Welcome to this beginners guide to bulking and cutting for women. If you’re not sure what bulking and cutting is, or how to do it; keep reading because you’re about to find out. In this guide we’re going to look at the fundamentals of women bulking and cutting with a view to help get you started if you think it’s right for you.
If you’re relatively new to the weightlifting scene, you may have heard the terms ‘bulking’ and ‘cutting’ being used, but perhaps you’re not entirely sure what it all means and if it applies to you.
While women bulking may seem like an alien concept to some, it is an ever increasing trend as more women are turning to weightlifting in a bid to alter their physique.
Bulking and cutting basics:
Before we delve into the detail, let’s first consider why you might want to adopt the bulking and cutting method.
Women in weightlifting have a number of reasons for their interest and active role in the sport. These include, but are not limited to:
- To compete
- Lose weight
- Gain weight
- Feel empowered
- Look after their mental health
Generally, any one of the above reasons can benefit from a bulking and cutting cycle. However, bulking and cutting it is most commonly used for the purpose of aesthetics and of course in female bodybuilding.
Women bulking? – Is that really a thing?
Yes. Bulking for women absolutely is a thing. For some women, when the number on the scale goes up, it is cause for celebration. In fact, there are a lot of women who get a kick out of knowing they have gained weight.
What is this weird and wonderful world I am describing? – This is the world of weightlifting. A world where bulking and cutting for women is fundamental to aesthetic success.
Understand that women in weightlifting are not defining themselves on bodyweight, (unless of course, they are bound by competition rules).
Also, be mindful of the fact that while women bulking do indeed actively seek an increase in body weight, what they are fundamentally looking for, is an increase in muscle mass. We know that from a physical perspective; 5lbs of lean muscle does not appear on the body in the same way that 5lbs of fat does. Therefore, the extra weight results in a firmer and leaner appearance.
If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is.
Is bulking and cutting suitable for women?
Of course, why wouldn’t it be? Bulking and cutting for women needs more publicity than it is currently getting. If you consider yourself a member of the human race, you are the perfect candidate for adopting this method.
This is one of the best and most efficient ways to get aesthetic results. Just because it’s mainly the boys talking about it, doesn’t mean you can’t be one of the leading ladies using this method.
Let’s get into the detail…
What is bulking?
Put simply; this is the process of intentionally gaining weight. The purpose of this weight gain is to pack on as much muscle mass as possible.
Naturally, during this process, there will be some fat gain too. This is generally not a concern during the bulking phase.
For women who are actively trying to gain weight, this is a good way to go about it.
Bulking can be a bit of a mind fu*k for some women, since we are conditioned to desire a smaller – lighter frame. However, once you understand how this entire process works, you will see that it is essential for long term aesthetic success.
What is cutting?
Cutting is the process of losing ‘cutting’ fat.
As mentioned above, during a bulking phase fat will be gained alongside the muscle. This is completely normal when using the bulking and cutting method, so try not to be put off by this.
Proven results speak for themselves.
When you enter into the cutting phase, you switch into a calorie deficit. Here you also focus your training on more direct fat burning exercises; i.e. cardio.
Take note! The most important part of the cutting phase is your diet. See Macros Explained.
Is it possible to bulk without gaining any additional fat?
Yes, but very difficult and potentially not as efficiently.
To pack on the muscle you need to lift heavy, to lift heavy you need to eat a calorie surplus in order to fuel your lifts and recover faster. To lose fat you need to be in a calorie deficit and include more cardio; which can lead to some muscle wastage. This is expected and part of the process.
The reason these two phases are worked separately, is because they are complete opposites.
Clean vs dirty bulking
You may see or hear terms such as ‘dirty bulk’, ‘clean bulk’ or ‘lean bulk’.
‘Dirty bulking’ refers to consuming a calorie surplus in highly calorific (usually unhealthy) foods. The ‘clean’ and ‘lean bulking’ terms are referring to the idea of bulking on healthy foods, in a bid to bulk without gaining too much additional body fat.
Women bulking tend to be attracted to the idea of clean bulking, but be mindful that this concept of not gaining any fat in a bulk is extremely difficult to achieve. The fact remains that in order to ‘bulk’, you need to be in a calorie surplus, in order to ‘cut’, you need to be in a deficit. You can’t be in both at the same time!!
You could set your calories somewhere in between and mix up your workouts, but understand that this isn’t ideal and will heavily delay your results.
The bulking and cutting method exists as it does because it has been tried, tested and proven to be the most efficient way to get results.
Why women should to be careful with dirty bulking
Women bulking need to be mindful in the bulking phase (assuming of course, that it is the intention is to cut afterwards).
The fact remains; men have an easier time cutting body fat than women do, they also have an easier time building muscle. Genetics are a douche for that, but we must work with what we have.
‘Dirty bulking’ is used as a method to gain weight fast. From a man’s perspective, or a woman seeking fast weight gain, this is ideal. A woman who intends to cut afterwards will need to consider a few things first.
Remember that the purpose of bulking is to pack on the muscle. As women, we naturally build muscle at a slower rate than men do. So you need to be prepared to play the slow game.
Don’t be afraid of weight gain, embrace it and understand that it is all part of your bigger picture. Train yourself to be able to switch between bulking and cutting like clockwork.
As soon as you prove to yourself that you can drop fat efficiently, with the correct methods, you’ll lose the weight gain worry.
Shouldn’t you lose weight first and then build muscle?
Too many women are adopting this very bad advice. If anyone tells you to ‘lose weight and then tone’ block your ears and scream blue murder!
This is the kind of advice that makes things harder for women.
Let’s be real; the odds are already against you, since you don’t produce enough testosterone to build muscle thick and fast, and as a woman you will naturally hold more body fat. With that in mind, why would you want to move yourself further away from you goal?
The fact is; it is easier to build muscle when you are carrying extra weight. Those additional pounds are extremely precious in the bulking community.
You can lose as much ‘weight’ as you want, but if you haven’t done the ‘building’ work prior to the weight loss, you won’t have much lean muscle to show for it.
This is why we lift; weightlifting is the only way to alter your physique and body composition.
Yes. The only way.
An individual with a higher bodyweight will generally be able to lift/move more weight; in lifting heavier, she makes more efficient gains.
Also, consider that traditional weight loss methods (restrictive diet and excessive cardio), will eat into the muscle stores you already have. So by adopting the ‘lose weight and then tone’ method, you actually cause muscle wastage and you will go backwards. See Fitness Plans for Women.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
I am often approached by women who have lost substantial amounts of weight and have decided that they now want to ‘tone up’, so they look to weightlifting. If only they had read this guide to bulking and cutting for women beforehand, they may have approached their journey differently. All is not lost for these women; it’s going to take time, but anyone can bounce back.
What is bulking and cutting done right?
As previously mentioned; the reason bulking and cutting are used together in a cycle, is because it has proven to be one of the most efficient methods to achieving aesthetic results.
The best way to approach this is to keep it simple. Opinions are rife, but the fact remains; you need to find the method that works for you.
Get your head around the idea that you’re in this for the long haul, and that you’ll use this method more than once. Chances are, you’ll use this method multiple times.
Remember, if you want to reveal lean muscle; the bulking comes first.
Once you have bulked for your desired length of time (8-12 weeks is an ideal starting point - longer for complete beginners). You then drop back on the heavy lifting, reduce your calories and up the cardio to ‘trim the fat’.
What you are left with after the cutting phase, is all the beautiful lean muscle that you built during your bulking phase.
The best and simplest way to approach your diet in this process, if you don’t have a coach, is to track your calories and macro-nutrients. See; Macros Explained.
Know that all the cutting in the world won’t reveal a physique you haven’t built, therefore it is necessary to use workout plans that build lean muscle fast. Members Zone has everything you need to build and maintain lean muscle.
What to consider before entering into a bulking and cutting cycle
For some, this process comes naturally. For others, it can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining.
A strong and dedicated mind is required, you should also plan your meals and workouts in advance. This will significantly increase your chances of success.
You must be mindful during a bulking phase to ensure your calories are coming from nutritious food sources. Yes, a calorie is a calorie, however a hearty meal is likely to fuel you better than a donut.
Be prepared to go hungry in a cutting phase. It’s not easy going from a calorie surplus to a calorie deficit overnight. You should try to gradually reduce your calories as you approach the cut phase to help with this transition.
Remember that this is a process that will require long term commitment, nothing worth having comes easy so embrace the hard road and know that you’re not alone, women worldwide are wising up to this method.
If you found this guide to bulking and cutting for women useful, please share it with your female friends.
December 2019 Update: Each stage has been covered in more detail in separate guides, see below: