What Is “The Pump” At The Gym 

how to get a pump in the gym courtesy of Arnold "The Oak"

How to Get Pumped Up at the Gym

Muscle ‘pump‘ is a commonly used term amongst bodybuilders, and it means pumping up your muscles by doing vigorous exercises. This increase in muscle size is temporary and can be achieved quickly by using lighter weights and higher reps, and by resting only briefly between sets. You see beginner athletes wondering, “what is the pump?” and “how do I get the pump?” – well it’s not that difficult, believe it or not. Getting pumped is much easier than setting a new PR, that’s for sure.

Read more to learn about what the pump in the gym is all about ?

What Is The Science Behind Muscle Pumps? 

Whenever our body performs a certain function, it requires energy. This energy is provided in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) by respiration. 

The two types of respiration are aerobic and anaerobic respiration. Aerobic respiration requires oxygen to take place, and it breaks down glucose into carbon dioxide and water while providing large amounts of ATP. While in anaerobic respiration, glucose breaks down without oxygen being present, and the product formed is lactic acid only and very little energy (ATP). 

When we start exercising, our body is able to provide enough oxygen to the muscles for aerobic respiration to take place. However, if we continue exercising for a longer period without taking any breaks in between, our bodies won’t be able to meet the oxygen demand required. Due to this lack of oxygen supply to the muscle tissues, our body switches from aerobic to anaerobic respiration. 

The disadvantage of anaerobic respiration is that it produces less amount of energy and produces lactic acid, which in high amounts can be dangerous. However, lactic acid contributes to the muscle-pumping mechanism. Here is how:

When lactic acid is formed in the muscles, the heart sends more blood in that direction to remove the accumulated lactic acid. More blood means more volume, leading to more swelling of the muscles. 

Furthermore, these byproducts of anaerobic respiration bring in more water which further causes the muscles to increase in size. 

Lastly, this increase in the size of muscle cells causes the veins to become engorged. A large amount of blood sent to the muscles by the heart is unable to return, resulting in the trapping of the blood, which is another factor for the ‘pumping’ of the muscles. 

Thus, the more you exercise extensively, the more lactic acid will be produced, and more blood will accumulate, resulting in more increase in the size of the muscles. 

What Are The Key Methods To Getting The Pump In The Gym? 

  • Introduce more reps in each of your sets. This will cause more byproducts to be formed, attracting more water into the muscle cells and, in turn, trapping more blood. 
  • Take fewer breaks between exercise cycles so the body cannot compensate for the increased demand. 
  • Introduce more sets in your workout routine. This will increase the blood flow to the muscles. 

You will often observe trainers doing ‘pump training,’ which has around 10-15 reps with 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes short breaks in between each set. This intense training causes more blood to accumulate and further facilitates the ‘pumping‘ process. 

bodybuilder with tattoos

How To Get The ‘Pump’ In The Gym? 

Getting the pump in your muscles is not a very uphill task. You can easily get your desired results with continuous dedication and commitment to work. 

Here is how you can get your muscles pumping and kicking in no time:

  • Utilize your time wisely and carefully. More than 2/3rd of your gym time should be spent doing heavy exercises, and 1/3rd of your time should be utilized doing lighter exercises. 

Several programs offer exercise training routines following the same course. More often, it is observed that weight lifters are asked to do 9 or more sets of heavy weightlifting and then 3 sets of light weight lifting in the 4-6 rep range and 8-10 rep range, respectively. 

Some people also do pump exercises in only some specific workouts and not in all. 

In short, you must spend 80% of your time in heavy exercises and 20% in rigorous pump exercises

  • Make it a rule to start with heavy weight lifting exercises and then go for pump training

Think of heavy exercises as the base of your training; you don’t want to build a tower over a weak base, do you? 

  • Your pump training shouldn’t lag at all. It would be best if you tried increasing the weights gradually, making them heavier and more impactful. 

Remember that since this training requires more reps, you must increase the weight very carefully and slowly. You will not be able to add more kgs in every workout. But over time, your weightlifting capability will improve and increase. 

  • Pump exercises should be done with isolation exercises rather than compound. 

Compound exercises involve ‘compound,’ i.e., more muscles. Such exercises allow the person to lift heavier weights compared to isolation exercises. Therefore, compound exercises are performed with heavy weights and low reps. 

Isolation exercises involve fewer muscle groups; therefore, you cannot lift heavy weights with such exercises. They should be performed with high-rep training protocol. 

  • You should continue to change and experiment more with your various forms of ‘pump’ exercises

This strategy will not only help you gain more muscle mass but will also make your workout routine more enjoyable and less monotonous. The two well-known forms of such training are rest-pause and blood flow restriction training. 

In rest-pause training, the person has to perform several mini-sets repeatedly. While in blood flow restriction training, the method is the same; the person has to wrap bands around their limbs to stop the blood from flowing away from the muscle. 

In both of these training methods, the objective of getting a pump is reached without any drawback. There is no muscle damage, nor does the person get too fatigued. 

What Should You Eat Before A Muscle ‘Pump’ Exercise? 

  • Eat plenty of carbohydrates before hitting the gym. Why? Carbs are known to bring in more water, contributing to the pump
  • Hydration is key. You don’t want to start a workout with a dehydrated body. So remember to take plenty of fluids. 
  • Fresh fruit smoothies are very refreshing as well. They help you keep your body energized and pumped with all the essential vitamins and minerals


Muscle pumping can produce good results quickly, but it is not the best or ideal method to increase muscle mass. 

If you exercise properly, follow a healthy routine, keep good track of your sleep cycle and lift heavy ;compound exercises like the deadlift, squat, bench, and overhead press systematically, your body will, without a doubt, gain more muscle mass. 

Michael Currie

Author Bio:

Michael Currie is a personal trainer and online fitness and weight loss coach from Vancouver British Columbia in Canada. He has been training for over 10 years and has gone through it all – weight gain, weight loss, building muscle, and injuries. You can find Michael online at The Fitness Report.

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