Q: What do you think about the idea of bulking up to gain as much muscle as possible and then cutting down, an approach used by early professional bodybuilders?
A: Perhaps because of the greater interest in what bodybuilders and strength athletes did in the past, I seem to get this question a lot these days.
Most of the bodybuilders of the past didn’t have the same muscularity as today’s bodybuilders, even those who are at a lower level but who have approximately the same amount of muscle. Right there should be a red flag about the effectiveness of bulking up.
Also, there is a potential problem associated with continually stretching the skin. True, in 1955 Bruce Randall bulked up to 401 pounds and then reduced to 222 to win the ’59 NABBA Mr. Universe title, and reportedly he had no problem with excess skin. One of my colleagues trained a teenage boy with German Body Comp; he lost more than 60 pounds in less than three months. At one point he could pull rolls of skin off his forearms and even his head—but his skin soon snapped back. With older individuals, however, the process is often not very quick or complete.
Another problem is that bodybuilders often try to make a living with guest-posing exhibitions and special appearances. Sure, seeing a 300-pound Dorian Yates in the off-season is impressive, but for the most part contest promoters don’t want guest posers who are out of shape.
As the sport of bodybuilding evolved, bodybuilders found that they retained more mass for competitions if they didn’t gain an excessive amount of fat in the off-season. Further, consider the results of a 12-week study on the effects of bodyfat on muscle function, recently published in the International Journal of Obesity. The researchers found that subcutaneous adipose tissue—fat located beneath the skin—can have a negative influence on strength development.
Bottom line: Stay lean to get big and strong.
Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.com. IM