1. Not Eating Enough
The purpose of bulking is to gain muscle and increase bodyweight. I see people attempt bulks all the time, but they don’t eat enough calories. Their weekly calorie intake equals calories out, so they are not in a surplus. Some people actually lose weight while attempting a bulk, because they increased their kcal intake. Now they have more energy available and suddenly they start spending more time in the gym, increase daily activity, walk more, etc…
Before you even worry about the optimal rate of gain, you need to make sure you gain in the first place.
Most people are underestimating the difficulty of doing a proper bulk. Some people will need a caloric surplus that’s quite high. For them pounding down more calories consistently won’t be as fun as you might think. They may have to use shakes, eat at awkward times and have more structure around their eating. It’s work.
When basic nutrient needs are covered, like eating enough protein, veggies and fruits, vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients and fiber, omega-3's, omega-9's, water intake... you are nailing your pre, intra and post workout nutrition (peri-workout nutrition), everything is great, but still have plenty of kcals left it is actually smart to add some high kcal processed foods into your diet. I really like to go out and eat all you can eat sushi, this is a great way for me to increase weekly kcal intake. Sometimes I just eat a massive burger with my friends. I also like to eat a slice of bread with Nutella, when some extra calories are needed. When you get in all the nutrients you need, by diet and supplementation, but kcal requirements are so damn high, add some fastfood. Just make sure it doesn't ruin your digestion for 1-3 days. Don't eat spicy chicken wings if you know beforehand that you are going to be on the toilet for hours afterwards. HAHA.
It is also a smart move to eat foods like peanutbutter, dried fruit, smoothies, nuts and ofcourse abuse the sh*t out of extra virgin olive oil, if you have trouble gaining.
2. Eating Too Much
Some people eat way too much calories when bulking. They view bulking as an excuse to eat tons of junk. They are overeating on calories, but micronutrients are lacking. This is stupidity at its finest. Quality of nutrition is key. Micronutrients also help with performance and recovery, overal wellbeing, etc.
Research shows that a calorie surplus is needed to maximize muscle growth. But you don’t need a big surplus to do so. In fact, your body can only build so much muscle at a time. With a slight surplus, you’ll already maximize muscle growth.
If you eat beyond that, there’s no additional muscle growth. The extra calories are stored as fat. So don’t get softer than you have to by eating like an idiot. All that fat will cost you more time to lose later on, down the road.
You can built muscle in a small kcal deficit and at maintenance level, but it is pretty difficult for most people to do so. Eating in a slight surplus is the way to go, if you want to gain size and increase weight.
If you are eating too much, you are bulking the wrong way. So if your abs fully disappear in weeks and now you need to cut again, you basically ruining your progress. Because you are just gaining fat not even more muscle, now you need to cut fat losing some of the gains you just made. After that, you make the same mistake, gaining fat to quick, need to cut fat again. This way your muscle mass doesn’t even increase much in the long run.
3. Not having a workout program / not investing in a coach
It is important to have a structured training program to get the best results. A good coach knows what works best. Coaches can select the right exercises for you to bring you closer to your goals. They can tell you when to press the gas pedal and when to press the breaks.
Without a coach, you are just doing the things you want to do at that moment. We are humans, we like to think short term. Those things, that you like to do, often don’t give you the amazing results that you want. Skipping exercises because “they make me tired” or mainly training strong body parts, because it is fun, and neglecting weak body parts, creating an even bigger imbalance.
A lot of people also just add sets randomly, because they have more energy when bulking. In their cutting phase they were training 1 hour, but now they switched to bulking their workouts last 2.5 hours. That’s just being stupid. Increasing workout duration that much is really not necessary when going from your cut into your bulk. Just aim to improve the quality of your working sets first.
Gym noobs might be able to get away with any type of resistance training and build muscle by looking at the dumbbells. But once they get past that beginner stage, they may realize they need to bulk and start doing it alongside with proper hypertrophy-focused training.
Lot’s of people don’t even know how to train for muscle growth. They think doing 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps on every exercise is optimal. But that is far from the truth. Bulking works best if you train correctly. It comes down to getting stronger in different rep ranges from 6-10,12-15, 15-20 up to 20-30 reps per working set. One-rep maxes and training with super-low reps (2-5 reps per set) is what you want to do if strength and powerlifting is your main goal, because this is great for triggering neural adaptations allowing you to lift heavy weights from A to B. But banging out 6-30 rep maxes is what stimulates muscle growth. You should be getting violently stronger in those rep ranges with the extra food you’re eating. If you’re not, you’re not training hard enough, or not recovering enough. Doing 3-5 sets on every exercise is a big, big mistake people make. You probably can't recover from this, because it is too much. If the 3-5 sets are easy to finish, you are training wrong anyway. You also risk overtraining, by doing the same exercise for too many sets. By doing 3-5 sets on every exercise, you are exhausted pretty quick after only a few exercises, so the entire second half of your workout is junkvolume. That means that you can't train hard enough to stimulate muscle growth. So you are doing all those exercises, for nothing. Junk.
By doing 2 highly effective working sets on most exercises, sometimes just 1, some cases 3, you can do more exercises and hit the muscle from different angles.
It is also very important to progress. Without using the supercompensated muscle mass by progressive overloading, the gaintrain will stop, which means some of the extra calories you are eating will have no choice but to become fat tissue. If you stimulated the muscle by working out and doing more reps or heavier weight than last time, while training (very close) till failure, extra kcals are used for muscle hypertrophy and not pushed into fat tissue.
4. Ending It Too Soon
Some people bulk for three weeks and quit because their abs are fading a bit or they just got tired of eating. But muscle growth is a slow process.
The top bodybuilders are spending almost 8 months of the year bulking. They do this year after year just to add some more muscle. This is why their physiques get better year after year.
You won’t build much muscle with a three-week or two-month bulk. You’ll have to stay in a surplus for a few months. Ask anybody huge and they’ll always tell you they spent a prolonged time in a surplus to build muscle.
So once you hop on the gaintrain, the important thing is to keep going. Don’t end your bulk to soon, because your ab lines are less sharp or because you have to eat so much food. Eating too much food is a luxury problem lol. Suffer a little bit now and have a Greek God physique like me later. Or maybe you want to go beyond my physique, even bigger and leaner. Good luck.