Workout jargon can be confusing to many, but whether you know it or not, "the pump" is a highly sought after feeling. Sure, it may sound like a badly named energy drink, but the pump refers to the swelling your muscles undergo during a workout—you know, when your biceps swell and feel like they're big enough to rival those of The Incredible Hulk!
The pump effect comes from more blood flow to your working tissues, which means more oxygen and nutrient delivery to your target muscles. Simply put, getting a great pump not only feels like a million bucks, but it can improve your results from training. The fascia surrounding the muscles experiences more stretch, which can lead to greater gains, and hungry muscles receive more of the "food" they need.
Are you pumped to get pumped? These eight tips will help you pump up your results!
1 Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
If you think about it, something that is dehydrated—such as dried fruit—looks almost lifeless and shriveled. On the contrary, when something like, say a tomato, is full of water, it appears plump, full, and appetizing. Think of your muscles in a similar way. Keeping yourself well-hydrated means greater blood volume and fluid to fill your veins and arteries and amplify the pump effect. Make sure you drink at least 2-3 cups of water in the hours leading up to and during your workout, and then continually hydrate yourself throughout the day.
Bear in mind that your total water intake includes the H2O used to mix your pre-workout. You do take a pre-workout, right? An ingredient such as inositol arginine silicate (aka Nitrosigine)—which has a higher bioavailability than regular arginine—helps your blood vessels relax, leading to increased blood flow and, yep, a righteous pump when you flex in the gym mirror.
2 Carb Up For More Muscle Fullness
Taking in enough carbs before your workout is clutch. IFBB Hall of Famer Rich Gaspari explains, "Your muscles need to be filled with glycogen while you're training if you want an insane muscle pump. The glycogen is not only a source of energy that can fuel a workout, but it's also critical to making your muscles look big and full."
This is the reason someone may look "flat" on a low-carb diet despite the sheer volume of actual work the person is doing. Try to garner a pump when on a low-carb diet; it is extremely challenging. "As your body pulls carbohydrates into the muscle cell, it's also going to be pulling in water," explains Gaspari.
If you're on a low-carb diet, the best thing you can do is time all your carbs to be ingested around your training sessions. This may help boost your pump and improve workout recovery.
3 Hold The Squeeze
Don't just go through the motions of your workout like an automaton. Maximize the benefits by forcefully contracting your working muscles. In other words, "squeeze" the working muscle at the peak of each repetition.
"Slow down the speed of each rep and really focus on the mind-muscle connection as you contract as hard as possible throughout the movement," recommends Rich.
He believes that using the squeeze technique alongside a rep range of 10-12 reps per set will bear the juiciest fruits of your labor. On the other hand, if your reps reach the 15-20 rep range and you hardly break a sweat, you'll need to kick it up a notch, lest you want to ignore deeper muscle activation.
4 Add Superset Training
Superset training ensures intense muscle pumps. A superset is when you stack exercises back-to-back with no rest in-between. This type of training is efficient and increases blood flow to the working muscles as fatigue builds up. Rich prefers lumping biceps and triceps exercises together: he does 3-4 supersets to power through his workout with lightning efficiency. This forces so much blood into the muscles that they feel like they might explode. He recommends taking your rep ranges into the 12-15 rep range here.
5 Dropset For Extreme Pumps
The dropset is IFBB pro Collin Wasiak's preferred technique to evoke the almighty pump. In a dropset, you continue the same exercise with a lower weight once you reach muscular failure at a higher weight. This pushes your muscles past the point of fatigue. With each successive drop, more blood rushes into the cells, strengthening the overall effect of the pump. Aim to drop the weight twice, doing three sets per dropset.
6 Get Motivated With Music
If there's one thing that universally gets people in the groove, it's the right kind of music with the right amount of intensity. Collin strongly believes in a good playlist to jam and train to, since it can keep motivation and efforts high. Bobbing your head to the right tempo can, in turn, help you coerce your body to work harder. We all know that the harder we push, the better the pump. Whether it's James Brown or heavy metal, work out to the beat of your favorite tunes!
7 Shorten Your Rest Periods
There's no rest for the man who seeks the pump. Decreasing your rest time can elicit a greater pump effect. The shorter your rest periods, the more blood will shoot through muscle tissue, leading to that feeling of absolute swollness. Just avoid killing yourself to the point at which you have to significantly dial back on the weights; that might temper the raw benefits. Aim to rest no more than 30-60 seconds when you're chasing a mean pump.
8 Slow Down Your Tempo
One of the best ways to ensure a strong muscle contraction, and subsequent muscular development, is to perform each rep more slowly. This tip especially is helpful for those of you who typically lift with a faster tempo. By slowing it down to controlled movements of the exercise, you increase the time under tension, which will let you zone-in on the aforementioned "squeeze" and can lead to better gains. Couple this with short rest periods for a killer effect.