The Bulking Debate: An Analysis


Muscle gain


Last week, a fantastic debate was published on YouTube on the topic of bulking and muscle gain. It was between Dr. Eric Helms and Dr. Mike Israetel. Two absolute Gods when it comes to this stuff.


I’m not joking; this is the best single informational piece of content I have seen in a very, very, VERY long time. I’ve been researching this topic for absolutely years, so I do’t say this lightly.


It’s one of THE best muscle-building resources out there, without question. If you want to gain muscle, check it out here.


Also check out  Eric Helms and Mike Israetel. Both are awesome. Mike is also very entertaining.




I can’t possibly do this video justice in a single blog post, so for the real thing I encourage you to go and check it out. For now, though, I will summarise it for you.


As you would expect from these two elites, they agreed on most topics. It goes without saying that the priorities in a successful bulk are:


  • To be in a calorie surplus
  • To gradually increase training volume (with periods of low volume which I’ll get to shortly)
  • To not get injured
  • To focus on hypertrophy, with shorter time periods whereby you focus on strength and possibly peak
  • Periods of maintenance are incredibly useful for transitioning from a bulk to a cut and vice versa


Now, where there was a bit of a disagreement, was on the size of the calorie surplus. Therefore they disagreed on the rate of weight gain.


Eric was generally a proponent of a much slower rate of gain, whereas Mike argued you could & should go much faster.


Mike’s Argument (1 pound gain per week)


  • Go too slowly and you have progress-tracking issues – hard to really measure muscle gain
  • You may miss out on long-term gains
  • You can always cut the fat away later, often very easily, quickly and without sacrificing gains, using mini-cuts
  • You are maximilising every single anabolic signal available – take no chances


Eric’s Argument (1 pound gain per month)


  • Plenty of bodybuilders who need to take things more slowly and methodically (i.e maintenance)
  • If you take 2-3 week daily averages not (once per week’s) then you get a pretty good measurement
  • Not convinced a higher surplus actually makes any faster muscle gain in advanced athletes

My Approach


Personally, I go for something down the middle. I aim to gain 0.5 pounds per week (2 pounds per month). I appreciate this is just for me, my experience level, my current bodyweight and my goals, and you will need to trial and error to see what works best for you.


This gives me modest increases in strength and size (predominantly size atm – my training is geared that way) every other week. Obviously this includes water, glycogen, blood volume and all sorts of other lovely stuff.


Mike is very aggressive with his bulks, and I agree to some extent that this may be required for someone who is very advanced and is very keen on gaining a few extra pounds of muscle and doesn’t mind gaining a bit of fat over the next few months.


Eric’s approach is also useful for competitors who may be competing within the next 12 months and are desperate not to get too out of shape.


As they both mention in this video, a Bodybuilding contest prep diet is another ballgame from a mini-cut. Completely different goals, completely different strategy and set-up.


As always, it depends what your goals are. There are pros and cons to each method.


If you enjoyed this article and are motivated to lose weight, feel free to check out my coaching services here. Thanks, I appreciate it.

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