What is bulking and cutting?
Resistance training is a form of exercise universally performed by a range of individuals from clinical populations to elite athletes. A well designed, long-term resistance training programme leads to a range of positive effects, such as improving various physical and mental health outcomes, enhancing components of fitness (e.g., strength and power), and increasing muscle size.
A few years ago, I contributed to the Channel 4 programme ‘How to get fit fast’. The part of the programme I was involved in focused on two techniques used by bodybuilders called ‘bulking’ and ‘cutting’.
What is bulking?
Many people lift weights with the goal of increasing muscle size for aesthetic or functional reasons. The technical term for growing muscle is ‘muscle hypertrophy’. Bulking is an informal term, typically used in the bodybuilding community, for muscle hypertrophy.
What is cutting?
Cutting is an informal term to describe reducing body fat. Instead of a calorie surplus, which is usually required for hypertrophy, ‘cutting’ requires a consistent calorie deficit. Losing body fat requires decreasing energy intake (dieting) and/or increasing energy expenditure by doing more physical activity or exercise.
Both approaches (bulking and cutting) discussed on the show are highly specific goals, which are not applicable to people who just want to improve their general health and fitness. However, this does not mean resistance training is unnecessary. In fact, for long-term health benefits, resistance training is one of the most effective forms of exercise.