Anyone with even an inkling of interest in bodybuilding, weight lifting, or fitness in general is familiar with “the pump.” It’s the feeling everyone who lifts weights strives to achieve, just take a look at Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous monologue on the pump from the 1977 bodybuilding documentary “Pumping Iron”.
While you may not express the feeling of the pump as colorfully as Arnold did in that clip, it is safe to assume that most feel a comparable level of enthusiasm and satisfaction. Most don’t even know why it is beneficial, but rather seek to only attain the feeling.
Miracles of Science
The pump is known in scientific terms as hyperaemia. It is derived from latin from the prefix “hyper,” which means over, insinuating an excess of something, and also its root word, -aemia, which refers to blood. Combine the 2 and we have a term that literally means “excess of blood.” That full, rich feeling you get from hyperaemia is blood filling up muscle tissue in the body. This is especially important because it also increases the amount of oxygen that can readily be delivered to your muscles, which is how cells produce energy. It also allows for greater and easier delivery of nutrients that your muscles need to grow. Additionally, hyperaemia can aid in the disposal of waste substances in the muscles, such as lactic acid. Lactic acid buildup is why you feel stiff and sore after intense workouts. Ridding your muscles of it will reduce the feelings of soreness, while at the same time reducing recovery time. This means that you will be able to train harder and more frequently.
Sensations aside, pumps are actually an integral part of muscular development, making it so much more than just a feeling, albeit a satisfying one. The pump is actually brought about when blood engorges itself within your muscles. Your skin feels tight, like it is about to burst. You feel full, swollen, and strong. It’s so easy to see why it is so appealing to anyone, men and women alike.
The intensity or absence of your pump can be a key indicator at your current level of muscular development. If you continually experience, rich, full pumps each time you lift, it can be assumed that you will experience more explosive muscular growth. That being said, if you continue to go hard, but do not ever feel that explosive swelling in your muscles, you may not actually be fulfilling your potential. Increasing your pumps will cause muscles to become stretched beyond their current state. This stretching creates more available room for further growth and development. It will also encourage the creation of more capillaries, which are small endings of veins and arteries which deliver oxygen, fluids, and nutrients to your muscles.
Glycogen: Pump Essential
But how do we actually achieve the pump? The answer, unfortunately, is not a simple one. You see, the pump is not guaranteed to happen just by lifting weights alone, nor is it a random occurrence, either. There are many factors at work which influence the level and intensity of your pump. Diet, for starters, is one of them.
It is widely known that anyone interested in tipping the scales upward must eat loads of lean protein. Protein is what your body uses to build muscle; the source material and how muscle is actually made. Did you know that carbs may actually be just as important as protein? If partitioned correctly, carbs can be stored into your muscles as glycogen.
What is glycogen, though? It is defined as “ a multibranched polysaccharide of glucose that serves as a form of energy storage in animals.” With humans in particular, glycogen is stored primarily in the liver and muscles. As you eat meals rich in carbohydrates, your body’s levels of glucose, or otherwise known as blood sugar, rise dramatically. In response to this, your pancreas will begin to secrete insulin,. Which acts as a vessel to store excess glucose to be broken down for energy at a later time. Primarily, this energy is stored as fat, which is the opposite of what most bodybuilders, athletes, or fitness enthusiasts typically want.
The Building Blocks of Anabolic Growth
As we have discussed in a previous article, insulin’s fat-storing properties can be offset. This is done with the use of partitioning products, such as Blackstone Labs’ own Glycolog. Using Glycolog will trick your body into using insulin to store excess levels of glucose as glycogen, which is what your muscle crave in order to grow anabolically. It is worth noting that insulin is actually the most anabolic hormone your body can produce, and is close to 10 times more anabolic than testosterone. A lot of bodybuilders tried to utilize this during the ‘90s by injecting insulin after high-carb meals. This practice is actually highly, highly dangerous and can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, among other pancreatic issues. Glycolog, however, is totally natural and will not lead to any adverse side-effects. It is also boasts a strong increase in that feeling of the pump, which is caused by the stores of glycogen and insulin usage. It’s a no-brainer: use Glycolog, eat carbs, replenish glycogen, get nasty pumps and monumental muscle mass.
Additionally, The Blackstone Labs product Formula 19 works hand-in-hand with Glycolog when taken before a workout. So we know how essential carbs to maximizing and sustaining the pump, sure, but we cannot also rule out the importance of essential amino acids are as well. The point of the pump is to create an environment that is capable and encourages anabolic growth. Formula 19 contains the necessary carbs to get that anabolic effect from insulin, but also contains a special blend of amino acids to help your muscle grow and repair themselves, allowing for heightened intensity when training. Taking the two together will allow you to take your growth to the next level. You can think of Formula 19 as all the fuel you will ever need for serious muscle growth and Glycolog as the vehicle that gets you there. Conveniently for you, we can get both of these pump-facilitators in one stack. On our website, go ahead and take a look at The Braun Explosion Stack and see for yourself. Included in The Braun Explosion is our whey isolate blend Isolation, along with Resurgence, our own blend of essential amino acids. Get ready for the nastiest pumps you will ever experience in your life, along with all of the resources you will need for sustain anabolic growth.
Diet: Food for Growth
Alongside of these great supplements, you can, and should, also get the necessary carbs from a healthy diet. We must stress that the carbs needed to replenish glycogen stores within your muscles should come from healthy sources. Yes sugar is considered to be a carbohydrate, for sure, but in the grand scheme of health and wellness, it really should not be a part of your diet at all.
Luckily for you, there are plenty of legitimate sources of carbs that are easy to prepare, and cheap, too. A can of whole grain oats will run you roughly $6 and will last all month.It provides you with the necessary amount of carbs to facilitate the pump. When eaten early, it releases slowly, providing you with sustained energy all through the day. The fiber content helps you to feel full as well, aiding in curbing food cravings for anyone looking to take a leaner cutting cycle. The most important element is that all of these carb sources have a low glycemic index, which means that your blood sugar levels will not drastically spike when ingesting them, causing you to immediately store them as fat, and then experience an energy crash later on. Bodybuilders everywhere are all on the same page when it comes to their breakfast game. Additionally, other sources of whole grain carbs like brown rice, or quinoa are all great ways to get quality carbs.
Carbs can also aid in enriching your pumps in the way that they encourage your muscles to pull water in. This will, among other factors, help to achieve the pump and the feelings of muscle fullness. While carbs do aid in getting water to the muscles, it is imperative that you stay hydrated. We don’t just mean drink a few glasses of water, we mean drink at least a gallon of water every single day. Keep in mind that when monitoring your daily intake of water, this will include water you mix up with your supplements and/or pre-workout.
Your body is a direct reflection of what you put in it. If you want your muscles to look full, voluminous, and thick, you must drink an excess of water. Maintaining high levels of hydration will also increase blood volume, which again, is paramount the achieving and maintaining the pump. Each factor interacts with each other. If you do what you can to replenish glycogen, it becomes a moot point if you do not have the blood volume levels to fill the cells in your muscles. If you take products like nitric oxide, which can increase vasodilation (more on that later), why even bother if the veins are not filled to their greatest capacity?
When put this way, the pump can be seen as something like a house of cards: a gorgeous sight to behold when fully intact, but easily becomes undone when key elements are not given the attention they deserve.
We previously mentioned vasodilation, but did not get into any real detail. Essentially, there are substances that exists that can dilate your veins. Much like how your pupils dilate to allow more light to hit your retinas, vasodilation will force your veins to open up more widely. This aids in the pump in a number of ways. By dilating your veins, you allow for the delivery of carbs, glycogen, water, and any other supplements to flood more readily and easily into your muscle’s cells. It creates a figurative highway of blood flow directly to your muscles. Vasodilators can also assist in vascularity, which is certain a look that a lot of people who appreciate a mean lean aesthetic will appreciate.
A handful of supplements exist that can aid in vasodilation. First and foremost we have nitric oxide, which tends to be the most recognizable of the lot. Almost every supplement company known to man will more than likely have a pump supplement whose main ingredient is nitric oxide. In 1992, it was named “molecule of the year” by the powers that be in recognition of its importance to the human body. Looking further into it led to Nobel Peace Prize winning research in 1998 for its vasodilation abilities to be utilized medically. When it comes to pump formulas, the conversation begins with nitric oxide.
Taurine is another great supplement to take to achieve increased vasodilation. Much like nitric oxide, it too will cause veins to dilate to their fullest capacity. Taurine is actually cheaper than nitric oxide and flavorless. It also performs best when taken alongside of creatine, which can increase cell volume, making the volume of your blood much more denser, leading to more rich fullness in the muscle cells. This is what leads to the feeling of the pump and that alone is motivation enough in itself to do whatever you can to get the most out of your pumps. Again, it is important to stay fully hydrated to get the most out of these substances.
Blackstone Labs’ own pump supplement Hype, is a natural nitric oxide booster and is the ideal blend to facilitate and maintain your pumps all day long.
Low and Slow
So now that we know all about what we can take dietarily to increase the pump, we can get into how we can change the way we work out to maximize its effects. Yes, taking the right supplements, eating the right food, and staying hydrated can intensify the pump, it is really what you do with it physically that matters.
Any good lifting coach will emphasize the importance of technique. While using the correct postures and form is very important, how you perform each rep is equally important. To maximize your pumps, perform each rep very slowly, increasing the amount of time the muscles are under tension. This will increase the pump and achieve that level of muscle stretching that we mentioned earlier. You will also need to shorten rest time between sets to fully capitalize on this concept as well. Ideally, you would want to rest at a minimum of 30 seconds and no longer than a full minute to really keep your pump at kits maximum capacity. The overall point is to ensure that your muscles are kept fully engorged and under intense tension for elongated periods of time. This will create more room for growth.
Dropsets are also great for maximizing your pump. Perform each exercise and lower the weight with each set until failure. This will force blood into your muscles’ cells and keep it there for as long as you can stand it. This goes along with what we covered earlier about the delivery of fluids and nutrients that muscles need to grow.