There are few feelings as sweet as a good muscle pump after a hard workout – it’s too bad the feeling can be so fleeting. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to make a muscle pump last a little longer.
So, how long does a muscle pump last? A muscle pump lasts 2-3 hours after a workout. You can make your pump last longer by focusing on isolation exercises for sets of 8-12 reps with short rest periods, staying well hydrated, eating more carbohydrates, and skipping the cold tub.
Achieving a good pump during a workout has been shown to stimulate muscle growth, so there is good reason to try for the best pump you can get.
In this article, I will discuss:
- What causes a muscle pump
- How long does a muscle pump last and why
- 13 ways to make a muscle pump last longer
- If a pump will help you build muscle and make your veins show
What Causes a Muscle Pump?
The muscle pump you get during a good workout – known as “transient hypertrophy” – is caused by a flood of water and blood to your muscles. Your body diverts blood and water to the muscles being worked while exercising because they require more oxygen and nutrients than usual to power through the workout.
The best way to develop a pump is by utilizing sets of 8-12 reps of isolation exercises with shorter (20-40 second) rest periods. Workouts like this will flood the working muscles with fluids, and have them feeling “full.”
Doing smaller sets of 3-5 reps with long rest periods often isn’t enough to feel a muscle pump.
How Long After a Workout Does a Pump Last?
After a workout, a muscle pump can last 2-3 hours. As your body relaxes and enters a resting state, the blood and fluids that were flooding your muscles during your workout return to your internal organs, where they’re needed more.
How long your pump lasts depends on things like how many carbohydrates you’ve eaten before and after your workout, how hydrated you are, and the type of workout you did.
Let’s discuss those factors further.
How Many Carbs You’ve Eaten
Eating more carbohydrates can help your pump last longer and feel fuller.
Carbohydrates not only allow you to power through more intense workouts but they also make your muscles swell with glycogen from the carbs you eat (i.e. honey, oatmeal, blueberries).
Bodybuilders eat a ton of carbohydrates before a show because it has been shown to contribute to an increase in muscle volume.
Your Hydration Levels
If you are dehydrated, you will struggle to develop a full pump and it certainly won’t last as long as it would if you were properly hydrated.
Consuming something like a protein and carbohydrate drink or Gatorade during or after your workout can help you stay hydrated and maintain your pump.
Type of Workout
To achieve a pump that lasts long, you need to work your muscles with high reps close to exhaustion and short rest periods.
The weight doesn’t necessarily need to be heavy – in fact, sometimes bodyweight workouts can provide the best pumps (so long as you’re pushing the muscle to fatigue).
A circuit of 5 rounds of 8-12 pull-ups, dips, rows, and tricep extensions, and bicep curls on a suspension trainer always pumps my entire upper body for hours.
Why Doesn’t A Muscle Pump Last for Very Long?
Blood goes where it is needed most. During an intense workout, blood is needed in the body parts being worked, but once the training session is over, your blood returns to your vital internal organs.
Working muscles require oxygen for fuel. When you’re doing something like a set of bicep curls, for example, your biceps are flooded with blood to provide them with the oxygen they need. But once your workout is over, that blood diverts back to your more important organs.
13 Ways to Make a Pump Last Longer
Thankfully, there are a few things we can do to help us create a better pump that lasts for longer than normal.
Here are 13 ways to make your pump last longer:
- Incorporate isolation exercises
- Do more sets and reps
- Vary your exercise selection
- Push the pace of your workouts
- Use drop sets
- Use supersets
- Check your form
- Maintain tension throughout the entire set
- Consume protein and carbohydrates after your workout
- Drink lots of water
- Eat more carbohydrates
- Skip the cold tub
- Try Taking Muscle Pump Supplements
1. Incorporate Isolation Exercises
Big, compound exercises like the snatch, deadlift, and clean and press are great for increasing strength but not ideal if you’re training for a pump.
If you want a pump that lasts after your workout, you must incorporate isolation exercises like curls, flies, rows, raises, extensions, and kickbacks where you’re only focused on one muscle grip at a time.
2. Do More Sets And Reps
The more you work, the bigger your pump.
Three sets of ten reps aren’t always sufficient to build a lasting pump. Experiment with different sets and rep schemes. Five sets of 10-12 reps or four sets of 25, for example, hit your muscles differently and may provide a better pump for you.
3. Vary Your Exercise Selection
Adding small changes to your workouts can help create a bigger pump that lasts longer.
For example, if you’ve been doing standing barbell curls for the past six months, try switching to preacher curls or alternating dumbbell curls for a few weeks to get a better pump.
There are no “best exercises” to achieve a pump. Often, the best exercise to build your pump is the exercise variation you haven’t done lately.
4. Push The Pace Of Your Workouts
Incorporating shorter rest periods into your workout will help you build a pump that lasts.
Resting just 20-40 seconds between sets really pushes your muscles and forces your body to flood them with pump-inducing fluids.
I find that EMOM (every minute on the minute) type workouts where you force yourself to start a new set at the top of every minute can often lead to a great pump as, by design, your rest periods are brief.
5. Use Drop Sets
Drop sets are a great way to extend your sets, add reps to your workout, and get a better pump.
Start with a weight you can do 8-12 reps with a load that gets you close to technical failure (i.e. just before your form starts to break down), then drop 30-40% in load and hammer out a few more reps until your muscle is exhausted.
Perform this with isolation exercises and keep repeating this process.
6. Use Supersets
Another method for achieving a longer pump is supersets.
A superset is when you do a set of one exercise, then do a set of a different exercise with little to no rest between.
For example, you could do a set of 12 bicep curls, then a set of 12 tricep pushdowns, then right back to curls and repeat.
Your biceps rest while you work your triceps and your triceps rest while you work your biceps, but your overall rest periods are minimal and your arms get a huge pump that lasts.
7. Check Your Form
Isolation exercises are the best way to get a good, lasting pump. But if you are bouncing or cheating your way through the movement, your pump will be short-lived or nonexistent.
Don’t bounce weights off your chest and don’t use your legs or hips to cheat the weight up. If you want a pump that lasts longer than a few minutes, you need to slow your reps down and dial in your form.
8. Maintain Tension Throughout The Entire Set
Creating as much tension as possible throughout an exercise is the best way to get a great pump from it.
Squeeze the bar and focus on the eccentric (lowering the weight) as much as the concentric (raising the weight) part of the movement.
For example, if you are doing an overhead press variation, pull the weight down with your lats rather than just dropping it back down to your shoulders. If you’re squatting, squeeze the bar and pull yourself down to the bottom, don’t just drop and bounce.
9. Consume Protein And Carbohydrates After Your Workout
Your pump will last longer if you give your muscles what they need most after an intense workout – protein and carbohydrates.
Not only will this help you build muscle, but having something like a scoop of protein powder mixed with Gatorade after a workout will increase muscle volume and help your pump stick around for a while.
10. Drink Lots Of Water
If you’re not fully hydrated, your body will be forced to move fluids from your muscles to your bloodstream to maintain blood pressure and preserve circulation, taking away from your pump.
Be sure to drink plenty of water, not just during or after your workout, but throughout the day, every day.
11. Eat More Carbohydrates
If you aren’t eating enough carbohydrates, your pump will be short-lived.
Carbohydrates – especially when eaten after a workout – refill your depleted glycogen stores and makes your muscles look and feel fuller longer.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests consuming 1.5 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight within 30 minutes after exercise to maximize the rate at which your glycogen stores are restored.
12. Skip The Cold Tub
I know cold showers and ice baths are all the rage these days, but research has shown that cold water immersion after lifting weights actually blunts the anabolic response from the workout.
Additionally, when you’re cold, your body is forced to reduce blood flow to your limbs, sending it to your internal organs to keep your core temperature up instead.
Nothing will kill your pump quite like cold water.
13. Try Taking Muscle Pump Supplements
The best supplement for increasing your pump is creatine monohydrate. Creatine will allow you to lift more weight and complete more sets and reps while giving you a bigger, better muscle pump.
Other muscle pump supplements meant to increase blood flow to the muscles and build a bigger, better pump, have little scientific evidence supporting them.
Arginine, an amino acid that helps increase blood flow, is a popular ingredient in muscle pump supplements. However, researchers have found that supplementing with arginine does not appear to affect blood flow when lifting weights.
Betaine, another popular muscle pump supplement ingredient, has also been shown to be ineffective in healthy, exercise-trained men.
And researchers from the University of Memphis concluded that there was no difference between many popular pre-workout supplements and a maltodextrin (i.e. sugar) placebo when it comes to developing a muscle pump.
When it comes to science-backed supplements that help increase your muscle pump, creatine is the most proven supplement.
Does a Pump Mean You’re Gaining Muscle?
Research suggests that achieving a pump through high rep sets and short rest periods stimulates hypertrophy, so it is likely that when you feel the pump you’re gaining muscle.
As lifting heavy weights with big compound movements like the squat and bench press also leads to muscle growth, a great strategy to gain muscle and feel a good pump is to begin your workout with heavy, compound movements before finishing with high rep isolation movements and short rest periods.
Does Getting a Pump Help Your Veins Show?
Getting a pump can help your veins show by increasing blood flow to the area, but you must have a low bodyfat percentage if you want visible veins. Achieving a bodyfat percentage below 10% for men or 15-17% for women will allow your veins to show.
It’s no secret that lowering your bodyfat percentage happens in the kitchen. To have veins that pop out of your arms, you need to get your diet in order. If you want help losing weight and decreasing your bodyfat percentage, we can help. Chat with us to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Keep My Muscle Pump All Day?
You can help your muscle pump last longer by ensuring you are properly hydrated, eating more carbohydrates, and including isolation exercises for sets of 8-12 repetitions with short rest periods in your workouts.
Why Does My Pump Go Away Fast?
Muscles require a lot of blood to get them through a tough workout. This flood of blood is what causes your muscle pump. But after your workout, the blood returns to your internal organs where it’s needed more, causing your pump to go away.
Can a Pump Last All Day?
You shouldn’t expect your muscle pump to last all day. While you can’t make your pump last all day, you can increase the duration of your pump by doing more sets and reps, and eating 1.5 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight after your workout.
About The Author
Riley Nadoroznick is a strength, conditioning, and nutrition coach and the owner of Conviction Fitness.