Do the terms “bulk” & “cut,” intrigue, yet scare (or confuse!) you at the same time? Are you ready to start really seeing results in your workouts, or at least just “look” like you workout? Incorporate (mini) fitness cycles for better results.
If you've followed our video series “Results: why you aren't getting them and what you can do about it,” then you know that a huge reason that many people don't see results from their workouts is that they are not being specific enough with their workout regimen. Being “hodgepodge” in our workouts is about the equivalent of not working out at all when it comes to changing your body composition. Bodies that you see and admire are not a result of being random in the gym. The knockout bods that you see on the covers of magazines are the result of specification or fitness cycles. Even if they don't know it, their trainer does, and they do what the trainer says.
I've shared how I've incorporated fitness cycles into my own lifestyle, according to different times of the year, that work for me. I work on building strength and adding muscle in the winter (bulk), dedicate my warmer months to more endurance activities/ shedding any fat (cut), and even periods of randomness where I'm too busy to care, and not expecting any physique changes at all (maintain). For me this ends up being about 3-4 months per phase, but what if you're not ready to dedicate months at a time to specific phases?
Enter: “mini” phases
Mini phases are a great way to introduce the specialization concept into your training. You take a short period of time, and dedicate your eating and exercise to a specific goal. You then repeat this process with a different goal. This could be as simple as dedicating 4 weeks to muscle building (mini-bulk) in between marathons, or inserting 1-2 weeks of higher cardio days into your 6+ month bulk (mini-cut) . Professional athletes, models, and competitors do this all the time, in the “off-season,” and you can too. It's all about making the cycles work for you, your goals, and your lifestyle. If you want a more muscular physique, then you will want to incorporate “mini-bulks” into your routine as often as possible, so that when you arrive at your desired weight/body-fat percentage, you will have the look that you desire. This type of body recomposition is more appealing than just a wave of weight loss that leaves you just looking like a smaller version of your larger self, with lots of extra skin where fat used to be. You will instead take on a slower approach, giving your skin time to catch up and tighten around your ever firming figure. Doing regular mini-phases similar to this one will also keep your metabolism high because you're not constantly “dieting” (lowers metabolism), but instead building muscle (increases metabolism). You will likely also reach your goal at a much higher weight than you originally thought, because your body has slowly replaced fat with youthful, lean, dense muscle of equal weight.
Curious about how to start your own “mini” phases or fitness cycles? Why not test it out yourself and let us know what you think?
Need a place to start? Here's a 30-day, 2-phase plan to help kick-start your year, and provide a gentle intro to periodization. This mini-cycle plan will have everything you need to test the waters of bulk/cut cycles without a lengthy commitment.