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How to Build Muscle During the Holidays

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In this article, I’m going to share with you the most effective strategies on how to build muscle during the holidays without spilling over in fat gain.

With the Holidays rolling around, I wanted to set you up to take full advantage of the extra food and free time that’s coming your way…

Which, will help you stay lean, build some muscle and strength, and most importantly, enjoy yourself.

The right strategies can have you coming out of your winter bulk just as lean and chiseled as when you started – but with more muscle of course.

Holiday Food and Building Muscle

Those of you that may have been dieting for some time now can use the holidays as a nice break from a strict calorie deficit or long period of extensive dieting.

It begins with allowing yourself to eat more.

I don’t believe you should be fighting against your diet and restricting yourself from delicious foods – anytime for that matter.

Besides that, given the time of year, lean bulking during the holidays is actually pretty convenient for a few reasons:

First, like I briefly mentioned, you’re going to be eating more food anyways and your body will appreciate the break from dieting.

So instead of fighting against it, allow yourself to eat more food so you can enjoy yourself. In a moment, we’ll go over my go-to strategies on how to build muscle during the holidays while maintaining leanness.

During the holidays, if you still have access to the gym, your schedule may free up some to hit a few training sessions (we’ll get to the type of training you should be doing on your lean bulk shortly). I say “may” because I know a lot of people are doing tons of traveling, reuniting with family, and so on and so forth.

If this is the case, you can still make great progress with hitting 2 solid gym sessions a week.

On the other hand, minus all the running around and traveling, you could have a lot of free time to rest and relax. Which, will help you have optimal recovery from your training sessions.

Setting Up Your Diet To Build Muscle With Minimal Fat Gain

Below, I’m going to outline my three favorite lean bulking strategies that you can follow during this holiday season.

How do you pick the best one?

They all work effectively. It’s simply a matter of choosing the best one that will work with your schedule and preferences.

1) Lifestyle Lean Bulking

This is something I coined actually not too long ago. You can read the full article on this lean bulking strategy here.

The premise is to eat around maintenance calories for the majority of the week. And then, when the time comes, whether that be a social event or holiday dinner, you allow yourself to eat more calories, putting you into a surplus.

This surplus of calories is enough to help you build muscle.

If you notice yourself gaining too much body fat, you can throw in a couple calorie deficit days for fat loss to maintain leanness.

I would recommend this strategy to more intermediate to advanced lifters. Reason being, the awareness needed to actually stick within the guidelines and being able to listen to your body. It’s more of a learned skill from experience.

2) Small Calorie Surplus With 1 to 2 Low Calorie Days

This is actually the diet protocol I use in the Superhero Bulking Program. (Which would be a great training routine to follow during the holidays.)

The Superhero lean bulk strategy is structured around you having a small calorie surplus (200-300 calories) 5 to 6 days out of the week and then throwing in 1 to 2 low calories days (on rest days) to help maintain leanness.

3) Three Calorie Surplus Weeks + 1 Week of Cutting

The third and final effective method on how to build muscle during the holidays while staying lean is to go into an aggressive calorie surplus for 3 weeks straight – followed by a week of cutting.

I recommend eating in a calorie surplus of 500 calories each day for 3 weeks.

After the 3 weeks, you will then eat at a 500 calorie deficit for a week to strip off the excess body fat.

Now, you most likely will gain some body fat with this method. That’s why we have the mini cut week to offset this.

Cycle this method month after month. Ideally, after the week of cutting, you’ll strip off the little fat you gained and have roughly 2 more pounds of muscle.

How to Build Muscle During The Holidays

The extra calories and rest during the holidays are going to allow you to have much more training volume and intensity to maximize muscle growth.

Also, keep in mind, the goal of our training still doesn’t change.

The goal of your training routine needs to revolve around progressive overload. In other words, that’s to be constantly getting stronger and improving on the Kinobody Key Exercises that promote a muscular and well-balanced physique.

Your recovery will be much better with the extra calories and rest, but as another added benefit, you should feel much stronger in your workouts from your muscles storing extra glycogen.

Adding in pump training training will allow you to quickly put on some extra size.

On top of your heavy weight lifting, I recommend adding in some higher rep training to maximize muscle growth.

Here’s an example on how I would set up a lean bulk workout routine, similar to what I have laid out in the Superhero Bulking Program:

CHEST & TRICEPS (MONDAY)
  • Incline Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets – 5, 6, 8 reps (RPT)
  • Flat Dumbbell Bench Press: 2 sets – 6-8, 8-10 reps (RPT)
  • Incline DB Flyes or Cable Cross Overs: 6 sets – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 6 (Standard Pyramid)
  • Skull Crushers: 3 sets – 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps (RPT)
  • Rope Extensions: 6 sets – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 6 (Standard Pyramid)
BACK & BICEPS (WEDNESDAY)
  • Weighted Chin ups*: 3 sets – 5, 6, 8 reps (RPT)
  • Cable Rows: 6 sets – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 6 (Standard Pyramid)
  • Bent Over Flyes: 3 sets x 8-12 reps (1-2 mins rest between sets)
  • Incline DB Curls: 3 sets – 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps (RPT)
  • Cable Rope Curls (hammer grip): 6 sets – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 6 (Standard Pyramid)

*Make sure you use an awesome weight belt that won’t get in the way of your training.

SHOULDERS & LEGS (FRIDAY OR SATURDAY)
  • Seated DB Shoulder Press: 3 sets – 4-6, 6-8, 8-10 reps (RPT)
  • Hang Cleans or Sumo Deadlifts: 3 sets – 5, 6, 8 reps (RPT)
  • Lateral Raises: 6 sets – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 6 (Standard Pyramid)
  • Pistol squats or Bulgarian Split Squats: 3 sets x 6 reps (2 mins rest between sets)
  • Standing Dumbbell One Leg Calf Raises: 3 sets – 12, 10, 8, 6

Workout Notes:

RPT = Reverse Pyramid Training.

Your first set should be an all out effort stopping one rep short of failure. For following sets the weight should be reduced by 10% of total weight and reps should be increased by 1-2.

Rest between these sets should be long, 3-4 minutes.

Standard Pyramid you will be using the same weight for all sets.

Rest between sets will be very short, 30-60 seconds. This will cause cumulative fatigue which is why the reps pyramid down on each set. The last 3 sets you will be performing 6 reps with the same weight. If you are unable to perform 6 reps on your last two sets then rest a little longer.

You can customize this training to your current physique. If you don’t want to add too much size to your chest then you can just perform the heavy lifting and forgo the high volume standard pyramid.

For example I do the high volume standard pyramid training on my shoulders, biceps and triceps. Chest and back I just do reverse pyramid training.

This will allow you to build up your physique to the perfect proportions based on your genetics and current development.

At the same time, you can also use Rest Pause Training instead of the Standard Pyramid Training protocol.

What How to Build Muscle During the Holidays Comes Down to

You might as well take advantage of all the delicious food and extra free time you may encounter during the holidays.

Besides, I want to see you enjoy yourself and not be the person to try and stick to a strict diet and be miserable the entire time.

Now, if you’re still trying to stick to the current plan you’re on, more power to you. I just want your fitness journey to building an incredible physique as enjoyable as it can be.

With that said, this is a great time to take a break from dieting and add some more strength and muscle.

It’s exciting to add more volume to your training and have awesome workouts!

And of course, before I let you loose, remember to still allow yourself to eat more and enjoy yourself, you don’t want to go to any extremes and cause too much damage with fat gain.

Remember, any of the three lean bulk strategies are effective – it’s a matter of what your personal preferences come down to and which one can be applied to your holiday schedule the best.

Have a great holiday!

Need a bulking program for the holidays? Learn more about the Superhero Bulking Program here
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Greg O'Gallagher

Greg O'Gallagher is the founder of Kinobody, a site dedicated to helping men and women achieve the lean, muscular, and aesthetic "Hollywood" physique. His fitness programs have helped hundreds of thousands of people transform their bodies and change their lives in the process.

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