What is ‘the pump’? And is it beneficial for gaining muscle?

The ‘Pump’ is a phrase commonly used by many bodybuilders and gym goers. But what is the pump, what does it do to our bodies and is it beneficial for gaining muscle?

What is the pump?

The pump is a colloquial term for acute hypertrophy and muscle cellular swelling. Which is a temporary enlargement of certain muscles due to increased blood flow to that area. It is a feeling of tightness and swelling of the muscles. It usually lasts around 20-30 minutes, fading faster if other muscles are subsequently worked.

How does it work?

When you exercise your heart rate goes up and your blood pressure increases to help increase the circulation of blood. The blood carries oxygen and essential nutrients to the muscles, as well as extracting waste products and lactic acid.

If you only perform a few repetitions of an exercise, this will not be sufficient to draw enough blood into the working muscle. Similarly if you perform hundreds of repetitions of an exercise like the chest fly, the weight or load may not be sufficient to draw the blood into the working muscle. For example, when flat walking the load is usually not sufficient on your Quads or Calves to draw sufficient blood to feel a pump. The pump usually begins to occur after the 15-20 repetition range with a moderate to light weight.

What are the benefits of the pump?

A variety of research has shown multiple benefits for the pump, including:

Increased protein synthesis (uptake rate of protein from stomach to muscles)

Decreased protein breakdown (breakdown of using protein as energy)

Increased blood flow and cellular swelling is also beneficial for tendon and ligament strength and reparation.

Do you need the pump to build muscle?

In a word, no. Strength athletes, strongmen and Powerlifters do not workout to achieve the pump. Yet they have a huge amount of muscle.

Bodybuilders however, are the ones who are lifting weights to maximise muscle size, growth and also body symmetry. There is definitely benefits in this form of training if you’re looking to develop the largest, most symmetrical physique.

How to integrate pump training into your workout.

Techniques such as pre-exhaustion and super-setting exercises is a great way to increase blood flow into the target muscles. Using resistance bands is also a fantastic way to train the muscles throughout the range of motion, as they increase resistance at the point of peak muscular contraction. Even supplementing your diet with Beetroot can increase blood flow, and adding in Creatine will increase your water retention and increase your pump too.

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