Undoubtedly “The PUMP” you get in the gym feels magical and most satisfying. You must have also come across many PUMP related sayings by the bodybuilding legend ‘ARNOLD’ himself.
But the question is,
“Is chasing The PUMP worth your time”?
“Does the PUMP build muscles”?
This question is very debatable in the fitness industry.
Some gurus say it does cause muscle growth and some say it doesn’t. Firstly, let us understand exactly What The PUMP is.
When you constantly train any muscle, It starts getting saturated and swollen with all the blood rushing inside it.
“Hyperemia” is the scientific term for the pump which refers to an increase of the blood flow to the muscles.
This increased blood flow also increases the uptake of oxygen and nutrients inside the muscles.
The Pump can also induce the ‘release of endorphins’.
The greatest feeling you can get in the gym is the pump. Chase the pump.
Now as we are talking in terms of building muscles and muscle growth, Let me first shortly and quickly give you a gist of ‘TYPES OF MUSCLE GROWTH & FIBERS’.
There are 2 Types of Muscle Growth:
- Sarcoplasmic Growth – Increase in the uptake of fluids and nutrients into the muscles, which make them appear bigger.
- Myofibrillar Growth – Is the direct growth and development of the muscle fibers. It multiplies building the fibers of your muscles with the increase in size, as well as strength.
There are 2 types of Muscle Fibers:
- Slow-twitch a.k.a type l fibers – Usually smaller in size. They generate minimum force but can work a longer amount of time without getting fatigued too easily. Used in low-intensity endurance activities such as walking, jogging, and aerobics.
- Fast-twitch a.k.a type ll fibers: Includes type 2a and type 2b –
- type2a are medium sized and generate higher force compared to Type 1. Resistance to fatigue isn’t as high as type 1. Used in anaerobic activities such as swimming, mile-run, small distance cycling etc.
- type2b are largest in size and generates the maximum amount of force. Cannot work for a longer amount of time and get fatigued very quickly. Used in all the high-intensity activities such as heavy lifting, powerlifting and sprinting.
Coming back to the pump and muscle growth,
The Pump is just a pleasant side effect of the exercise you do.
I’m sure that just getting the pump is not your primary goal at the gym. Pump effect doesn’t last long and gives you “transient hypertrophy” i.e temporary increase in the muscle size.
There is no point in intentionally training for the pump when your main goal is “Muscle Growth”.
Just chasing the pump ignoring other main workouts and principles could be the big mistake you will make. That won’t get you anywhere!
Even doing some reps of free squats will get you pumped, but is that enough for your muscle growth? NO!
If the goal is muscle growth, Pumping with those LIGHTER WEIGHTS – what usually people do, won’t do any wonders.
It may just contribute to sarcoplasmic growth developing your slow-twitch fibers. Slow-twitch fibers are very small and comprise just a portion of your muscle fibers.
While lifting HEAVYWEIGHTS can promote myofibrillar growth mainly targeting your fast-twitch muscles which are largest in size and the major constituent of your muscle fibers.
These are the factors/variables you should primarily focus upon for the Muscle Growth:
- LOAD/Intensity – Lifting heavy weights which would add-up load and stress on your muscles and force them to grow.
- Tension i.e Time Under Tension (TUT) – The time duration during which your muscles are under tension.
- Progressive Overload – The gradual increase of load and stress on your muscles, achieved by increasing weights/volume every set.
My Personal Thoughts
Every training pattern has its own significance.
When it comes to overall muscular development, your focus should be recruiting all your muscle fibers by both the aspects (Heavy+Light). This way you’re recruiting both the fiber types targeting the complete muscle and getting the best of both.
Though your main focus should be lifting heavier load along with TUT and progression when your goal is to build/preserve muscles.
There is generally a belief that “The Pump is only achieved with the lighter weights with high rep ranges”. This is somewhat true but it is not the only way which does that.
“The Pump” can be achieved with heavier weights as well. You can just increase the volume (high reps) and keep your muscles engaged using same heavyweights.
Still wanna CHASE THE PUMP while building muscles?
Why not incorporate them into your heavy training protocol?
Suppose you do 4 sets of each exercise, 3 sets you can go heavy with fewer reps and the last set you can blast it up with all the pump using a lighter weight with high rep ranges i.e 15-20+
You can add up a ‘PUMP SET’ especially for your lagging body parts. This may work in a great way to put some further load on your muscles.
Combination of HEAVY + LIGHTWEIGHTS & INTENSITY-TUT-PROGRESSION + THE PUMPS can give you the sweetest results and be a massive route to muscle building.
Everybody is different, you just need to figure out what works best for you.
It’s not always about WORKING HARD, but WORKING SMART !!
The PUMP is not an indicator of MUSCLE GROWTH or a killer workout and just a by-product of your training.
Though it can contribute to sarcoplasmic growth, It should not be used as a stand-alone & solely focused thing in your workout.
Neither you necessarily need a pump for building muscle.
When the goal is muscle building, the primary focus should be on the heavy lifting (intensity) along with a decent volume & TUT i.e constantly keeping your muscles under tension for a good duration of time.
What’s your training style guys? Let me know in the comment box below.