Your back is firmly planted on the bench as you wrap your chalked hands around the cold, steel bar. Your training partner helps you un-rack the weight as you power the bar up and down, squeezing your chest and triceps on each grueling rep. You complete your 6 repetitions, re-rack the bar and stand up.
Your chest feels tight and engorged with blood. You take a look in the mirror, thrilled with how full and vascular your pecs appear. You feel strong, powerful, healthy and motivated to blast through the rest of your workout with your newly achieved “pump”.
Let’s face it, a pump feels incredible.
For those of you who aren’t quite sure what I’m talking about, a pump is the feeling that you get as blood becomes trapped inside your muscle tissue as a result of resistance training. The muscles will swell up and increase in size, vascularity and tightness.
There is certainly nothing wrong with achieving a pump in the gym, and it is simply a natural result of intense weight training. However, contrary to what the majority of weightlifters may think, a pump is in no way indicative of a successful workout. Anyone who uses the intensity of their pump as a gauge for the effectiveness of their workout is making a costly error.
On countless occasions I've heard lifters raving about the massive pumps they get in the gym as they share methods for achieving the best pump possible. "Dude, this will give you a crazy pump!"
If you have already been working out for a decent amount of time then you know exactly what I'm talking about. While a pump does feel extremely satisfying, just remember that it means very little in terms of muscle stimulation and growth.
A pump is simply the result of extra blood within the muscle tissue.
Think of it this way: if I took a pair of 10 pound dumbbells and performed 300 reps of a bench press movement, I would achieve an incredible pump. If muscle pumps meant muscle growth, then super light weight, ultra high rep programs would be the most effective way to grow.
Any serious lifter with half a brain knows that this simply is not the case.
Do you want to know how to truly gauge the success of a workout? Here it is…
Take your workout records (in terms of weight and reps) from the previous week and compare it to the current week. Did you improve? Were you able to either increase the resistance slightly on each exercise, or perform an extra rep or two?
If so, you had a successful workout, regardless of how much blood you were able to pump into your muscle tissue.
Building muscle mass and strength is all about training with 100% intensity on every given set and then striving to improve from week to week. If you are able to consistently achieve this, your muscle size and strength will increase faster than you ever thought possible, with or without a pump.
I hope this article cleared up your confusion on the issue of "muscle pumps". There's so much misleading muscle-building information circling around on the Internet these days that it can sometimes be impossible to know who to listen to. If you want to learn the truth behind 14 other common, counterproductive "myths",