As a skinny beginner, it can be extremely confusing as to how long you should bulk for. Undershoot and you risk not seeing noticeable results. Overshoot and you risk putting on more fat than you’d like. This article explains whether 6 months is long enough for an effective bulk.
6 months is generally long enough for an effective bulk cycle. This is enough time to gain 10-24lbs of total body weight and 6-12lbs of pure lean muscle weight. It is even possible to go on a mini bulk-cut cycle within half a year.
Below, I reveal what I managed to achieve in 6 months.
Hopefully, this will give you a better idea of what you can expect to gain yourself in the next half-year!
Expected Results From A 6-Month Bulk Transformation
I use to be an ex-skinny hardgainer. But one day I got sick of being skinny and decided to bulk up!
The picture below shows the results of my 6-month skinny to muscular bulk transformation, and what you can expect to achieve for yourself!
You can see that I packed a significant amount of muscle onto my skinny frame.
Here are the most visually noticeable results I saw from own 6-month bulk transformation:
- Increased pectoral definition. My chest grew bigger and more defined with a noticeable “pectoral cleft”.
- Developed bigger arms. My bicep diameter increased by around 1″ from what I can remember! This was enough for my arms to fill out my shirt sleeves.
- Gained a broader back. I developed a more prominent lat flare which resulted in a distinguishable V-tapered body.
- Increased shoulder volume. My shoulders broadened and generally got bigger which, again, helped to highlight my V-shaped body.
- Leg size increased slightly. This is where I saw the least noticeable differences from my 6-month bulk. I noticed significant strength gains, but my thigh diameter did not get much bigger.
- Abs got bigger but hidden by body fat. I went on a dirty bulk (see next) and my abs got bigger from my training. But they also became hidden under the body fat that I accumulated.
- Body fat increased. This is expected from any bulk (see next).
Next, I reveal exactly how much weight you can expect to gain in a 6-month (half-year) bulk.
How Much You Can Bulk Up In 6 Months
The average person can expect to gain around 17lbs of body weight in a 6-month bulk. High outliers may gain up to 24lbs or more. In contrast, low outliers may put in as little as 10lbs total body weight in a half-year bulk.
Check out how much Joe Fazer bulked up in just 6 months!
Beginners are often unsure how much weight gain to aim for during a bulk. And this makes it difficult to reliably keep track of your bulking journey.
It’s generally accepted that the maximum rate of muscle gain is 2lbs per month for untrained beginners.
Trained individuals can expect to gain muscle at an even slower rate.
But unlike muscle gain, there is no theoretical limit as to how much total body weight you can gain inclusive of body fat.
Approximately 3500 surplus calories are required to gain 1lb of body weight.
So depending on whether you undertake a lean bulk (5-15% calorie surplus) or a dirty bulk (20%+ calorie surplus), you can expect to gain varying amounts of weight as follows:
|Month||Expected Weight Gain From A Dirty Bulk||Expected Weight Gain From A Lean Bulk|
You can find your maintenance calorie estimate at the TDEE calculator.
Generally speaking, most people can gain anywhere between 10-24lbs in a 6-month bulk (let’s take 17lbs as the average).
But the exact weight gained will largely depend on how many calories you consume (see next).
Example Of How Much You Can Bulk Up In 6 Months
As an example:
A male who burns 2,500 daily maintenance calories would need to eat around 375 surplus calories every day to lean bulk (15% of 2,500).
This equates to 68,250 total surplus calories in 6 months or half a year (375 calories x 182 days).
And this will lead to 19.5lbs of total weight gain in 6 months (68,250 calories ÷ 3,500 calories).
This is just a crude example.
In reality, you can increase your calorie surplus for even greater weight gain by going on a dirty bulk.
This will come at the expense of increased excess fat storage since only so much muscle can be built regardless of how much you eat.
Dirty bulking is common for very skinny people.
Alternatively, you can decrease your calorie surplus for lesser weight gain by going on a lean bulk.
This will give you leaner muscle gains (without excess fat) but muscle growth will also be slower.
Lean bulking is great for skinny fat or overweight people.
For more details, you can check out my other post on how much muscle you can put on in 6 months!
How Many Months A Bulk Should Last
A typical bulk cycle lasts 3-6 months. Dirty bulks last for around 3 months whilst lean bulks can often last for 6 months or even more. Generally speaking, a longer bulking duration leads to more muscle and fat gains.
Your chosen method of bulking influences how long you bulk for.
Let’s explore how a lean vs dirty bulking approach can affect how many months you should bulk for:
- Lean bulks last for around 6 months to a year. This requires you to go on a mild calorie surplus. You’ll minimize fat gain whilst still building muscle. Therefore you can afford to bulk for much longer before your body fat percentage approaches your upper tolerable limit. Some people can even lean bulk for up to a year on a very mild surplus.
- Dirty bulks last for around 3 months. This requires you to go on an extreme calorie surplus. You’ll maximize muscle gains as well as fat gains. Therefore you’ll probably approach your upper tolerable body fat percentage limit within ~3 months of a dirty bulk.
So which bulk is best for you?
Speaking from personal experience and research:
Dirty bulks are ideal for very skinny people who can afford to put on more body fat, whilst lean bulks are great for skinny fat or overweight people who do not want to gain any more excess body fat.
Regardless of your chosen method, you need an effective training plan to turn surplus calories into muscle and not fat. You can check out my other post for a complete skinny-muscle workout plan!
Is It Possible To Bulk And Cut In 6 Months?
It is possible to bulk and cut within 6 months. The majority of dirty bulks last for approximately 3 months whilst a typical cut will last for 2 months. Therefore a half-year is enough time to achieve a complete bulk-cut cycle.
Word of caution:
Although 6 months is generally enough time for a dirty bulk-cut, it’s borderline insufficient for an effective lean bulk-cut.
You gain muscle at a slower rate on a lean bulk compared to a dirty bulk, since the calorie surplus is much milder in the former.
You can still expect to see results on a 6-month lean bulk-cut cycle (check out my other post for tips on gaining your first 10lbs of lean muscle in 6 months).
But the results will usually not be as stark as if you were to go on a 6-month dirty bulk-cut.
This is largely dependent on the exact calorie you put yourself in since lean bulks can vary in the intensity of caloric surplus.
For more advice on succeeding in bulk, you can check out my other post for tips on how to transform from skinny to buff!
Looking To Bulk Up At Home?
If you’re interested, here’s the home gym setup that I used to build muscle.
|Top Top Top Top Top||PowerBlock||BEST heavy 5-90lb (with addon kit) adjustable dumbbells. Great for beginners to intermediates to build muscle and lose fat at home. Newer and cheaper alternative to the old Elites.||Prime||Check Amazon Price|
|Top Top Top Top Top Top Top Top Top||Flybird||Fully-adjustable flat/incline/decline weight bench for isolating different chest and other body regions. Can be folded and stowed away.||Prime||Check Amazon Price|
|Top Top Top Top Top||Undersun||Heavy-duty bands for direct band workouts. Cheap and convenient way to build muscle at home.||Prime||Check Amazon Price|
|Top Top Top Top Top Top Top Top Top||MyProtein||Low-calorie whey powder containing 21g of protein per serving. Ideal for lean muscle gains.||Prime||Check Amazon Price|
I’ve explained why 6 months is long enough for a bulk.
A typical dirty bulk lasts for 3 months whilst a lean bulk can last anywhere between 6-12 months.
In this time, you can expect to gain anywhere between 10-24lbs of total body weight depending on the severity of your bulk.
Additionally, you should also be aware that muscle gains are capped at around 12lbs (max) in 6 months. Anything more than this is likely to be stored as fat.
But all in all, you can achieve significantly noticeable results from a half-year bulk and may even have time for a cut cycle too!
What are you trying to achieve from your 6-month bulk?
Let me know in the comments!
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition I used to go from skinny to ripped!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)