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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 25, 2020

          How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

          How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

          When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

          So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

          1. Exercise

          It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

          2. Drink in Moderation

          I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

          3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

          Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

          4. Watch Less Television

          A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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          Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

          5. Eat Less Red Meat

          Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

          If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

          6. Don’t Smoke

          This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

          7. Socialize

          Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

          8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

          Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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          9. Be Optimistic

          Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

          10. Own a Pet

          Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

          11. Drink Coffee

          Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

          12. Eat Less

          Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

          13. Meditate

          Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

          Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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          How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

          14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

          Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

          15. Laugh Often

          Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

          16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

          Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

          17. Cook Your Own Food

          When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

          Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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          18. Eat Mushrooms

          Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

          19. Floss

          Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

          20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

          Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

          Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

          21. Have Sex

          Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

          More Health Tips

          Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

          Reference

          [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
          [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
          [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
          [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
          [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
          [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
          [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
          [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
          [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
          [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
          [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
          [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
          [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
          [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
          [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
          [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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