Pump Training, actual growth!


Love Feeling Pumped?

Good. Because stimulating a pump can be a powerful trigger for

muscle growth. This increase in blood flow delivers more nutrients

to the working muscle, which is known as activating the anabolic


In this article we'll discuss how to train to achieve maximal

blood flow and the biggest pumps, while greatly stimulating muscle

growth. Specifically, we'll look at:

1) Ramp Contractions

2) Taper Training

3) The Mechanical Muscle Pump

How To Get Pumped

Ask the average person about getting pumped and they'll

tell you about how an AC/DC song makes them feel or the experience

when their favorite team scores a goal. Occasionally you'll

even get someone who'll share his secret for "male


But for most of us, a muscle pump is one of the best feelings in

the world. It can be a great motivator because not only does it

look and feel great, but it actually helps us optimize our gym

efforts. Best of all, we know we've earned it. If we

understand how the pump works, we're better able to improve this

sought-after reward.

The main stimulators of blood flow are metabolic by-products

(a.k.a. metabolites) that build up during the course of muscle

contraction. Substances like potassium and adenosine

"leak" out of the muscle during intense contraction, and

are the important mediators of the desired hyperemia (a.k.a.

increased blood flow). These metabolites are signals for a number

of metabolic processes, the most noticeable of which is the blood

flow stimulation that's used to clear them away.

You probably aren't concerned with the details of the

process, so let's just say that even if you don't care

about metabolite clearance from the muscle, the elevated blood flow

also brings nutrients to keep the muscle strong and stimulate

growth. Essentially, it feeds our muscle. Perhaps even better is

the fact that the metabolite buildup also hinders muscle

contraction, and the improved clearance serves to increase muscle

strength by removing this inhibition.

Based on what you've just read, it might be obvious that

the best way to stimulate the muscle pump is to cause as much

metabolite accretion as possible. This is accomplished through one

of two ways, both of which can be combined to maximize the anabolic


The Pulsatile Pump

During the normal course of a normal set, muscles contract and

relax (somewhat), which actually helps to pump blood around, just

like a mini-heart. When we contract maximally, we occlude blood

flow and allow metabolites to build up. As we relax the muscle

during the eccentric (negative) part of the movement, we allow more

blood to reach the working muscle. Whether you knew it or not,

every set you've ever done has had this rhythmic effect on

blood flow, and if we manipulate it just right we can greatly

enhance the effect.

One of the best ways to induce a muscle pump is to perform

isometric (static) contractions. This is because the metabolites

produced during normal contractions aren't cleared away with each

rep, as would normally occur during dynamic or moving contractions.

Stated differently, the cyclic contraction pattern of preventing

blood flow and then allowing flow to proceed, is disrupted during

static contraction training. By allowing metabolites to build up

and reach a critical point, we induce a tremendously powerful

stimulus to activate the anabolic pump.

Ramp Contractions

The idea behind ramp contractions is simple, but the

conceptualization might not be. The idea is that we gradually

increase the tension on the muscle during an isometric contraction,

essentially ramping up contraction strength until we're maximally

contracting against the unmovable object. As indicated earlier,

this temporarily restricts muscle blood flow, resulting in a huge

anabolic surge once the tension is released.

Ideally, different muscle lengths will be used for the ramp

contractions to ensure that all muscle fibers are reached equally.

For example, if we're using ramp contractions for our biceps, we'd

use sets in which our elbows were largely straight, those with

elbows bent at 90 degrees, and those with a peak contraction. The

latter of which will yield the greatest blood flow occlusion, so

most people find it easiest to end their sets of ramp contractions

with them. If they're performed too early in the set, fatigue will

build up that would hinder subsequent contraction


Ramp Contractions: In Practice

In order to perform ramp contractions, we of course need to

ensure that we have the desired contraction angle for the immovable

object. If we use the example of biceps training again, this is

easiest accomplished through either power rack pins or very heavy

weight. If we're using a power rack, just set the pins to

where you want the contraction to be held and pull the empty bar up into them.

Alternatively, if we don't have access to a power rack with

movable pins, ramp contractions can be performed by setting the bar

on a squat rack (or any bench) at the desired height. If we use

excessive weight, such that it can't be moved, we can pull up as

hard as we want to achieve an isometric contraction.

Ramp contractions are usually performed in conjunction with a

traditional training routine, following the completion of the

normal static sets. The ramping up of contraction intensity takes 5

seconds to go from 0% to maximal contraction. It seems as though

the ramping process isn't only preferred by most people, but the

progressive buildup of tension allows the body to contract harder

for longer. Although they're isometric, make no mistake that these

contractions are intense.

Key Point: Just because ramp contractions are isometric doesn't

mean they should be treated as such. In order to achieve the

greatest contraction, it should be your intent to actually move the

bar, even though this is clearly impossible. Studies suggest that

it's this intent to move the bar that yields the greatest



Total Sets: 3-5

Reps: 1 (naturally)

Duration: 10 Seconds

Rest: 1-2 Minutes

Taper Training

Another key to activating the anabolic pump is to employ a

method called taper training. Once again we focus on the

metabolite-induced stimulation of blood flow to trigger muscle

growth, but this time we combine high reps with our normal training

routine in order to achieve the desired effect. In fact, taper

training is best thought of as an adjunct to normal training rather

than a system of its own.


Extreme Taper

The way in which it serves to optimize blood flow for the

anabolic pump is by using the fatigue and stimulation of the

preceding sets for maximal effect. Once all heavy work on a muscle

is completed, lighter sets are performed with higher reps. Because

the muscle is already stressed by the first part of the workout,

it's primed to receive the extra nutritive blood flow that the high

reps will induce.

For example, if we perform 6 sets of chest work with a 6-10 rep

range, we will have already stimulated muscle growth. But by

tapering down the weight for more sets, we'll be able to feed

the anabolic drive though elevated blood flow. Low reps create the

need while the high reps activate the feed.

Taper Training: In Practice

It's best to use taper training within ten minutes of the last

set to ensure that the muscle isn't completely fatigued, but still

in the receptive state for blood flow. Using chest training again,

we'd begin tapering down the weight five minutes after the last

heavy work set. Sets of the first chest exercise are used again,

but this time, the weight is adjusted such that 15 reps can be


Following this set, you'd wait one minute before doing the same

exercise with a weight with which 20 reps can be performed.

Don't let the high reps fool you; you're going to feel a

serious burn. From here it's best to move on to sets of

subsequent chest exercises.

Key Point: By the time you get to even the second tapered set,

the weight may be so low that it seems inconsequential. But

remember that the key here it to stimulate metabolite buildup,

which is exactly how the anabolic pump is activated.


Total Sets: 3-6

Reps: 15-25

Rest: 1-2 minutes

The Mechanical Muscle Pump

No, this isn't a weak new supplement specially formulated

to get you "jacked" and "swole" (and make girls

like you). The muscle pump is a fundamental physical process in

which we assist our natural blood flow by contracting our muscles.

If you've ever performed vigorous physical activity and

were told not to lie down afterwards, this is why. Walking around

occurs by contracting our muscles which squeezes our blood vessels

and subsequently forces (or pumps) the blood around our body. Hence

the muscle pump.

If we didn't have such a mechanism, our blood could pool in

our legs as we stand (due to gravity), which would reduce blood

supply to our tissues, including our brains. Once this happens, we

pass out.

You may have heard such stories from military personnel who are

forced to stand at attention for long periods of time. If they

don't periodically contract their calf and thigh muscles, without

making it appear as though they're moving, then there's a chance

that their blood will remain in their legs and down they


Now you're probably not passing out during training, but we

can use this muscle pump to improve strength by simply getting off

of our asses after a set. By walking around, we're preventing any

gravity-induced pooling, and assisting blood flow to the muscles

being trained.

This helps inter-set recovery, especially during leg training,

but is recommended following every set. After all, if we're

just sitting there waiting for our next set then we're not

experiencing ideal metabolite clearance, and our strength on

subsequent sets will be impeded.


Wanna get pumped? Try ramp contractions and taper training, and

utilize the mechanical muscle pump during this week's brutal