What season is it best to gain muscle? Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter?
It’s January and another cold day at -21C (-5F)—an absolute blizzard. You’re freezing, and it took twice as much coffee to wake up this morning. You haven’t seen the sun through those gray clouds in days.
You’re a bit lethargic from the winter blues. And it feels good to eat all the time, especially sugary treats. Honestly, you just can’t wait to curl up watching TV once the sun sets after 5 pm.
Hey, remember winter?
Common Advice Is Winter Is For Muscle Gain—Is That Smart?
The common advice is that it’s best to bulk up and put on muscle during the dark, cold winter.
But is it really such a good idea to eat a calorie surplus when you’re foggy, lazy, and can’t go outside easily? It’s so cold that you’re always wearing three heavy layers of clothes, so you wouldn’t even notice if you were gaining lots of fat at the belly.
Then, common advice is that you’re supposed to cut off the fat in the spring, just in time for summer. This one makes more sense.
You’re excited to get outside and be active. The day is becoming longer. There’s some optimism and hope as you see the trees and flowers begin to bud. You start eating some greens and fresh food again and start taking daily walks.
But the problem is that you need to undo months of blind, heavy bulking where you gained tons of fat from the last winter. That long, terrible winter. There’s just too much work to be done before the summer beach season.
Frank Zane—Mr Olympia & The Best Season For Muscle
Here’s a new option for you to try. I first heard it from Frank Zane. He’s a Mr Olympia winner from the late seventies.
Bulk in the summer and fall. Don’t bulk this winter.
He considered winter to be a time of maintaining muscle and then mainly just focusing on fixing one area at a time (specialization).
He would cut his workouts in half, he’d lift with lighter weights, and the main goal, really, was to not get too fat.
Then by spring, things would change. Here’s what Frank says:
“Spring is a good time to start training more frequently, maybe doing more aerobics at the end of your workout, going from 3 to 4 days a week. This harder training lasts up to summer and produces added strength and growth.”
“By summer, you’re ready to do your most intense training of the year to lead up to your peak condition in the early autumn. The first part of autumn is spent increasing intensity to reach a physical peak by the time the leaves turn colors.”
To be honest, as a Canadian who lives through long, harsh winters (especially winters with government-prescribed lockdowns), I really hate the idea of considering winter right now.
But it’s a good point to bring up.
If you’ve been meaning to put on muscle mass—especially lean muscle mass—in the summer and fall are great times to start.
You’re energetic. It’s easy to get outside. The days are still fairly long. This is the time to start lifting, eating a lot of food, and getting outside for walks or to sprint.
The more active you are while in a calorie surplus, the less fat you gain as you muscle up.
Let me put that another way.
The more cardio intervals you do, the more walks you take, the more steps you do, etc., as you also lift weights and eat big, like a winner, the leaner your new muscular gains will be.
Then after the leaves fall and winter sets in, you’d switch to calorie maintenance, lower the volume, lower the weights, and pile up your remaining lifting volume to one area. This is called specialization, and you could focus on just one area like arms or shoulders.
Anyways, if you’re gearing up for a bulk or you want to shed off some fat, check out our True Gains program.