Jeff Nippard is one of the most influential figures in the fitness industry today and has risen to huge popularity due to his style of combining science and his knowledge of fitness to provide very informative and high-quality videos and information about various aspects of fitness and training.
He has a deep background in fitness and a wealth of experience and knowledge as a coach and trainer, and he uses all of this to not only maintain excellent fitness for himself but to assist others in obtaining their own fitness goals.
One of his most popular discussions is ongoing ‘bear mode’ and how one of the most effective strategies for gaining strength and mass is to bulk in the same manner as a bear, eating whatever you can or ‘dirty bulking’ to accelerate your growth and your weight training performance.
In this guide we’re going to look at some of the best tips you should consider when you’re in your bulking phase, to maximize your gains and accelerate your strength and fitness progress.
But first, let’s define what ‘bear mode’ actually means.
What Does ‘Bear Mode’ mean?
Bear mode is essentially another term for dirty bulking, and for those who don’t know, this is where weightlifters attempt to increase their size and mass by drastically increasing their caloric intake, accelerating mass gain and strength gain, often by eating foods that many consider to be ‘unhealthy’ with high calories.
This type of bulking is quite popular and successful for gaining weight and mass, and while fat gain is inevitable with this strategy, the fat is eventually dropped down the line during a ‘cutting’ phase where a much stricter diet is adhered to, and the fat is dropped to leave only the major muscle gain that was achieved during the bulking phase.
During bear mode, this eating and workout style is adhered to, but it’s more drastic and is known as bear mode as it parallels the way bears prepare for winter by packing on as much weight as possible for the cold weather and hibernation.
By the end of a bear mode cycle, you could gain anything from 15 to 20 percent body fat, but with this will come increased muscle mass, increased size, and strength that can all be leveraged to increase your weight training and accelerate your progress immensely, with the subsequent cut cycle removing much of the unwanted weight leaving behind a carved and significantly bigger physique.
This is great for people who enjoy their food and want to see quick improvements in their weight lifting and size, but some people may struggle with bulking in this way, whether it be due to a low appetite or concerns about fat gain.
Whatever your difficulties with this regime, there are things you can do to improve your experience, so read on to find some tips that may help you through this process.
Increase Your Calories
Bulking cycles aren’t just about eating a little bit extra. These cycles require you to eat significantly more than usual, with Jeff Nippard recommending a roughly 2% gain in weight each month, which can only be achieved by eating some extra 500 calories a day at minimum.
Many people will struggle to eat this much when it comes to normal food, which is why eating dirty is a part of the strategy. High-calorie foods, juices, sauces, and desserts are all a part of this cycle and can help bump your calories up to the required amount.
Drink protein shakes and mass gainers, eat whatever foods you’re craving instead of sticking to a healthy balanced diet, and add as many toppings as you can manage, from gravy to mayonnaise or whatever else suits your needs.
All of this sounds like a crazy plan, but it’s all part of the dirty bulk process and pays huge dividends as long as you are training enough and overloading your workouts correctly, accelerating your progress immensely.
Reduce Your Cardio
While some cardio is always important for maintaining the health of your heart and other cardiovascular organs, you should reduce it significantly to avoid burning away too many calories and prevent losing size.
Aim to do cardio 2 or 3 times a week at most, and if you don’t feel like it, don’t worry about it! Instead, focus all your energy on your weight training sessions where the bulk of your progress will be made.
Trying to do too much cardio while bulking will be difficult anyway due to the increased size of your body, so feel free to reduce the duration of your cardio sessions as well as how often you do them, as this all helps your body pack on mass and focuses your calories on growth and strength.
Monitor Your Weight and Body Composition
While this sounds like a recipe for disaster, there still needs to be control and planning incorporated into this process, and you need to have pre-determined and defined goals in order to ensure you can regain control of your appetite and body when you need to, and don’t simply lose control of your health and fitness entirely.
Monitoring your body fat percentage is a part of this.
Ideally, you don’t want to gain more body fat percentage than 15 or 20 percent during this process. Some people may find this more difficult or easier than others.
If you’re already very lean, ballooning up to this percentage can be daunting and somewhat scary and may even lead to risks of dysmorphia, so don’t commit to this without considering and planning for potential issues like this.
On the other hand, some people may already be carrying a bit of extra body fat and may find that bulking will tip them into a very dangerous and bloated state that they find it hard to come back from, so take care when planning this.
It’s also important to not go straight from bulking to cutting as this can have an impact on your health. Instead, look to start tapering off and cutting down calories gradually once you’re nearing the body fat percentage you’ve targeted.
Focus on Compound Exercises/Lifts
When going through a bulking phase, focusing on large powerful exercises is one of the best ways to maximize your progress and accelerate your all body strength, developing the biggest muscle groups and adding size and strength very effectively.
This is practical because compound lifts are incredibly difficult and it pays to push harder on these while you’re full of vitality and benefitting from the increased energy that a high-calorie diet can provide you with.
Another side effect of this process is that you will become fat. It’s unavoidable and a calculated part of the process as mentioned previously.
However hitting the gym hard and working on these compound exercises will maintain your strength, fitness, and flexibility beneath your somewhat bloated surface.
Examples of these exercises are;
- Bench presses
- Overhead Presses
Progressive overload is very important and these exercises should be increased in weight almost weekly to force your body to adapt and strengthen as quickly as possible.
It’s also important to target hypertrophy, so rep ranges of 6 to 12 are key to maximizing your progress here.
Isolate Key Muscles
If you have muscles or areas of your body that need developing, this is a great time to focus on them and bulk them out, as long as you also maintain your primary focus on compound exercises and the main structure of your workout program.
Use Protein Shakes
The importance of protein shakes can’t be overstated when it comes to bear mode, as getting enough protein when eating dirty can sometimes be difficult, especially if you’re eating a particular carb-heavy and indulgent diet.
Mass gainers and protein shakes ensure that some of your calories are catered for in a more useful way, and it adds convenience to your diet meaning you don’t have to spend too much time preparing all the calories you’re eating by cooking.
Eating consistently is key to ensuring you’re eating enough, and while indulging in your cravings is fine during a bulking cycle, it’s important to maintain some structure for health reasons as well as keeping your metabolism somewhat in check.
Losing track of your eating schedule entirely will have a bad knock-on effect on your training, which is unacceptable and defeats the purpose of bulking, so keep eating in a way that suits your workout regime and maximizes the benefit of your calories.
Lift More Often
Packing in some extra workouts in lieu of some of the cardio workouts you’ve dropped can be a great way to push your workouts even further and develop even more efficiently during this period.
While this can be great, this leads us onto our next point which is arguably more important than anything else during this period...
Getting enough rest between workouts is incredibly important for facilitating the growth and gains you’re working towards.
While working in some extra sessions can be great, don’t neglect proper rest as you can actually slow down your gains if you do so, as well as risk injury that could see you mess up your entire cycle.