It’s time to set the record straight on one of the most debated topics in bodybuilding…whether or not the “pump” you get from high rep weight training has any place in maximizing the actual SIZE of your muscles.
Now we all know how great it feels when you finish out that muscle buster set of arm curls and it feels like your bicep is about to rip right through your skin.
That “pumped” feeling occurs because your muscle fibers contract through high-intensity exercise and are then literally just STUFFED with blood and lactic acid, building up pressure and stretching your muscle to full capacity.
And let’s face it, this is like crack cocaine for our ego and it’s what keeps many of us going back to the gym because it’s the proof we’re looking for that our hard work is actually going to result in some serious muscle growth, rightt? In fact, the “pump” is so celebrated among bodybuilders that it’s spawned an entire area of nitric oxide supplements that focus on doing one thing…extending the “pump” you get in the gym farther into your day .
But whether or not the pump is valuable at all to your bodybuilding efforts depends on who you listen to…
Many fitness consultants dismiss this temporary increase in muscle size as just a short-lived ego booster with no real purpose toward gaining muscle. And it’s true that the effects of the pump go away within about 30 minutes once the muscle fibers relax and the blood is able to once again flow freely through your arms, chest, shoulders, or whatever other “show off” muscles you’re working on.
But looking deeper, there’s more to what’s happening than just the psychological benefit.
Here’s what I mean…
Your muscles are comprised of various types of fibers but for our purposes in the gym we’ll focus mainly on the two most important…your “Type 1” and “Type 2” fibers.
What you’ll find is that each of these muscle fibers have a very distinct function in the body and ALSO require different forms of stimulation in order to optimize their activation.
First let’s look at your “Type 1” muscle fibers, commonly referred to as your “slow twitch” fibers. These fibers are red in color because they contain a larger amount of capillaries which gives them the advantage of increased blood flow and an increased capacity to produce more energy for a longer time. When you perform an exercise in a higher repetition range, like 8-15 reps, you are predominantly hitting your slow twitch muscle fibers.
Next we have the “Type 2” muscle fibers which are known as “fast twitch” and are “white” in color because they have much less blood supply. The advantage they have is that the contain a lot more creatine phosphate and are able to produce a LOT of power, but only for about 10 seconds before they simply give out. These are the fibers that are trained best through heavy weights and low repetitions for sports such as power lifting.
So what does this mean to you?
Well, if your goal is to increase your STRENGTH for sports requiring a lot of short term power such as powerliting, sprinting, or if your main goal is to impress your friends with how much you can bench press, stick to heavy weights and low reps which focus mainly on your fast twitch muscle fibers.
But if SIZE is what you’re looking for, you need to go for the pump!
And here’s why…
While the actual size increase you feel from the pump is only temporary, you’re literally “training” your type 1 muscle fibers to adapt to the increased demand of blood flow.
Over time, engorging your muscles with blood during your workouts will force your slow twitch muscle fibers to react by increasing in thickness while increasing the number, density and size of your capillaries in order to handle the increase in blood supply you’re calling for through high intensity exercise.
In other words, if you’re training for muscle SIZE…yes…the pump counts!
So here’s how to maximize the activation of your Type 1, slow twitch muscle fibers to pump up YOUR muscle gains to the next level.
1. Keep your training reps between 8-12 (if you can’t do at least 8 repetitions, drop some of the weight off so you can reach muscular exhaustion at the higher reps)
2. Perform 4 sets per body part with a 1-2 minute rest between each set (to resupply fast twitch fibers with creatine phosphate to supply ATP power to your reps.
3. At the peak maximum contraction point, pause and SQUEEZE the target muscle for 1-2 seconds to force more blood into that area and get a better pump
4. End your training by dropping the amount of weight you’re using slightly and knocking out 15 targeted reps to finish out your sets with a huge pump.
That’s all there is to it so now you can really take pride in that pumped up, skin stretching feeling without the mislaid guilt that you’re just fooling yourself into thinking you’ve stimulated growth.
Go for the pump…feel great…and watch your gains start to skyrocket!