In this article we’ll cover the best exercises for a full body muscle pump. We’ll offer up a sample pump workout, but you are also free to play around and build your own customized muscle pump workout using these concepts and exercises.
What Exactly Is A Muscle Pump?
If you’ve experienced a pump, then you know what a pump is. But what exactly is going on when you get a muscle pump?
A muscle pump is actually several things going on at once:
- fully hydrated muscles
- drastically increased blood flow to muscles
- blood engorged muscles
- the feeling that your muscles are going to pop out of your skin
- the visual perception of vascularity and engorged veins
- the euphoria of endorphins
The best pump is one that involves each of these aspects. It’s possible to have some of these effects without the others. In fact, the longer you’ve worked out, the harder it is to achieve an massive endorphin response. So we’ll go over a secret tip to get those endorphins flowing no matter what.
Which Muscles Can Get A Pump?
When you think of a pump, you’re usually thinking of specific aesthetic muscles that are more visually apparent and have a lot of nerve endings nearby providing a noticeable “feel”.
The most common muscles that people try to get a pump in are:
However, those are not the only muscles that you should seek out a pump in. Other muscles that have strong aesthetic appeal, show vascularity and can contribute to a pump include:
- lats (have you ever done 100 pullups over 10 minutes?)
In our opinion, the ultimate muscle pump doesn’t stop here. To really kick your endorphins into overdrive you need to fully exhaust your nervous and cardiovascular system. In fact, to really kick your pump into overdrive, we recommend starting off and/or ending with hardcore Tabita style cardio exercise for about 3-5 minutes, done in 30 second intervals with pauses.
You’ll want to rest a bit afterwards and rehydrate (preferably with electrolytes) before doing your lifts.
How Many Reps Should You Do For a Muscle Pump?
The general rule is that you want to get 40-60 reps per muscle, over a short duration of time, for a good pump. Three sets of 15 or two sets of 20 can work really well if you’re short on time. If you have all the time in the world, then aiming for 60-80 reps will give you the best muscle pump of your life.
When choosing a weight, you want to go with something that’s about 60% of your max. If you don’t know your max, then you want to pick a weight where the last 3-5 reps are a struggle. You may need to do a warmup set to experiment and find your ideal weight.
My Favorite Pump Workout For a Fast Full Body Pump
Exercise Bike Sprint Intervals: 4-5 minutes of 30 second exercise bike sprint intervals. Go 100% for 30 seconds. Then go slow for 30 seconds. Then 100% for 30 seconds. etc. This exercise is designed to get your blood pumping and your endorphins flowing.
Alternative: 5 minutes of interval training on the treadmill. The hard thing here is the starts and stops. If this makes you uncomfortable, you can consider instead a .5 mile warmup jog.
Big Muscle Groups:
When doing a full body workout I like to start with the larger muscle groups which require more energy. That way I’m doing them when I’m freshest.
Dumbbell Bench Press: 2 sets of 20 reps. If you don’t pick a weight that makes you struggle for the last 5 reps of each set, then adjust and do a 3rd set.
Advanced Alternatives: Decline bench press has the advantage of creating a fuller range of motion and fully activating your pecs.
Hardcore Bonus: Do a max set of pushups.
Leg Extensions: 2 sets of 20 reps. If you don’t pick a weight that makes you struggle for the last 5 reps and your quads don’t feel dead, then adjust and do a 3rd set. Try exploding up on these exercises and then going down slowly (about 3 seconds on the way down.
Advanced Alternative: high rep back squats with a light weight.
Hardcore Bonus: to really get a great quad pump follow your leg extensions up with either reverse sled pulls, or if you don’t have a sled, weighted walking lunges. Do this until your legs are dead.
When many people think of a pump they are focused on the area containing the biceps, shoulders and pecs. We’ve already hit the pecs so let’s move on to the shoulders.
So, we’re going to hit all three heads of the shoulder and finish off with the traps which many people think of as the shoulders.
Seated Dumbbell Press: Best full-shoulder exercise. 2 sets of 20 reps. You want your bench at a 90 degree angle or close to it. This exercise is more comfortable for me with my palms facing in. Pick a weight where you can get 20 reps, but the last 5 are difficult. Explode up, and come down slowly.
Lateral Dumbell Raise: Best exercise for getting a killer pump in your lateral deltoid. 2 sets of 20 reps. Pick a light weight that you can get 20 reps with. With straight arms out to the side, you don’t need much weight. Control the weight on the way up and the way down. Slow and controlled is the best way to maximize your pump.
Front Dumbell Raise: Best exercise for getting a solid pump in your anterior deltoid. 2 sets of 20 reps. Here you raise the dumbbells straight ahead to in front of your face and back down. Control the weight the whole way (harder on the way down!). You can probably use the same weight as your lateral dumbbell raise.
Shoulder Shrugs: Best exercise for getting a great pump in your upper traps. 2 sets of 20 reps. When you shrug up, hold for an extra second for killer results. Some people swear by shrugging up and then turning your dumbbells inward. This probably only works because of the extra time under tension while shrugging.
For this next superset, I like to cycle through biceps, triceps and calves for the ultimate in an aesthetic pump. Plus, there is nothing like pumping the biceps and triceps at the same time. Feels like your arms will explode. Killer arm pump!
Cycle through this 2-3 times:
Bicep Curl: This will give you an amazing bicep pump. 20 reps. Slow and controlled. 3 seconds up, 3 seconds down. Pick a weight where the last 5 will be tough and done fully pumped.
Weighted Calf Raise: This calf pump may cripple you! Be warned:) Do 15 slow reps and then 15 fast reps. On the last set, go till failure.
Tricep Pull down or Kickbacks: This is the best exercise for a killer tricep pump. If you have a cable machine, it’s hard to beat the tricep pull down. Get 20 hard reps in. If you don’t have a cable machine, do tricep kickbacks for 20 reps.
Hammer Curl: This works your biceps but it will also help you get a forearm pump. 20 reps. Slow and controlled. The hammer curl is a little easier than the bicep curl. You may want to up your weight by about 5 lbs. This exercise also works the forearm.
The V Pump
If you still have gas in the pump and want to finish out your ultimate muscle pump workout, then I recommend pumping up that V on your back: the lats.
Cable Lat Pull Down – 20 reps for two sets. Slow and controlled. I get the best lat pump on the cable machine doing lat pull downs at an angle. Pulling straight down doesn’t seem to isolate the lats as well. If you can sit on a box about 5 feet out from the cable machine and pull from eye level down to your belly button with elbows tucked to sides, you’ll really feel it in your lats.
Hardcore Bonus (or Alternative): The three grip pullup circuit. Wide grip, narrow grip, and underhand grip. Here you are doing max reps twice at each grip. This is great if you don’t have a cable machine.
Supplements That Help You Get A Muscle Pump
There are two main supplementation mechanisms for getting a bigger muscle pump. The first is supplements that increase blood flow to the muscle. The other is supplements that increase muscular hydration.
muscle Pump Supplements That Increase Blood Flow
These supplements work by boosting nitric oxide which is a molecule that acts as a vasodilator. In other words, nitric oxide helps helps to relax and widen blood vessels. This allows more blood to flow through the vessels, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and other tissues in the body.
- L-Citrulline – Citrulline is an amino acid that is converted in the body into another amino acid called L-arginine, which is a precursor to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a molecule that helps to dilate blood vessels, which improves blood flow.
- Red Spinach Extract – Red spinach extract contains a high concentration of nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body, leading to improved blood flow.
- Beet Root Powder – Beet root powder is similar to Red Spinach Extract in that it contains nitrates. However, studies show that red spinach extract has a higher concentration of nitrates than beet root powder.
- Nitrosigne – Nitrosigne is patented ingredient that is a combination of arginine, an amino acid that is involved in the production of nitric oxide, and silicon, a mineral that is important for the health of the blood vessels.
Muscle Pump Supplements That Increase Muscular Hydration
- Creatine – Creatine Monohydrate is a popular supplement that has been shown to increase intracellular hydration, which can lead to increased muscle size and improved performance.
- Betaine – Betaine anhydrous is a compound found in beets, spinach, and other vegetables. It has been shown to increase intracellular hydration and may help to improve athletic performance.
- Electrolytes – Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium are important for maintaining proper hydration levels in the body. Supplementing with electrolytes may help to improve muscular hydration and prevent dehydration during intense exercise.
- Glycerol – Glycerol is a sugar alcohol that can help to increase intracellular hydration by drawing water into the muscles. It has been shown to improve endurance and performance in athletes.
Getting a full body muscle pump comes down to the following key workout elements:
- which muscles to work
- how many reps per set
- how many sets
- how much rest between sets
- what intensity level to go for
The fact is that not all muscles leave you feeling pumped. The upper back, the hamstrings, and the glutes… while they all grow and respond to a good workout, they don’t really “show” or “feel” the pump.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Does a pump help grow muscle? Will it give you gains?
The short answer is yes, a pump basically means that your muscle is receiving nutrients for recovery and adaptation. At the same time, a pump provides the illusion of a much larger muscle because the muscle becomes engorged with blood and super hydrated. This illusion dissipates within a few hours.
How long does a workout pump last?
A full muscle pump usually lasts about 30 minutes to 1 hour. However traces of a pump can still be seen up to 3 hours later.
What does a pump feel like?
Your muscles become engorged with blood as they seek to recover and adapt. Because of this, you can feel a decent amount of pressure and tightness against your skin and it’s the combination of these things that gives the feel of a muscle pump.
Does a pump make your muscles look bigger?
Yes, in fact many people seek a pump before a photo shoot to look both bigger and more vascular.
Can you keep a pump all day long?
You’d have to workout hard every 3 hours to maintain a pump.
Does drinking water help you get a pump?
Part of the pump is muscle hydration. The more hydrated your muscles are, the more full they’ll feel as blood rushes in for recovery. Water is part of the hydration equation but it can also help to make sure you have a good electrolyte balance and that you are taking creatine.
How fast can you get a muscle pump?
Depends on how many muscles you are looking to pump. If you just want swole looking biceps you can do this pretty quickly in about 2 minutes. 3 sets of 15 reps where the last 3 sets are hard will get you there. On the last set, go to complete failure. And then push for another.
Does salt help with getting a bigger pump?
Yes. Salt allows your muscles to hydrate and store more water.
Is it better to target just one muscle at a time to get a pump?
This depends on your goals. There is a general rule you can follow: the more working reps per muscle, the more intense the pump. So if you’re short on time, then focusing on just one muscle group may help you hit the reps you need. But if you’re not short on time then there is no reason to think you can’t get a full body muscle pump.