Health and fitness: Bulking for summer

Personal trainer Stephen White is the man behind SWFitness. This month he explains why now is the perfect time to start bulking for summer.

Spring is around the corner and before you know it summer will be here. If you’re looking to go a bit Daniel Craig this year, now is time to get cracking! You may think it’s too early to start preparing but a ripped body, bulging shoulders and a tight booty doesn’t happen overnight.

There are two main phases to change your shape: ‘bulking’, building mass through lots of food and hard exercise; and ‘cutting’, changing diet and exercise to strip fat. These run in series called a cycle, which lasts 24 weeks; 12 bulking and 12 cutting. We will cover cutting in the next column. But now, it’s time to bulk!

What is bulking?

Basically you get to eat as much as is humanly possible and train heavy and hard. Food needs to be as clean as possible (see What to eat below) but overall calories are important. Bulking helps you build size in the specific areas to develop a well-proportioned body. You will put some fat on because of the amount you’re eating, however there is a direct correlation between the amount you eat and the amount you gain if you train properly. When you switch to the cutting phase, you’ll slim down and your physique will be amazing.

What to eat

This is so important to get right. Too few calories and you won’t gain size; too many of the wrong calories and you’ll simply gain body fat. You may feel like you’re chunky but it’s only because you’re eating more calories than normal, which increases gut capacity. Remember, you can cut when you’re big, but you can’t get big when you cut. So now’s the time to eat, eat, eat!


We all have a basic calorie requirement (basal metabolic rate) – the amount we need to consume if we live a sedentary lifestyle. So if you start to move around – dancing, working, lifting weights and training hard – the number of calories required increases.During bulking we try to burn as fewer calories as possible outside of training (meaning less cardio, for example). This allows most calories to be consumed when pushing our body to the limits when training.

Food prep

If you already prepare your food in advance, good job. It’s going to be even more important during the bulking cycle (and cutting later on). Eating copious amounts of burgers does NOT qualify as bulking. You do, however, need to increase your carb intake, but this is complex carbs like oats (porridge), brown rice and wholewheat pasta. The ratio of protein, carbs and fats should be 3 carbs and 2 protein to 1
fat. If you would like to work out your micronutrient intake, visit

If you’re struggling to consume the daily calories there are ways of consuming extra, such as brown pasta. Peanut butter is high in calories too. You could also try a mass gainer powder, which gives 1,200 calories per drink. I recommend Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass.


Firstly, drop cardio to a minimum so you don’t want to be burning the valuable calories, which you need to get massive.

Secondly, stick to big compound exercises like the ones outlined in this article – these beauties really help you build size. Make sure you have a training partner as you need to be pushing as heavy as possible within a rep range of 8 to 12. If you only manage 3 or 4 reps then it’s too heavy.

Keep your heart rate low and make sure you rest properly between sets; you want to keep energy for lifting. When bulking you never ‘superset’, you push one level of weight and rest. And always start with main lifts, then do isolation exercises.

Military Press 

Sets 4, pyramid style

Reps 12, 10, 8, 8

A very tough but effective exercise, great for building big delts (shoulders) but also strengthening the core if your technique is bang on. As you can see, my lovely colleague Paul is demonstrating this compound exercise: picture above is the starting position (remember to not hook your thumbs around the bar); picture below is the finished press.

As you press the bar bring your head forward to activate more medial and posterior delts also firing the back. It helps you push harder, heavier and with better control.

Bent-Over Row 

Sets 4, pyramid style

Reps 12, 10, 8, 8

Want to get some thickness and depth to the body? Then this one hits the mark. Picture below is the start position: keep your chest up and shoulders retracted.


Next, pull the bar towards your navel like in picture below – contract hard then lower the bar back to the starting position.


Other exercises to do when bulking include Bench Press, Squats, Shoulder Press and Deadlifts. For more information on bulking programmes, check out And as always, do not start any exercise programme until you have consulted with a medical professional.

In my next column we’ll cover legs exercises and in May we’ll explain ‘cutting’. Happy bulking!

SWFitness is a London-based group of personal trainers brought together by founder Stephen White and is predominantly based at Jubilee Hall Gym in Covent Garden, WC2E 8BE.

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