Muscular Hyperemia and Athletic Performance: The Science of ‘The Pump’

Muscular hyperemia is commonly known as ‘the pump’, which is the sensation of increased volume within the muscular tissue of the athlete during training. The muscles will feel larger, swollen, and full of blood as a direct result of training. While this sensation is felt by all athletes, the actual biological aspects of this sensation are not commonly known. SwoleScience is here to answer: what is the biological role of ‘the pump’? How does it affect athletic performance? This article also features an exclusive video and commentary by professional mixed martial artist Kevin ‘Kage’ Pearson showing in unique comedic style his love of ‘the pump’. Read more below…

Muscle Tissue

Hyperemia is a biological process where the body diverts blood to tissues where they are needed for a specific purpose. Examples of this include: brain tissue during demanding tasks, muscular tissue during physical exertion, and genital tissue during sexual arousal. This increase of blood can create a tremendous biological shift of resources within the body depending on the activity. This concept is evidenced by the fact that when an athlete begins to exert themselves physically the muscles being targeted will receive up to four times the amount of blood they normally receive because of hyperemia.

As muscle tissues are repeatedly contracted there is a need for additional oxygen, nutrients, and removal of waste products (lactic acid and carbon dioxide) within the muscle. As blood is circulated and rushed to the area there is a pooling of blood within the tissue which gives the sensation of  enlarged volume within the muscle. The specific purpose of muscular hyperemia is to deliver nutrients to sustain, repair, rebuild the muscle, and to flush out waste. Excessive lactic acid builds up quickly within the muscle which causes the burning sensation felt in the muscle. This burning serves as a pain threshold warning for you to stop what you are doing as to avoid injury, but this can be reasonably pushed through, thus working beyond what your brain is telling you your muscles are capable of. As the muscle is being used, the body is continuously straining to oxygenate and fuel the muscular tissue in order to upkeep endurance and sustained level of exertion. The rest period in between working intervals allows your body additional time to replenish for the next period of exertion.

During training the muscular tissues of the body suffer micro-trauma in the form tiny tears in the muscle tissue which are rebuilt stronger and larger. Muscular hyperemia increases the ability to train harder and longer due to the oxygenation and nutrients, which in turn will result in more muscular trauma. This same process will increase the recovery rate of those same tears due to the increased blood supply.  The continuous engorgement of muscular tissue caused by muscular hyperemia will help an athlete within their athletic activities by delaying fatigue, decreasing recovery time, and increasing athletic exertion.

Common Muscle Groups of the Body

In addition to the athletic benefits of muscular hyperemia there are other advantages such as aesthetic enlargement of muscular tissue, and capillary development.  Muscle growth can be induced via the pump through continuous stretching of the muscle facia. Fascial stretching occurs when the muscle is pumped beyond its normal size continuously over a constant period of training. When the fascial layer of muscle between the skin and the muscle is stretched, room for continued muscle growth is made available. Furthermore, Over time, the pump will also create a greater number of capillaries, which will, in turn, provide the muscles with more nutrients and oxygen and allow for larger pumps and more growth in the long term. These capillaries will speed up recovery time in the future, and will also sustain larger and stronger muscle tissue that is being developed.

Athletes have routinely found the feeling of the pump to be a sign of achievement and accomplishment especially during training. One of the most famous examples was during the film ‘Pumping Iron’, when Arnold Schwarzenegger told the world that the pump was the same feeling as having sex. Here to give his humorous personal insight on the pump is Team SwoleScience contributor and professional mixed martial artist Kevin ‘Kage’ Pearson with exclusive commentary and video…

“The expression ‘if you got it then flaunt it’ is most associated with a woman’s excuse for dressing scantily clad, but this can apply to men. Whether its wearing a tank top or a size “smedium” shirt, there are ways guys can highlight an important asset: muscles. The one place a guy cannot be accused of trying to show off too hard is at the pool. The pool is a place where girls can wear that sexy bikini and show off. Its the same way for a guys. In modeling shows I’ve done, as soon as the director would tell the men that the next run is shirtless I would see most the guys on the ground hitting push ups to try to look pumped up. The pool is like a car show. You wouldn’t show off your hot rod at a car show when its looking dirty right? Well going to the pool without a PUMP is like showing up in a high end sports car with flat tires. If you are the type of person who likes extreme pumps and wants them to last then check this video out. ”

– Kevin ‘Kage’ Pearson

Email Kevin at- or Check him out on Facebook Here

Kevin ‘Kage’ Pearson is a professional mixed martial artist with: twenty one years of boxing experience, seven years of brazilian jiu jitsu, countless amateur kickboxing/boxing/MMA fights, and is certified personal trainer and martial arts coach.

-Papa Swole

(This is an original post copyright to, credited to the aforementioned author. Its reproduction is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved to the original authors of any quoted or embedded material)

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  1. September 30, 2012

    […] side effects. During physical activity, the product increased intensity of workouts, endurance, and muscular pumps even if the product had been taken many hours before. This effect was incredibly beneficial […]

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