by Vince Del Monte
Discover 5 advanced techniques to maximize your muscle pump and promote faster muscle gains! The nuts and bolts of what you need to know. By restricting a working muscle from obtaining the oxygen it needs, a surplus of blood is sent to the muscle as the body panics, and when the working muscle is disengaged, all of this extra blood surges into the muscle creating the pump.
My favorite methods to create a pump are partial repetitions, reduced rest intervals, extended set methods, slow lifting/lowering tempos, and contrasting isometrics/flexing with dynamic loaded movements.
In a previous article I spoke about the cause and effect of the “pump,” and in this article I’m going to share with you my favorite methods in regards to achieving a maximum pump.
Pump Methods And How To Apply Them
Once you know the cause and effect of the pump, it’s really simple to come up with your own methods to accomplish this. Some of my personal favorite methods to achieve a skin-splitting pump are as follows:
Unlike full range reps, partials establish a hypoxic state, since full range movements allow the muscle to briefly disengage which creates a localized pump, and enhances the mind-muscle connection (thus increasing the effectiveness of the remaining workload). The localized pump also increases protein synthesis, and decreases protein breakdown, which sets the stage for anabolism (growth).
Try this – perform 10 partial reps of any movement in which the muscles are operating in their shortest range, followed by 5 partial reps through the mid-range of the same movement, finishing with 5 full range reps.
Using the overhead press as an example, you would perform 10 partials lifting the bar from the top of the head to the fully extended position, then 5 partials only lifting the bar from the nose/eyes range to just above the head, before performing 5 reps through a full range – lifting the bar from the clavicle to completely above the head. For a change of pace, perform the sequence in reverse – bottom range partials, followed by full range reps, and finishing with top range partials. Or try this – at the conclusion of a full range repetition, perform an additional partial rep before transitioning into your next full range rep.
Using the squat as an example, you would squat all the way down, come up ¼ of the way, go back down, and come up to the top. That would be one rep. These are also known as 1 ¼ reps, for obvious reasons.
Reduced Rest Intervals
Limiting the amount of recovery limits the opportunity for metabolic waste to be cleared, which increases the demand on the body to clear it away the next chance it gets – and it does so by sending even more (hopefully nutrient rich) blood to the area. Only once the muscle is disengaged can a surplus of blood enter. Try this – perform 10 reps of any exercise, then rest as little as possible to get another 5 reps (half as many more). For a change of pace, perform 10 reps, then rest only as long as needed to perform another 2-3 reps at a time, until completing double the amount of reps performed initially (20 in this case).
When it’s no longer possible to perform an exercise in the same manner, an alternative measure (like reducing the amount of weight, or modifying the manner in which the exercise is performed) can be taken to continue subjecting the targeted musculature to high levels of tension. Try this – perform a movement of your choice in a more challenging way by either slowing things down, or including pauses, or even positioning yourself in a position of disadvantage (an example being to use an underhand grip when pressing).
As the set becomes more and more challenging with every rep, modify the way in which you perform the exercise to “extend the set,” by either performing faster reps, full reps without pausing, or switching your grip/stance. Using the chest press machine as an example, you would begin the set with an underhand grip and perform your reps slowly. As you fatigue, speed up the execution of the reps, and switch to an overhand grip.
For a change of pace, upon completion of the set, perform the entire sequence again using partial reps.
Slow Tempo Lifting
Lifting slowly prevents the muscles from disengaging, which is what happens when you lift with maximum force, and/or through a full range of motion. The momentum generated from lifting with maximal force can overcome the necessity for the muscles to remain fully engaged throughout the full range of motion. Because “slow” is a relative term, I generally advise that a rep be performed no faster than 3 seconds at a time, as anything faster than that will generally be too fast and allow the muscle to disengage.
Flexing, or simply pausing during a dynamic movements engages the muscle in a similar manner to which partials do, by preventing oxygen and nutrient rich blood from entering the muscle. The beautiful thing about flexing is how practical it is. And, because flexing is not damaging to the muscle in any way, it can be used frequently.
Try this – flex the muscle you’re training DURING your rest to trap nutrient rich blood inside the muscle. An example would be to perform a set of curls, put the weight(s) down, flex the biceps are hard as possible for 30-45 seconds, and then perform the next set with as little rest as needed between the flexing, and the subsequent set (no more than 1 minute of rest) – continuing in this fashion for as many sets as prescribed, or tolerable.
Flex/pose in the same manner in which the musculature was trained during the movement. For example, if performing underhand curls, flex the biceps with the palms up as well. If performing overhand curls, flex the biceps with the palms facing down.
Or try this – when lifting a weight, intentionally stop at a specific range of motion to increase the demand on the targeted musculature. Using the reverse barbell curl as an example, you would initiate the curling motion with the elbows fully extended, and upon reaching a 20-30 degree bend in the elbow, stop the movement and hold for 2 seconds before continuing the curl.
For a change of pace, instead of pausing for 2 seconds during each rep (which would equate to a roughly 20 second pause for every 10 reps performed), hold the isometric for a full 20 seconds prior to performing your scheduled set, and then perform your reps in a traditional manner – or you could perform partials, which would only further intensify the pump!