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The Ultimate Skinny Guide to Bulking Up Fast - How to Bulk like the Hulk

Few of us are genetically gifted with the sort of lean, muscular physique, and there comes a time in all of our lives when the spark is lit and from that point on, we’re committed to building serious muscle.


As you’ve likely found out (as we did too), bulking doesn’t come easy. But you’re not alone -- most of us who try to build an appreciable amount of muscle fail. This is due to multiple factors (which we’ll address shortly), but don’t be disheartened.


No matter where you are in your fitness journey -- embarking on your first quest to bulk or trying for the umpteenth time, we’ve got you covered!


Today, we unveil the “secrets” to successfully building muscle.


The “Secret Sauce” to Building Real Muscle


When it comes to building muscle, there are no shortcuts, no hacks, no magic foods or “perfect” workouts. You don’t even need to follow any gimmick diets like GOMAD (gallon of milk a day)...while this helps you put on “weight”, it’s really a lot of fat with some muscle.


Your goal when “bulking” should be to add as much as lean muscle as possible while keeping fat gain to a minimum. Yes, there will always be some fat gain whenever you embark on a mass-gaining quest, but there’s a big difference between adding a little bit of fat over the course of a 8 or 12-week bulking cycle and packing on 10 pounds of fat in a month because you adopted the “see food, eat food” mentality.


Bulking up really boils down to three key things. We refer to them as the three pillars of success:


  • Progressive resistance training
  • Consuming enough dietary protein
  • Consuming enough daily total calories


Without all three of those pillars in place, your odyssey to etch an Adonis-like physique is severely hampered.


Let’s now take a closer look at each of those pillars of bulking success.


Progressive Resistance Training


Resistance training is essential to building muscle as it provides the powerful stimulus (signal) your muscles need to grow and adapt. But simply lifting weights or performing a bunch of bodyweight exercises isn’t enough to ensure muscle growth…it needs to be progressive (becomes more challenging over time).


Your body is incredibly adept at adapting to all manner of stimuli, including intense exercise. If you only ever did 20 push ups and 100 bodyweight squats, then your body would only grow enough to be able to meet those imposed demands.


If you want to keep growing, then you need to continually challenge (“overload”) your muscles over the weeks, months, and years that you train.


Progressive overload has become synonymous with “adding weight to the bar,” but that’s just one way to force your muscles to grow…it’s not the only way. In fact, there are many forms of progressive overload, including:


  • Adding weight to the bar/machine
  • Performing more challenging variations of bodyweight exercises (decline pushups vs standard push ups)
  • Increasing time under tension (i.e. using slow eccentrics)
  • Reducing rest between sets while performing the same number of reps with the same weight
  • Increasing range of motion
  • Increasing training frequency
  • Increasing reps with the same weight and same rest


Your training preferences, injury history, and equipment access will impact which method of progressive overload you choose. One of our favorite methods is called double progression.


What is Double Progression?


Double progression simplifies training and eliminates the guesswork. All you need to do is track your workouts (which is easy to do in the 1UP Fitness App), and you’ll understand when it’s time to increase reps and/or resistance (“weight”). It’s simple, effective, and can be used by everyone!


Here’s how it works:


First, pick a rep range (8-10, 12-15, etc.) for your working sets on a particular exercise.


For example, let’s say you’re performing three sets of leg presses with a rep range of 10-12 reps.


On your first set, let’s say you get 12 reps. On your second set, you get 11 reps, and your final set, you get 10 reps.


You would log this in your training journal or 1UP Fitness App as 12 / 11 / 10.


Your next training session, you would keep the weight on the leg press the same, and try to complete 12 reps for all three sets.


You do NOT add weight to the machine until you complete at least 12 reps in each set.


When you do complete 3x12 on the leg press, then add a small amount of weight (5-10 pounds) and repeat the progression scheme.


Progression is absolutely essential to building muscle and strength, and double progression allows you to easily track, monitor, and increase when and where appropriate.


Consume Enough Daily Protein


Protein supplies your body with key building blocks it needs (essential amino acids) to repair muscle tissue damaged from hard training as well as support the creation of new lean muscle. The body also uses protein to build neurotransmitters, repair organs and other tissues (hair, skin, and nails), support immune function, and maintain blood vessels.


Without consuming adequate dietary protein, you’re depriving your body of the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to building and repairing muscle tissue.


Ideally, you want to consume high-quality protein sources -- foods that contain all nine essential amino acids (i.e. a “complete protein”) as well as ones that offer a high bioavailability, meaning your body can efficiently digest, absorb, and utilize the amino acids in it.


The good news is that many of the same protein sources you’re already eating are among the best sources of protein for bulking, including:


  • Lean red meat
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Dairy (Greek Yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, etc.)
  • Fish and shellfish (salmon, mahi mahi, shrimp, etc.)
  • Whey protein (and other types of protein powder)


How Much Protein Do I Need Each Day?


Aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. So, if you currently weigh 180 pounds, make it a goal each day to consume ~180 grams of protein spread as evenly as possible across three to five meals (depending on your preference and availability).


Consuming Enough Daily Calories


To bulk up (gain weight), you must consume more calories than you burn (i.e. a calorie surplus).


A popular trend the past few years has been to “gain-tain” or “main-gain” where you eat at maintenance and essentially try to recomp (lose fat and build muscle at the same time).


While this is possible for the individuals new to resistance training, for most individuals (especially those serious about bulking up) it’s very inefficient and often leads to feeling like you’re not seeing results due to the process of recomping being so slow.


Quite simply, a hypercaloric diet (consuming more calories than you burn) is a much more efficient means to building muscle and adding serious size.


How Many Calories Should I Eat to Bulk Up?


Not sure how many calories you burn every day just living life?


Simply open up the 1UP Fitness App and plug in your stats. Our free fitness and training app helps you figure out the right calorie intake and macronutrient split to achieve your goals, be it build muscle, lose fat, maintain your results, or body recomposition.


For an even more detailed explanation, check out our complete guide to understanding Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) where you’ll be able to quickly estimate how many calories you need each day.


Once you have your TDEE, eat an additional 300-500 calories per day everyday for the next two weeks and see how your weight changes. It shouldn’t be anything dramatic (e.g. a four pound muscle gain), but there should be a general trend upward in your bodyweight by a pound or two.


If you’re not seeing your body weight increase, add another 250-300 calories per day and continue to track your body weight.


What Foods Should I Eat to Bulk Up?


No food is off limits when bulking as long as you can hit your calorie and macro targets each day.


That being said, choosing less processed, more nutrient-dense foods is preferred. But, since you’re bulking there is room for the occasional “cheat food” (indulgence) or two.


Here is a list of some of our favorite bulking foods for each macronutrient:



  • Lean red meat
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Dairy (Greek Yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, etc.)
  • Fish and shellfish (salmon, mahi mahi, shrimp, etc.)
  • Whey protein (and other types of protein powder)



  • Potatoes (white, russet, sweet, Yukon gold, etc.)
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Rice
  • Tri-Carb
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Quinoa
  • Non-starchy vegetables (zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
  • Lettuce
  • Dark leafy greens (kale, chard, mustard greens, etc.)



  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Nut butter
  • Cheese
  • Butter


Which Training Split is Best for Bulking?

There is a seemingly never ending debate concerning, “what is the best training split for building muscle?”


Some favor a push/pull/legs split, while others prefer a more traditional bro split. Individuals just starting out as well as those with limited time may opt for a total body workout.


We’ll keep things simple and say that any intelligently designed training program can work for building muscle and strength, provided you put in the work. The real key to building muscle as quickly as possible is that you have to lift “heavy” weights with a fair amount of volume. “Heavy” in this case means weights that bring your muscles close to failure (within 1-3 reps of failure) within the target rep range.


If you’re new to training and not sure which training program to pick to start, we’ve got you covered. In addition to providing calorie intake and macronutrient goals, the 1UP Fitness app provides customized training programs based on your preferences, equipment availability, and goals.


The Best Supplements for Bulking


Supplements often get the most attention when it comes to building muscle (or losing fat for that matter), but the truth is that supplements (while awesome) are the icing on the cake.


You can build considerable amounts of muscle and strength without using any supplements whatsoever, including protein powder.


Eating enough protein, consuming enough total calories, training hard, and getting enough quality sleep each night is all you “need” to build muscle.


Things like nutrient timing, “optimal” training splits, and best pre workouts come AFTER those bases are covered.


That being said, since you are trying to build muscle as quickly and efficiently as possible, supplements can help support and enhance the muscle recovery and growth processes. Here are a few of our favorite supplements to use when bulking:


Creatine Monohydrate


If we’re restricted to pick one (and only one) supplement for building muscle & strength, it would be creatine monohydrate. Quite simply, it is the king of bodybuilding supplements, and the standard by which all other sports nutrition supplements are measured.


Creatine is backed by hundreds of studies across a wide range of ages, and it continually shows its benefits for increasing exercise performance, lean mass gains, energy production, hydration, and more.


1UP Pure Rebuild is our comprehensive post-workout supplement that includes a full 5 grams of creatine monohydrate plus essential amino acids (to support muscle recovery), electrolyte, Glutamine, and betaine (which also helps support creatine production, exercise performance, and lean mass gains).


Protein Powder


As we’ve mentioned above, protein powder is not “required” to bulk or build muscle, but not every guy has the time, energy, or motivation to prep, cook, and eat all of the food (and clean all the dishes) that it takes to bulk. Protein powder offers a quick, easy, affordable, and delicious means to hitting your protein goal for the day. Research also shows that having a protein shake (in combination with resistance training) supports lean mass (“muscle”) gains.


Plus, having a shake (or two) each day can also be incredibly helpful for those of us who want to bulk up but struggle with low appetite.


Protein powder comes in many different forms. Whey protein is the most popular protein supplement on the market, but other proteins can be just as effective for helping you reach your protein and calories goals for the day, including egg protein, whey isolate, and vegan protein.


Pre Workout


Hard training lies at the very heart of building muscle, but…we’ve all had days when we’re not “feeling it.” At these times, having a truly awesome pre-workout can make all the difference between an utterly mundane workout and PR-smashing one.


1UP Pre Men is the ultimate pre-workout for guys that are serious about building muscle, gaining strength, and tapping into those “hidden gains” that always seem just out of reach. Every serving delivers the right amount of stimulants, nootropics, pump enhancers, and performance boosters to help you lift more weight for more reps and build the physique you’ve always wanted!


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