Mass Gain Versus Weight Loss
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when starting to gain mass or lose weight is completely changing up their work out routine. Due to the endless "fitness coaches" prescribing endless burpees, miles of running, and sit-ups, most people have a pretty swayed perception of how much work outs differ between someone who is trying to gain mass and someone who is trying to lose weight. Because of the damage these coaches have done, I felt the need to write this article and give you the truth on the differences between a mass gaining routine and a weight loss routine.
Imagine you have a cup of water. During a bulk your glass is overflowing (consuming more calories than you are expending) and you can spare to pour some out (can afford to expend some energy), but during a cut your glass is almost empty (consuming less calories than you expend) so you try to pour out as little as possible (try to reserve energy). What happens when you work out on a bulk is you are able to perform more efficient sets and repetitions than usual because of that increase in energy, and for a cut you may need to lower the amount of work done due to not having the calories (energy) to perform as many efficient sets and repetitions than if you were bulking.
Build Versus Maintain
When you are trying to gain mass, you are trying to maximize muscle growth and minimize fat gain. When you have an excess of calories, your recovery is improved. When your recovery is improved, you can perform more volume (work done) and recover from it. This improved recovery allows you to perform more volume (work done), work out at a higher intensity, and stimulate at a higher frequency.than if you were losing weight.
When you are losing weight, you should be focused on stimulating the muscle enough to keep from muscle atrophy (the shrinking of muscle). That means performing less overall volume (work done) to allow recovery, but making every set count and intense in order to stimulate your body's ability to keep that hard earned muscle you have earned. When losing weight, you do not have the improved recovery to really push your volume, intensity, and frequency. Rather your goal is to find a balance and stimulate the muscles to keep from muscle atrophy, but not to the point to which they cannot recover.
Cardio And Weights Balance
Cardio has always been controversial in the muscle building areas forums and crowds. For some reason people automatically assume cardio is directly correlated towards losing weight. Thought cardio can increase your energy expenditure (which would help with weight loss), the different types of cardio should be done (and would be more beneficial) based on the phase you are in (mass gain or weight loss).
During a mass gaining phase, you still want to perform some sort of cardio. Cardio improves blood flow, helps warm-up the joints and muscles, and improves cardiovascular health. Just because you plan on gaining some weight, does not mean you should not reap the benefits of cardiovascular exercise. Though we want the benefits of cardio even when bulking, we still want the cardio to fit our goals. How can cardio fit improve mass gain? Instead of focusing on steady state cardio, find high intensity exercises that stimulate both the cardiovascular system and muscular system to improve. Exercise options could be sled drags, farmer walks, sprints, tire flips, machine rowing, etc. When utilizing these exercises for cardiovascular benefits as well as muscle gain, focus on short intense burst followed by moderate rest. This could mean performing an all out set for 30 seconds, and then rest for another 30 seconds. This allows you to push your body's muscular and cardiovascular systems, while still allowing that small time of recovery in order to push the next set just with full effort. This type of exercise only needs to be done 1 to 3 times a week due to your focus being more on building mass and less of cardiovascular improvement.
During a weight loss phase you still want to be doing the intense bouts mentioned during a bulk phase. The only difference would be adding some sort of lower intensity cardiovascular exercise into your schedule. This does not mean adding endless burpees, crunches, and miles of running. Rather, this means slowly adding more cardiovascular exercise in order to maximize your energy expenditure, fat oxidation, and blood flow throughout the body.
What Have We Learned?
All in all, there is not much of a difference between a mass gaining work out and a weight loss one. When you are gaining weight you will have more energy that you have to expend, which will allow you to perform more volume at a higher intensity.On the other hand when you are losing weight you will have less energy that you have available to expend, which will make your efficiency more important than the amount of work actually done. With that extra energy when you are gaining weight, your recovery will be improved and you will be able to push the muscles closer to failure in order to grow. On the other hand when you are losing weight, your recovery is not up to par, which means you will have to focus on stimulating the muscles without giving them too much to recover from. Cardiovascular exercise is important for both gaining and losing weight, but how much and of what exercise is based on your primary goal.
Don't let these "fitness gurus" fool you. There is not much of a difference to mass gaining work outs and weight loss work outs.