What is the Pump?
The pump is when your muscles swell up beyond their normal size, your veins stand out, and you feel huge, powerful and energised. Usually The pump is felt after about 4 or 5 sets. Often this sensation can be maintained throughout a workout, and you can feel an increased pump over time as more blood is forced into the areas being exercised, bringing with it fresh oxygen and nutrients for continued intense, muscular contraction.
What Causes the Pump?
Blood is forced into the muscles being exercised by the action of the muscles, and the pressure of the cardiovascular system, but no comparable force draws blood out of the muscle. As a result, this extra blood stays in the muscle for a period, swelling it up to a much bigger size. Bodybuilders like to pump up before they pose as the muscles get bigger and more impressive when you have a pump. When you’re in a tough competition, every bit helps.
A good pump has been described as one the best feelings in the world. In fact it has been compared to sexual pleasure by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie ‘Pumping Iron.’ According to Dr Fred Hatfield, a champion powerlifter and exercise physiology expert, ‘quantities of blood flooding a muscle stimulate any number of proprioceptive sensors. Exercise and the resulting pump create a cascade of hormonal responses, including the endorphins and enkephalins, nature’s painkillers.’ Effectively, this is the bodybuilder’s version of the runners high, Additionally, an association develops over time between exercise and the positive feeling you get from it, so you are stimulated even more as your body relates to the sensation of exercise with the positive outcome.
Physical & Psychological Effects of the Pump
This can have a tremendous effect on not only how you feel, but also on how hard you train. When pumped up, you feel better and stronger, and you’re more motivated to train hard and achieve a high level of intensity. When pumped you may feel near invincible. Occasionally at gym you may feel tired and lazy, but when you experience the pump after a few minutes of work, you feel renewed vigour and size and strength.
Why No Pump?
Sometimes there may be days when you don’t feel very energetic, and the pump doesn’t happen regardless what you do. This may be due to a lack of sleep, insufficient recovery between workouts, or that your strict diet means that you lack the nutrients needed to get a good pump. Generally, missing out on a pump can mean a lack of full concentration. Even if you do get enough rest, don’t overtrain, and eat well to fuel your workouts, without focus and concentration, you will not experience the pump.
The Pump & Muscle Growth
Whilst the pump has great psychological and physiological effects, there is no proof that it achieves muscle growth directly. Despite this, enjoy the sensation of the pump when it occurs to enhance the intensity and focus in your workout. The pump after all is an invaluable tool for the body and mind that can help you get the most out of your workout.