In the world of fitness, we all know about different stages. On the one hand, we have the volume stage in which we intend to gain the greatest possible lean mass and on the other, the muscle definition stage, in which it is intended to lose fat while maintaining the most excellent possible lean mass. But on many occasions, we do not know the duration of the volume and definition stages.
Today from Vitónica, we will give you a series of guidelines to know exactly what stage we should do and for how long we should do it. The duration of the volume and definition stages will be highly variable depending on the particular objective of each person, type of training that follows, physiognomy and other series of variables, but we will try to clarify it.
Choose a goal or a reference.
The first step is to choose an objective or a reference to which we want to reach. Some people may have as a reference a body like Bruce Lee’s, very fibrous, with a meagre percentage of body fat, but not immensely hypertrophied. Another current example could be that of Frank Medrano (body for my taste quite aesthetic and balanced).
However, other people may wish to have bodies like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jay Cutler or any other bodybuilder, very hypertrophied and with a low percentage of fat, although we may also want a body similar to Jim Wendler, who has a lot of strength but also has a relatively high percentage of fat.
For tastes, there are the colours, but what is clear is that the stages, the diet and the type of training must be very different depending on the body we want to reach if our main training objective is aesthetics. If our training objective is performance, our body will adapt to this type of training, and we will not have to think about the stages in the same way.
Analyze our current state
Once we have chosen our reference point, we must analyze our current state; depending on the percentage of fat with which we start and the amount of muscle mass we have, we must focus on training and diet in one way or another, in addition to planning the stages of realistic way.
If, for example, our reference is a body similar to Bruce Lee’s and we start with a weight of 65Kg of body weight, with a height of 166 cm and a percentage of body fat of approximately 14%, it is possible that dedicating ourselves exclusively to defining for a while, let’s achieve our goal.
However, if we start from the same bodyweight with the same height, but our body fat percentage is 18% or 20%, what will happen to us when we lose fat is that we will still lack muscle, and we will have to do a stage of increase in lean mass after finishing a phase of fat loss.
It can also be the case of a person who weighs 55Kg, measures 166cm and does not have marked abs. This person does not need to “define” but needs to increase lean mass, even though he undoubtedly has fat in the abdominal area.
Each person has an initial muscular base and a different somatotype, but we can all naturally achieve a body improvement in line with our goals if we work for it, train and nourish ourselves as we should.
defined dumbbell man
Duration of the volume and definition stages
Once we have our goal setting and know our current state, the next step is to program the definition and volume stages well. To do this, we must consider both the training routines to follow and the diet that we must have in each of the stages. What marks one stage or another is not training but diet. We remember that a hypocaloric diet will make us lose fat, and a hypercaloric diet will increase our muscle volume (and fat).
As for the duration of each stage, everything is very relative. If we start from a not very high percentage of body fat, with a considerable amount of lean mass, and our goal is to define (for example to go from 14% to 10%), probably just by dedicating two strict months of definition, we will achieve our objective.
I should mention that the ‘bulking and cutting’ method of building muscle is relatively inefficient. It’s not that it doesn’t work; it has for decades, but it is much easier for the body to eat sensibly but not strictly for 12 months out of the year than it is to consume for 6-8 months and then cut back. For 3-4 months.
The ‘bulking up’ phase of muscle building, as you already know, generally involves ingesting extreme excesses of calories. Now, unless all you’re eating is steak, eggs, chicken, for example, and whole grains and veggies, it’s hard not to get too fat. Her body can only synthesize muscle so fast. No matter how many calories you eat or protein you eat, there will be a point where the body will not physically build more muscle, and when this point is reached, it will convert excess calories into fat.
By bulking up, you are also losing the amount of muscle you can gain in a year, as you then have to spend several months ‘cutting’, which is essentially a diet. Eating strictly and restricting calories will hinder muscle development. It can help you burn a lot of fat, but continuing to build muscle is not beneficial. You may still be taking in more calories than you are burning, but after a significant period of bulking, high insulin release, fat cell hyperplasia (the expansion of fat cells due to extreme eating), it will be complicated to develop muscle while cutting enough calories and consuming enough nutrients to stimulate muscle growth. It’s not impossible at all, but it makes it more difficult.
Honestly, it’s better that you tackle your diet year-round and have to eat meals now and then and a couple of misleading meals a week and stick with excessive calorie intake but don’t go up to 100% and then cut back to 100%. Two extremes are brutal for the body to adapt and mean you have to waste time burning fat when you could be building muscle. Unless you’re a bodybuilder and looking to compete, bulking and cutting isn’t the best way to get in shape. There are many scientific reasons to avoid this method, but I won’t bore you with them.
But if it has increased, then a very high protein diet is the best way forward (higher than you would typically consume). Protein contains the fewest calories per gram at four compared to 7 and 9 in carbohydrates and fat. Protein is also a food that is difficult for the body to break down and digest and has been shown to improve the body’s metabolism due to the effort it takes to break down, etc., although it is a very simplistic look at the whole process. It’s best to calculate your lean body mass in pounds (use a bioimpedance scale for good measure) and consume between 1-1.5 g of protein per pound of lean muscle mass. Keep the whole-grain carbs the size of a closed fist, and then pack the veggies. To get your vitamins, etc. Obviously, without forgetting the water! Reduce your sugar intake and increase your fat intake through butter, whole milk, plain Greek yogurt, etc. Consuming natural fats stimulates the release of glucagon, a hormone that stimulates the body to BURN fat, and things like milk and yogurt are usually high in protein too! While it is true that insulin is essential for increasing muscle growth, insulin is also the primary hormone that stimulates fat storage, and since insulin is not the essential part of building muscle, I would focus on reducing muscle growth—secretion of this.
Another tip is regular HIIT. Cardio is another inefficient way to burn fat, but it mainly trains slow oxidative muscle fibres, the minor bulky fibres, like in distance runners like Mo Farrah. By doing high-intensity exercises like sprinting, you are stimulating Fast Oxidative / Fast Glycolytic fibres, which are the bulkiest muscle fibres associated with sprinters and bodybuilders! By sprinting, etc., you are building bulkier muscles and burning the same amount of calories in a shorter amount of time!