If you’ve spent any time in a gym, you’ve most definitely heard people talk about “the pump” during a workout. People speak of it as if it were the holy grail. And quite honestly, once you achieve a sleeve-tightening pump you’ll understand why.
Yet, not many people understand the importance of the pump and why they should strive to achieve it. In this article, I want to lay the groundwork so you have a better understanding of the pump and why it matters..
What Exactly is THE PUMP?
Let’s start off by getting a little geeky. The process of getting a pump is scientifically called hyperemia. “Hyper” means excessively while “emia” stands for a substance in the blood. Put them together and you have “the pump.”
Now, where does all of this extra blood come from that gets flooded into a muscle? It comes from the organs and unnecessary processes that aren’t essential during intense bouts of exercise. For instance, when you work out, the muscle being targeted demand the added attention and blood.
Oxygenated blood enters the muscles and then removes lactic acid buildup (the burning sensation you feel when you are in the middle of a set). Blood is diverted from places such as the digestive tract to help meet the needs of the working muscles. Following a workout, blood will slowly start to be pulled back out of the muscles and back to the organs and systems where it is needed.
If you are training for hypertrophy (muscle-building), you should be achieving a pump each and every workout. The pump helps stretch out the fascia which is needed in order for muscles to effectively grow. It also aids in creating new capillaries that help supply the muscle with even more blood and nutrients which helps support the building of new muscle tissue. When you get a good pump, it signifies that you are effectively training the muscle group and flooding the muscle with oxygenated blood and nutrients.
When blood is rushed to and pushed into the working muscles, they become full and the blood is essentially pooled in the muscle itself – providing you with that skin-tightening feeling.
What Can Affect Your Ability to Achieve a Pump?
There are many factors that come into play with your ability to achieve a pump or not. However, it shouldn’t take you any more than a few sets to get the blood pumping and starting to fill up the muscles being worked with blood.
Below is a list of some key factors to take into consideration so you can attain the best pump possible.
Mind-Muscle Connection One of the most important parts to achieving a pump is really locking in a solid mind-muscle connection. You should be feeling the muscle contract throughout the entire range of motion and really squeeze hard during the concentric portion of the movement. If you aren’t feeling the muscle fibers activating you’re going to find it hard to get a good pump. Then, you want to go nice and slow during the eccentric portion of the movement which is where most of the muscle damage comes from to help encourage new muscle growth as you’ll be tearing down a greater number of muscle fibers.
Intensity It should go without saying but if you spend 30 seconds hitting a set and the next five-minutes on your phone, expect to get minimal results from your time in the gym as well as watching your muscles deflate as the blood starts to leave the muscle. You want to push hard every time you enter the gym and keep the intensity up. You get out of your workout what you put into it. Max effort can almost always help you achieve a skin-tearing pump. If you want to make sure you’re effectively stressing the muscle, ask a buddy to spot you and help with some forced reps. If no one is around to help, consider utilizing drop sets where after completing one set, you lower the weight and push out more reps.
Stress Level Unfortunately, stress is just one of those daily reminders that nothing in life is easy. And when stress is high, so are cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can make achieving a pump somewhat difficult. If you want to maximize your training and the pump, make a conscious effort daily to reduce stress through relaxation techniques. Find one that works for you and do your best to minimize stress levels. You can also use the gym as your sanctuary where you go to relieve stress and use this as one of your relaxation strategies.
Carbohydrates Complex carbohydrates are your friend. Think along the lines of brown rice, whole grain pasta and bread, and potatoes. Complex carbohydrates that are low-glycemic work much better than simple carbohydrates (glucose/sugar) not only from a pump standpoint but also from an energy standpoint. You want to go the distance during your workouts, right? Simple carbohydrates offer a quick dump of energy but shortly after you hit the wall and your workout suffers. Utilize complex carbohydrates throughout the day as well as around your workout to maximize your fuel and the pump.
Water Intake Have you ever noticed that when you don’t drink water for quite some time you look somewhat “flat?” But when you drink water throughout the day and maximize hydration your muscles look full? Well, when you are drinking adequate amounts of water, that added volume helps get shuttled into the muscles to improve your pump as well as hydrate your cells. Your body is made up of mostly water and for that reason, all processes your body completes are affected by your hydration level and how much water you are drinking. Here’s a tip for you… carry a water bottle around with you wherever you go. When it’s empty, fill it back up. Sip water throughout the day and make sure you drink plenty of water following your workout to replenish what was lost through sweat.
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Matt Weik, owner of Weik Fitness, LLC, is a well-respected fitness expert/author with a global following. His work has been featured all over the globe as well as having published numerous books. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer, and sports nutritionist. Find out more at www.weikfitness.com or on social media @weikfitness.