How Long Does A Pump Last?

Plus 11 Ways to Prolong Your Pump

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: November 28, 2023

Have you ever admired your pumped-up muscles in the gym and wished they could stay that way forever? I know I feel that way every arm day!

In this article, I’ll explain what happens to your muscles when they swell from working out. I’ll also reveal how long your pump should last and how can you extend the duration.

How Long Does the Pump Last

It’s important to understand the muscle pump effect and its relation to muscle and strength gains. To help you with that, I’ve included some basic physiological definitions and information.

I recommend reading through these sections in order, but you can use the table of contents below to jump to a specific topic.

What Is a Pump In The Gym?

In gym lingo, “a pump” refers to the temporary increase in muscle size that occurs during a workout. This happens because the working muscles receive more blood flow, which leads to an increase in volume.

But why does this occur? The simple answer is that blood goes where needed, and the skeletal muscles require more blood during resistance training. 

The physiology behind the pump is that the muscles use oxygen as fuel. As a result, during exercise, your heart and breathing rates increase to supply oxygen-rich blood to the muscles.

Does a Pump Mean Muscle Growth?

It’s crucial to understand that chasing a pump does not necessarily lead to muscle growth. And there are several other factors necessary to achieve long-term muscle gain.

Among these, the most important one is exerting your muscles with heavy loads to trigger the adaptation response. Moreover, it’s essential to introduce progressive overload to stimulate your muscles continuously.

However, achieving a pump while implementing progressive overload can enhance muscle growth. Therefore, attaining a good pump is advisable, especially after your heavy working sets.

Related: Top 10 Hypertrophy Traning Techniques for Maximum Muscle Growth

How Long Does A Pump Last - Hypertrophy

How Long Does a Pump Last After Workout?

After you finish your workout at the gym, the pump that you experience usually lasts for about 2-3 hours. This is when the blood flows to your muscles, making them feel more pumped and fuller.

However, after this period, the blood returns to the internal organs, where it is needed more during a resting state. 

Sometimes, even after the pump has subsided, you may still feel a sense of fullness in your muscles. This is not a pump but rather other effects of the workout that contribute to muscle volumization.

How Long Does A Pump Last

Muscle Volume Lasting Longer Than 3 Hours

It is not uncommon for your muscles to feel fuller for several hours or even days after a workout. However, this is not because of increased blood flow from the pump, as some people may think.

The primary reason for sustained muscle swelling is glycogen. This is a stored form of carbohydrates that your muscles can use for energy during exercise.

Furthermore, glycogen typically gets stored in the areas where it was recently depleted, like in the muscles you just trained at the gym. And it also pulls water into those muscles, making them appear fuller.

Related: How to Manipulate Glycogen to Improve Your Pump and Gains

How Long Does A Pump Last - Glycogen

Additionally, it’s possible that your swelling has been prolonged due to inflammation of your muscle cells. This may sound alarming, but it’s a natural response to stresses from resistance training, especially if you’re a beginner or if you overdo it.

However, most people don’t worry about their pump lasting too long. Instead, you may be wondering 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, realizing that you won’t get a good pump if you’re starving yourself or chronically undereating is critical. 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 to increase it 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 11 tips to prolong your pump.

  1. Use isolation exercises
  2. Aim for 8-15 reps
  3. Shorten your rest periods
  4. Incorporate supersets & drop sets
  5. Try blood flow restriction training
  6. Change the position of the muscle
  7. Eat more carbs
  8. Drink more water
  9. Take blood flow supplements
  10. Improve your cardiovascular fitness
  11. Stay warm

Let me explain how to incorporate these tips into your workout routine to achieve a better 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

Research has demonstrated that exercise intensity has a positive correlation with the pump2. This means that the more strenuous the workout, the greater the blood flow to the muscles.

Nonetheless, it’s important to note that beyond 80% intensity, the muscle pump effect begins to decline. So, super-heavy sets for low reps are not ideal for achieving a pump.

Instead, performing sets with 67-80% of your 1RM for 8-15 repetitions is best to achieve the biggest 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.

3. Reduce Rest Periods

Rest periods play a crucial role in muscle recovery during exercise. Longer rest periods allow your heart rate to come down and the blood to start flowing out of the muscles.

On the other hand, shorter rest periods keep your heart rate elevated and continue pumping blood into the working muscles. Therefore, if you aim to achieve maximum blood flow and pumps, it is best to opt for rest periods of one minute or less.

4. Incorporate Supersets & Drop Sets

If you want to do more reps in less time, you can use supersets or drop sets. These techniques require you to complete two or more sets without any rest in between.

Supersets involve doing two different exercises back to back, while drop sets involve doing a subsequent set of the same exercise with less weight.

The benefit of these sets is that they increase the time under tension, which helps to drive more blood into the working muscle.

5. Try Blood Flow Restriction Training

Blood flow restriction training involves intentionally constricting blood flow by wrapping a band or strap around the upper portion of your limbs. The bands only limit blood flow back to the heart since veins are thinner and closer to the skin’s surface.

More blood stays in the working muscle, leading to a significant pump. However, BFR training offers more than just a killer pump. It can also help you gain more muscle in the long run.

Learn More: How to Pump Up Your Workouts With Blood Flow Restriction Training

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6. Position of the Muscle

It’s important to consider the position of the muscle you’re working in relation to your heart during exercise. If the muscle is below your heart, it will receive more blood flow due to gravity making it easier for blood to flow downhill.

That being said, I have also noticed a significant pump after a set where the muscle was elevated above the heart, such as overhead cable curls. This could be due to the heart working overtime to pump the blood uphill, and it rushing in when you lower the muscle and let gravity assist.

7. 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.

8. Drink Plenty of Water

It’s important to know that for every 1 gram of glycogen stored in your muscles, an additional 4 grams of water are also stored. This means that water has a significant effect on the volume of your muscles during and after your workouts.

However, the old advice of drinking eight cups of water daily (64 ounces) is not enough if you work out regularly. The amount of water you need to drink to maintain muscle pumps depends on your body size and activity level.

Find Out How Much Water You Should Drink A Day

9. Try Muscle Pumping Supplements

Let’s talk about pump-amplifying supplements called vasodilators, which open up blood vessels.

If you take a pre-workout supplement, you already consume the amino acids l-arginine or l-citrulline. These amino acids promote blood flow and enhance the effectiveness of your workouts.

Additionally, research indicates that taking Omega-3 supplements can significantly increase blood flow during exercise, making it easier to achieve optimal performance4.

How to Get a Better Pump With Homemade Pre-Workout

Prolonged Pump with Homemade Pre-Workout

10. Improve Your Cardio 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.

11. 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, maintain an elevated body temperature by staying in motion or wearing extra layers while you work out. 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!

More Ways 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.

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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By |November 28, 2023|Bodybuilding|0 Comments
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