The Pump: benefits and pluses

Pumping is not a new word in bodybuilding. Even once did every experienced builder pump his muscles. It is hard to describe how you feel of doing it. But as soon as you feel it, you understand – this is it! Muscle increased so much that you don’t coordinate you legs and hands and skin stretches like ready to burst. But the main thing is the mirror look, of course. It is a miracle! Furthermore, physicians persuade us that pump with little weights can increase volume of the loaded muscle of 20%. 

Don’t listen to those who convince that pimping is just one of the techniques, another usual method of muscle gain. It is not true. Pumping has cerebral character, i.e. it relates to brain work. It happens due to a tangible intervention in physiology and mechanisms of the nervous regulation of blood flow. It leads to the state close to euphoria, your brain, simply say, goes high.

What is the pump?

This is easy in theory. During multiply reps of only one motion imitating the pump action, we fill the muscle with blood. But this is only the beginning.

At the moment when you feel that muscle get pumped with blood, you should increase your tempo. As a result, through your muscle flows more blood than it can flow out. Not finding an exit from the muscle blood pumps every muscle fiber and cell. So muscle begin puff up and (men understand what I mean, especially in the morning).

Arguing about benefits of the pumping began from the first day of bodybuilding. Of course, nobody doubt that pumping stimulate the muscle growth. The sense is that pump opponents assert there are more effective methods to build the muscle. Let’s deal with it!

Reps or weights?

Before giving an answer we should understand what is going on in muscles during exercises with different intensity. 

When we practice low repetition sets with big weights we use “white” fibers which generate speed and force. They are also called fast twitch muscle fibers. Such a load gives good growth of strength and muscle hypertrophy. This is the muscle growth itself.

Unfortunately, intensity level of such a hypertrophy is not so high. The bright example is weightlifters. These guys selectively load white fibers but don’t become bigger with time.

Rank amateurs have other problems. They have not so many “fast” fibers in muscles. Forced training with low reps sets will not give enough result for them. Furthermore, red fibers, that have more quantity, don’t react on such stimulation or react just a little bit. 

In 60’s years of the last century bodybuilders practiced another method on the contrary all the mentioned above, so called “long” sets. During one set there were made 20 reps and more. Today sports physicians and specialists unanimously say that such high-reps sets are useless if the target is muscle gain. Why is it so?. It is easy. High-reps set includes using of small weights and they cannot stimulate hypertrophy, alas. That’s why they are useless.

Does it mean that pumping can be taken out of the circulation? Not on your life! The pumping should be related to average quantity of reps per set. I.e. balanced scheme of training consist of high-reps sets (8-12 reps for upper body, 14-18 reps for lower body). Just so scheme satisfies main requirement of muscle growth: the muscle should be under load not less than one minute.

By the way there is an interesting fact: every rep lasts only few seconds and this means that summary quantity of reps should be equal to one minute or more summary time of contractions.

From this pile of information we can make one outcome: there is minimum efficiency threshold in building (we have already written about minimum load that gives an effect in article “Minimum effective load”).

So if you are simple average rank amateur in sports world and try to decrease quantity of reps to 3-6 in stiff hardcore training style, you will get nothing except injuries and overload.

Even if you can work on “proper” high-reps scheme, it is not a guarantee that you’ll be the best: doing exercise you should train hard trying to achieve the failure. It is not enough just pumping the iron, it gives nothing. You should establish the connection between brain and muscle, in other word, feel the muscle.

All this is only half of business. The main thing is that every exercise should finish with feeling that blood pumped in muscle can burst both muscle and skin right now. This feeling can be achieved only with time and experience.

Without jokes, sports physicians make serious statement: body of sportsmen who have great experience of gym’s work redirect biggest volume of blood flow to the loaded muscle at the beginning of the exercise. So pumping in this case has 100% of result. Amateurs haven’t such a process. Probably, this is the reason of debates about pump impact on amateurs who have not visible effect and on professionals who always have it.

Gunter Schlierkamp, a professional from IFBB has a weight approximately 140 kilos. From his words, people become very amazing when see his working weights. They are not small but it can’t be said they are super hard. Gunter says all his mass is a result of regular pump practice.

High-reps training has one minus. It is a muscle pain that occurred due to accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle. Existing of this acid in the muscle is not only the result of anaerobic metabolism, but a signal: body synthesizes natural anabolic substances including growth hormone. Simply say, if you feel pain in muscles, you may sleep well, they are growing.

So train so hard until you feel pain in the muscle in the end of each set. At least, feel burning. You shouldn’t stop the exercise at this moment, because don’t expect the growth without overcoming pain threshold. No pain, no gain, you know. Be careful: you should differ “proper, right” pain in muscles occurred because of lactic acid and pain caused by injuries of muscles, joints, tendons or ligaments. In this case you should stop training immediately and visit a doctor.

The interim findings

If trust Craig Titus words pump is an indispensable method for beginners. Only that important is not to be caught in the trap. All the beginners attending the gym lose their heads of the first, very small, to be honest, results. They begin to compete: who can press more, who can lift more and who can squat more. It is ok when big monster men have fun. But youths, who trained only with light bar a month ago – it’s a full thing. Furthermore, it’s dangerous – workout with maximum weights (even if they are not so big, but maximum for beginners) exhausting the body very fast.

On the contrary, pumping allow to prepare the body to real big weights and give the opportunity to understand the technique. And yes, pumping can be done with very serious weights.

Craig, for example, tells that he has some “rule”, “rule of two hundred kilos”. He never works with weights more than two hundred kilos . Even though he can do it, he never does it. It concerns all the exercises. 

Thus, it is recommended to every sportsman establish the limit weight for yourself due to your abilities and demands, power, anamnesis and so on. It’s because of pump gives excellent mass gain but not exhausting and stressful work with enormous weights.

We repeat once more all mentioned above: pumping muscles with blood is very, very useful. Pluses from such training protocol are undoubted:

  • Blood flow brings to the muscle additional oxygen and nutrients;
  • Muscle becomes more adopted to loads;
  • Muscles recover faster; 
  • Blood flow out the lactic acid from the muscle faster;
  • Blood acidity recovers faster that leads to faster recovery of the whole body;
  • The volume of the muscle cells increases due to glucose brining additional blood volume need to be deposited right in the cell.
  • The quantity of cells is increasing due to increase of mitochondria mass. 
  • Pump stimulates significant production of anabolic hormones.

If read all the pump benefit, it seems high intensive trainings with low-reps sets are not suitable for builders. Or, maybe, building has no place for exercises that except pump in principle. Neither.

Only force work gives the sportsman monster and masculine view. No wonder many bodybuilders began their career in big sport like weightlifters and only after became builders. However they remembered their lifter skills with gratitude even though only bodybuilding gave them opportunity to sculpt perfect harmony body.

Ok, we have already talked about theory, let’s go to the practice. We give you several methods below that should be used in practice to pump muscles with blood.

Drop sets

For simple and clear example of pumping the muscle with blood let’s take concentration curls in drop-sets. First of all, of course, there is a warming set or two.

After it take dumbbells with working weight and start the set with, at least, 6 reps. After finishing the set for the one hand, do it for another without a pause. Then take the dumbbell for 2-2,5 kilos lighter than the previous one and do 8-reps set on the left and right hand (you should prepare all needed dumbbells in advance).

In such a manner you should do two sets more for each hand, decreasing the weight on 2-2,5 kilos in each set but increasing quantity of reps on two times. You shouldn’t have a rest between sets because when the left hand is working the right is already having it.

When set is over biceps should be stretched and just after contract hard. Stay in this condition about three-five seconds increasing isometric load every second.


There is another one good method to pump muscles. Sense and principal based on closer position of antagonistic muscles. If we load these muscles one by one, the blood flow through them will be rather intensive. 

Let’s take an example of superset: seated triceps press and barbell curl. 

You should do 8-10 reps on each muscle without pauses between sets. Instead of rest tense and stretch isometric muscles. Such an approach forced blood flow to them more.

Pre exhaustion

Our top list of pump techniques is finishing by such a thing like pre exhaustion. Leg muscles as known have good reaction on high-reps sets. For example, you have a leg day. The best variant for quadriceps will be leg extensions until darkness in eyes. There are squats after them. Only one warning: after such extensions you should squat in squat rack. If you haven’t such a rack, ask somebody to be your spotter.

That’s all we want to tell you about the pump and its using on practice.

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