“Should I bulk or cut first?”

The reality here is that there’s no single answer that will apply to everybody, as it will depend on two main factors…

1) Your ultimate fitness goals – What is your ideal body type? How big or lean do you ultimately want to be? Everyone is different.

2) Your body fat percentage – The higher your body fat is, the more likely it is that you need to cut, and vice versa.

So, how do you know if you should bulk or cut?

First off, if you’re asking the “bulk or cut” question in the first place, there’s a very good chance that you probably need to cut.

If your ultimate goal is to gain muscle, and you’re already relatively lean, then you probably wouldn’t even ask the question at all.

So if you’re asking this question, there’s a decent chance you need to start off with a fat loss phase.

In any case, here is a good guideline to follow…

If your ultimate goal is to build a lean and significantly muscular body, you should aim to be at least 12% body fat before you embark on a serious muscle building phase.

Remember, any time you try to add a significant amount of muscle to your body, you’re also going to gain some fat with it. This is an inevitable byproduct of a calorie surplus, which is a mandatory prerequisite for muscle growth.

There’s simply no way to divert 100% of those calories to your muscle tissue, and you’re always going to gain some fat with it.

If your body fat is already high to begin with (let’s say you’re 16% right now), and you commit to six months or more of bulking, you’re likely going to be carrying an excessive amount of fat by the time that phase is over.

So as a general guideline, look to be about 12% body fat before you start a bulking phase.

12% body is the stage where you certainly don’t have a ripped six pack, but are still carrying a decent amount of muscle definition. You probably have what could be called a “blurry 4-pack” – you can see your abs when you flex, but nothing too serious.

So if you’re above 12% body fat, start with a cutting phase, and if you’re already at 12% or lower and you want to build muscle, start with a bulking phase. Simple as that.

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