If you should get abs before bulking all depends on what your current physique looks like. Let’s say you’re 5,9feet and 145lbs and your goal is to get to 180lbs. If you go on a bulk, you will NOT get abs. The majority of the weight you will gain is fat and water weight.
If you’re obese then you should go on an immediate cut. You’ll be gaining muscle whilst losing fat.
Chances are, you’re not obese but you still don’t have a six pack. If aesthetics and looking good are a priority over how much weight you can lift, yes, you should get abs before bulking.
This way you’ll have a good frame to work with and gain muscle all whilst having a six pack. You’ll be lean and still gain muscle mass.
This is where I’m going to tell you NOT to bulk.
The traditional bulk tells you to consume well above the calories needed in order to gain mass. Whilst you will gain muscle, most of the weight will be fat and water weight.
What’s the point of that? If you want to lift more, that’s fine but if aesthetics is your first priority then you don’t want to bulk.
Instead, you want to maingain.
Maingaining is all about maintaining your current body fat and putting on muscle mass. So reduce your fat (slowly so you don’t lose muscle in the process) and then eat at a caloric surplus.
The caloric surplus is very slight. People have different opinions on what the caloric surplus should be. Some say 33 calories and some say 400 calories. Personally, I would not be OK with a 33 calorie surplus.
200 – 300 calorie surplus is a sweet spot for me. You’ll have to see what that sweet spot is for you. You do this by tracking your calories and weighing yourself. Seeing if you put on any weight and if you’re happy with the weight you’re gaining.
If you’re gaining 2lbs per week. Nearly all of that will be fat because you can’t produce muscle that fast. 0.5lbs should probably be your max in terms of the weight you gain.
More detail on maingaining
A more balanced video on maingaining
Can you bulk and get abs at the same time?
The traditional bulk method is about being at a large caloric surplus, so most of the weight your body gains will be fat and water because muscle is built very slowly. This fat will sit on your abdominals covering your abs. You won’t be able to see your six pack.
Should I train abs?
If you want to see your abs, this is done by reducing your body fat. The typical human will be able to see their abs at 15% body fat. Exclusively training your abs will not increase the visibility but the strength. Your abs get plenty of exercise because they’re used to stabilize movements.
Focus on heavy compound movements such as bench pressing to gain muscle and burn calories as this requires the most energy.
If you’re serious about looking aesthetic, focus on body parts and exercises that will improve this.
For example, instead of doing the shoulder press and training your front delts, train your side delts as this will make you look wider and waist slimmer. Train your rear delts as these are often undeveloped.
Focus on isolating your lats and training them with exercises such as the lat pulldown. Bigger lats will give you a great V-taper. Giving you a more aesthetic and eye candy appearance.
A maingaining diet is best for getting abs and increasing muscle mass. Remember, you need to get to a body fat percentage where you can see your abs and then consume at a small surplus.