pack is no longer visible. After meals i feel like i have somewhat of a belly and worried i’ll never get my sixpack back!
I might have been eating too much (whereas before i barely ate anything at all, and did a lot of cardio (track bike racing)) and skipped a few workouts here and there. So the fat gains which still aren’t too bad don’t come as a surprise and i do look much healthier overall, so my QUESTION IS: will it be hard to get my six pack back? And what can i do to get visible abs again without stopping the bulk and sacrificing all the work ive put in so far? I know i can go back to one meal a day and ride track again but i dont want to lose my muscle gains… Any suggestions? Maybe reduce my carb intake and keep up my protein intake? Or is this something i should worry about all together later on? I can send pics if it can help! Thanks in advance. Regards, J.
You’re not going to get your six pack back if you continue bulking. You’ll need to switch your focus for fat loss for a while instead (while maintaining the muscle you built).
Thanks for the prompt response ! You’re really helpful/insightful
Hi Jay, fantastic and concise collection of information here. Thank you.
For the overfat beginner (read: 40%bf female), what deficit is acceptable for still gaining muscle? I’ve been following a barbell-compound lift routine with built in progressive overload for six weeks and I’ve lost about 12 inches all over my body but not a single pound. I’m operating under a 20% deficit but I wonder if I would be better off with some form of appetite suppression and up to 50% deficit (maintaining my protein intake)? Note that I’m just starting to struggle with my weight progression – had my first failure yesterday. I’m fine with slowing down or even stopping my strength gains if it means shredding off the weight.
I’d greatly appreciate your informed opinion.
I’d say a 20% deficit is usually a good place for most people to be.
But, if you really wanted to lose it a little faster, something in the 25-30% range can be a potential option. But the bigger the deficit, the harder it’s going to be for you to take advantage of your ability to build muscle during this time.
Thank you again.
Hi Jay, i wanna hear your advice on “bulk or cut” issue.
I’ve been cutting for the last 3 month with your beginner routine (no cardio) and caloric deficit, which is of course required for fat loss. I lost 15 pounds in this period, and because i’m beginner, i’ve even gained decent amount of strength. For that, i’m really grateful to you 🙂
Now, i’m on a state that really don’t know which way to go. I don’t know if i should continue my cutting, or begin to bulk. Can you please look at my photos and give a tip to brother about it? 🙂
Love your work my friend.
I think you’d benefit from a nice long, slow muscle building phase… focusing on keeping fat gains as low as realistically possible while you do it.
What’s up Jay? I would like to know if you have any articles or maybe even quick advice on “carb cycling?” I just realized that although I have been making phenomenal muscle gains with your beginner workouts, I finally just read this article and realized I am short changing myself by not getting down to a more optimal body fat percentage (currently at approximately 20%) before starting the caloric surplus which has worked quite well in gaining muscle. I currently am following “flexible dieting” or IIFYM but the bulking phase. I do have a friend of mine who currently competes and she has been carb cycling with ridiculous results. Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance brotha!
Superior Muscle Growth has an entire 50+ page chapter entirely about cycling calories/carbs/nutrients. Although, it’s aimed strictly at building muscle without gaining excess fat (rather than fat loss… which is a topic that will need a chapter of its own in the future).
Hi. Great website you’ve got running here. Very helpful indeed.
I’m 23 years old, I’m 180 cm tall and weigh about 83.5 kg, and even though I’ve got somewhat skinny arms and legs, I’ve got a beer gut and man boobs on my chest area. I don’t know what my body fat percentage is, but my best guess would be around 19-23%. I wouldn’t call myself fat, but I would call myself overweight, and am lacking muscle at the moment.
During the footy season here in Australia, I do train twice a week as an umpire in the sport before spending most weekends umpiring matches, and that’s my regular exercise between March and September. In the off-season though, I do get lazy with my exercise, and that’s what brings me down.
I’ve only gone to the gym twice in the last 6 months, and I’ve been getting some lower back pain as well which has cleared up for the time being but could happen again if I don’t get back into exercising regularly.
I want to lose the fat I have at the moment, gain muscle, still be able to run decent times in the races and time trials I run (e.g. 5 km in 20 mins), and still weigh around 80-90 kg. Problem is, I don’t have a plan, and I don’t know where to start nor how to keep it up.
My best friend has just completed a certificate in personal training, and from what I remember, he suggested that I should try and gain muscle first so that my total weight goes up to around 90 kg max before I concentrate on losing the fat while continuing to gain muscle at the same time so I’m big enough and muscular enough.
From reading this blog today, what he said appears to be wrong. Is any of what he said true in any way? What do you recommend to help me out with the aforementioned problems I have?
If you’re at or above 20% body fat, you should definitely not be focusing on gaining weight. You should instead do what I explain right here for “fat beginners.”
I mostly suck at this game, but I’d guess probably somewhere in 13-15%ish range.
im 6’2. 215 lbs. 15%bf. Every bit of fat on my body is in the abdomen area. Chest back legs and arms are chiseled. I want to get to 225 but I want to get rid of gut too. Should I bulk more, or cut?
When a guy is in the 15-17% range, I’d suggest fat loss.
What about “THE BEGINNER GAINS” when one is around 18% bf and started lifting in calorie deficit?
He will definitely not going to build muscle nor strength right?
And what if this Beginner is SKINNY FAT?
If this person is beginning to lift for the first time, then yes, plenty of strength will be gains and most likely a decent amount of muscle too.
But after around 2-3 months there would be no more strength/muscle gain as he is still in deficit.
So in that case should he try to maintain his current strength
He should simply focus on progression for as long as he can.
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