can you get abs while bulking?

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Training your abs is a commitment. It takes a long time to build up the strength and definition you wish to achieve for yourself. If you have reached a stage in your life where your abs just aren’t getting any more defined, stronger, or bigger. Then it may be time to bulk to add more fuel to those muscles.

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    Bulking can be a world of confusion, for those who haven’t done it before, and especially when you are just starting out in the gym and growing bigger, stronger muscles, specifically your abdominals.

    It may have gotten to the point your abs are not looking any different no matter how much you exercise them, or you just don’t know what the next step is. Well, you’re in the right place because bulking is the way to go.

    Training your abs can be frustrating, especially when you are no longer seeing any progress. You may thing a bulk will defeat the object of building blockier abs, however, it is exactly the step you need to take.

    Now you are wondering if you should still train your abdominal muscles whilst bulking. Before we get into depth with the question of ‘should you train abs whilst bulking’, let’s go over the basics.

    What are Abs?

    Your abs, or abdominal muscles make up your core strength. They are the muscles that create the six pack you desire. It is important that you work out your abdominal muscles to reduce the risk of injury, or pain in your lower back when lifting heavier weights. Your core strength is vital to the rest of your body.

    Along with the muscles in your back, your abs work to keep your body balanced and protect the spine. Your abs are also in place to protect your organs and assist with breathing, and other movements.

    diagram illustrating sections of the abdominal muscles including upper and lower rectus and obloquies

    There are four different sections of your abdominal muscles:

    • External obliques
    • Internal obliques
    • Transversus abdominis
    • Rectus abdominis. Your rectus abdominis is the strongest part of your abs.

    When working out your abs, you should focus on exercising your entire core to avoid getting weak abs. You should also focus on exercising your abs as often as possible in a range of ways.

    The best way to grow bigger, bulkier abs, is to eat in a calorie surplus…

    What is Bulking?

    Bulking is when you are eating a calorie surplus. A calorie surplus basically means you’re eating more calories than your body needs to function. You are not burning more than you use.

    Your muscle growth loves this. But it takes time and is a process that needs to be trusted. You may not see any visible difference in your abs whilst bulking because you will be gaining body fat. However, don’t stop too soon, or else you won’t achieve your desired goal.

    When eating in a calorie surplus, you are providing your muscles with more fuel, which means you have more chance of muscle hypertrophy (an increase of muscle mass). So, in order to build your abdominal muscles, they need more protein and more fuel to get bigger than they already are.

    There are two types of bulking methods:

    Clean Bulk

    • Increasing your calories by a small percentage, but still over what you need.
    • You will gain body fat, but not too much. It shouldn’t be as hard to lose once you start cutting.
    • A clean bulk is a longer process.
    • A ‘clean’ bulk doesn’t always mean eating a larger healthier diet. It can just mean a small increase of calories. Although a healthier diet is recommended.

    Dirty Bulk

    • A less disciplined way to bulk. Don’t really need to monitor.
    • You can eat whatever you want, there’s no rules.
    • A dirty bulk is a larger calorie surplus than a clean bulk.
    • A more intense cut is needed once completing a dirty bulk.

    The best way to bulk is to increase your calorie surplus slowly, per week. Monitor how much body fat you are gaining and aim to stop bulking at around 15% body fat. If your body fat percentage reaches 15% you will notice your fat gain speed up. You should also monitor how many pounds you are gaining. Aim for 1lb every two weeks and keep track of your calorie surplus to match this.

    What is Cutting?

    The opposite to bulking is cutting. This is when you eat less calories than you burn in order to lose fat.

    You may go on a ‘cut’ once you have finished bulking, or if you have gained unwanted body fat that you now want to lose.

    Cutting acts faster than bulking and you can lose this body fat quite quickly if you stick to a new eating plan, and exercise routine.

    However, depending on the type of bulk you have chosen, your cutting period may also be challenging!

    Does Bulking Make Me Lose Abs?

    Bulking will not make you lose your abs. They will always be there.

    However, your abs may become less visible throughout the duration of your bulk, as your body gains more fat.

    Now of course this may seem slightly frustrating after putting in so much hard work to maintain visible abs, don’t fear. Once you begin to cut back down after a bulk, your abs will be stronger, you may even find that you now have bigger abs and can lift heavier weights more consistently.

    So, in short, bulking will only make your abs more defined in the long run, and you will be able to achieve your vision of blocky, bulky abs.

    If you train regularly, and bulk properly with the method that works for you, in order to avoid unnecessary weight/fat gain. Your abs will still be there.

    Can You Get Abs Whilst Bulking?

    Now, let’s get to the question you’re here for. The short answer is yes. Of course, you can still get abs whilst bulking.

    In fact, the best time to build your abs is whilst you are bulking because your muscles are taking in more fuel and more protein.

    Your muscles will always grow the best and most effectively whilst eating a calorie surplus. Even if you can’t see the results straight away. Don’t be discouraged.

    If you want to maintain your abs, then you should train them all year round, even when bulking, cutting and maintaining your abs. Those defined abs are a commitment.

    Remember, genetics do play a role in how your abs will look on your individual body, so they may not look like your inspiration pictures. However, you will be able to grow the best abs you possibly can whilst bulking.

    Throughout the duration of your bulk, keep in mind that your body will hold water, store fat, and use insulin differently to the next person.

    Monitor how your body changes and keep note of what’s happening throughout your bulking period. This will be helpful for your next bulk.

    How Often Should I Train Abs whilst Bulking?

    Illustration of man performing incline abdominal crunches using a weighted plate

    Without bulking you should train your abs at least four to five times a week if you are trying to build visible abs and a six pack.
    If you’re asking yourself, ‘should I train abs every day’ then yes, you can also do that too. Work out your abs as much as possible if you want to maintain or achieve the abs you wish for.

    If training your abs five times a week is too much during your bulk, aim to train them at least three times per week and focus on direct ab exercises.

    Your abs get bigger and stronger by being trained often and by increasing intensity.

    This means you are going to want to increase the weights you use, the number of reps and the rest times of your gym sessions over a period, especially if you want to achieve those bigger blocky abs.

    How To Maintain Abs Whilst Bulking?

    To maintain your abs whilst bulking, you need to make sure you are training them regularly. If you stop training your abs whilst bulking, they may become weaker. Which is not the desired goal. Your abs will still be there even if you notice yourself gaining body fat, so long as you keep working them hard, and using this period to its full potential.

     You can train your abs whilst bulking by doing the following exercises.

    • Ab isolation exercises such as weighted crunches, hanging leg or knee raises. Isolation exercises will add more definition to your abs. 

    • Compound exercises such as mountain climbers and burpees will work out a range of muscles. These exercises will help build your outer abs, forming that visible six pack, and improve your strength.

    • Heavy compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts. These will build your inner abs and help grow your core size. This exercise may seem like it isn’t targeting your abs, however it will build your top core.

    When to Stop Bulking

    Knowing when to stop bulking is an important stage in your fitness progress and your muscle building.

    But it is just as important as knowing when to start.

    If you already have a higher percentage of body fat than you would like, you may not need to start bulking just yet, or you may not need to bulk for too long.

    On the flip side, if you have a very low percentage of body fat and are not seeing your abs grow any bigger, then it is a good time to start bulking to build bigger abs.

    A typical bulking phase should last around four to eight months. This seems like a long time; however, you don’t want to rush. If you rush the bulk, you may not get the results you desire.

    For the most optimal bulk, aim for reaching 15% body fat before stopping. It is easier to maintain the bulking period by aiming for a percentage than waiting for the end date.

    Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different, and how you bulk will affect your abs, and your overall muscle growth differently.

    Your body may store fat in areas you wish it didn’t, however, don’t worry. As soon as you begin to cut back down, and by maintaining a progressive ab workout, you lose this unwanted fat in no time.

    Although gaining body fat seems counter intuitive, it helps to build stronger and bigger abs and muscles over time. So, if you’re frustrated at not seeing any results whilst you are bulking, don’t panic. Keep going and keep putting in the hard work.

    Wrapping Up: Should You Train Abs Whilst Bulking?

    As you have now hopefully learnt, you should absolutely train abs whilst bulking. There is no reason as to why you shouldn’t. Your abs will grow the best once they are being fuelled with more protein.

    In fact, you should continue to train your abs all year round to achieve your desired look and desired strength. Set yourself a routine that works for your lifestyle, and keep increasing the weights, and keep training your abs using a variety of exercises. Just doing crunches and sit ups won’t cut it.

    Things to keep in mind are the number of calories you are consuming, and the percentage of body fat you are gaining.

    Decide whether you are going to do a clean bulk, a smaller increase of calories than your body needs.
    Or a dirty bulk a larger increase of calories.
    The type of bulk you choose will depend on you, and how you live your life.
    Eating clean has more benefits, however a clean bulk takes longer. Eating ‘dirty’ seems more fun for now, however the cut will be harder.

    Be sure to keep on doing the right exercises and your abs will be growing stronger and bulkier with each gym session. Stay motivated by tracking your progress. This may be by counting your calories, lifting heavier weights, or even partnering up with a friend to motivate each other.

    About The Author

    Michael Collins

    Michael Collins

    Michael is a gym enthusiast with experience that spans more than 20 years. He started his exhilarating journey of keeping fit in his late teens, and over the years, he has immensely grown to become a resourceful gem in matters of fitness.

    He has been writing for many years, focusing on answering all the questions you may have on nutrition, muscle building and fitness. Keeping fit and staying healthy is his main passion, and this is evidenced in the articles he writes in a simple and understandable language out of intensive reading and real-life experiences.