I wanted to share with you my theory on the importance of those last few repetitions when working out (the pump). This subject is close to my heart, with me being a pro bodybuilder and personal trainer, it’s also something that you as a unique person should keep in mind when looking after your health and wellness as well as for those of you that want to build muscle and improve overall fitness. Before i deluge into the nitty gritty details, i just want to say that, without these last few repetitions, meters or minutes, (depending on the activity you’re doing) you can not and will not advance, or see an improvement in your physical/mental health.
The idea is NOT to stop when the pain starts, but to search the ‘PUMP’. Your body has a comfort zone, and no matter how long and hard you search inside this zone, you will NOT find progress. Like anything progress comes from hard work, pain, determination and courage, but most importantly REPETITION and FAILURE!
So, when you’re next at the gym and you say to yourself that was easy, what you just did was waste your precious time. Your coach may have given you a strict program to follow, and you’re doing exactly as he/she said, but, the fact is if you don’t feel pain (the pump) there will be no gains.
Imagine this, each time you go past your pain threshold you expand it, commanding it to become stronger, more adapt so that the next time you encounter the same circumstances you will be able to complete the task much more efficiently. On the other hand, if each time you reach your threshold, you decide to quit, to stop, to take a pause, you effectively tell the body that it did well and that it does’t need to adapt or become stronger because its able to complete the task at hand efficiently enough without to much stress on the body or mind.
This brings me to the ‘MIND‘, perhaps the most important tool in the equation. Why do people always tell you “it’s all in the mind” and you feel like slapping them or saying “yeah yeah whatever”. In fact they’re 100% right, the power of the mind is incredible, i remember once trying to lift 200kg on squat and just before i got under the bar i said to myself “f me that’s f’ing heavy” and guess what, i got stuck at the bottom of the squat and had to drop the weight.
Me being me ( a f’ing warrior) i decided i was going to win, and then got myself under the bar and this time i said to myself “you’re the boss, a champion, a beast and this bar is light”, guess what? I lifted not only the 200kg 8 times but went on to lift 220kg 6 times (after a little pause of course). The point i’m making is that, your mind, what you believe about yourself is very powerful. It’s not magic, you can’t go from lifting 100kg too 200kg in a day cause that would just be impossible, but what you can do is progressively expand your MIND’S THRESHOLD by FAILING & REPETITION.
What is also important, is what us bodybuilders call the ‘mind-muscle connection‘, by focusing the mind on the muscles at work, you’re able to recruit more muscle fibers and therefore, build more muscle over time. So always search the pump (failure), if you want to progress, otherwise stop asking yourself “why am i not losing/gaining weight/muscle?” cause you now have the answer.
Here’s what you need to know…
- The muscle pump isn’t just cosmetic. It contributes to muscle growth. Use multiple sets of moderate to high reps to engorge your muscles with blood.
- Develop a strong mind-muscle connection to recruit more muscle fibers.
- Visualize the muscles you’re training, and between sets envision yourself doing your next lift. Use your mind to build your body.
- Pick a power move and go heavy with lower reps on occasion. Building size doesn’t mean neglecting strength. Arnold power-lifted.
What getting a pump actually is in short : When we search the pump (those last few repetitions) what happens is that the veins transport blood away from the working muscles become compressed by the muscular contractions. However, the arteries are still delivering blood into the muscles, which creates an increase in the amount of intra-muscular blood plasma. What then happens is that the plasma spills out of the capillaries into the interstitial spaces – the areas between muscle cells and blood vessels.
So, lets go a little deeper and ill try to explain why this pump or why searching for those last repetitions isn’t just superficial and actually does cause progress.
In short the more stem cells we have circulating the faster and more efficiently we will recover and build muscle. The process explained in the above paragraphs leads to a build up of fluid within the interstitial spaces along with the osmotic properties ( click to read up more https://goo.gl/UX42jD) of lactate which creates an extra-cellular pressure gradient, this in turn causes a rush of plasma back into the muscle. What we call a swell or pump and is why when we work out properly we appear bigger and harder (more toned).
The net result is blood that pools in your muscles, causing them to swell. Researchers call the pump cell swelling.
This is what Arnold had to say about the subject in the movie Pumping Iron:
“The most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump. Let’s say you train your biceps. The blood is rushing into your muscles. Your muscles get a really tight feeling, like your skin is going to explode any minute. It’s like somebody blowing air into your muscles. There’s no better feeling in the world.”
Where most gym goers get it wrong
Lots of us have never even felt the burn, or if we have we don’t like it or think it’s a bad thing and therefore give up. Others consider the pump something temporary, a condition that’s strictly cosmetic. I’m going to have to disagree and say that i’m afraid you’re really missing pout on gains if you’re not searching that pump. Studies have demonstrated that when cells are hydrated they stimulate protein synthesis and inhibit proteolysis (protein breakdown). This is the stuff that builds muscles so how can this not be a winner?
So, if we are to gain muscle mass (hypertrophy) we must stimulate and breakdown proteins (protein synthesis) and a great way to go this is to search that pump, burn baby burn. The fact that the swelling of the cells simultaneously increases protein synthesis at the same time as reducing degradation is a muscle-building win.
What causes this swelling-induced hypertrophic response ?
The increase fluid in the muscle fibers leads to a stretch of the cell membrane. It can be likened to an overinflated water ballon. This sends danger signals to the muscle, which, in turn, reacts by initiating an anabolic signaling cascade, ultimately serving to reinforce its ultrastructure (growth and strength increases).
This as i said at the beginning of this blog, is my theory on the importance of those last few repetitions. Unfortunately, no direct studies have have attempted to investigate whether these anabolic effects are attained from pump-oriented training. Although, the implied evidence gives reason to believe that it very well may have a positive affect on muscle growth.
So next time your working out, focus on the working muscle, keeping constant tension during the movement, and feel the pump.
The occlusion and hypoxia created from “chasing the pump” leads to a long list of hypertrophy-boosting mechanisms. One of these includes increased satellite cell activity, which also increases the muscle cell’s ability to continue expanding.
So if muscle development is your goal, don’t be afraid to incorporate some pumping sets into your routine.
If you’re having trouble with your diet or workout sessions, then please don’t hesitate to contact me :
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