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Is the Pump Necessary for Muscle Growth?

Is the Pump Necessary for Muscle Growth?

In the last fitness center that I trained in, there was a weird guy. The main focus of his training was getting a pump. He thought the pump was absolutely necessary for building muscles in any way. He lived by the philosophy of Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Pumping Iron:

I am like, uh, getting the feeling of coming in a gym, I’m getting the feeling of coming at home, I’m getting the feeling of coming backstage when I pump up, when I pose in front of 5,000 people, I get the same feeling, so I am coming day and night. I mean, it’s terrific. Right? So you know, I am in heaven. — Arnold Schwarzenegger, about the feeling of the pump

That guy once told me, that he started eating junk food before his workout sessions. Because they guaranteed, that he will get a great pump.

I haven’t heard of him since I’ve changed my training location. The chances are high that he’s still desperately chasing the pump, while completely neglecting the more important aspects of his exercise schedule. Today I want to show you, why the pump isn’t as necessary as you might think it is, and how you should train instead.

How your body works

Before we understand, how the pump works, we first need to have a basic knowledge in anatomy.

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How your blood circulation works

Everytime you’re contracting your muscles, you’re constricting your blood vessels. As most of you know, the blood in your body moves from the left side of your heart, to the ride side of your heart. While supplying your organs and cells with valuable oxygen and nutrients in the midtime.

    The first half of the blood circulation is the easy part for your body. The oxygenated and nutritious blood (red color) is far easier to transport, than the deoxygenated blood (blue color). Because of two reasons:

    1. Your heart is on the upper part of your body, because of that, gravity is on your side when pumping the blood.
    2. Your heart is actively pressuring the blood to your body parts. Naturally on the first half of the circulation, you still have more power and velocity.

    The downside of the circulatory system

    These stepping stones leave your body with one big challenge: how do you transport the blood from the middle of your body to your heart again when they have to work against gravity and only barely get help from your heart? A big part of the solution were valves.

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      Valves are security measurements from your body, so that the blood only flows in a certain direction – to your heart. The valves are only allowing one-way traffic. Without valves, all our blood would likely stay in our feet. Deformed valves, due to increasing age or pregnancy, lead to varicose veins.

      Side note: It’s also thought that people that were crucified have died, next to physical exhaustion, from a lack of blood in their upper bodies. Because the immobile and vertical position has created a blood congestion in the lower extremities.

      What happens when you’re having a pump

      I personally like the pump. Who doesn’t? Whenever I’m training in the gym and get the pump I feel amazing. I suddenly look a couple times more muscular than you actually are. Isn’t it therefore rational to conclude that a pump is an indicator of an effective workout?

      Sadly, the scientific explanation of a muscle pump is rather blunt: the muscle contraction in your muscles, for example when you’re doing a biceps curl, constrict the blood flow in your veins. Temporarily, the blood gets trapped inside of your veins, not being able to return.

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        The blood trapped inside your arms, will lead to an increased volume of your muscular size. It will also lead to an increased visibility of your veins. This heavily affects your appearance – but only in the short term.

        The pump therefore is a temporary blood congestion inside your working muscle. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Having this blood congestion forces your body to adapt. It’s a metabolic stress that may increase your protein synthesis in the working muscle. Therefore it might increase your muscle growth.

        The downside is, that it increases the stress on your muscles. A functioning blood flow is necessary for recovery. Stress and recovery always have to be in balance, to guarantee best results.

        Do you have to leave the gym immediately and run for the hills if you ever experience a pump? No. Is it necessary for muscle growth? No. It may help induce metabolic stress which then might increase muscle growth, but it shouldn’t be the sole purpose of your training.

        How to structure your training

        Instead of chasing the pump, you should structure your training to guarantee progression. For the beginning two years of my training I have never written down my workouts. I must say, that I wasted some of my potential by not doing that. Progression is the most important metric, when it comes to reaching your fitness goals.

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        What gets measured gets managed. — Peter Drucker

        Write down the date of the workout, the machines or weights you used, how many sets you’ve did and how many repetitions you’ve managed to do. Also don’t forget the percieved intensity, simply rate a workout set from a scale from 1-10. 1 is the easiest and 10 is the hardest. If you value convenience, you can also buy a exercise book. I use the BodyMinder .

        Disrupt the balance in your body. You have to increase the weight over time, you have to increase the intensity. If you don’t guarantee progression, your body will see no reason to adapt and stay where it is. Writing down your workouts can also be a motivational source for you. It’s good to look back to see how far you’ve come. Having a workout book also makes your work with a professional coach much easier, as it shows the trainer, which exercises you’re already experienced in.

          The pump nonetheless, won’t really hurt your physique. And if the temporary increase in muscular size and vascularity truly motivates you to go to the gym – so be it. From a scientific standpoint nonetheless, the blood congestion only has a minor affect in guaranteeing your muscular growth.

          More by this author

          Florian Wüest

          Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

          Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss The Truth Behind Rapid Weight Loss and the Best Way to Shed Pounds How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss? How Vegan Bodybuilding Diet Keeps Hunger at Bay While Plant Based The Biggest Myth Debunked: The More Protein You Eat, the Faster You Build Muscles?

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          Last Updated on March 13, 2019

          How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

          How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

          Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

          You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

          Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

          1. Work on the small tasks.

          When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

          Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

          2. Take a break from your work desk.

          Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

          Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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          3. Upgrade yourself

          Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

          The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

          4. Talk to a friend.

          Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

          Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

          5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

          If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

          Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

          Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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          6. Paint a vision to work towards.

          If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

          Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

          Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

          7. Read a book (or blog).

          The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

          Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

          Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

          8. Have a quick nap.

          If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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          9. Remember why you are doing this.

          Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

          What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

          10. Find some competition.

          Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

          Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

          11. Go exercise.

          Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

          Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

          As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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          Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

          12. Take a good break.

          Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

          Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

          Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

          Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

          More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

          Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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