How to Bulk Without Getting Fat

Download my bodyweight training program for skinny-fat guys (63-page PDF, free edition)

A lot of you have asked me about how to bulk up without gaining a lot of body fat in the process. As you can see in my transformation video, I have stayed lean during the past year while gaining a significant amount of muscle and strength.

Most techniques that I have read about to bulk up without getting fat are quite complicated as they require:

At Skinny-Fat Transformation we want none of that. I want to teach you how to change your body without becoming obsessed about training and food. The method that I’m going to teach you here has enabled me to add 13 lbs of bodyweight and 12 reps to my chin up max this year while gaining no more than 1 inch around my waist and hips. It’s by far the most effective way of bulking I have tried.

In this article I will teach you exactly how to bulk without getting fat.

The only requirement for this bulk is to be lean. You can read more about how lean you should be and why you should get lean first HERE. Everything in this article only works if you are lean, so don’t waste your time reading this if you aren’t lean yet.

Step 1: Figure Out Your Lean Base Measurements

The first thing you want to do is figure out your measurements while you are lean. Here are the 3 measurements you need to take:

  • Waist circumference
  • Hip circumference
  • Bodyweight

All measurements must be taken on an empty stomach in the morning. Once you have taken them, note them down somewhere and start taking those 3 measurements once a week.

You want to take the waist measurement around the navel since that’s simple and you want to take the hip measurement at the widest point.

Step 2: Train Hard for 2-3 weeks and Increase Calories

To bulk up and gain muscle you need to overtrain on a regular basis, because your muscles grow when you do something that they aren’t used to. You want to increase you training frequency to 6-7 times a week and you want to implement high intensity techniques on a regular basis:

The goal of this bulk is to train extremely hard for 2-3 weeks while increasing your calories. To increase my calories I like to make this shake:

  • 5 tablespoons of natural peanut butter
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 handfuls of strawberries
  • 100 ml water

This shake can be consumed at the end of your post workout meal.

You should stop your bulk once your abs stop being visible:

vacation newport

In the picture above, I’m at the end of a summer bulk where I gained +10 lbs and roughly 2 inches around my waist and 1 inch around my hips. At this point I knew it was time to stop bulking because 1) I had trained hard for 2-3 weeks and my body was telling me to take it easier now and 2) I had very little ab definition left.

Step 3: Cut Down to Your Base Level Measurements

Once you have bulked for 2-3 weeks, you should cut back to the measurements you took at the beginning. This should take maximum 2 weeks, and during those 2 weeks you want to train 4-5 times a week while training at a lower intensity to give your body rest.

how to bulk without getting fat

The picture above is taken recently, and it’s me in the process of getting lean after my last bulk. I have only been in a deficit for a week or so, and I’m already close to being at my base level measurements (however at a higher bodyweight because of more muscle mass).

It’s important that you cut back to your lean measurements and not further. If you cut further you may lower your testosterone levels and thereby lose some hard earned muscle mass. This is especially critical if you’re naturally skinny-fat because your body has a difficult time holding onto muscle in a lean state. Get lean, but don’t take it to the extreme unless you have more than enough muscle mass on your frame.

Step 4: Evaluate Progress

So now you have done a bulking and a cutting cycle, but what are the results? If you followed my advice from my Skinny-Fat Beginner series, you are already taking monthly progress pictures.

Do you look better now than you did last time you took a picture? You most likely added muscle to your frame while staying lean.

Also, how have your measurements changed?

Did your waist and hip measurement stay the same while you increased your bodyweight? Great, then you made progress.

In contrast, you may not have made progress, and then you can choose to either give it one more shot and try to eat or train in a different way OR you can try a completely different method – both choices are good if you put 100 % into it the first time.

Step 5: Repeat Until You Are Satisfied

After cutting down to your initial measurements and evaluating your progress you want to repeat the cycle and bulk for 2-3 weeks, then cut again and so on.

I used this method for a long time because it’s simple and it works.

If you liked this article, sign up HERE to get your free eBook on creating the illusion of wide shoulders by building a powerful back and stay updated.

Next time I will publish an interview with Skinny-Fat Transformation reader Ron who has trained his way up to 17 chin ups at the age of 61.

Be proud but stay hungry,

Oskar Faarkrog

   

Download my bodyweight training program for skinny-fat guys (63-page PDF)

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Comments

  1. Great piece of information.
    It is very important to gain most of muscle while bulking. The basics of clean bulking are the same as you mentioned, eating clean and working out with heavy compound movements.

  2. Hey Oskar! I really enjoy reading your work! I have some questions and thoughts. Correct me if i understand your statements right here. Since i’m skinnyfat myself, or becoming more and more i just want to sort out a few thoughts.
    You recomend to get lean before bulking which means that i eat 2, max 3 meals a day while training to reduce fat, to get a lean base. When i’m satisfied with my results, when i have a “lean, more skinny” base i will enter a bulk period of 2-3 weeks while training hard and eating alot of calories. By bulking for this short period means that i won’t add too much fat on my body. After the bulk i will start cutting again, and this is where i get confused. When i’m cutting after my bulk does that mean that i have to go back to “2, max 3 meals a day”? Doesn’t that mean that i will loose muscle mass? Or shall i just focus on eating a wellbalanced diet?

    Final question :) How often do you recommend to bulk? If i start cutting to get a lean base to start on, as my plan is, then bulking for 2-3 weeks and then cutting back to my “lean base measurements”, can i start a bulk period right after that?

    Looking forward to a response :)

  3. I have a bit of a problem with these minibulks. During the first weeks of being on plus calories it is hard to tell how much of the weight gain is due to gaining fluid in your body and how much of it is actually muscle mass and fat increase. I’ve been going from 77,5kg up to 80,5kg and thought that my weight has actually gone up, but then after a couple of days of being on minus calories I go all the way back. Should I just go berserk with eating for those two or three weeks, and not check the scale during that period? Other than that this site has been a great help, I havent done anything besides different push ups (and some dips) for my chest and triceps and those sections look more balanced and defined than before (although very slightly. Can’t expect miracles amirite).

  4. Hi oskar . I have one queston.I am 30 years old male,6feet 3 inches high.I worked out 1 and a half year constantly ,then i stopped to finish my college. In the meantime i i gain fat and now after 1 year of pause i have started to go to gym again.I had 270 lbs when i started a few months ago.I droped my calories intake from 3000 cal to 2000 cal. Now i droped my weight to 235 lbs but i am almost one month on this same weight. My macros are about 40 carbs 30 protein 30 fats. I think i have around 25 % body fat or maybe some percent more.I eat about four times a day. My 8 hours job is sedendary and i work out about four times a week. What should i do,should i get lower in carbs ,should i drop down on my calories more or what.It seems nothing like i got stuck on this current weight. Thanks in advance for answer.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Milan,

      Your calories are already quite low, so I wouldn’t drop them further.

      The reason for this happening is that you dropped your calories too fast, and lost 35 pounds in a few months.

      Because of that, your hormones may be messed up. Did you do regular refeed meals? Read more about it here: http://skinnyfattransformation.com/fat-loss-mistakes/

      I suggest you take 1-2 days a week where you refeed by eating a small caloric surplus/maintenance. Feel free to eat junkfood that day.

      That should help stabilize your hormones and enable you to continue dropping fat.

  5. Hi Oskar I was wondering if doing some high intense cardio twice a week would help during the bulking phase to minimise fat gain as well as training 6-7 times a week?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Sam,

      Yes it would. I did this during my last bulk and I was positively surprised that my shoulders increased in size while my waist stayed the same.

  6. daniel says:

    hello oskar.Should I do hard training 2-3 weeks and eat a lot of meals and after do traning lower intensity and eat less meals too?

  7. Hello again Oskar, I had a question about upping my calories to do a few week bulk, I have read a lot of people say that when you decide to finally bulk after being in a calorie deficit, that you should increase your calories slowly for a few weeks instead of just increasing them all at once, do you think that is important? I believe they say that increasing too quickly will lead to excessive fat gain. I am getting close to my goal bf% and am curious if you think it would be more beneficial one way or the other to increase them slowly or all at once.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Increase slowly, if that doesn’t work, increase further. In any case, the fat you may gain, will melt off once you go back to eating less, since the bulking cycles are very short.

  8. Dear Oskar.

    Thanks for the very informative and useful content. Is it possible that I could email you some pics and a plan for me to you for a check if I’m good to go.

    Best regards,
    Magnus

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Magnus,

      I’ll send you an email now, then you can reply to it with some pics, stats etc and I’ll help you out.

      Best,
      Oskar

  9. Patrick Helsingius says:

    I have read most of your pages and appreciate all the good information. I have a question regarding the lean base. Based on calipers, body fat calculators, and my eyes I’m probably around 15% body fat right now. While I have put on perhaps a little muscle (mostly tone and strength) in caloric deficit while doing mostly body weight training four times a week for a couple months, I am eager to see if I can actually put on discernible muscle if I over train in surplus mode. I have never been able to put on muscle although I have tried many times. I was somewhat shocked when I realized I was skinny-fat – I had always thought of myself as just skinny because that is what my chest and arms are. All the extra weight has been around my waist. I have shed a couple waist inches and 13 lbs at this point and am now 5′ 10″ and 153 lb with 32.5″ waist. I probably need to shed another inch but progress is slower now and I’m getting impatient. So my long winded question is: do I need to stay in deficit mode until I reach 12% body fat, is this critical to overall success?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      It isn’t critical to overall succes, but the important question here is: would you mind gaining 10 lbs of bodyweight now (with a lot of it being fat)? The idea of the lean base is to be so lean, that even if you gain 10 lbs, it will be no big deal. You can cut 10 lbs very quickly if you trained super hard during your bulk to maximize muscle gains. However, if you have 20-30 lbs to cut, then that will take a considerably longer time.

      It would be easier for me to judge your situation with a picture, feel free to email me one. You may be overestimating your bodyfat percentage.

      • Patrick Helsingius says:

        Thanks for the input and I see your point. My plan was to follow your “Step 2” and train hard for 2-3 weeks in caloric surplus and then follow “Step 3” and cut again. I would imagine the most I could gain is probably 5 pounds if I exceed baseline needs by about 500 – 700 calories a day. Gaining 5 pounds mostly fat would be OK, but I will shoot to cut at least another 1-3 lbs. I will send you a picture.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          It sounds like you have a good plan. If you don’t mind putting on a bit of fat, there’s nothing to lose here, give it a try.

  10. I like counting macros as it’s super easy to manipulate to my desired outcome. Plus I only train 3 times per week while constantly applying progressive overload. I don’t cycle carbs and my daily intake remains the same, until I decide to add more to grow more.

    However, I do agree that these methods are not for everyone and what you share here is quite helpful. That shake sounds delicious, although 5 tablespoons of peanut butter is my entire fat intake for the day lol

    Thanks for the great guide!
    -Gabe Johansson

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Gabe,

      I’m glad you find it helpful and that you’re open to other approaches.

      The shake is delicious and an easy way to get extra calories down after a hard workout. You can just use less tablespoons of pb if that’s too much fat.

      – Oskar

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