It's Not What You Think It Is

Contrary to popular belief, the "pump" is NOT increased blood flow to your muscles. Instead, it's fluid accumulation. Specifically, this fluid accumulates in the spaces between your muscle cells (the interstitial space).

As you lift weights, the contractions of your muscles squeeze your blood vessels and partially or completely block blood flow. This is known as occlusion. It "squeezes" fluid from your blood into the interstitial space of the muscle. With each rep, you accumulate more and more fluid.

Also, some of the metabolites generated in muscle cells may draw fluid into the cells. This is why you get a better pump with higher reps, as each additional one leads to more fluid and metabolite accumulation. This is also why you get a better pump with shorter rests: you don't give the muscles enough time to let the fluid and metabolites dissipate.

Fast, concentric actions (the lifting part of a rep) are important because it's the concentric action that's responsible for the mechanical occlusion. This type of lifting may also help build metabolites faster.

Given the mechanism behind how a pump is generated, the best way to maximize it is to do high reps at a faster pace and take short rests.

Interestingly, some bodybuilding competitors do the opposite with fewer and slower reps. That's not the right way to get the best pump before you walk in front of the judges.

Below you'll see two upper-body pump protocols. The first is for anyone who wants to look as pumped as possible before going somewhere or taking photos. The second is designed for competitors to use backstage to get their best pump.

The Regular Guy's Upper-Body Pump Workout

This workout is designed specifically for times when you're looking to get as pumped as possible.

Combination 1: Pulldowns & Presses

A1. Triple Threat Lat Pulldown

  • Do overhand grip lat pulldowns for 10-15 reps.
  • Lower the weight slightly and do it again for 8-15 reps.
  • Finish by once again lowering the weight slightly, then switch your grip and do underhand pulldowns for 8-15 reps.

Choose a weight you can't do any more reps than indicated on each pulldown. Move fast, but don't rush. Maintain control on all reps.

A2. Kettlebell Shoulder-to-Shoulder Press

Do 24-30 reps.

Do two rounds of this paired set. Rest one minute between exercises.

Combination 2: Rows & Push-Ups

B1. One-Arm Band Row Trio

  • Do one-arm band rows for 8-10 reps.
  • Move on to one-arm band bentover lat pulldowns for 8-10 reps.
  • Then finally do one-arm band compound rows for 8-10 reps.

Do all three exercises on the same side before switching sides.

Choose a resistance heavy enough that you can't do any more reps than indicated. Move as fast as you can without cheating or causing the band to jerk on your arm.

B2. Push-Up Triple Threat

  • Start with feet-elevated push-ups for max reps.
  • Move on to floor push-ups for max reps.
  • Finish by doing hands-elevated push-ups with your hands on top of a medicine ball for max reps.

Rest 30 seconds between push-up variations. Move fast (but with control) on all reps.

Do two rounds of this paired set. Rest one minute between exercises.

Combination 3: Flyes & Pulldowns

  • C1.  Band Speed One-Arm Pec Flye
  • C2.  Band Speed Rear-Delt Flye
  • C3.  Band Speed Straight-Arm Pulldown

Combination 4: Extensions, Rows & Curls

  • D1.  Band Overhead Triceps Extension
  • D2.  Band Angled Upright Row
  • D3.  Band One-Arm Face-Away Bicep Curl

Combination 5: Lateral Raises, Curls & Extensions

  • E1.  Band Speed Lateral Raise
  • E2.  Band Speed Biceps Curl
  • E3.  Band Speed Triceps Extension

For Exercise Combinations 3-5

Do 20-30 reps of each exercise. Move fast and with control on all reps. Do two rounds of each tri-set. No rest between exercises. Rest one minute between completing all three exercises.

Use a band tension and stand at a distance that allows you to move at a pace of at least two reps per second.

Bodybuilders

The Bodybuilder's Upper-Body Pump Protocol

There are two main differences with this one. First, this isn't a workout. It's simply designed to give you your best pre-show pump before stepping on stage.

That means it's not meant to make you sweat much, and it doesn't involve any exercises where something is against your body and can mess up your spray tan. You'll also be able to use some bands without needing to anchor them to anything but the bottoms of your feet.

This pre-show protocol exclusively uses a single light-tension band because it's affordable, portable, and perfect for doing fast reps.

  1. Band Speed Triceps Kickback: 20-40 reps
  2. Band Speed Side Shoulder Raise: 15-30 reps
  3. Band Speed Biceps Curl: 30-50 reps
  4. Band Speed Bentover Rear-Delt Flye: 20-30 reps
  5. Band Speed Bentover Row: 20-40 reps
  6. Speed Push-Up: 15-30 reps

The Best Way to Use This Protocol

  • Do each exercises as fast as you can while maintaining focus on the target muscles. You want to bring two light tension bands with you backstage. The second band is just for backup. Light tension allows you to move fast while maintaining good technique and focusing on the target muscles involved.
  • Make sure to set up the band underneath your feet in such a way that it's not rubbing against your body – that could mess up your tan.
  • Do just enough reps to get a pump, but don't push any of these sets to failure. Do one set of each exercise.
  • You can mix up the order if you'd like.
  • Add a second set of any specific exercises that hit muscle groups you feel need a bit more pump.
  • Don't rush through this sequence. It's not a circuit workout. You don't want to get to sweaty or get a muscle cramp on stage.

Related:  Pump and Hold For Big Delts

Related:  Occlusion Training For Big Calves