Those who train at a gym usually attend for one of four main reasons;
- To improve the look of their physique by building muscle mass.
- To increase strength gains through heavy lifting
- To reduce their body weight by burning calories through higher reps and cardio
- Training for improved mental health
Bodybuilders are those that train for muscle size and symmetry and typically train with heavier weights. They chase greater muscle hypertrophy and definition through proper nutrition and focused workouts
While there are no instant results in muscle gain there is a way to temporarily achieve the look of bigger muscles, it’s called a gym pump and is one of the most sought after effects when muscle building.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger used to say
“The greatest feeling you can get in a gym or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump”
When you train muscle groups using specific techniques and especially with the use of heavy weights, your muscles can expand giving the optical illusion of a huge muscle increase within the space of just a few hours.
The reason for this is because your muscles receive an increased blood supply that leaves them pumped and swollen. Unfortunately this phenomenon, known as the pump, is temporary, and your muscles will soon return to their normal size that being what they were pre-workout..
A gym pump, also known as transient hypertrophy, is a temporary swelling of the muscle which becomes filled with blood following a resistance based exercise. A typical gym pump can last about 2-3 hours post-workout. However, there are things that you can do to prolong the length of it.
While this may not be what you want out of your gym workout session in the long run, it does offer short term motivation and enhances your dedication to regular training.
What Is A Gym Pump?
A gym pump is what bodybuilders refer to as a temporary increase in muscle mass after an intense workout. This added muscle volume occurs because of the increased blood flow to the muscles due to the rigorous exercise.
During exercise and other forms of strength training, your skeletal muscles require lots of blood to keep up with the rigors of your activities. Also, a good muscle pump will result in an increase in oxygen. This is why your breathing and heart rate increase when you exercise so the heart can send oxygen-rich blood to the working muscles.
Whilst your muscles receive a significant boost in size when you train, the increase is not permanent because your muscles return to their original size as soon as the blood pumped into them recedes.
Several factors contribute to muscle growth, and subjecting your muscles to heavy loads is one. These heavy-lifting exercises aid hypertrophy (an increase in the size of cells or tissues).
However, it becomes crucial to adopt progressive overload to ensure continuous muscle growth in the long run. Hence, your muscles should get exposed to new stress stimulation often. Training for gym pumps can work alongside progressive overload to boost muscle growth both in the short and long term.
What Triggers A Muscle Pump?
Cellular swelling or pumping occurs through increased blood flow to the muscle cells and muscle contraction. As you train rigorously, your muscles contract to keep up and help you bear the pressure and weight.
As this contraction continues, the pressure aids the veins that carry blood from the muscles back to the heart. However, the arteries that pump blood back to the heart are not subjected to the same pressure. Hence, they continue to carry blood to your muscles that your veins cannot carry back to your heart in equal measure.
As a result, the blood flow of that region of the body increases significantly and causes a pump to the muscles following on from a hard workout.
Sometimes, the best way to gain a gym pump could be to take shorter rest periods whilst engaging in a higher volume of 8-12 reps per exercise. These workouts will fill your muscles with enough fluids that will pump muscles up and leave you feeling jacked. However, you will likely not see significant results if you undertake movements with a lower rep range of between 2 to 5 repetitions and allow for longer rest periods in between.
A Gym Pump Is Not Permanent
A gym pump will give you a sense of accomplishment and maybe even a short term confidence boost. However, it’s important to remember that by the next day those increase in gains will have disappeared, and your muscle size will return to its pre-workout size.
When you cease training and allow the muscles to rest, the blood stored in those muscles will start to flow back to your vital organs. Your muscles no longer contract during rest, but your internal organs continue the metabolic process, so they need more blood and fluids to function correctly.
As fluids slowly dissipate from your muscles and your heart pumps more blood in the direction of your organs, your pumped muscles begin to retract to their pre-workout size.
How long your gym pump lasts may depend on how much carbohydrates you have consumed prior to working out. Also,the quantity of water in your system and the type of workout you engage in play a role.
Note that a good pump doesn’t always mean you had a good workout session. Similarly, you cannot judge your future muscle growth by the pump you achieve at the end of a workout session. You’ll need to adopt a more direct and consistent workout program for long-lasting muscle growth.
How to Make A Gym Pump Last Longer
We have already established that a gym pump will not last very long. However, there are a few ways to increase the longevity of this phenomenon. Gym pumps may be deceiving, but they encourage you to keep going until you reach your ultimate bodybuilding goal.
Below are a few tricks to help you maintain a gym pump for much longer than usual.
1. Drink A Protein Shake
As we have established earlier, what you consume both before and after your workout influences your recovery rate and how long your pump lasts.
Hence, we recommend you drink a protein shake after your workout session. It should contain the right amount of protein and carbs to kick-start your muscle recovery process and prevent breakdown as much as possible.
If you do not know how to mix your protein shake to prolong a gym pump, try the recipe below:
- Get one to two scoops of protein powder and pour it into a blender or shaker.
- Typically, protein powders are mixed with just water but other liquids such as fruit juice or milk can be used.
- Blend everything and consume immediately.
The nutrients packed in this shake will further improve your muscle development and prolong your muscle pump.
2. Consume Quality Carbohydrates
Again, we are still looking at what you put into your stomach after working out. Filling your stomach with complex carbs post-workout may help keep your muscles pumped for extended periods. Some common carbs include whole-wheat pasta, yams, potatoes, brown rice, and other whole grains that can help keep your muscles pumped. Aside, from keeping that gym pump a little longer, they will also aid with overall muscle repair.
3. Increase Repetitions
Aside from nutrition, you can increase your gym pump by altering your resistance training. You can do different types of strength and resistance training, but adopt a higher number of repetitions and low resistance settings.
With a higher number of reps, you will increase your heart rate, which in turn increases your blood flow. With more blood in your muscles, you’ll get a longer-lasting gym pump.
4. Keep Stress To A Minimum
Sometimes, your mental state may go a long way in determining how long your muscles stay pumped after undergoing resistance training. So if you want to remain pumped for long hours after hitting the gym, you must manage your stress levels.
If your stress levels increase beyond normal, your body automatically releases cortisol into your bloodstream. This hormone causes a drastic reduction in your muscle pump and makes your muscles return to their pre-workout state faster than they usually would.
5. Stay Hydrated
Stay hydrated to the best of your ability during and after your workout. Staying hydrated ensures the proper chemical balance in your body system, ensuring your muscles remain pumped for longer than expected. Be sure to keep lots of water on hand during your workout and take regular sips, especially during rest periods.
6. Get Creative With Your Body Position
Another trick you can adopt to prolong your gym pump is to tweak the part of the working muscle relative to the position of your heart while you are working out.
For example, when the working muscle is below the heart, it receives much more blood supply. Since the flow of blood is downward, it is much easier for fluids and blood to get to the muscle when compared to other muscles in the body. In other words, gravity gives your heart a helping hand.
Essentially, what this means is that you’ll get less blood supply if you take, for example, a prone leg curl position. You’ll only receive better blood flow if you adopt an upright or seated leg curl position. Similarly, compound exercises that require you to stand upright cause your heart rate to go up, and you inevitably increase blood supply to the muscles.
7. Give Nitric Oxide Supplements a Try
Vasodilators or pump-enhancing supplements can also help you retain the muscle pump you get from working out for long periods.
These supplements can nourish the muscles and help open blood vessels for increased blood flow. Also, pre-works contain vital amino acids like l-arginine and l-citrulline. They are vasodilators that help increase blood flow and make your workout sessions much more productive.
Some fitness experts and scientists suggest supplementing your diet with omega-3 since it can significantly increase your blood flow. Omega-3 is also a great supplement for heart health.
8. Adopt Blood Flow Restriction Training
This unique training technique allows you to limit blood flow by wrapping a strap around the upper parts of your limbs.
The idea behind this technique is simple. Veins are thin blood vessels, very close to the skin surface and through them, you can restrict the amount of blood that gets taken back to the heart using a band or lifting strap.
With blood flow to the heart restricted, the volume of blood in the muscles increases and remains there for significantly longer which can help with retaining that gym pump for a little longer.
9. Maintain Physical Fitness And Stay Healthy
When your body is in great shape, blood flow to muscles during workouts becomes much easier. This is why athletes experience better flow during exercise sessions than non-athletes and people who are out of shape.
So, if you are interested in keeping your muscles pumping for extended periods after a rigorous gym session, we recommend getting into shape and being as fit as possible.
Sedentary lifestyles, which have become very common, can result in weight gain, stress to joints and breakdown of muscle tissues. Keep your body moving to stay healthy.
10. Keep Tension During the Workout
If you want to get a significant pump from a particular workout session, a slow and controlled rep allows for higher muscle contraction during the exercise.
Ensure you tightly grasp the bar and focus more on lowering the weight slowly in order to initiate time under tension that will yield a greater pump. This is known as the eccentric part of an exercise and is very often under utilised.
For instance, if you are performing a bicep curl exercise, it is commonly pulled towards you in a slow and controlled way. However, during the eccentric phase, a lifter will often simply lower the weight back down with much less care and an increase in speed. However, by deliberately lowering the weight as slowly as possible, your muscles will be fighting more against gravity thereby resulting in improved muscular contractions and that all important gym pump.
Warm vs. Cold temperature: Which is Better to Prolong a Gym Pump
Avoid the Cold Tub
Cold temperature does not promote the longevity of a gym pump. To this end, we recommend avoiding jumping into the cold tub or having a cold shower.
Dipping yourself into cold water may reverse the anabolic response from your workout sessions.
It may not sound like much, but you can prolong a gym pump by simply staying warm. When you are cold, your body automatically restricts the blood flow to your skin and limbs to enhance heat generation.
Your body does this by simply diverting more significant blood flow to internal organs for metabolic activities that will generate heat and increase your overall body temperature.
Hence, you can maintain blood flow to your muscles by remaining active while working out or wearing extra layers to keep you warm.
While wearing an extra layer of gym clothing may cover your muscle gains, it may be wise to cover up your progress to generate better blood flow that will help you maintain gym pumps for extended periods.
So How Long Does A Gym Pump Last?
This would very much depend on the individual. It can last for 2 to 3 hours post-workout or occasionally even longer. However, remember that a gym pump does not necessarily mean you are gaining muscle size. It is only an indication that your muscles are reacting to the rigors of your workout session.
Real muscle growth will take time and require a lot of hard work.
If you wish to see your muscle pump last longer after every workout, give the tips in the article above a try and see how you get on