Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

General discussion on Training. How to get better on your erg, how to use your erg to get better at another sport, or anything else about improving your abilities.
alison2ks
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Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by alison2ks » November 28th, 2023, 11:08 pm

I've been rowing and lifting with my rowing team for about a year and a half now with no prior athletic experience, so I apologize in advance for my lack of understanding. We've just completed our fall season and are about to transition to individual training for about 8 weeks. I'm wanting to drop my 2k PR (made in April 2023) to sub-7:40 by February. Aside from any good rowing plan suggestions, I would like guidance on how to effectively gain muscle through bulking over an 8-week period.

I've heard a few things about protein intake (some say body weight in protein and others say half), maintenance calories (I've received suggestions between 1800 and 3000 from online calculators, apps, and teammates), and powerlifting heavy and low-rep (and light cardio). All the different opinions have almost scared me away from the idea entirely.

If anyone has any experience or advice with bulking/cutting and would be willing to share it, I'd be super grateful! In case more information is needed, my BF% shifts between 20-21% and my BMR is supposedly around 1500 calories. I have a meager back squat of 115lbs.
20F | 5'8" 160lbs
2k - 7:51.2 df120
6k - 25:10.9 df115

Mike Caviston
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by Mike Caviston » November 29th, 2023, 1:37 pm

alison2ks wrote:
November 28th, 2023, 11:08 pm
Aside from any good rowing plan suggestions, I would like guidance on how to effectively gain muscle through bulking over an 8-week period.
I won’t comment on the procedures for bulking up, but I do question why you would want to. Adding mass while training for an endurance activity isn’t easy. If you added mass, the additional muscle would probably not have sufficient ability to utilize oxygen and your 2K might suffer. If you were able to add mass and improve your 2K, it wouldn’t necessarily improve your ability to move a boat on the water (increased mass means increased drag, which is why coaches tend to consider weight-adjusted erg scores). When I trained collegiate rowers back in the early 2000s, we had several women in the 150-160lb range who were able to pull 6:55-7:05 for 2K on the erg. I would suggest you focus on a good rowing plan with moderate strength training focused on injury prevention.

alison2ks
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by alison2ks » November 29th, 2023, 2:24 pm

This is super helpful! Ultimately I just need to gain muscle since my squat is super low and I’ve heard bulking/cutting is effective. I’m squatting 100 lbs less than girls getting the same numbers as me, and I can’t really understand why. I assumed it was attributed to muscle, but if you have any recommended plans for increasing my 2k time, I’d love those too!
20F | 5'8" 160lbs
2k - 7:51.2 df120
6k - 25:10.9 df115

Elizabeth
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by Elizabeth » November 29th, 2023, 2:26 pm

Hi! I am going to chime in with a different perspective. I haven't coached college women like Mike has, but I have been a college athlete (in a different sport) and am a woman who has focused on both rowing fast and strength, for whatever that is worth. And I think the emphasis on strength has been really good for me, both as an athlete as well as mentally.

It's not super clear to me if you want to bulk or cut or try to recomp (simultaneously gain muscle while losing fat). I feel like people often overcomplicate things, and it sounds like you are kind of feeling that right now. But, at the core of gaining muscle, it's important to eat enough calories, eat enough protein, and lift weights.

With calories, a reasonable way to go about it is just to track everything you are already eating to establish a baseline, and then assuming your weight is currently steady and you are okay with some weight gain, add maybe 250 calories on top of that. When establishing a baseline, just make sure to eat how you normally would, without modifying so it looks "better".

None of this needs to be precise. I do not regularly track nutrition, but when I do, I hit reasonable protein numbers if I make sure I have a decent source of protein at each meal plus a daily protein shake.

On the training side, light cardio isn't going to improve your 2k. I think people often say to do light cardio when their training emphasis is really on the strength or bodybuilding side. Actual 2k training is going to require more calories than "light cardio", and you just need to be sure that you are fueling for it. I personally lift twice a week, starting with heavier compounds and ending with lighter accessories. So, like, squats with some heavier weight on the bar, and then later Bulgarian split squats with a lot more volume.

Also, and apologizes for the unsolicited advice, but if you are aiming at a recomp, be aware that too low of body fat can be detrimental to your health. If you find that your menstrual cycles are getting irregular and you are missing periods, that's a sign to go speak with a doctor.
40F.
500m 1:27.6 - 2k 6:45.2 - 6k 21:33.3 - 30r20 8081 - FM 2:47:52.9 - 100k 6:59:25.6
IG: eltgilmore

alison2ks
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by alison2ks » November 29th, 2023, 4:36 pm

Elizabeth wrote:
November 29th, 2023, 2:26 pm
Also, and apologizes for the unsolicited advice, but if you are aiming at a recomp, be aware that too low of body fat can be detrimental to your health. If you find that your menstrual cycles are getting irregular and you are missing periods, that's a sign to go speak with a doctor.
No sorry necessary!! This is all super helpful! I can definitely focus on increasing protein intake and tracking a baseline. It’s just so hard to find my actual baseline when we have medium-to-intense workouts 5 days a week. I’ll check my weight daily on my first week off when doing light recovery work to find that base line. Thank you so much!!!
20F | 5'8" 160lbs
2k - 7:51.2 df120
6k - 25:10.9 df115

G-dub
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by G-dub » November 29th, 2023, 4:56 pm

You might look up Easy Strength or Even Easier Strength by Dan John. It is a basic plan that is designed to fit into other rigorous training modalities. The essence is that you do not want to be at cross purposes with your trainings. One (strength) should support the other (rowing fast). Will Ruth also is a weight trainer for rowers and his book and website are great too. I’m old as the hills, but have lived and learned that it’s super hard to crush both weight training (ie -getting as strong as you can) and getting fast at 2K at the same time. You have to pick your poison depending on where you are in the year
Glenn Walters: 5'-8" X 192 lbs. Bday 01/09/1962
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G-dub
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by G-dub » November 29th, 2023, 4:58 pm

You might look up Easy Strength or Even Easier Strength by Dan John. It is a basic plan that is designed to fit into other rigorous training modalities. The essence is that you do not want to be at cross purposes with your trainings. One (strength) should support the other (rowing fast). Will Ruth also is a weight trainer for rowers and his book and website are great too. I’m old as the hills, but have lived and learned that it’s super hard to crush both weight training (ie -getting as strong as you can) and getting fast at 2K at the same time. You have to pick your poison depending on where you are in the year

And I might add that the terms “bulking and cutting” are body building terms. Not strength training terms. I would think, maybe wrongly, that strength is more your concern. And that integrates different protocols than body building
Glenn Walters: 5'-8" X 192 lbs. Bday 01/09/1962
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G-dub
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by G-dub » November 29th, 2023, 5:01 pm

Sorry, I haven’t posted in awhile!

And I might add that the terms “bulking and cutting” are body building terms. Not strength training terms. I would think, maybe wrongly, that strength is more your concern. And that integrates different protocols than body building
Glenn Walters: 5'-8" X 192 lbs. Bday 01/09/1962
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alison2ks
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by alison2ks » November 29th, 2023, 5:10 pm

Thanks Glenn! I have been talking to people who do bodybuilding about gaining muscle, and maybe that’s just led to more confusion in the end. I’ll definitely look into those sources! I appreciate this a lot.
20F | 5'8" 160lbs
2k - 7:51.2 df120
6k - 25:10.9 df115

Mike Caviston
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by Mike Caviston » November 29th, 2023, 6:17 pm

alison2ks wrote:
November 29th, 2023, 2:24 pm
I’m squatting 100 lbs less than girls getting the same numbers as me, and I can’t really understand why.
If I were you, I wouldn’t let that be a concern. They squat more than you, but they only get the same numbers [on the erg, I’m presuming]. You will have lots of people telling you the importance of squatting and heavy lifting for sports in general and rowing in particular. Listen to what they say and make up your own mind. For myself, during my career I’ve never seen credible evidence that a big squat will benefit anyone (who isn’t a power lifter), and plenty of evidence that too much devotion to squatting is actually counterproductive. In the more than 20 years I was connected to athletics at UMich, nobody squatted (not even, and especially, the football team). The potential benefits weren't considered to be worth the risks. Anyway, good luck.

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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by Elizabeth » November 29th, 2023, 6:19 pm

I think the terms are used quite a bit in the general fitness world, including in both powerlifting and weightlifting - bulking to help gain muscle and strength, then cutting to help make weight.

That being said, it is possible to get stronger at the same weight*, as long as you are fueling and training to support it. After some time, people can hit walls; I have a friend who has declared that he is bulking to try to keep progressing in his given sport.

* Assuming you are not underweight. You didn't state your height, so I am assuming 165 is an okay place for you.
40F.
500m 1:27.6 - 2k 6:45.2 - 6k 21:33.3 - 30r20 8081 - FM 2:47:52.9 - 100k 6:59:25.6
IG: eltgilmore

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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by G-dub » November 29th, 2023, 6:37 pm

Alison, it seems like between the 3 of us there is an answer. But you have to decide what your goal is for this block of training. Is it getting bigger thighs and butt? Getting stronger from a pure strength standpoint? Or rowing faster? Each of these has different responses from a training standpoint.

Once you define that, then the answers get a little easier. Except for the fact that we want it all all the time :)
Glenn Walters: 5'-8" X 192 lbs. Bday 01/09/1962
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Dutch
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by Dutch » November 29th, 2023, 7:02 pm

Referring to weights and the 2k distance, About 15 yrs ago I knew a guy in his late 50s who was a 6mins 25sec man on time, he had never used weights just his lung capacity. He had played rugby and was about 6ft 2 and 14st, we spoke about him doing them and I showed him basic movements and he worked out using sets of 25 reps, just 3 sets though. He used things like cable rows, leg press machine, chest press, shoulder press, triceps and dumb bells for biceps.
He said, for him, 25 reps had more carry over than 15s and he did not go heavy by any means.
When he did his event about 8 weeks later he was about 2 secs out side his own pb he had set 3 yrs before.
Higher reps will have more of an endurance carry over than bulking any weight on, couple of kilos are prob ok but dont go much more.
You may even lose weight as you gain muscle, or weight will remain the same. Just check your shape once every couple of weeks by someone taking a pic of you.
Age 54, 186cm 83kg

aussie nick
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by aussie nick » November 30th, 2023, 11:00 pm

Mike Caviston wrote:
November 29th, 2023, 6:17 pm
alison2ks wrote:
November 29th, 2023, 2:24 pm
I’m squatting 100 lbs less than girls getting the same numbers as me, and I can’t really understand why.
I’ve never seen credible evidence that a big squat will benefit anyone (who isn’t a power lifter), and plenty of evidence that too much devotion to squatting is actually counterproductive.
is the intended meaning of this sentence 'equivalent or better strength gains can be made using other exercises' or is it 'don't focus much/at all on getting stronger because focusing on strength is counter productive compared to other training methods?'

('too much devotion to squatting' can of course include an amount of time that could potentially be counterproductive but I'm assuming we're not talking about people trying to squat 3+ times per week in season)
M/52/6ft/86kg
took up rowing during pandemic

500m 1.26.9
1k 3.08.2
2k 6.39.7
5k 18.02.2
30min 8008m

Mike Caviston
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Re: Bulking/Cutting for Beginner (Female)

Post by Mike Caviston » December 1st, 2023, 12:20 am

aussie nick wrote:
November 30th, 2023, 11:00 pm
is the intended meaning of this sentence 'equivalent or better strength gains can be made using other exercises'
That's a bingo! (Or do you just say "bingo"?) Strength training is important for everyone, all athletes including rowers and anyone just trying to maintain health. I disagree with many regarding the definition of "strength" and the safest, most effective and efficient ways to train it.

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