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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

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.

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          Florian Wüest

          Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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          Last Updated on March 3, 2021

          10 Workout Tips for Building Muscle the Right Way

          10 Workout Tips for Building Muscle the Right Way

          Building muscle is one of the best ways to help you feel better about your appearance, but it’s also a great way to improve your physical efficiency, stabilize your bones and joints, and reduce risk of injury in everyday life. However, most people aren’t sure how to go about building muscle in the best way.

          By carefully selecting the time of your workout, the combination of techniques, and the proper post-workout snacks, you can maximize your workout to build strength and muscle. Here are the essential tips you need to know.

          1. Work out at the Right Time of Day

          The time of day when you choose to work out can make all the difference when it comes to working out to your maximum potential. Anthony Hackney, a professor in the department of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, says that working out in the morning is best for weight loss due to the body’s hormonal composition at that time. If you really want to lose fat, exercise on an empty stomach[1].

          Now, if your goal is to build muscle, you’ll want to eat something first. This means that an afternoon or evening workout can serve you better as your body will have the necessary nutrients to perform well during a workout.

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          Ultimately, the best time to work out is the time of day that fits into your schedule. Not everyone has the luxury of working out in the morning or right after work. If you’re able to stick to a schedule, it will help you on your journey to building muscle.

          If you need help just getting started and finding motivation to get to the gym, check out Lifehack’s Ultimate Worksheet for Instant Motivation Boost.

          2. Weights Before Cardio

          If your goal is to lose weight or build muscle mass, strength training should come first, according to researchers. Furthermore, studies have shown that “Moderate- to high-intensity endurance training decreases the efficacy of strength training.” Therefore, if you’re going to train for a marathon, do so after you lift weights.[2]

          3. Eat Often (and More)

          Keep your energy up and give your body plenty of fuel for building muscle by eating small meals every three hours or so. Make sure to eat plenty of protein, ideally the equivalent amount of protein in grams as your current body weight in pounds. For example, a 150-pound man would aim to take in 150 grams of protein per day.

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          When trying to build muscle, aim to eat 250 to 500 calories more than you normally would, but don’t go too far beyond that. Your body may store the extra calories as body fat if it doesn’t use them during or after the workout.

          4. Eat a Snack After You Work out

          After a workout, your body will need a good dose of protein and amino acids in order to aid in muscle growth and recovery. This is essential to building muscle, as without the recovery, you can open yourself up to muscle strain and injury.

          You should aim to eat this high-protein snack within about 60 minutes of ending your workout. This will help the muscles absorb the nutrients when they need them. Try yogurt, cottage cheese, chocolate milk, nuts, or a protein shake as a great post-workout snack.

          5. Stay Hydrated

          The last thing you need complicating your workout is a cramp or fatigue, so drinking water before, during, and after your workout for best results. This will also aid in the recovery process as the muscles will use water to heal.

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          6. Never Skip the Warm up or Cool Down

          Stretching prevents muscle strain, helps blood more easily reach the joints and muscles, and can help lower cholesterol when done as part of a yoga or Pilates routine. Muscles also need to realign themselves after an intense workout, which a few minutes of stretching can help to accomplish.

          7. Combine Compound and Isolate Movements

          While isolating certain muscles is important, you need to alternate compound motions as well, which will target multiple muscle groups at once. Compound workouts are good for beginners and for toning certain parts of the body. They’ll also burn more calories and increase your mobility.

          Compound movements include squats, deadlifts, and pull-ups. These target several muscles groups at once. If you find that one muscle group is weaker than the rest, you can incorporate isolate movements to build it up.

          8. Gradually Increase Your Weights

          Increase the weight you’re lifting on each exercise by about 5 percent each week. If you bench-pressed 100 pounds this week, for example, then next week you should try doing 105 pounds. This gradual increase will yield the best muscle building results without overly straining your body.

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          9. Budget the Correct Amount of Time for Your Workout

          Studies have found that working out a muscle group two times a week is the best way to start building muscle more quickly. You will certainly see some results by only working a muscle group once a week, but try twice to give yourself a boost.

          Also, you don’t need to spend two hours in the gym each time you go. 20 to 30 minutes of weight lifting and strength training will help you see results and increase your muscle mass. If you go to the gym for an hour, try varying your workout a bit in order to avoid overworking a certain muscle group.

          10. Look in the Mirror

          Try to do all of your weight lifting in front of a mirror. That way, you can correct your posture and make sure you are fully extending your muscles. Correct form means means maximized results.

          This will likely feel strange at first, especially if you feel self conscious at the gym. However, know that this is normal and what many seasoned weight lifters do to ensure proper form.

          The Bottom Line

          Building muscle is a worthy goal to have as it will ultimately improve your everyday life from the ground up. You’ll find that everyday tasks become easier and that you have more energy for both your workouts and personal life. Use the tips above to start building muscle today.

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          Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

          Reference

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