The Physiology Behind An Unforgettable Muscle Pump

By

Vince Del Monte, WBFF Pro Fitness Model, Certified Fitness Trainer
and Nutritionist and author of No Nonsense Muscle
Building.

The cause, the effect, the methods, and the madness to gorging your muscles with mind-numbing, skin-splitting pumps


The nuts and bolts of what you need to know…

.

  • The body is a reactive organism – therefore, to get a pump, we must first understand what action promotes this reaction
    .
  • By restricting a working muscle from obtaining the oxygen it needs, a surplus of blood is sent to the muscle as the body panics, and when the working muscle is disengaged, all of this extra blood surges into the muscle creating the pump
    .
  • Understanding the physiology of the “pump” allows you to use your own creativity to develop methods best suited for you to achieve a maximum pump
    .
  • My favorite methods to create a pump are partial repetitions, reduced rest intervals, extended set methods, slow lifting/lowering tempos, and contrasting isometrics/flexing with dynamic loaded movements

The Cause

Who doesn’t love a great pump? Arnold described the pump as an orgasmic experience back in 1975, and since the release of “Pumping Iron,” the “pump” has become symbolic of the type of training associated with building muscle – AKA bodybuilding.

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The pump was originally thought of as simply a cosmetic side effect in response to training with higher rep ranges, and incomplete rest intervals. But, it has recently become acknowledged that the pump itself can promote a hypertrophic response in a few ways. Some of the benefits associated with achieving a pump are as follows:

  • Increased nutrient transport to the working muscles (which is why it’s important to have high concentrations of amino acids, and sugar in the bloodstream when training – highly branched cyclic dextrin are my personal favorite for this purpose)
    .
  • The release of local growth factors (IGF-1, IGF-2, MGF), as well as stimulation of the ERK pathway cell signaling (as a result of the muscle being engaged for prolonged periods of time – which is necessary to create a pump in the first place), both of which stimulate protein synthesis
    .
  • Improved recovery by way of maximized nutrient transport, as well as increased local growth factors that are necessary for the reconstruction process
    .
  • Enhanced biofeedback, AKA improved mind-muscle connection which can increase your capacity to recruit that muscle during any movement in which you wish to increase the demand on that muscle

The Effect

When a muscle is engaged, blood cannot enter the muscle, and thus oxygen cannot be delivered. As long as the muscle in engaged, blood will stay outside the muscle, creating a hypoxic state. It’s this hypoxic (oxygen deprived) state that creates an anabolic effect by way of stimulating the release of local growth factors (IGF-1). Once the muscle is disengaged, blood rushes into the muscle, which is termed “reactive hyperemia,” as it is a REACTION, and this flushes the muscle with nutrients (as long as the blood is full of amino acids, and fast digesting, sustained release carbs like highly branched cyclic dextrin, which provide the body with the material needed to take advantage of the activated protein synthesis).

(NOTE: This is the driving force behind my 8-8-16 Hyper Growth Protocol and why it works so well for building size. If you’d like to try the same protocol over 10,186 people and counting have click here to try this free workout.

The reason things like high reps can build muscle, and why it’s not necessary to lift maximal weights, is because the accumulation of metabolites (lactate and hydrogen ions), and oxygen deprivation lead to the release of local growth factors, and performing rep after rep can create enough of an oxygen debt to create an occlusion effect. Christian Thibadeau has even suggested that performing slow, controlled eccentrics, can activate the mTOR pathway responsible for turning on protein synthesis (especially TORC1), which is further activated by performing movements that place the trained muscle in a stretched position under load (which increases the sensitivity of the IGF-1 receptors), which is magnified when the targeted muscle is extremely pumped.

Click here for my 5 favorite methods to really blast a muscle full of blood, and pump it beyond belief!

 

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7 thoughts on “The Physiology Behind An Unforgettable Muscle Pump

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  6. Great article Vince. One training method I use to get a HUGE pump is working opposing muscle groups or “push” super-set with “pulling” exercises. Did Chest and Back this week and got an insane pump. Time to release IGF-1 baby.

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  7. Awesome article Vince, especially in regards to activation of the mTOR pathways in relation to eccentric movements and how the pump is related to the local release of IGF-1, IGF-2, and MGF. I learned a ton!

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