How Long Does A Pump Last?

Plus 10 Ways to Prolong Your Pump

Have you ever looked at your muscles in the gym and wished they would stay pumped up like that forever? I know I feel that way every arm day!

But when you leave the gym, your muscles shrivel down to their previous size. And your temporary gains are erased.

So what exactly happens when you get a pump in the gym? How long does a pump last? And how can you make your pump last longer?

I’ll answer all these questions and more in this article. So stick around and see how you can build bigger muscles in the long run.

How Long Does A Pump Last

What Is a Pump In The Gym?

“A pump” is gym slang for the temporary growth in muscle size during a workout. This added volume is the direct result of increased blood flow to the working muscles.

But why does this happen in the first place? The short answer is that blood goes where it’s needed. And during exercise like resistance training, your skeletal muscles need blood.

The physiology behind the pump is that working muscles use oxygen as fuel. So your heart rate and breathing rate increase during exercise to send blood-rich oxygen to the muscles.

Does a Pump Mean Muscle Growth?

It’s important to realize that several factors are involved in muscle growth. The most important is subjecting your muscles to heavy loads to elicit hypertrophy.

In addition, it’s vital to implement progressive overload, so your muscles are continually subjected to new stimulation. To do this, you should follow a specific hypertrophy training program.

That said, training for the pump can potentially work synergistically with overload to boost muscle growth1. So it’s a good idea to achieve a solid pump, especially after your heavy working sets.

How Long Does A Pump Last - Hypertrophy

How Long Does a Pump Last After Workout?

The pump you get in the gym lasts about 2-3 hours after your workout. Then the blood returns to internal organs where you need it more during a resting state.

Sometimes, though, you might notice your muscles feel fuller for longer than 3 hours after your workout. What you’re feeling isn’t a pump but other volumizing effects of the workout.

Muscle Volume Lasting Longer Than 3 Hours

It’s possible for your muscles to feel fuller for several hours or even a few days after your workout. However, this is not due to increased blood flow from the pump.

The first cause of sustained muscle swelling is glycogen. For those who don’t know, glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrates. And your muscles can tap into this stored energy during exercise.

Furthermore, glycogen gets stored in the areas where it was recently depleted – like in the muscles you just trained at the gym.

How Long Does A Pump Last - Glycogen

Finally, your prolonged swelling could be due to inflammation of the muscle cells. While that may sound bad, it’s a natural reaction to resistance training stresses, especially for beginners or if you overdo it.

Most people aren’t concerned about the pump lasting too long. Instead, you probably want to know why your pump isn’t lasting long enough!

Why Do I Lose My Pump So Fast?

The most likely reason your pump doesn’t last is how you eat and train. First, it’s critical to realize that you’re not going to get a good pump if you’re starving yourself or chronically undereating. You need nutrients to feed the pump!

Second, certain kinds of workouts aren’t conducive to getting a pump. For example, circuit training workouts (15-40 reps) aren’t intense enough to generate maximum blood flow.

In addition, compound movements that rely on momentum don’t send blood to any specific muscle group. So CrossFit workouts aren’t ideal for a pump either.

Instead, you need to use bodybuilding-style training to maximize the pump. Now that you know what drains your pump let’s look at how you can increase your pump and make it last longer.

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How Can I Make My Pump Last Longer?

There are several factors to consider for more blood flow and longer-lasting pumps. And again, the solution lies in diet and exercise programs. Here are the top 10 ways to prolong your pump.

1. Use Isolation Exercises

Heavy compound exercises are the best way to elicit muscle growth. However, they also utilize multiple muscle groups simultaneously, which is not ideal for maximizing blood flow to a particular muscle.

For this reason, it’s essential to incorporate isolation movements when your goal is pumping up your muscles. I recommend starting with compound movements and finishing your workout with pump-inducing isolation exercises.

On leg day, for example, you would start with squats and finish with leg extensions and leg curls to pump up the quads and hamstrings.

2. Shoot For 8-15 Reps

Studies clearly show that the pump increases with exercise intensity2. In other words, the harder you make a muscle work, the more blood flow you get.

However, there is a point of diminishing returns above 80% intensity. Doing sets with heavy weights for fewer than six reps won’t result in the best pump.

How Long Does A Pump Last Exercise Intensity

Figure 1. Actual percentage increase in blood flow to the arm during an exercise of various intensities. Adapted from Tschakovsky et. al.

Instead, using moderate weights with higher reps generates the most blood flow. That means choose a weight around 70-80% of your 1RM that you can handle for 8-12 reps before failing.

Towards the end of your workout, you can throw in a few sets of 15+ reps to elicit the greatest number of muscle fibers and achieve a full-blown pump.

3. Incorporate Drop Sets

An easy way to get more reps in less time is using drop sets. This technique involves completing one set, immediately reducing the weight, and completing another set in rapid succession.

The benefit of drop sets is that they increase the time under tension. Plus, the added repetitions drive more blood into the working muscle.

4. Try Blood Flow Restriction Training

Blood flow restriction training is where you intentionally constrict blood flow by wrapping a band or strap around the upper portion of your limbs.

Since veins are thinner and closer to the skin’s surface, the bands only limit flow back to the heart. So more blood stays in the working muscle, and you get a massive pump.

But BFR training offers more than just a killer pump. It can also help you gain more muscle in the long run.

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5. Change Your Body Position

Another thing to consider is the position of the working muscle relative to your heart. That is, whether the muscle is above or below your heart during the exercise.

When the working muscle is below your heart, more blood travels into it. Basically, the blood flows easier downhill, and gravity gives your heart an assist.

That means you’ll get a better pump from an upright or seated leg curl than a laying or prone leg curl. Also, exercises where you’re standing instead of sitting raise your heart rate more, resulting in greater blood flow.

6. Eat More Carbohydrates

One of the easiest ways to extend your pump is by eating enough calories in the form of carbohydrates. Mainly because carbs fuel longer, more intense workouts.

But also because carbs get stored within your muscles as glycogen. So eating carbs after your workout refills your depleted glycogen stores and makes your muscles look fuller longer.

Furthermore, studies show that consuming protein and carbs results in the highest post-workout glycogen uptake3. And that can lead to sustained muscle fullness.

How Long Does A Pump Last Post Workout

Figure 2. An illustration of how post-workout nutrition affects glycogen uptake into skeletal muscle. Adapted from Zawadzki et. al.

7. Drink Plenty of Water

For every 1 gram of glycogen your muscles store, they store an additional 4 grams of water. That means water has a considerable muscle volumizing effect during and after your workouts.

However, the old advice of drinking eight cups of water a day (64 ounces) doesn’t cut it if you work out. Your ideal water intake for sustained pumps depends on your body size and activity level.

Find Out How Much Water You Should Drink A Day

8. Try Muscle Pumping Supplements

Next up are pump amplifying supplements. The technical term for these is vasodilators, a fancy term for something that opens blood vessels.

If you take a pre-workout, you likely already take a vasodilator in l-arginine or l-citrulline. These amino acids increase blood flow and enhance workouts.

In addition, studies suggest that supplementing with Omega-3 significantly increased blood flow during exercise4.

9. Improve Your Fitness

Interestingly, you can increase blood flow to your muscles simply by getting in better shape! That may sound strange, but studies show that elite athletes generate up to 2x as much blood flow during exercise compared to non-athletes5.

Therefore, if you want to get a better pump, it helps to improve your overall fitness level in the long run.

How Long Does A Pump Last Athlete vs Non-Athlete

Figure 3. Visualization of where blood flow at rest and during exercise for non-athletes and athletes. Walser et. al.

10. Stay Warm

Finally, you can maximize and prolong your pump by keeping your body warm. The reason is that your body reduces blood flow to the limbs and skin when you’re cold. Instead, it sends blood to internal organs to keep your core temperature up.

So try to maintain an elevated body temperature by staying in motion or wearing extra layers while you workout. I know wearing a sweatshirt in the gym covers up that sacred pump. But sometimes concealing your gains is necessary to boost your blood flow!

How To Make Your Veins Show

Now you know how long your muscles should remain pumped after a workout. And you learned several ways to maximize your pump and make it last longer.

However, getting a good pump doesn’t necessarily mean your veins will show! So if your goal is to make your veins pop, then you need more than just a post-workout pump.

Click here to learn 17 natural ways to make your veins show.

How To Make Your Veins Show
How To Make Veins Show

With this information, you’re well on your way to a skin tightening pump. If you found this article interesting, check out some of my other awesome content below!

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