When I go to the gym, I tell my wife that “I’m going to the gym.” I don’t elaborate much about my workout details (it’s pretty boring).
However, what’s really cool is my wife can tell when I’ve lifted weights, especially when I do chest or arm workouts just by looking at me. She can see that my muscles are pumped and looking good even when I’m wearing a t-shirt.
I love the pump I get from weightlifting. It lasts for several hours after a workout. It’s super awesome while in the gym and my muscles are exploding. The pump is one of the great motivators for me to hit the weights on those days when I’m not 110% gung ho to hit the gym.
Does muscle pump really exist?
Yes. My wife can tell right away when I’ve been lifting weights. When you have a pump, your muscles are bigger and harder. The pump can be a real confidence booster if you’re heading off to the beach, a pool party or some event where you simply want to feel good and confident (even a date).
However, don’t take my word for it. There is a scientific explanation for muscle pump (explained briefly under what is muscle pump below).
What is muscle pump?
The technical term of muscle pump is hyperemia to muscles. Hyperemia (or Hyperaemia) is “the increase of blood flow to different tissues in the body.” In the case of muscle pump, hyperemia occurs to muscles when worked out with resistance training.
What happens is because the muscles are working hard (i.e. contracting), they require more oxygen. The body’s response is to send more oxygenated blood to the blood vessels, which vasodilate (widen) of the targeted muscles. The increase in oxygenated blood flow and vasodilation causes what’s commonly referred to as muscle pump.
How do you get muscle pump?
The best way to get a muscle pump is to contract your muscles through resistance workouts. Both using weights and bodyweight exercises will do the job.
In my experience, lifting weights give the best pump, but weights aren’t always available. If you’re at home getting ready for a date and you want to head out with a confidence-boosting pump, you need to resort to bodyweight exercises (unless you have a home gym of course).
There are many ways you can quickly get a pump for an event. The following are a series of workouts you can do to get a muscle pump fast.
If you have time, you can hit the gym and do a full upper body workout that can give you an awesome pump. Moreover, this type of workout, if you normally do splits, will shake up your routine, which can be good.
1. Upper body pump – longer workout
Do 3 to 4 sets for each body part. 8 to 12 reps per set. Lift to failure or almost failure.
- Chest: 2 sets bench press / 2 sets incline DB presses
- Back: 2 sets wide grip pulldowns / 2 sets seated cable row
- Biceps: 2 sets barbell curls / 2 sets seated incline bench curls.
- Triceps: 2 sets lying down extensions (skull crushers) / 2 sets cable pushdowns (I also love over head cable extensions for a tricep pump)
- Shoulders: 2 sets military press / 2 sets DB lateral raises
2. Short upper body weightlifting muscle pump workout:
Do the above exercise, but speed up the workout enormously by doing supersets of the above exercises as follows:
- Shoulders/abs (never hurts to throw in some ab exercises).
Weight machines are good for muscle pump because …
- They’re fast to use if short on time.
- Ideal for supersetting
- Target muscles with laser focus
3. Upper body pump workout WITHOUT weights
- Chest: 2 sets of pushups to failure / 2 sets of pushups with legs elevated to failure
- Back: 2 sets of wide grip pull ups / 2 sets narrow grip pull ups. If you don’t have a chin up bar, loop a rope or strap through something on the wall and do row movements.
- Biceps: 2 sets curl-ups using a chin up bar / 2 sets curl-rows using strap/rope looped through something on the wall. You really need to focus your effort on your biceps. Another option is to do curls applying resistance with your other arm (works triceps at the same time).
- Triceps: 2 sets close-grip push ups / 2 sets overhead extensions. Find a bar or something you can hold onto, step 3 to 5 feet away from it and lower body under the item you’re holding onto extending your triceps. Sofa dips are great as well. Place hands on edge of sofa, extend legs out and place on a foot stool and do dips.
- Shoulders: Headstand pushups (place feet against the wall for stability). Note that pushups will also workout shoulders.
NOTE: Using weights is better for generating a muscle pump fast, but sometimes you just don’t have the time.
NOTE #2: If you find yourself doing at-home muscle pump workouts regularly, invest in some dumbbells and/or resistance bands.
Can you get a good pump doing cardio?
Elliptical trainers offer both upper and lower body workouts … is this going to give you a pump?
Nope. There isn’t enough resistance applied to muscles to sufficiently result in a muscle pump. Yes, oxygen increases to muscles, but the mild resistance and lack of muscle-targeting isn’t going to give you all that great of a pump … maybe a slight pump, but if it’s a pump you want, use weights or do a bodyweight resistance workout.
What about doing calisthenics for muscle pump?
I’ve tried calisthenics but I don’t get a very good pump at all?
What about yoga?
Unless the yoga routine is intense with body resistance poses that flow (i.e. are dynamic resulting in reps), yoga won’t produce much, if any pump.
That said, doing a flow yoga routine can get you feeling good and limber, which isn’t a bad way to feel when heading out.
What about isometric exercises?
Again, I’ve tried isometric exercises without any success. The lack of muscle contraction fails to produce a pump.
Can inducing muscle pump ruin your workout schedule?
Yes. If you do an intense muscle pump workout using weights outside of your regularly scheduled workouts, your “pumped” muscles will need time to recover.
For example, suppose you have a beach party to go to, but your scheduled chest workout is the following day, if you do a 15 to 25 minute pump workout for the beach, you’ll likely tire your chest muscles sufficiently that they will require more than one night to recover. After all, in order to get a muscle pump, you must work out your muscles hard enough to increase blood flow and cause vasodilation. This means that your muscles undergo sufficient rigor to require additional oxygen, which means they’ll need time to recover.
What should you do?
Do you skip the next day’s workout? Do you do next day’s workout?
What I do, IF I DO AN INTENSE PUMP WORKOUT, is take a day off the next day (one of my 2 weekly days off) and then resume my regular workout schedule. Besides, if you drink too much, you have another reason to skip the workout because it’s hard getting in a quality workout when hungover.
Which muscles are best to induce a pump
It depends on what you’re doing?
Beach/Pool Party: You want the pump because you want to look great. The muscles you target will depend on the event. If you’re going to the beach or pool party where you’ll be in a swimming suit, doing a full body pump workout is not a bad idea. However, limiting it to upper body is probably good enough because your upper body muscles tend to “bulge” or “harden” more from the pump.
Date/Party: If you’re going on a date where you’ll be in pants, you don’t need to hit your lower body. In fact, you might restrict your pre-date pump workout to chest, biceps and triceps.
Is this article for real?
I realize writing a researched article all about inducing muscle pump to look good for an event may seem like a joke … perhaps superfluous and a big waste of time. However, we all have our reasons for weightlifting and bodybuilding … one of which is often to look great. Therefore, for some of us, the pump not only makes us look better, but feel better, which is in line with our weightlifting goals and reasons we pump iron.
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 Wikipedia. Hyperaemia
 Kirby, B. et al. Mechanical influences on skeletal muscle vascular tone in humans: insight into contraction-induced rapid vasodilatation. May 10, 2007. 10.1113/jphysiol.2007.131250