Here’s What You Need to Know:

  • The pump is the swollen or congested feeling you get in a muscle during a workout. 
  • New findings show that the pump has more than just cosmetic benefits. It can also increase protein synthesis and promote muscle growth.  
  • Pump training is advantageous for those who, for some reason, cannot lift heavier weights. 
  • There are many ways to maximise the pump while training. We show you the top two tricks here. 
  • Beetroot juice and Citrulline Malate intake are two ways to nutritionally assist blood flow during workout and thus muscle pumps.  

The feeling of congestion in the muscle felt during training, otherwise known as the “pump” is one of the most gratifying feelings ever one could experience while exercising.

Good news! Recent research has shown that the pump plays an important physiological function in response to training; it helps with muscle growth.

Let us see how the muscle pump works and what you can do to maximize it, while giving you a much sought-after variety in your training and keeping it fun.

What Causes the Muscle Pump?71gd3v1pqrl-_sl1500_

Intense contraction of the muscles during training compresses the veins which take blood away from muscles. At the same time the arteries are still delivering blood to muscles. 

This leads to a reduced clearance of blood from working muscles and creates an increased concentration of intramuscular blood.

As a result, fluid builds up in the spaces between muscle cells, causing plasma, the liquid component of blood, to move into the muscle. What results is “cellular swelling” or “muscle pump”.

Bodybuilding-type exercises, which typically rely on moderate to higher repetitions and limited rest intervals, are known to increase the pump.


Cell swelling has been shown to increase protein synthesis and decrease protein breakdown in a variety of cell types, not only muscle cells.

A plausible explanation is that cell swelling increases the intracellular pressure inside muscle, which triggers a series of anabolic (building-up) reactions that serve to reinforce the cell to counter this “threat”.

Cell swelling is also thought to increase the activity of specialized cells called satellite cells that help with muscle cell repair. The net result is bigger, stronger muscle fibres.

Who can benefit Happy senior man performing a reverse tricep extension on a lat pulldown machine in the gym.from Pump Training?

You don’t need to lift heavy all the time. Throw in one pump workout once every week. In this way pump training provides much needed variety to your training and also gives your joints a break from heavier weights.

In fact, studies show that using a mix of heavy, medium, and light weights is effective for maximising gains in muscle and strength.

Older individuals seeking to maintain their muscle mass using strength training, which confers a host of  health benefits, will benefit a lot from pump training as it is less taxing to joints. 

Tips to Get a Satisfying Muscle Pump

Below are some of the techniques you may employ to boost muscle pump:

❶ Use a split training system: giving each body part its own training day, whereby you perform multiple sets of several exercises for the same body part. In the traditional split system you generally train each muscle once a week.

 High reps/ short rest sets: use several high repetition sets combined with short rest periods. E.g. 2–3 sets of 20 repetitions with 60 seconds of rest in between sets. Secondly, use of repeated medium repetition sets combined with short rest periods. An example would be 5–10 sets of 8–12 repetitions with 30 seconds of rest in between sets. 

Happy training!


About the Author

Veeraj Goyaram, MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology.

Veeraj’s passion revolves around researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. Veeraj was previously a graduate student at the University of Cape Town, where he examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.



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