Muscle Pump

by Ashley Ellefsen February 03, 2017

What does it mean to get your “pump” or your “swole” on? For some, this is just a term thrown around by gym beefcakes but for others it’s the pinnacle of their workout.  But, what is muscle pump exactly? Why is it so important? And, how do you achieve it?

When a muscle is being trained, blood flow is diverted from other parts of the body in order to supply that muscle group with what it needs for maximum performance output. This is where muscle pump comes from.  A pump is literally when the muscles swell during your workout.  A good muscle pump signals the effectiveness of your training and ultimately, muscle growth. A pumped up muscle is going to feel swollen and full because it’s actually filling with blood…making that muscle and even your skin feel tighter.

When you’re consistently getting a good pump from your workouts, you can expect future muscle growth.  The opposite also goes….if you’re not experiencing a pump during your workout, you’re probably not going to see progress. Interesting fact, It’s thought that during training, a muscle can receive up to four times the amount of blood it normally gets. So, pump is good because it’s not only moving blood into the muscles carrying with it nutrients and filtering toxins but can help us measure results.  

What type of supplement products can aid in achieving a pump?

You’ll usually find pump ingredients in pre-workout supplements.  There are several common ingredients that are intended to increase your “pump”.   But, all of these primary pump ingredients are trying to achieve the same thing, increase NO (Nitric Oxide) produced in the body.  Nitric Oxide is a vasodilator that increases blood flow to the muscles, it controls the circulation of blood and regulating activities of the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach and other organs. It also affects the release of hormones and adrenaline in your body.  The result of increased NO is the pump and its also said to speed growth and recovery time as the increased blood flow is delivering more nutrients than normal to the muscles.

While you won’t actually find Nitric Oxide as an ingredient in supplements, you’ll usually find precursors like arginine.  Arginine is naturally found in foods such as spinach, sesame seeds, crab, shrimp and white meat turkey. Other commonly found “pump” ingredients to look for in your pre-workout are Citrulline, Agmatine, and L-Norvaline.  Beetroot has recently come on the scene for it’s vasodilation abilities as well.  But, it takes about 30,000 mg to achieve the desired effect where the average serving being provided is usually only around 500 mg.  So, beetroot in my opinion is just a trendy add-on.

Other ways you can insure a healthy pump: 

During your workout, focus on each rep and the muscle group you’re working. Try adding drop sets to your routine; and force yourself to eek out an extra two, three or four reps when you’re muscles are on fire at the end of your set!

Consume complex carbs like baked potatoes, yams, brown rice, pasta and whole grain bread.  By fueling your body properly before a workout the pump will come more quickly.  Some people drink protein shakes before training or supplement with carbohydrate drinks that contain high amounts of glucose…here’s the problem with this: about 15 minutes into your workout you’re gonna go flat because your body can’t use all the carbs in one shot and it’s going to use what it can and store the rest as fat.  

So, now you’re in the know on how to achieve the much sought after “pump”!  


Stay safe and stay on point!



Check out my segment on The BOLO Podcast, where I talk about muscle pump!  

Ashley Ellefsen
Ashley Ellefsen