If you’ve been lifting weights for a while, one of the main things you’ll be more than familiar with in the gym is the almighty pump.
This is what happens when you train a muscle with such concentration and focus that it fills with blood and has a tight, pumped-up feeling. Most like it because of the way it feels, but also because of how it looks while it’s in full effect. You look bigger, fuller, and thicker and get a glimpse of what you could look like all the time with just a few more months of training. It’s a feeling that’s so good that legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger compared it to being as fulfilling as an orgasm. And experienced lifters agree, it really is that good.
But it’s not just about vanity, achieving an optimal pump is key to improving your overall muscle mass. With regular pumps, your muscles adapt to the work load and produce more blood vessels to handle the stress. This allows your muscles to use more nutrients and oxygen to achieve a better pump and faster muscle growth.
However, not many know how to get the most out of it. In this short article, we’ve put together a list of the top 8 ways that you can get the best results come lifting time.
1. Eat A LOT Of Carbohydrates
If you’re on a low carb diet, this may be why your gym sessions have been lacking recently.
One of the main things you need to be getting into your body when looking for a serious pump is glycogen, and the only way you’re going to get that is through carbohydrates.
Glycogen is essentially stored carbohydrates in your muscles, and is pretty much what fuels your workout and also ensures that your muscles have enough water in them. When your muscles have all the glycogen they need, they allow you to hit your workout at maximum intensity, which allows you to create more muscle fibers and push more blood and water into your muscles.
This doesn’t mean you can just eat any food that is rich in carbohydrates (you can put the Pop Tarts down), aim for healthy options with slow-releasing energy (complex carbs) like oats, brown rice, or quinoa.
2. Increase Nitric Oxide levels (Your Secret Weapon!)
If you want to have the ultimate pump, you need to be looking to improve your nitric oxide levels. Nitric Oxide is your best bet for getting a solid pump — it’s the molecule that regulates blood vessel dilation. And the more dilated your blood vessels are, the more blood they push into your muscles for that skin-splitting pump.
There are numerous ways you can boost the amount of nitric oxide in your body, but one of the best methods is to make simple tweaks in your diet.
The cocoa in dark chocolate has been seen in studies to have a great effect on overall blood flow and blood vessel dilation, and the same is said for other household food and drinks like black tea and watermelons.
You can always supplement to improve your NO levels too — natural nutrients like Red Asian Ginseng and L-Citrulline (a derivative of watermelon) have been shown to have a host of benefits for raising circulation and overall gym pump.
3. Up Your Water Intake
One of the main ways you’re going to get a better pump is to ensure your body’s produced as much blood as it can, and the best way to do that is to stay hydrated.
Over half of what makes up your blood in your body is water, so it’s important that you’re constantly giving your body enough of it to get the best results. Make sure you’re taking in at least 2 and a half liters of the clear stuff a day to ensure you’re getting the full benefit.
4. Less Rest = More Results
Unless you’re performing a workout that depends on it, chances are you’re not counting how long you’re resting between sets — but you totally should be.
Most lifters usually leave a few minutes after each set before attempting the next one — especially if they’ve been dealing in heavy weights. Our advice is to lighten the weight and knock that time down to a conservative 30-60 seconds. This shorter amount of time reduces the amount of blood that can leave your muscles in between sets. By giving them a shorter rest, you’ll fill them up with more blood and get a more satisfying pump.
5. Higher Reps For The Highest Form Of Pump
One of the better ways to train for a pump is to work out at high rep ranges. Most beginners usually hover around the 8-10 rep range, and this is fine for getting that balance between both size and strength. However, if you’re looking to have that superhuman pump, you’re going have to put in a lot more reps than that.
To get that Hulk-like feeling that you get from blood rushing to your muscles, you need a reason for it to be there, and a lot of reps makes that happen.
The more reps you do in one set exhausts and recruits more muscle fibers in that particular body part. To support your lift, your body sends in as much blood as it can to ensure you don’t drop it.
It’s a great way to really bring out your size.
6. Super Sets Are Super Effective
Super setting is a way for you to take your pump from high reps to the next level.
If you haven’t heard of “Super Setting,” it’s essentially training a different muscle, or different area of the muscle, instead of taking a rest. This keeps the blood in that area and makes sure the muscle group is constantly under tension. It’s a lot harder to pull off, but the pump is unbelievable.
A good example of an effective super set would be a lat pull down and a cable row. Both exercises train different areas of the back and it encourages your body to send more and more blood that way. You’ll definitely feel the burn.
7. Take It Slow And You Will Grow
This is one of the most underrated ways to workout: slow reps.
So many guys in the gym seem to use weights heavier than they can handle, and the result is them trying to get the set finished by getting momentum on their side — and speed is a good way to achieve this.
Going too quickly in the gym and relying solely on this momentum stops your body from having full control over the weight. This means you’re not recruiting muscle fibers as efficiently or supersizing your pump.
With slow controlled movements, you can really squeeze the blood into your muscles and activate as many muscle fibers as possible.
If you lower the weight, and think about moving your muscles rather than moving the weight, you’ll definitely feel a lot more benefit.
8. Negative Reps Bring Positive Experiences
In a similar vein, negative reps are another form of exercise which is often overlooked.
Negative reps are the final end of the movement in a lift, for example think of a bicep curl, when you’re returning the weight back down — that’s the negative part of the lift, and it can be a goldmine for pumps.
Instead of just dropping a weight back to the starting position to hammer out another rep, why not see how slowly you can make that journey back? This recruits a lot more of the stabilizing muscle fibers in your body and sends even more blood to the area to support the action.
It makes a serious difference, and if you’ve never done it before, you’ll feel amazing during your session — and sore as hell the next day.
Featured photo credit: Sandra Wickham Fall Classic 2014 via flickr.com