We can all agree that having shredded, vascular arms is quite badass. If you compare bodybuilders with the same muscular definition, the ones with more prominent veins will always look better shaped and tougher. So how can you increase vascularity and get a bigger muscle pump ?
Have you noticed that guys who are actually smaller in muscle size but are really vascular look like they’re absolutely cut and even bigger to some extent?
This issue is the root for a lot of envy going on in the gym. Every bodybuilder with a solid training experience has noticed his veins popping out during or after a solid workout, and that’s a real moment of silent pride, but can it be a sustainable thing?
While it’s true that some guys are simply genetically rewarded with greater vascularity than others, there are still a few things you can do, like choosing the right combination of diet and exercise, to get those ripped arm muscles – and keep them, too.
These veins we are talking about are the ones known as superficial veins because of their closeness to the skin, and their size and number is defined by genetics and varies from one person to another.
Yet, you can make the veins you have pop much more, and increase vascularity all over by taking care of other important factors, such as body fat. For example, the main vein, running from the shoulder all the way down to the forearm through the bicep, is called the cephalic vein. When you start losing fat, you’ll see this vein becoming more and more visible, especially around the shoulder and forearm.
How to increase vascularity ?
When it comes to the veins, these three factors have the final word:
- The amount of body fat
- The amount of subcutaneous water (the water retained between muscles and skin)
- The degree of vasodilation (the width of blood vessels)
Which, ultimately, leads us to the following equation:
The more lean mass you have, the less water you’re holding and the more wide your blood vessels are, the more vascular you get.
Good genetics are important, but everyone can build up some decent muscle vascularity by following the simple tips described below.
Cut down the body fat
It’s no surprise that reducing body fat will increase vascularity, regardless of your genetics. Body fat is most commonly stored right under the skin, so eliminate as much of it as possible to get your veins closer to the surface! In men, prominent vascularity usually requires single-digit body fat, and for women it’s enough to get under 20%.
If you’re already pretty lean, know that shedding those last few stubborn reserves of fat will be the hardest phase of your fat loss. To get rid of it, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn, but if you limit your calorie intake too much you’ll start losing precious muscle as well. Therefore, you need to find the perfect balance and avoid drastic cuts.
Try to gradually lose fat by cutting down the intake of calories. It’s really that simple – when you lose body fat, your muscle definition and vascularity improves. But be careful with your diet plan, because making drastic changes might lead to losing some of the muscle mass that you’ve worked so hard to build.
Start by dropping your current calorie intake by 400 calories per day. This should allow you to lose around a pound of pure fat each week without sacrificing muscle mass. Swap starchy foods for low-calorie veggies, avoid fatty meat and don’t even dare to think about greasy junk food or high-carb processed snacks. As the weeks go by, you can gradually reduce your caloric intake, but try to keep the pace steady and smooth.
In addition, there are some high-quality & natural fat-burning supplements out there that can help you with this task. And as the percentage of your body fat drops, you will be enjoying a noticeable increase of muscle vascularity.
Gain more muscle mass
Having low level of body fat alone is not enough to get veins pop on your arms. Naturally, it’s actually the combination of low body fat with a decent amount of muscle mass that makes the magic happen.
When you lack muscle mass, even a thin layer of fat will be able to prevent the veins from showing up. So if you’re not in good shape yet, don’t try too hard to cut down the body fat, because you can’t achieve the desired effects by simply becoming skinnier.
Train for the Pump
Chasing the pump can stimulate many factors that contribute to bigger lean gains. Remember when Arnold said: “The most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump”? It was the beginning of the pump craze. But beyond making you feel like the king of the world, getting a good pump has been shown to promote greater long-term growth and of course, powerfully increase vascularity.
Biologically, what we refer to as the “pump“ is the process of cell swelling and metabolite accumulation. When you lift, the veins taking blood from the working muscles become compressed from the force of muscular contractions, while the arteries continue delivering new blood continues to the muscles.
Naturally, this increases the concentration of blood within the muscle, eventually causing plasma to leak into the interstitial spaces of the tissue. After you finish the set, the accumulation of extracellular fluid calls for the blood to be drawn back into the muscles, thus causing the blood-engorged working muscles to swell far beyond their usual girth, giving you a majestic pump.
One great way to get there is by introducing blood-flow restriction (BFR) in your training, i.e. partially restricting the veins of a working muscle that results with pooling of blood. Finish off your training session with high-volume work with BFR for the particular muscle group where you’d like to improve vascularity the most. Push yourself to get the best pump possible (restricting the duration of rest pauses to 30 seconds helps tremendously) and get a taste of what it’s like to be a super-vascular beast.
Do Your Cardio
Have you been diligently avoiding cardio? Then it’s time to change your perspective and make it a staple in your routine. Cardio is helpful for bodybuilders for multiple reasons.
First, it helps create a bigger caloric deficit and stimulates faster fat loss, which will ultimately increase the prominence of your veins. It also reduces water retention by moving water and other body fluids around so your kidneys can excrete it and your sweat glands can sweat it out, thereby pulling your skin tighter so it looks thinner and increasing muscle definition and vascularity.
Finally, research shows that regular aerobic exercise increases the number of capillaries that reach your muscles and even promotes the formation of new capillaries, as well as increasing dilation of all blood vessels, thus effectively improving blood flow and blood velocity throughout the body. When your blood vessels are optimally filled with blood, they have a better chance of appearing on the surface.
So regardless of whether you enjoy it or not, cardio is undoubtedly a powerful tool for attaining a more vascular appearance, and you should make the most out of it.
Take Supplements for Vascularity
Boosting your body’s production of nitric oxide, known as the compound that amplifies your blood flow during exercise, will do wonders for your pump. Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator that improves blood flow efficiency by relaxing the blood vessels. Smart as they are, supplement manufacturers have long ago formulated a variety of products that will take your pump to the next level by promoting nitric oxide production and increasing vascularity. The best of them include:
- CITRULLINE – For best results, take 6-8 grams of citrulline malate 30-60 minutes before your session. It will help you maximize your pump by increasing arginine (a precursor to nitric oxide) levels more efficiently than taking L-arginine can.
- NITRATES – According to studies on vasodilation, the two most promising dietary nitrate supplements for this purpose are beetroot and pomegranate juice. Prior to your training, drink beetroot juice or supplement with 1000 mg of pomegranate extract. You can also find beetroot in the form of an extract or powder. Choose what suits you best and load with a daily dose of either substance.
- CREATINE – Creatine supplementation can increase cell swelling by acting as an osmolyte and accumulating inside the muscle cell. To get this shirt-ripping benefit, take 5 grams of creatine monohydrate every day.
- THERMONGENICS – Caffeine, green tea, capsaicin and ginger are all well-known thermogenics that increase heat production in the body. Simply put, the hotter you are, the more blood flow gets pushed to the surface of the skin to help your body cool down. Thermogenics also speed up your metabolism and accelerate fat burning, as well as supply you with crazy amounts of energy. You can buy supplements with thermogenic properties or simply drink a caffeinated drink before every workout.
Increase vascularity by getting rid of retained water
If you are rather lean, well-shaped and with a low percentage of body fat, but you are can’t achieve good vascularity, especially in the lower abdominal area, water retention and excess sodium ions is the one to blame. Set between the skin and the muscle (similar to the storage of fat), this layer of retained fluids covers up your sculpted muscle and it’s veins, making you look puffier than you truly are.
– Water retention and sodium
The most important thing to be aware about here is the intake of sodium. To get rid of water weight, you’ll need to drastically cut down your sodium consumption – The Institute of Medicine recommends around 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day for adults, with 2,300 milligrams being the upper limit, and most of us consume a lot more than that. Actually, did you know that only one teaspoon of regular table salt can contain up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium?
Chronically high levels of sodium can hurt your cardiovascular system and much more, yet this issue gets a bit overlooked by most people.
Ironically, drinking a lot of water and other clear liquids will also help you lose some water weight by flushing out the toxins and the excessive fluid build-up from the tissue.
So, if you want to reduce water retention, make sure you drink enough water daily (about a gallon), consume adequate amounts of potassium (which helps balance fluids in your cells) and cut down on sodium and carbs, since both of them enhance fluid retention.
Increase size of blood vessels
Alongside with the amount of body fat and retained water, the size of your blood vessels can also affect and increase vascularity – genetics play an important role here. Simply put, the larger your blood vessels are, the more likely they will appear on the surface of the skin. But is it possible to intentionally affect the size of your veins?
Of course it is – by exercising! Remember how exercise is able to prevent hypertension issues? An intense workout will cause blood vessels to temporarily expand, and regular training will make them remain widened even during your rest periods. Some studies have shown that even people who exercised moderately had a 50% increase in blood vessel dilation, compared to those who were completely inactive! And the more a vessel dilates, the healthier it is, while the possibility of it becoming visible increases as well. This makes high-intensity trainings crucial for improving both superficial vascularity and overall cardiovascular health and longevity.
All that being said, none of these methods work optimally on their own. If your goal is to get ripped and vascular, you’ll have to lose a ton of fat, get dry and perform even more regular high-intensity workouts – in that exact order.