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Cut/Bulk cycles- the great strength destroyer??

billkansasbillkansas Posts: 199Member Member Posts: 199Member Member
My experience over the last year with cutting and bulking is negative. It seems like I lost a ton of strength during an extended, slow cut that I did NOT appear to gain back with my recent bulk (only about a 10% body weight or 20 lb change from high to low).

Granted, I'm a two day a week lifter, am 50, and don't get optimum rest nor food! I also know that my programming isn't on point because I purposefully limit myself to two trips to the gym per week. That said, I am crystal clear on my goals and that is to make my squat, deadlift, and bench press go UP. I also think that my training, though not optimum, is pretty good. I log everything, measure my volume and intensity closely, and have tweaked carefully in hopes of getting back to where I was "pre-cut". I thought the lid would come off of my strength during my bulk- it didn't!

In retrospect, I think cutting/bulking appears to have hindered my progress almost as much as injuring my shoulder back in 2016. Any thoughts on that? Is it just me, or does anyone else have a similar experience?

Replies

  • Will_Workout_for_foodWill_Workout_for_food Posts: 14,129Member Member Posts: 14,129Member Member
    yes-

    to make a long story short

    my MAX DL during my bulk was 345
    2 weeks into my cut, I couldn't lift more than 295
    I decided to start bulking again because of this
    bulked for another month and got back to 345 finally
    I told myself when march comes, ill start cutting
    im on my 2nd week of the cut now, and my max DL right now was 320. so my strength is slowly going back down
    started a deload session today actually, so see if it helps

    I lift 4 times a week, with 3 days cardio

    its still a learning process for me honestly. im @ 12.4% body fat. I might consider bulking again to hit the high numbers before I start cutting again, because clearly im not happy with my strength.
    edited March 14
  • jdscrubs32jdscrubs32 Posts: 460Member Member Posts: 460Member Member
    I havent really done the whole bulk/cut (hate that word) cycle malarky. I've gone for bulking and recomping. Patience is a big requirement while recomping but if you can get over the slow process of recomping, do that over cutting.

    Also nothing worse than a shoulder injury.
  • sardelsasardelsa Posts: 7,338Member Member Posts: 7,338Member Member
    Were you finding it difficult while you were gaining? Or just cutting? Maybe a more quick and aggressive cut (in and out) might work best for you vs a long drawn out one. But I would definitely look at your program and recovery since that sounds like the main issue. I don't have experience with specific strength goals and programming and what you should do to improve but I am sure someone will chime in on that.

    In the end you need to do what works. If you feel bulk/cuts didn't work, maybe just hanging around maintenance is a better fit for you.
  • jdog022jdog022 Posts: 497Member Member Posts: 497Member Member
    Your on your second week of cutting at 12% body fat? Exactly what kinda bulk was this? How steep are you cutting cals/carbs? On my cuts I didn’t drop any numbers till like week 14
  • Tic78Tic78 Posts: 184Member Member Posts: 184Member Member
    Midway through my tenth week on this cut, first noticed a drop in strength with my bench press this week. Not sure if it was just a bad lifting day. Other things have improved as I get lighter like weighted chin ups and dips
  • RMaxwell90RMaxwell90 Posts: 37Member Member Posts: 37Member Member
    I've run a number of bulk/cut cycles over the years, some aggressive and some slow and steady. I rarely lose strength in the squat or DL during a cut and generally I can get a little stronger. Bench (for me) seems to be more sensitive to weight fluctuations, and usually I'm able to maintain it or quickly regain lost strength.

    A few questions:
    Is there a reason you limit yourself to 2/week frequency?

    I'm assuming you do full body each day, right?

    Do you change your training in terms of volume/intensity during a cut?

    Remember than food is an important means to recovery from training so without it the other ways we can recover become more important. Like sleep, hydration, adequate protein intake, intraworkout nutrition (if necessary).
  • billkansasbillkansas Posts: 199Member Member Posts: 199Member Member
    My routine is Wed: squat, bench, deadlift assistance, maybe some chin-ups/rows Sat: Deadlift, overhead press, squat assistance (paused squat or leg press), close grip bench press (as assistance exercise to bench), maybe some arms and calves.

    I somewhat regret my post because it neglects the fact that I have benefited from my bulk/cut. Basically, learned a lot!

    However, it seems pretty conclusive- I was stronger... before my bulk, cut, and second bulk.
  • billkansasbillkansas Posts: 199Member Member Posts: 199Member Member
    Thanks quiksylver and all. I think I expected to lose strength during my cut- just not as much as I did. I also expected my strength to come back up during my recent 10 week bulk. It went up, but only slightly. It was just incredibly disappointing.

    I think my conclusion is that for a two-day a week lifter, self proclaimed "intermediate", bulk and cut cycles are probably counterproductive. I wonder what everyone might recommend?

    Perhaps I should just do the "recomp" thing strictly, or perhaps just eat a bit extra on lifting days or on lifting days plus the day after? Just try to keep my macros good and follow reasonable eating with no big overage or deficits? Just keep my scale weight at about 200 lbs versus going up to 210 and down to 195 as I've done.

    My only definite programming plan now is to up my volume (while sticking to two days per week) and lower the intensity slightly (worried about hurting myself and am beyond the stage where I can go hit personal bests at 3 or 5 reps regularly anymore). I'm trying to hit my big lifts once per week and then do a good amount of assistance exercises to these lifts also once per week (sort of described above). I'm purposefully limiting myself to two days per week so that I have more time with my little kiddos and don't want my hobby overtaking my life (which I have a tendency to let it do).

    Thanks,
  • ChieflrgChieflrg Posts: 7,537Member Member Posts: 7,537Member Member
    As I responded in a few of your previous posts over the past.

    By governing your volume and stimulus to only two days a week of training, you are in fact capping progress potential.

    You can't force strength adaptations where you aren't giving enough stimulus. Two days are not sufficient unless you are a rank novice in the first couple weeks.

    If you want more time for your kids, it would reasonable to add a third day instead of extending your current workouts longer. This will actually shorten gym time collectively.

    Strength loss during a cut is usually the culprit of lowering volume instead of increasing at the correct intensity.



  • KeladelphiaKeladelphia Posts: 796Member Member Posts: 796Member Member
    billkansas wrote: »
    My experience over the last year with cutting and bulking is negative. It seems like I lost a ton of strength during an extended, slow cut that I did NOT appear to gain back with my recent bulk (only about a 10% body weight or 20 lb change from high to low).

    Granted, I'm a two day a week lifter, am 50, and don't get optimum rest nor food! I also know that my programming isn't on point because I purposefully limit myself to two trips to the gym per week. That said, I am crystal clear on my goals and that is to make my squat, deadlift, and bench press go UP. I also think that my training, though not optimum, is pretty good. I log everything, measure my volume and intensity closely, and have tweaked carefully in hopes of getting back to where I was "pre-cut". I thought the lid would come off of my strength during my bulk- it didn't!

    In retrospect, I think cutting/bulking appears to have hindered my progress almost as much as injuring my shoulder back in 2016. Any thoughts on that? Is it just me, or does anyone else have a similar experience?


    I think there are way too many factors at play here to compare my bulk/cuts and resulting strength changes to yours (I train 5 days a week) but I think two big factors which you mentioned not paying much attention to ( nutrition and sleep) are critical to maintaining strength during a cut. Lack of proper nutrition and sleep combined with the low training volume of two days per week will definitely have an impact. However, when i've modified my macros appropriately, increased quantity and quality of sleep, and modified my training volume and intensity appropriately i've seen very little decrease in strength during and at the end of a cut. I'm eight weeks into a cut (-11lbs approximately 7% BW) and I actually hit a personal record front squat last week.
  • moogie_fitmoogie_fit Posts: 216Member, Premium Member Posts: 216Member, Premium Member
    Reevaluate your goals. If your goal is to lean out then lose the goal of lifting heavy. Make the goal higher reps or a cardio based goal. I tend to do more cardio based goals like swimming or running for distance when cutting.
  • billkansasbillkansas Posts: 199Member Member Posts: 199Member Member
    Thanks for everyone's posts. I've got to stick to my two days per week program (with slight increase and varied volume on core lifts) and continue my cut until Easter. I'll quit complaining and just accept the strength loss. With the weather warming I'm hoping to get outside and active. In about 4 or 5 weeks I'll evaluate again with strong consideration to upping my program to three days per week. I also won't bulk but rather try to eat only slightly above maintenance just so I can maximize strength hopefully from week 16 to the end of the year. This plan will give me a good 7 months of strength gains and hopefully push me into the 1000 lb club once and for all at age 50. We'll see!

    Oh yeah, and try and focus on nutrition and sleep!
    edited March 21
  • jseams1234jseams1234 Posts: 1,017Member Member Posts: 1,017Member Member
    I've cut a few times now. The longest cut was almost 5 months where I had to drop close to 50 pounds as I had taken a bulk waaaay too far and turned into the Kung-Fu Panda. I lost zero strength on any of my cuts. However, I hit every major group three times a week and although I ended up decreasing volume significantly (dropped sets not reps) I always kept my intensity the same or tried (in vain at times) to increase it. I lifted very heavy relative to what I usually lift during a bulk and kept my reps in the 5-8 range. The idea behind this was a bunch of reading I had done by Israetel and McDonald. Lyle in particular was very adamant that to preserve muscle and prevent loss during a moderate to high deficit it was most important to maintain intensity. Frequency and volume could be sacrificed with very little penalty - but intensity had to be maintained. This is counter to a lot of past ideas where on a cut people would drop intensity (weight on the bar) and increase volume. I was dubious the first time I tried it as it seems counter-intuitive... but it worked. When I finished my cut it was just a matter of weeks before I was at the point where I had left off prior to cutting and in some cases I was able to blast past prior plateaus. Anyhow, that is my n=1.
    edited March 21
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