If there's one thing Brandon and Hudson White (aka The Buff Dudes) know, it's how to bulk. After doing it the wrong way and learning from experience, they now devote entire video series to doing it right.
Looking to add size without getting soft? Let the brothers' twisted and hilarious sense of humor walk you through the pitfalls—and advantages—of chasing gains.
Mistake 1: Eating Whatever You Want
This is a common mistake, one even the Buff Dudes fell for. Early on, they began a bulk by eating everything in sight, which did help them gain weight—the wrong kind of weight. Just listen to Brandon's story on the Bodybuilding.com podcast about nightly Klondike-bar feeds for that one.
"The carbohydrates in a Twinkie are not the same as the carbs in oatmeal," he warns.
Educate yourself, and get your calories from the right sources. Learn how many calories you need, as well as how much protein, carbs, and fat you should be eating. Your goal is to add more muscle than body fat. The Buff Dudes know how important food is, which is why they created an entire section of 'Buff Dude Approved' recipes on their website and an Instagram devoted to Buff Dudes Foods.
Mistake 2: The Forever Bulk
When you finally see the number on the scale increase, it can be tempting to keep chasing bigger numbers for months on end. But Hudson warns against suckling at the "sweet teat of gains" for too long. Falling into a "forever bulk" routine makes it all but inevitable that you'll become lax with your eating habits just to hit calorie totals, which will cause you to put on extra body fat and turn your targeted bulk into, well, just getting chubby.
"Try to plan your bulk around something that fits your goal," advises Hudson. "Is it a competition you're getting ready for? Do you want to look good for summer?"
Before beginning a bulk, come up with a concrete goal, a beginning, and an end. By planning your bulk around your short- and long-term goals, you can better control your weight gain.
Mistake 3: Getting Stuck in the "No Zone"
The "No Zone" is the lifter's vortex of paranoid uncertainty: Each day, you vacillate between extremes. "Should I bulk? Should I cut? Am I getting too fat? Too tiny? Am I losing my strength? Am I losing my mind?"
When you bulk, you gain lean mass, but you also gain body fat. When you cut, you get leaner, but you look smaller. These are unavoidable truths. And if you're not careful, they'll sabotage your gains.
Second-guessing yourself because you have conflicting goals leads to backpedaling and unclear priorities. You secretly try to stay lean even when you're supposedly bulking, or you slip in bulk-style indulgences while you're cutting. As a result, your progress takes a nosedive.
"Your mind is in all different places. It's crisscrossed," says Brandon.
To pull yourself out of this tailspin, Brandon recommends setting specific short-term and long-term goals so you know exactly what you need to do keep your muscles growing and your mind strong. For example, setting a short-term goal to bulk for 9 weeks—which just happens to be the exact length of the Buff Dudes' upcoming "Journey for the Goblet of Gains" training program—is a great way to prepare for a long-term goal of having shredded six-pack abs and massive arms next summer. You already know you'll spend 3 months cutting after your bulk, so you're less likely to freak out when you see that predictable little increase in your body fat.
Have a set program, know what your macros will be, define your caloric totals, and quit worrying.
Mistake 4: Growing Impatient
You're five workouts and a few feast-filled days into your bulking program, but no results are visible yet. Clearly you're just a cursed hardgainer who will always look like a damned scarecrow, right?
Wrong! Building your body comes with pitfalls and setbacks just like any other challenge.
"Anything good worth having takes time, and that includes a proper bulk," says Hudson.
Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is muscle. It can take months or even years to put on the size you want right now—and even then you can always strive for more. The Buff Dudes themselves have been incrementally adding muscle since their teen years to get where they are. You might never be completely satisfied, Hudson warns, but you should never quit just because you're not seeing results.
Yes, it sounds super cheesy, but muscle growth is a journey, not a destination. So buckle up, work hard as hell, and enjoy the ride.
Mistake 5: Pushing Workouts Past the Limit
When you're in a bulk phase, it's tempting to push your body to its limit each time you train. After all, we've all heard that crushing ourselves, plus eating, is the key to earning those sweet, sweet gains. But even when you're eating for growth, red-lining your workouts day in and day out can still burn you out, leave you under-recovered, and sideline you with an injury.
"Hudson and I have been there, unfortunately" admits Brandon. "It's not fun. We're all human, and the body takes time to repair."
If you put energy into damaging your muscles in the gym, put the same energy into letting them recover and repair—especially when you're trying to grow. Pace yourself, know your limits, and for crying out loud, take a day off! You work hard in the gym, but rest is essential for getting bigger and stronger. And never forget, you can't lift if you're injured.
Pushing yourself: good. Pushing yourself while respecting your limits: even better. This is the path to the healthier, buffer body you seek.