Bulking, massing, “improvement seasons”—whatever you choose to call it—guys are forever screwing it up.

First, you’ve got your “lean gainer.”

This bro is forever lamenting how he’s “tried everything,” but still can’t seem to grow. A quick scroll through his IG profile shows hundreds of shirtless selfies with single-digit body fat.

And that’s admirable … if you’re happy with your current level of muscle mass. But not if you constantly complain of hard-gainer genetics or the struggles of being “natty-4-life.”

Next are the guys who are too chubby to chase gains.

Trying to add muscle when you’re already a little soft means running out of the runway required to make meaningful progress. Basically, you quickly start adding more fat than lean tissue—which isn’t productive. It’s also not fun having to stop a bulk six weeks in because clothes don’t fit and putting on socks in the morning is like wrestling a baby gator.

Last, we have the guys who “don’t need to track.” So long as the scale keeps moving in the right direction, they’re good to go, right?

Not so fast.

Even accounting for newbie gains, muscle is added at a rate of OUNCES per week—sometimes fractions of ounces. So when the scale is moving up in POUNDS?

Yeah, that’s a lot of water, waste… and FAT.

So what SHOULD massing look like?

Obviously, context matters, but here’s a pretty good blueprint for those lean enough to start a decent run at some gains.

1. Reasonable Surplus x 3-4 months

With some gradual increase per biofeedback.

2. Lean gaining/recomping/chasing maintenance

Calorie reduction is closer to maintenance x 2-3 months, or until you can stay relatively weight stable without trying. Vague, perhaps, but there’s an art to this.

3. Calorie Deficit x 2 months

Though, if your big-picture goal is to get bigger, the shorter the better. Avoid getting VERY lean more than once a year (every other year is better).

4. Lean gaining/recomping/chasing maintenance

Again, calories above maintenance x 2-3 months, or until you can stay relatively weight stable without trying.

Remember, you can’t eat yourself to jacked, but you certainly aren’t lean-gaining your way to being huge, either.

– Coach Bryan