The “pump” is the temporary swollen feeling athletes experience when their muscles become engorged with blood during and after intense workouts. As blood fills the muscles, the muscle fibers absorb plasma, which causes them to stretch and expand.
During the golden age of bodybuilding in the 1970s and 1980s, athletes thought chasing the pump was the most effective way to maximize muscle growth. The best bodybuilders thought if they didn’t get a pump in the muscle they were targeting, the exercise they were doing was a waste of time, at least for them.
But were they right? Fitness expert Ilija Jahura has offered his take on this controversial topic.
Does Temporary Muscle Growth Support Long-Term Results?
While the concept of the pump is still alive and well, some people these days believe such perception-based lifting strategies to be unreliable, favoring instead a data-driven approach to determining which exercises work best.
The pump, and the wicked soreness that typically follows, has been a guiding light for some of the most elite bodybuilders in history. They relied on those feelings to select their exercises.
There may be something to this intuition. Scientific evidence suggests that the temporary hypertrophy (muscle growth) that happens with the pump can also accelerate long-term muscle growth.
When a muscle is “pumped,” intramuscular pressure increases. Among other things, this pressure is caused by an accumulation of metabolites and fluids inside the muscle cells, which promote metabolic processes that cause muscle growth.
Another theory suggests that getting a pump stretches the muscle fascia, or the sheath of connective tissue surrounding the muscle cells. When the fascia is stretched, the surrounding muscle may produce growth pathways, meaning the pump could stimulate growth this way, too.
The Bottom Line: Is the Pump Scientifically Sound?
Biomechanical analysis is useful for gauging workout effectiveness, but so is the immediate feedback an athlete gets from chasing the pump. There’s significant evidence to back up claims that the pump can contribute to long-term muscle growth, which is good news for bodybuilding diehards who swear by the time-honored method.
Athletes should use the tools available to them to achieve their goals. Poring over analytical data about muscle activation and metabolite concentrations might be suitable for some, while paying attention to how the muscles feel and chasing the pump may work better for others.
Who Is Ilija Jahura?
Ilija Jahura is an expert fitness and health consultant based in Kelowna, British Columbia. A self-proclaimed wellness fanatic, he always begins the process of onboarding new clients by asking them what kinds of goals they want to reach. He then works with them to create individually-structured plans to achieve those goals.
Although he’s been successful in his career, Ilija Jahura’s main goal isn’t to make money — it’s to help his clients set and reach their goals inside and outside the gym. When he’s not working, he enjoys working out, reading up on the latest news and literature of the fitness world, and spending time with friends and family.