Arnold Schwarzenegger comparing good pump with the orgasmic feeling was enough to motivate bodybuilders to “chase muscle pump”.
Muscle pump (scientifically known as “hyperemia”) is something that gym newbies are really concerned about. Although experienced bodybuilders don’t seem to be really worried about the muscle pump.
I have seen young bodybuilders chasing a better pump, but is it really important for the muscle building? In some cases, a muscle pump is necessary, and in other cases, it’s not the most important aspect of muscle hypertrophy and strength building.
We are going to cover each and everything about the better muscle pump and how can you use it for better muscle development.
Muscle pump science
The pump is when your muscles swell up during your workout. Pump is produced from the excessive volume of blood moving into the muscle and adding volume to the size of the muscle. It’s a sensation one cannot describe in words. Honestly, it’s truly powerful and addicting.
Let’s get into the muscle to understand the “muscle pump science”
Muscle contraction is one of the most fundamental aspects of resistance training and bodybuilding.
Muscle tension and compression leads to the lactic buildup within the muscle tissues, that’s the reason your muscle stops to move after a certain number of repetitions.
To clear out the lactic buildup, your body pumps more blood into the muscle fibers which also results in “muscle cell hydration”.
As the muscle cells expand, they also block the outflow of blood. Which helps in holding the blood into muscle tissues for longer period of time.
As a result, more blood is being pumped into your muscles faster than it can leave, which increases the cell volume and increase in size.
To have a better understanding, Check out the diagram below.
Higher repetitions and supersets increase the “time under tension” which leads to higher lactic buildup and better blood flow.
Higher rep range and supersets work incredibly well to deliver the best pump you can expect.
Muscle pump is temporary in nature, you will lose the volume within 1-2 hours of workout.
Does muscle pump equal growth?
Not necessarily. Muscle pump is not the only way to promote hypertrophy, you can achieve it without a pump as well. But it does act as a catalyst to promote muscle growth.
There is no direct scientific evidence that supports “muscle pump equal muscle growth”, but don’t get into the conclusion too soon.
The lactic buildup is one of the trigger points of muscle pump, and lactic buildup is directly found to be very helpful in increasing the production of growth hormones.
A 2009 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that lactic-acid accumulation benefits the production of higher levels of growth hormone. Lactic acid is only produced in response to intense anaerobic training.
Bottom line: you don’t need to chase the pump on a daily basis, that can restrict your gains. Dedicate two days for heavy lifting, two days for muscle pumping and two days for a mixed workout pattern is the best way to gain strength and hypertrophy.
Why can’t you get a muscle pump anymore:
There can be many reasons behind “not able to get a muscle pump”, there are many aspects that you need to look after. To achieve a better muscle pump, you need to look after the following aspects:
- Proper nutrition
- Through supplement
Workout pattern for better pump
Most of the people can’t get a sufficient pump because of the wrong approach. Every day I see dozens of newbies who are just new in the bodybuilding but still trying to lift the heaviest weight.
There is nothing wrong with lifting heavy, but most of the newbies are forgetting about proper form and muscle activation. Instead of focusing on heavy lifts, you should focus on better “mind & body connection”.
There are some definite workout patterns that can help in achieving a better pump.
1# Higher reps and hold the squeeze:
Opting for higher repetitions is one of the most effective ways to achieve muscle pump and greater muscle activation.
Lightweight pumping workout allows you to practice better workout form, which ultimately results in better muscle activation and superior contraction.
To maximize the benefits, start your set with a lightweight lift with 15-20 reps. That first set will get the blood flowing into muscles.
Next thing is to concentrate on the proper squeeze of the muscle. Holding the squeeze increases the time under tension which lets you get better blood flow into those lean muscle tissues. Hold the contraction for 3-4 seconds after every 5-reps, that means, three-time total squeeze time in a 15-rep set.
Choosing a repetition range of 12-15 with proper squeeze is the best way to get most of your workout.
2# Include Supersets and drop sets
These are the ultimate combo for people are have reached a plateau and can’t really feel good muscle activation and contraction.
Supersets and drop sets are the best way to shock your muscles to overcome the plateau and to achieve a superior pump.
A superset is when you arrange exercises back-to-back with no rest in-between. For example, targeting your bicep and tricep simultaneously.
In a drop-set, you continue to drop the weight until you reach muscular failure. You can start with 200 pounds of bench press for 8 reps then drop the weight to 160 pounds and do another 6 reps and drop the weight to 120 pounds to do another 6 reps.
Drop sets and supersets will help you achieve the finest pump.
3# Short rest period
Still struggling to feel the pump? It might be because of longer rest period. A long resting period is good for heavy lifts but not very best for the superior pump.
Reduce the rest period to 30-45 seconds between sets.
Reducing the rest periods disallow your body to recover from the workout trauma but give it enough time to go for another round. That’s how you achieve a better pump.
A short rest period also triggers the greater lactic buildup which also triggers the production of growth hormones.
You should not be following a short rest period for heavy lifts.
So we talked about the workout pattern but proper nutrition is something that can never be neglected. Nutrition plays a very crucial role in the development of the body, let’s have a look at the key nutritional factors to achieve superior muscle pump.
4# Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate
We all know the importance of water but are you aware of the role of water in gaining muscle size and better pump?
According to research, 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration. Which makes is a very common obstacle in achieving better performance.
Your muscles are 75% water and proper hydration leads to greater blood volume and an amplified pump.
During muscle contraction, water is driven towards muscle tissues which result in achieving increased volume. Dehydration makes the process totally opposite, it drives the water in muscle tissues towards blood to maintain body temperature and other critical functions.
Make sure you are well hydrated before your workout and keep on sipping water while you workout.
Muscle glycogen is the primary source of fuel, being on a low carb diet might affect the quality and intensity of workout because of depleting glycogen levels.
Additionally, carb-loading also leads to holding more water which results in achieving superior volume. For every one gram of carbohydrate stored in the muscle tissues (as glycogen), there is approximately 2-3 gm of water retained.
Athletes on a low carb diet usually experience a low level of muscle pump because of a lack of water volume and energy.
Supplements are build to derive superior performance, there are some supplements that can help you get the best vascularity of life.
Pre-workouts contain many ingredients that help in achieving a better pump.
They contain arginine and L-citrulline that works as a vasodilator for the better pump, Beta-alanine to increase the workout intensity, Caffeine for improves focus.
Overall, a good pre-workout will definitly add up value to your workout.
One of the greatest muscle building supplement that has gone through thousands of clinical researches and marked safe in every aspect.
Creatine helps in boosting the ATP production for better energy while workout, it also assists in holding water into muscle cells which results in better cell volume.
Are good muscle pumps important?
Heavy lifting and muscle pumping are two different parts of bodybuilding, one approach concentrates on strength gains and another focus on better contraction.
If you train heavy lifts, you prepare your muscles for higher tension. But training for superior pump causes more cellular fatigue and swelling, and less tension overload.
Although, this article was all about achieving better pump but I am a big advocate of maintaining the proper balance of “heavyweight training” and “training for pump”
Let’s understand the importance of good muscle pump:
- For a better supply of nutritions: the better pump is caused by the higher supply of blood which also ensures the better supply of nutrient-rich oxygenated blood.
- Required stretch: “Pump” style training, on the other hand, causes more cellular fatigue and swelling, and less tension overload. Training for the pump supports stretching the muscle tissues which gives better space for the growth.
- Growth hormone production: A higher number of reps and higher time under tension leads to lactic buildup which results in the production of growth hormones. We all know the importance of growth hormone in achieving strength and hypertrophy.
- Muscle activation: training for the pump allows you to lift for better contraction and follow accurate form. Training for muscle pumps leads to achieving better muscle activation.
- Injury prevention: training for a better pump allows you to concentrate more on muscle contraction and activation. While heavy lifting leads to muscle injuries, being mindful about the contraction leads to fewer injuries.
How to keep muscles pumped all-day:
I understand that getting a good pump is a heavenly experience that no one wants to lose, you want to influence others with the quality and volume of muscles.
Getting a good muscle pump is a temporary state and you can’t keep it all day long. Instead, you should focus on improving hypertrophy and following the right diet to pack up some real muscle mass.
There are some ways through which you can extend the period of the pump but still, you cant enjoy it for a whole day. Increasing the water intake and fueling your body with a good amount of carbohydrates is a good way to experience the pump for a longer period. Pre-workouts can also help in achieving extended pump duration.
Bottom line: muscle pump and hypertrophy
If you are looking to develop bare strength then pursuing for good muscle pump might not feel legitimate for you but if you are someone looking for better body composition then you should definitely incorporate pump training in the routine.