Muscle Pump : Do you need to get a pump to build muscle?
Firstly what is “the pump” when it comes to muscles?
The pump is when you get a short term increase in muscle size while training with lighter weights in a higher rep range, and why young men do lots of push ups before they go on a night out.
Many people believe, and many magazines and media videos state that the pump is essential to gain muscle.
So what exactly is “The Pump”
Well as you would perceive it’s when the muscle fills with blood which makes it swell. The blood is pumped into the muscles to assist in removing compounds such as lactic acid, and as the cells expand it restricts the amount of blood that is able to leave the muscle.
So simplified the blood is forced into the muscles faster than it can exit the muscle causing the pump.
So how do I get “The Pump”
Training for the pump would focus on a higher rep range which is commonly sets of 12-15 reps with short rest periods. The “pump” effect will only last up to a couple of hours, so when you ladies are in the toilets fixing your make up on a night out the guys are in the toilets getting pumped up again so they can look “swollen” all night.
However, in terms of training it is not essential to get pumped up to build muscle even though this method of training does have a place.
So what is the alternative way to effectively build muscle?
Heavy low rep strength & power training
This style of training is in a lower range of 4-6 reps and relies on progressive overload at its core. Progressive overload is slowly increasing the amount of weight you lift over time. I would also state that compound exercises are also a critical factor to this style of training.
This style of training takes less time to achieve and reaps the same if not greater rewards overall.
Now there are great studies supporting both styles of training, and they also state that both methods work – so which is best?
As always I like to decipher the information and here’s what I think:-
1. You do not need to gain a “pump” to build muscle and getting the pump is not a great sign that you are building muscle, in fact I believe people that just train for getting a small pump are wasting many months if not years trying to achieve what can be gained in less time.
2. Do not completely forsake this style of training though; adding in exercises in the high rep range after your big heavy lifts can add more volume into the workout which it turn can build more muscle.
Strength & Power Training
1. I believe you will make faster progress with this style of training as progressive overload is at its core.
2. I believe by comparison this style of training will build muscle quicker than pump training especially if you are a “newbie”
3. This training method requires less time spent in the gym so you can get in, get it done, and get out.
4. It is important to track your training as guessing your way through your workout is not good practice. Progressive overload relies on increasing the load over time so tracking your stats ensures you are doing this.
The dbpt Training Method
When I first decided that building my strength and muscle would assist me in fighting against my arthritis the first thing I had to do is cut through all the crap out there. This took much longer than you would expect as there is truly a lot of crap out there when it comes to building muscle.
So I read the studies and decided that I would not take sides in the strength vs pump camps instead I would combine the two.
If you wish to build muscle and increase strength and you are not sure where to start then this method will offer you up to two years of building muscle.
I will not go into my full program but I will make it clear that the compound lifts are the foundation of the program. Also progressive overload is key to building muscle and tracking this is as important.
I have copied my method directly from my own training app:-
You will be lifting weights in the 8 rep range, “when you do 8 you go up in weight”.
Start with a moderate weight and progress by increasing this until you are unable to lift the weight 8 times. When you have achieved this you can slowly progress from there. An example is you lift 30kg for 4, add this into the app and the following week you will strive to lift 30kg for 5. When you can reach 30kg for 8 you can then increase the weight to 35kg as an example. This is called progressive overload. Good practice is to stop lifting when you think you have one or two left or your form fails.
You will do two sets with progressive overload and your third set will be a “volume set”.
Reduce the weight to about 60% of your previous heavy weight and increase the reps to between 12-15.
Rest periods should cease each time you are physically and mentally prepared to start the next set.
This rep range (8 rep range) is for for females and I train my guys in the 6 rep range.
So I have simply combined two sets in the power & strength range with one set in the pump range. Once you have completed the 3 sets you move on to your next exercises.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and please offer any comments or questions you may have.
Be happy, be healthy, enjoy life