“Muscle pump” is a genuinely amazing feeling related to working out and lifting weights. It’s a feeling of tightness in the muscles and skin that accompanies a great weight lifting session.
If you are a bodybuilder, besides the weight progression, you should aim to get this feeling at the end of every workout. So what exactly is the muscle pump ?
Muscle pump occurs during exercise due to an increased blood flow in the worked muscle group. It is not only a cool feeling you get in your muscles, but it’s also a sign that more oxygen and nutrients enter your muscle cells with the increased flow of blood.
Therefore the pump can speed up muscle growth, recovery and the overall results of your workout.
Another benefit of the pump regarding muscle growth is the expansion of fascia. Fascia acts like a girdle and binds a muscle group together, and to its neighboring muscle in many cases. By letting more blood into muscle cells, the fascia stretches, making space for the muscle to grow as well.
6 ways to increase muscle pump
Knowing the benefits we mentioned earlier, here are a few ways you can increase muscle pump and vascularity in your muscles.
1. For a better muscle pump, load with carbohydrates
Consuming enough carbohydrates before your workout is the main idea. Rich Gaspari, a legend in the sport of bodybuilding says: “Your muscles should be filled with glycogen during exercise if you want to get great muscle pumps”.
Glycogen is not only a source of energy that fuels your body during exercise, but it’s also one of the main factors for your muscles to look big and full.
Lack of glycogen is the main reason why muscles look flat on a low carb diet. You need to take in enough carbs before your workout if you want to get good pumps
2. Drink more water for a bigger muscle pump
Water is the other main factor that makes your muscles look full and big. After all our bodies are more than 70% water. Take a dehydrated food like some vegetable or fruit for example.
Without water they look wrinkled and lifeless. Similarly to the fruits, your muscles look small and wrinkled when they are dehydrated.
Keeping well balanced water levels keeps your blood volume higher and muscles looking bigger. Higher water volume in the blood automatically means bigger pumps when you workout.
Make sure you drink about 500 ml of water about 30 min before your workout and drink enough water during your workout.
3. Keep your muscles under tension.
Try to do your exercises in a slower and controlled way. Try adding more reps to your sets while working with heavy enough weights. A good rule of a thumb is that if you want to increase the pump, you can try doing sets of 12-15 reps. If the weights are too light, you won’t get the pump. This is why you need to choose weights that you can lift 12-15 reps to FAILURE
4. Add supersets and drop sets into your workout.
Supersets and drop sets can dramatically increase the blood flow to your muscles, and therefore pump the muscles.
Supersets – when you do sets of two (or more) exercises without taking any rest between them. For example: you are working your chest on the bench press, you complete the set, and immediately without any rest you start doing a set of barbell rows for your back.
Drop sets – In drop sets you keep doing the same exercise with lower weights, once you reach muscular failure with the work weight. Fatigue in this case comes much later than in super sets.
With each subsequent drop of the weights, more blood rushes into the muscle cells, which increases the effect of “muscle pump”. You should aim for 2-3 weight drops.
5. Shorter rest periods
The athlete who is trying to pump their muscles should use shorter rest periods. Shorter rest periods ensure that more blood will flow through muscle tissue, resulting in increased sense of “pumping”.
Try to keep the weights moderately heavy or you will lose the benefit of the shorter rest periods. The main idea is to keep your rest periods anywhere between 40 and 60 seconds. The shorter the rest period, the more intense the workout.
6. Use blood flow increasing supplements
Nitric oxide or NO (naturally found in the body) is a highly reactive gas molecule, that has a role of transporting information between cells (neurotransmitter).
Its main job is to control the relaxation and widening of the blood vessels, which permits the surge of blood to pass through easily. Nitric oxide works by widening the blood vessels which let more blood to flow through them.
Arginine – arginine is one of the main components of Nitric Oxide boosters. It increases the blood flow, vascularity and the energy during workouts.
Remember, while the pump is a muscle growth helping factor, you still need heavy weights and progression in order to build big muscles. Use higher rep exercises after you have completed the heavy work.