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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

Is the Pump Necessary for Muscle Growth?

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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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          More by this author

          Florian Wüest

          Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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          Last Updated on September 23, 2021

          Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

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          Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

          Think you can’t get a great workout or build muscle with your body weight? think again. Getting fit doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple, safe, and effective with bodyweight workouts you can do anytime and anywhere for the rest of your life.

          Regardless of whether you are an athlete, recreational exercise enthusiast, or someone who hasn’t lifted anything but small children or everyday household items, using your body weight as resistance is one of the best ways to get and keep your body in tip-top shape for years to come.

          What Is Bodyweight Training?

          Bodyweight training or workout uses your body as resistance and is essential for gaining and maintaining muscles, especially as you age. According to the National Institute of Health, beginning as early as age 30, we gradually lose muscle mass and strength as a natural part of the aging process.[1] The rate of loss varies from person to person and will increase due to a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutritional selections. If you don’t do anything about it, the average human will lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade. But there is excellent news. With the addition of daily movement, weekly strength training, and proper nutritional choices, gaining muscle is more straightforward than you will expect.

          If you want to build confidence, endurance, move better, feel stronger, and lose weight, start with bodyweight workouts. Your body is one of the most fantastic fitness machines ever created to handle life’s physical demands and challenges, and it is always available to you. With a bit of effort, consistency, and proper progressive programming, you will not only improve your fitness level, but you will also continue to feel mentally focused, and you might even minimize the effects of the aging process.

            Photo Credit: Kaileen Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Photography

            Need more convincing?

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            Jane M. Taylor, MS, CSCS, PN L1, Owner/Coach of Raw Fitness Performance, says:

            “Mastering bodyweight strength is crucial if you plan to add strength training to your overall fitness plan. Having coached thousands of athletes, adults, teens, and kids, I apply the same movement paradigm to everyone, especially beginners.

            First, can you get in position? In other words, do you have proper mobility and stability? You do? Great.

            Next, can you get in and out of position? That’s bodyweight strength—movement with control.

            Spending time practicing bodyweight workouts is time well spent. Not worrying about an external load allows you to groove the movement, laying down the foundation and establishing the fundamentals to eventually express more significant amounts of strength with weights when you are ready to progress.

            Not only that, no matter where you go, you’ll NEVER miss a workout!”

            Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises

            Here are 12 benefits that will motivate and excite you to put your body to work.

            1. It helps improve any muscle imbalances, especially from rounded shoulders and tight hips from sitting too long (hello, new work from the home model).
            2. It works the whole body.
            3. It lays down an excellent foundation for future weighted programming.
            4. It helps improve strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and coordination.
            5. It can increase your confidence.
            6. It saves time going to the gym.
            7. It can be done anywhere, so there is never an excuse not to work out.
            8. No equipment is necessary.
            9. It never gets boring.
            10. It’s free.
            11. It’s great for any body type.

            Will I Build Muscles With Just My Body Weight?

            Yes!! Following an intense workout, muscle fibers break down and need to repair. It’s during this repair phase that the muscles will strengthen and grow. Note that for this process to occur, the body must be pushed outside of its comfort zone. Using external resistance, aka free weights, barbells, or bands, will speed up this process and is a fantastic addition to any strength program, but it is doable with just your body weight.

            As you improve, the trick is to continue changing your training variable (sets, reps, intensity, time under tension). Once you have mastered your technique, it is time to take it to the next level by mixing high-intensity exercises with exercises performed slowly, focusing on engaging the muscle during the contraction phase, which I will demonstrate in the video.

            Let’s break down a few beginner exercises and body parts to get you started.

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            First, there are seven basic movements the body can perform; pushing, pulling, hinging, squatting, twisting, skipping, jumping. From these seven, there are many different variations for each body part which I will show you below. With bodyweight workouts, you work all your muscles, including your heart, as you elevate your endurance.

            1. Back – Plank Push-Ups, Back Extensions
            2. Chest – Push-Ups, Incline Regular, High to Low Plank
            3. Arms – Modified Side Plank, Side Plank Hip Drop, Dips
            4. Core/Hips – Planks (high and low; you may perform off your kitchen counter), Elevated Mt Climbers, Opposite Arm Leg Reach, Bear Crawl Hold, Isometric Knee Press (Single and Double Knee Hold), Heel Drops (Single and Double Heel Drop), Deadbug, Crunches, Floor Bridge
            5. Legs/Hips
            6. Quadriceps – Seated Bent Knee Extensions, Seated Straight Leg Lift
            7. Hips – Side Leg Raise, Deadlifts, Prone Leg Lifts, Glute Extensions
            8. Squats – Chair Squat, Step Out Squat, Plie Squat, Wall Squat Hold
            9. Lunges – Step Ups, Stationary, Side Lunge, Curtsy Lunge, Swing Lunge

            Designing a Bodyweight Workout Program

            With bodyweight workouts, the variety is endless and can be applied to any current life situation. Whether you have 10 minutes or an hour, use the simple format below to keep your muscles constantly guessing. If you are just starting, begin with 20 minutes twice a week for two to four weeks. As your fitness level improves, increase the time and amount of days/week.

            The greatest thing about bodyweight workouts is there are multiple variations, and you will never get bored. Select an exercise from each category. Always starting with a movement that works numerous muscles at once ex push-ups and squats, then move to exercises that work smaller muscles, aka dips for the triceps.

            Best Beginner Total Body Workout

            Beginner: two times a week

            (Repeat 2 x 10 to 15 repetitions)

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            1. Plank Push-Ups

            1. Begin on your elbows on an elevated surface such as your kitchen counter or dining table.
            2. Step your feet back and together so you are supporting your body weight on your elbows.
            3. Maintain a straight line from the top of your head to your toes.
            4. At the same time, brace your core by pulling your stomach muscles in towards the back of the body and begin to retract your shoulder blades as if you are squeezing a pencil, then push the counter away with your core and elbows and come back to the starting position.
            5. Perform the prescribed repetitions (reps).
            6. Your whole body should move as a unit.

            2. Push-Ups

            1. Begin by placing your hands shoulder-width apart on an elevated surface such as your kitchen counter or dining table.
            2. Step your feet back and together so you are supporting your body weight on your hands, maintaining a straight line from the top of your head to your toes.
            3. At the same time, brace your core by pulling your stomach muscles in towards the back of the body and begin to bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the counter, then straighten your arms and push back up to the starting position.
            4. Perform the prescribed reps.
            5. Your whole body should move as a unit.

            3. Step-Out Squat

            1. Begin standing with your feet together.
            2. Step out to the right and lower your hips back behind you, pushing through the heels. Keep the knees behind the toes.
            3. Stand up and step together, tucking the tailbone under and squeezing the butt at the top.
            4. Perform the prescribed reps.
            5. Repeat on the left.

            4. Stationary Lunge

            1. Step out about hip bone/hip distance.
            2. Step the right foot back and stagger your stance about the same distance as the length of your leg.
            3. Keep the back heel off the ground and begin to bend into both legs, lowering your body towards the floor.
            4. Be sure to place more of your body weight through your front heel and keep the front knee behind the toe.
            5. Perform the prescribed reps.

            5. Hip Bridge

            1. Lie on your back, either on the floor or couch.
            2. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.
            3. Press through the feet, squeeze your butt and press the hips to the sky.
            4. Lower down 1/2 way, then repeat.
            5. Perform the prescribed reps.

            6. Isometric Knee Press

            Depending on your core strength, begin with one side at a time or both legs on a tabletop.

            Level 1: Single-Leg Knee Press

            1. Lie on your back, either on the floor or couch.
            2. Bend your knees and place your right foot on the floor.
            3. Keeping the left knee bent, bring it up off the floor into a 90°-angle (otherwise known as tabletop position).
            4. Place the left hand on your thigh.
            5. At the same time, push your hand into your thigh and thigh into your hand. You should feel your abdominals contract.
            6. Hold that contraction for 10 sec, then pause.
            7. Perform the prescribed reps.
            8. Switch sides.

            Level 2: Double Knee Press

            1. The exact format as above, only this time, both legs will be in tabletop.
            2. Keep the abdominals braced for 10 sec, then pause.
            3. Perform the prescribed reps.

            Conclusion

            If your goal is to move and feel better in your body and continue to progress to an advanced fitness level, begin with bodyweight workouts. Not only will it lay down a solid foundation, but it will also help you minimize injury and give you the confidence to keep progressing to more challenging workouts.

            Commit to yourself and future strength gains by incorporating bodyweight workouts into your weekly routine. I promise you won’t be sorry.

            More Beginner Workouts You Can Try

            Featured photo credit: Fortune Vieyra via unsplash.com

            Reference

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