In the legendary lm Pumping Iron, Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about how creating an intense muscle pump compares favorably to the euphoria brought about by having sex! Now, while I am not sure I can quite get fully onboard with that thought process, I definitely agree that engorging the target muscle(s) with large quantities of blood during a balls-to-the-wall workout is certainly a special feeling. It is as if your muscles are literally growing right before your eyes—and the tighter your clothes begin to fit, the more psyched up you tend to get! However, it’s vital to understand that a skin-bursting pump is actually more than just a wonderful sensation—it’s also a solid indication that you are well rested, properly nourished, and adequately focused on your training. In addition, maximizing vasodilation to the working muscles will assist greatly in igniting hypertrophy by feeding them with essential nutrients like amino acids, anabolic hormones, oxygen, and more. So how do we best use food and supplements before we hit the gym so that a wicked pump is only a few sets away?
Do you want your muscles to look like raisins or grapes? Well, I hope you said grapes, my fellow FLEX readers. Raisins are dehydrated and, because of this, look shriveled and lifeless, while grapes are full of water, and thus plump and juicy. Think of your muscles in the same way and you will understand why it is so important to drink ample amounts of fluid in the hour or so leading up to your workout and throughout the session as well.
Make sure you’re taking in enough quality carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, rice, potatoes, quinoa, whole-grain bread, fruit, etc., with the meals preceding your workout so that your muscles are filled to the brim with glycogen (stored carbohydrate). Without adequate glycogen stores, the muscle cells will be depleted of water and thus will not pump up maximally, no matter how hard you train.
Nitric oxide (NO) is a naturally produced molecule in our body that can help dilate (open up) blood vessels, allowing more blood to freely ow throughout the body (right to your awaiting muscles). Utilizing supplements (within 30 to 45 minutes of your workout) that contain ingredients such as arginine, citrulline malate, agmatine, beetroot, betaine, grape skin extract, hawthorn, and others can boost one’s levels of NO and thereby assist in creating a far more wicked muscle pump. Additionally, I highly recommend the use of glycerol and creatine, both of which draw fluid directly into muscle cells, pushing the pump perpetually higher.