The pump during muscle building – Already Arnold Schwarzenegger compared the pump during training with an orgasm during sex. Many athletes strive daily like this for maximum pump during workouts, and there are even various supplements and boosters designed just to enhance this effect.
Everyone who deals with strength training and muscle building sooner or later comes across the topic of pump training.
In addition, one hears many men often say "This exercise gives me a really good pump" or "I ate yesterday particularly many carbohydrates, today there is a horny pump training!".
Even if this feeling is without question a lot of fun – is the pump effect so important at all?? What is its importance especially in the context of successful muscle building during strength training?
This article should give you clarity and an overview of the essential factors of muscle building or. what the pump effect has to do with it or not with it.
- What is the Pump?
- How to successfully build muscle?
- How to effectively integrate the pump into your workout
- Conclusion: Pump muscle building – Really better results?
What is the pump?
Before we clarify how and if the pump is related to muscle building, we must first understand what the pump actually is in the first place.
The pump effect is simply the swelling of a muscle due to a previous load. The muscle becomes temporarily larger and plumper due to increased blood flow.
Looks cool and it is no wonder that the pump is often so emulated.
Within a few minutes, the size of a muscle changes and it feels much harder and more voluminous. We look immediately bigger, stronger and more muscular … Unfortunately, this effect does not last very long.
The pump – undoubtedly an awesome experience . but is it also beneficial?
In order to create the intended pump effect, it is more effective to perform a high number of repetitions and only very short set rests.
Super sets within a muscle group or drop sets also increase the pump effect, although both intensity techniques basically only serve to complete many repetitions in a short time.
The motto for an optimal muscle pump are therefore easy and many repetitions.
(Just like most of the training plans from all the magazines and pretty much the exact opposite of what I preach on this blog and in my books *sigh*.)
To understand exactly what happens during the pump, we need to take a closer look at our muscles.
What happens while we move weights?
During a repetition, the muscle contracts to overcome a certain resistance.
Here, the distance between the Z-disks within a sarcomere is shortened by the filament proteins actin and myosin. The underlying biological process consumes ATP and during each contraction so-called metabolic intermediates, the so-called metabolites, are produced.
One of them is the well known lactate, which is formed in and around the muscle cells. 1
On the one hand, the muscle, by which the metabolites are produced, is supplied with more blood, which should transport them away.
In addition, the metabolites draw water into the muscle cells, which increases blood flow.
Due to the swelling of the muscle by blood and water, the blood vessels are "squeezed" and less fluid can be removed than flows in.
Thus the musculature works plumper and nothing else is the pump effect.
This also explains why the pump effect only lasts a few minutes.
As soon as the veins have their original cross-section again, blood, water and the metabolic intermediates are transported away and the muscle reaches its original (unfortunately smaller) size.
Even if it strengthens the ego, the pump effect is long gone when entering a disco. Unless your gym is right next to the discotheque.
(If it should be the intention of some men to impress the womankind with especially squeezed muscles … unfortunately.)
Back to the Pump Effect.
So the more often we make a muscle contract, the more metabolites accumulate, and as just explained, the popular pump thus becomes greater.
So it is important, if you want to achieve the greatest possible pump with your training, to complete as many repetitions as possible in as little time as possible.
If you are dissatisfied with your pump, you can achieve more effect by doing more reps per set so that you produce more metabolites.
Also, you can take fewer set breaks to keep the blood from draining or you can do more sets and thus favor both.
For a better understanding I would like to quote concrete numbers.
As a rule, you get the best pump with sets from approx. 12 repetitions and set breaks of maximum 90 seconds. The less break time, the better. Filled glycogen stores by a certain amount of carbohydrates can be equally helpful.
Whereas we all probably know that 15 repetitions of squats with 30 seconds set rest is certainly not pleasant. Therefore the guideline with a maximum of 90 seconds.
So much for the pure pump effect.
But now let’s clarify its effect on muscle growth and whether pump training apart from the visual effects also promotes hypertrophy – or not.
How to build muscle successfully?
According to science, there are actually only two factors, respectively. Mechanisms that cause hypertrophy.
This is the mechanical tension and metabolic stress. 3
You have heard it perhaps already often, nevertheless possibly not completely internalized. I explain it again briefly.
The mechanical tension is the component caused purely by the load of the barbell and the force of gravity. In weight training we call this combination intensity.
This can be seen relatively or absolutely.
In absolute terms, the intensity can of course be infinite. This is unrealistic – however, it should be aimed at. The increase in absolute intensity is, in simple terms, the increase in strength.
To pump or not to pump – That is the question .
Metabolic stress – as the name suggests – describes the stressor a muscle feels during metabolic processes. So the stress which is caused by the contraction.
Let us recall the background of the pump effect.
The pump occurs and becomes stronger when more metabolites have to be removed.
So it is always a byproduct of a lot of metabolic stress. Here the circle closes and we uncover a myth that has arisen due to false conclusions.
Pump training is not muscle building, but occurs when metabolic stress is accumulated.
So if you are building muscle, and often have a strong pump, you are building muscle not because of the pump, but because of metabolic stress and this in turn creates the pump.
So you can not directly blame the pump effect for the muscle gain.
Does pump training help to build muscle better?
Finally, the question remains – which is better??
A high metabolic stress (even if a pump training does not directly lead to muscle building) or heavy weights with a high mechanical stress?
First of all, I would like to give a Meta-analysis by Schoenfeld et al. which was meant to clarify exactly this question. 4
In 2017, a total of 21 studies met the criteria of Schoenfeld and his colleagues and made it into the further analyses and they examined the effects of training with a high load (high mechanical tension) compared to the effects of training with a lower load (but high metabolic stress + increased blood flow).
Both types of training built the same amount of muscle and no significant differences in hypertrophy were found.
This exciting study from 2015 also found similar results. 5
Here 33 men were divided into 2 groups over 8 weeks.
One group did 10-12 reps per set with a one minute set break, while the second group did 3-5 reps and rested 3 minutes between sets.
So we have a good comparison here between training with a lot of pump and a high metabolic stress and training with heavy weights and a high mechanical stress.
Again: Both groups achieved similar results, with the higher intensity group building insignificantly slightly more muscle.
But there is a but and in my opinion we are reaching the limits of science here.
While over the course of, say, 8 weeks, a good training program didn’t seem to find a significant difference in the two types of loads, there were still clear differences in the development of maximum strength.
In both the meta-analysis by Schoenfeld et al. and also in the 8 weeks of Mangine et al. the subjects who trained with a heavier weight (and placed less emphasis on pump training) always became significantly stronger.
This is enormously important to know resp. their long-term effects are important to recognize.
Is the pump effect therefore pointless?
While training with a high muscle pump is definitely fun – it still shouldn’t be the focus of one’s workouts.
While both mechanical tension and metabolic stress are drivers of hypertrophy – progressive overload of these two drivers is critical to success in the long run. 6
Strength is necessary for this.
If you miss out on getting stronger and stronger, you will never be able to effectively increase the workload in your training and will stagnate sooner rather than later.
For this reason it is an absolute necessity to choose a type of training that also favors the buildup of strength.
If there were long-term studies here over many months and years, I’m sure this would also be clearly established – but there will be no such thing and this is almost impossible to implement cleanly ..
Nevertheless, practice proves exactly that and if you want to build a lot of muscle – especially as a natural athlete – you need to get strong and stronger and stronger.
This is the path to long-term success in muscle building.
How to effectively integrate the pump into your training
So on closer inspection, the pump is not really helpful in building muscle.
Nevertheless, it provides an increased muscle protein synthesis after the workout. 6
In addition, it is sometimes fun to be pumped up like a deer and this can keep the motivation up in the long run.
(For me personally, the muscle pump is like a kind of preview of my future self, how I can soon look without pump – and that motivates me immensely).)
Even if the pump has less to do with the pure muscle building, it is still a definitely nice side effect, which among other things has also ensured that I stayed on the ball.
If the muscle pump is important to you, you can definitely incorporate it into your workout.
The best and most effective way to build muscle is, as I always say, in the major basic and compound exercises to become stronger. This does not change.
The majority of your workout should be primarily heavy compound exercises and you should focus on getting stronger in those exercises.
Sometimes, however, one finds weaknesses, or simply wants to accumulate a little more volume without putting even more stress on the nervous system.
For this purpose, assistance exercises are suitable to a lesser extent.
If you do 80% basic exercises and focus on steadily increasing mechanical tension, you still have 20% of your workout left to fill with isolation exercises.
This makes training fun – but it should not be the other way around.
Also, for example short rest periods are always clearly inferior to longer rest periods, when it comes to strength and the associated muscle building. 7 8
You can find out exactly how to plan this in your training in the Elite Training Workbook:
With science to more muscles, strength& Aesthetics
The Elite Training Workbook is the new science of muscle building!
Exercises such as side raises are wonderful here to add the finishing touches to your look. Here it is then: Pump what the stuff holds and let the shoulders burst.
However, focusing on the pump effect in the basic exercises is anything but advisable. (!)
Here execution and control is clearly more important than muscle feeling to get strong.
So the muscle pump is not necessary for one’s own success, but it can be fun and can definitely be integrated into one’s own training routine.
Conclusion: Pump muscle building – Really better results?
If it occurs, then the pump is undoubtedly a nice side effect of one’s training.
Especially whenever the own body fat percentage quite low is and the own musculature so correctly to the validity comes. However, it is just that – a nice side effect.
Neither should the pump be consciously forced, nor was a training not purposeful, if the pump was absent.
If you spend your entire fitness career just chasing the muscle pump and do one isolation exercise after the next, and that in the best case exclusively in the repetition range of 12 repetitions and more, you will probably rather experience the disappointment with his training ..
On the other hand, if you focus your strength training on progressive overload in the big basic and compound exercises, manage to get stronger and stronger, you will be rewarded with gainz.
So if you’re a heavy bender, lifter and presser – you’re welcome to curl a little at the end of your workout … and get that muscle pump too.
Have fun with it and enjoy the pump when it comes, happy to preview the future you.
How do you stand on the subject of pump? Do you consciously train according to it and is it important for you?? Let me know in the comments.
What is pump anyway??
The pump is basically only, the swelling of a muscle / muscle group. The swelling or enlargement takes place due to the increased blood flow.
How do I get pump?
Who would have thought it – by training! You should have consumed enough water before the workout, also it is suitable directly before the workout 1-2g salt and a pumpbooster to consume.
How is the pump effect created??
During the contraction in the muscle arise metabolic intermediates (metabolites). Muscles that produce metabolites are supplied with more blood, and they also draw water into the muscle cells. Due to this swelling, blood vessels are compressed and the blood cannot flow out so easily. This is the pump effect.
Does pump help build muscle?
As several studies have shown, it makes no significant difference to muscle growth whether you train in the high or low repetition range as long as you are close to muscle failure. However, in the point of maximum strength it is clear that a training plan in the low repetition range ensures that one becomes stronger and can move more weight. The pump has no influence on it.
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Hey Sjard, As always a good and crisp short blog post. It always looks funny when the disco pumpers do their isolation exercises and at the end of almost every exercise they try everything again to get the pump. But then they seem to be people with a bad self-esteem. Why do you need the opinion of others to continue for "YOURSELF"? to train? The one or the other makes that also gladly before the beach which is quite funny above all if then the women mumble that he is actually full the rag, also again and again funny to look at. To the actual topic: At least for me the pump was not important, I have the pump more often, but I don’t radiate it to the outside, but I focus on my hypertrophic training. But good that you are also so "smaller topics Sporty greetings Oliver / Olli not with an "l" but 2 !
Hi all. I came across your book on Fb and from that to your post here. ? So the pump itself is already crass, when you can hardly stretch your arms and the triceps feels nasty swollen. But my focus is also on basic exercises and getting stronger. A friend of mine follows at home a system with 10 Wdh.and 10 sets. Rest times are 20 sec. He looks like an animal and also brings 112kg on the scale. He means he does not want to damage the joints and Co.let it get scrapped by too high weights and from there it uses already for a long time this system. In the beginning the weight just flies because you take less of it,but the last sets kill one then. ? I think this is also not bad and you get besides the pump and the risk of injury is reduced by the low weight. Best regards Pierre. Ps: Will continue reading your book. Came just to the beginning where your link here drin stande.?
I do not need this pump, I am long out of the age. Muscle building is the only true. In the gym, people can pose as they want, I ignore that.