You might be a seasoned workout warrior, a weight-training regular or just include weights in your normal workout regimen.
Whatever your level of training commitment incorporating weights and possibly making use of the muscle pump is an effective way to build muscle.
The following are some of the best pre-workout tips for using muscle pump.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a big fan of a strong muscle pump and likened the feeling to that of good sex.
But, the results of an extensive training session using higher weights and more repetitions causing a swollen sensation in your muscles can do more than that just feel good.
This process can actually help build muscle mass according to an article in the
Strength and Conditioning Journal (1).
You may not currently use a pre-workout product to help you have a longer, more effective training session with better effects on your muscles, but you might consider incorporating one in your diet.
This article will review five training products that can make your weight and muscle-conditioning more effective and longer lasting. These products include:
our top 5 picks
What is the muscle pump?
Muscle pump is the ‘pumped-up’ or ‘swollen’ feeling that happens by adding weight and repetitions with a shorter recovery time to your workout.
This increases the amount of time your muscles are under tension.
During your workout, the muscular contractions cause blood vessels to dilate and the blood flow to increase which brings in oxygen and nutrients but also carries away metabolic wastes such as accumulated lactic acid.
The muscle cells fill up with blood, water, and other fluids and need to stretch as a result of the extra volume.
As muscle cells expand this reduces the outward flow of fluids and results in the expansion of the muscles we know as the ‘pump’.
As illustrated, when muscle fibers are relaxed blood can pass easily through them.
As the fibers expand the embedded veins are pinched off reducing the amount of blood returning to the heart.
This effect of blood being pumped into your muscles faster than it is released keeps fluids accumulating in the muscles and results in the ‘pump’.
The more reps you perform with a shorter rest period between sets, the more fluids are kept in your muscles resulting in greater swelling (2).
Does the pump build muscle?
This extra fluid volume that brings more nutrients and oxygen-laden blood allows for a more intense workout and therefore builds muscle mass faster.
Luckily, this type of training lets you concentrate on the type of muscle which is most susceptible to the pump effects, the ‘fast-twitch’ variety – the type necessary for strong explosive movement and lifting heavier weights.
The fast-twitch muscles are more affected by the pump because they allow more blood and fluids to enter the muscles through their increased blood vessel structure.
The greater the blood flow with more oxygen and nutrients the better for muscle growth and development (3).
Benefits of muscle pump
The pump also has other positive effects, that of boosting protein synthesis which supports muscle repair and development after a workout, but also decreases wear and tear on muscles over time.
Muscles grow through the process of swelling as the muscle cells adapt to the greater pressure and strengthen their walls which results in thicker, bigger and stronger muscle fibers - and better long-term results from your workouts.
Ingredients that promote muscle pump
These are common ingredients which are contained in most pre-workout formulas:
Caffeine – for extended energy, performance boost and muscle stimulation
Beta-Alanine – for increased muscular endurance and building muscle mass
Citrulline Malate – acts as a vasodilator (expands blood vessels) and is often coupled with L-Arginine and Betaine (beetroot) to help synthesize Nitric Oxide (also a strong blood flow stimulator) (4).
Other ingredients used in some pre-workout formulas are: creatine, niacin and aspartic acid all of which help to support body metabolism, superior muscular function and amino acid synthesis.
Most pre-workout formulas have unique mixes of ingredients which support specific benefits for users depending on their overall training goals.
How to train for maximum muscle pump
There are two elements you can add to your workout routine which will cause fluids to be retained and support a muscle ‘pump’:
By doing more reps in each set muscle compounds will be produced faster than your body can extract them.
Reducing the amount of rest time between sets will also cause these compounds to accumulate faster than your body can remove them
For example, a pump-training routine will usually involve sets of 12-15+ reps with a 30-90 second rest period (or possibly less) for as many sets as possible or until muscle failure.
The combination of higher reps and a shorter rest period causes a rapid accumulation of waste products with greater blood flow and retained fluids – this causes the ‘pump’.
You can also ensure an effective pump by incorporating single-muscle isolation exercises into your routine.
You want to concentrate on a maximum of 1-2 muscles per exercise because compound movements using multiple muscles distribute the stress which doesn’t cause the pump.
You will want to lift progressively heavier with more reps and less rest concentrating on individual muscle groups.
How Pump Training Builds Muscle
There are three main ways to to stimulate muscle growth:
Stepped tension overload; which refers to exposing your muscles to greater and greater levels of tension as you activate the muscle pump in your routine.
Muscle break-down; which refers to the process by which weightlifting stretches and tears muscle cells, forcing them to recover and grow stronger than before.
Cellular fatigue; which involves exhausting a muscle to the point that the fibers can’t contract as strongly anymore.
Stepped tension overload, which is also the most important of the three elements, is an important factor in achieving a strong muscle pump by concentrating on single muscle groups and shorter rest periods.
Side effects of the pump
Anytime you include exhaustive exercises in your workout routine you risk a muscle pull or even tear.
High-intensity training using more weights, reps and shorter rest periods increases the chances of doing damage to yourself.
However, from the research performing intensive exercises provides in most instances much higher benefits than potential risks of injury.
In fact, most of the pre-workout products reviewed in this article contain the amino acid L-arginine which can reduce the negative effects of exhaustive exercise through the release of free-radicals.
Popular pre-workout supplements For muscle pump
The following section will cover the benefits of five of the most often selected pre-workout formulas for effective muscle pump training on the market.
#1 Vintage Blast - Best for Bodybuilding
An important advantage of Vintage Blast is the transparency and straight-forward approach to the product’s ingredients and their effectiveness.
The manufacturer, Old School Labs, is very clear for what purpose each component was chosen, the source and that Vintage Blast contains absolutely no artificial flavors or additives.
Maintains steady energy – provides steady power and reliable performance.
Builds muscle, not bulk – safe, effective mix of essential muscle-building ingredients.
Produces results, not dependency - increases your work capacity and pumps.
Helps with hydration & recovery – has key electrolytes to support vital hydration.
Who's it for?
Vintage Blast is suitable for most athletes looking for a work-out supplement that will support a weight-training routine to build muscle with endurance without over-jittery nerves
#2 Legion Pulse - Good For Focus
Legion Pulse’s popularity is based on its carefully selected and high-quality ingredients which translate to a satisfactory workout for most users.
However, a number of reviewers have commented that the product didn’t meet their taste standards (tastes artificial) or did not live up to their expectations from previous usages (did not provide the same kick and made them urinate excessively).
Carefully selected ingredients in Pulse: have been proven effective in well-designed peer-reviewed research conducted with healthy adults with the proper dosage.
Smooth energy rush: Pulse doesn’t rely on cheap and dangerous stimulants to improve performance; only caffeine combined with theanine.
More strength: contains effective dosages of natural compounds proven to increase strength and endurance.
Who's it for?
Legion Pulse is best used by workout regulars who are personally motivated to train and would like a pre-workout mix that helps to increase their energy level and focus for use on a consistent basis without creating dependency.
#3 Pure Pump - Good for Vegans
Users who are seeking a ‘pure’ product with no sugars, additives or fillers and react poorly to over-caffeinated products will enjoy this product; but it does not provide the sustained energy level that supports prolonged endurance or weight-loss which some people are looking for.
Clean sustained energy without the crash.
Third party tested and verified: PurePump contents are tested and verified in an FDA-registered laboratory as of the highest purity.
The only all-natural pre-workout supplement certified both vegan and paleo.
Clean pre-workout drink: For better pumps, more energy, strength, and stamina in the gym.
Contains beta-alanine, creatine and niacin to support nitric oxide production, along with better strength and power output.
Who's it for?
Anyone who’s more susceptible to chemicals and fillers and is looking for a cleaner vegan or paleo formula without the strong caffeine buzz associated with many pre-workout products.
#4 Nitro Surge - Good for Hardcore Gym Goers
Most users experience good results from using this product, with elevated levels of energy and nitric oxide for muscle burn.
Someone looking to gain mostly bulk would probably not be satisfied with the results.
Poor reviews are mostly based on a negative reaction to the ingredient mix of beta-alanine and three energy supplements.
Effective pre-workout mix for bodybuilding, energy, strength, and pumps.
Top supplement for muscle building and fat burning: with top ingredients L-citrulline, betaine, beta alanine, caffeine and theanine.
Nitric oxide boosting pre-workout mix: for increased blood-flow to maximize pumps, endurance, strength, and muscle growth.
Who's it for?
Serious workout and gym rats who thrive on higher energy levels and can handle ingredients that can cause skin flush and a tingling sensation in some users.
#5 Pump Mode- Good for those wanting something stimulant free
Betaine Nitrate (from beets) supports vascularity by metabolizing into Nitric Oxide, which supports greater blood flow and oxygen transport for a better pump.
Contains no stimulants or extra flavors which are the prime reasons users react negatively to some pre-workout powders.
Utilizes Nitric Oxide and other effective ingredients for long-lasting pumps.
Contains popular ingredients (glycerol and niacin) to support vascularity and blood flow.
An unflavored powder with zero stimulants.
Who's it for?
PumpMode seems to be most effective with users who train well using glycerol to increase blood flow for a more intense pump and will also NOT require any form of stimulant (caffeine or theanine).
Like many pre-workout products there seem to be a select number of users that react well to the ingredient mix – in this case, betaine nitrate and glycerol without other stimulants and those that do not!
Vintage Blast, produced by Old School Labs, is the most popular pre-workout product due to the quality ingredients, supplement mixture, and lasting results.
It is suitable for both men and women who are looking for a workout supplement that will support a weight-training OR weight-loss routine to build muscle with endurance without over-jittery nerves.