Getting in the zone is one thing but taking your training to another level is another. When do you know you’re in the zone? For me, it happens whenever I get the best muscle pumps regardless of what I do. What’s the muscle pump you ask?
Muscle pump has everything to do with pumping as much blood into your muscles. This happens with forceful contractions while using a full range of motion. Some muscles exhibit a better muscle pump response than others. For instance, biceps and pecs are susceptible to this phenomenon. Quadriceps and triceps can also benefit from the muscle pump effect, however I do believe more extended warm up sets are needed for these body parts.
Muscle pumps are not a regular occurrence and should not be expected during every workout. In this article, I will share three ways to intensify the coveted muscle pump.
What You Eat Matters
Eating the right foods ensures the likelihood of obtaining a pump. Most importantly, the distribution of macronutrients such as carbohydrates play a critical role in achieving an intense muscle pump.
Carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen. Glycogen is responsible for fueling our muscles during physical activity. It is what gives us energy to sustain high levels of training. Without sufficient amounts of carbohydrates in our diets, we experience a reduction in energy while having the appearance of looking flat.
Some of my favorite sources of carbohydrates are gluten free pasta and brown rice. To many with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, moderate amounts of low glycemic carbohydrates are essential. A body, primed with sufficient amounts of stored glycogen, could land the muscle pump jackpot during the subsequent workout.
How To Stay In The Zone
Ok, so let’s say, you’re in the middle of a grueling set of bicep curls and you begin to experience the onset of the muscle pump.
Seize the moment!
Don’t quit just yet. Dig deep and dive into the pain zone as you forcefully contract your bicep. Be strict with your form and focus on the full range of motion. Keep cracking out those reps to failure and beyond, if necessary. The muscle pump is a clear indicator that you’ve entered the “growth adaptation phase” of your workout – so make it count.
Prior to starting a set, take 60 seconds to visualize it. Envision the feel and temperature of the barbell. Imagine yourself moving the bar through space and its effect on your body. Focus on the assisting muscles as well. Consistent visualization techniques could improve your lifts with time.
Mind Muscle Connection
Here’s a tip I always use. In fact, I used it a few hours ago during my last workout. Prior to executing a set, close your eyes and imagine yourself doing the exercise. Imagine the feel of the bar or weight, its temperature as you pick up a dumbbell or barbell and even think of the weight you’re using. Continue to think about manipulating the weight through space. Think about the first rep and how your body responds to it. Continue to envision how the assisting muscles contract response to the movement. Imagine what the exercise will do to your breathing and balance.
Visualization is key to establishing the mind muscle connection. This technique could improve your form and overall concentration. When applied, I execute more reps forcing me to train deeper in the growth phase, for instance. Lastly, with consistent practice, your lifts will improve dramatically making gains that more noticeable.
I use the muscle pump as a gauge on my overall status. When I’m achieving back to back muscle pumps on a series of exercises, I know my diet and mindset are on point. Moreover, muscle pumps aren’t guaranteed for every workout. External factors such as overtraining and poor diets can impede its occurrence. Lastly, if you you never experience a satisfying pump, you should consider making changes to your routine and diet. Sometimes, just shaking things up a little can elicit a favorable response.