Increased vascularity! Skin tearing pumps! The supplement companies make claims that their hot new product will help achieve both. But is there a better way?
In short: Yes.
A close friend of mine recently asked me how I had become so vascular.
I jokingly told him getting ripped and lots of pomegranate juice. Upon really thinking about it, that is actually true at least partially. It did get me thinking however, on what other factors come into play when looking to increase vascularity, as well as getting better pumps in the gym. I did a bit of research, as well as thinking long and hard about my lifestyle and today, I’d like to share with you guys what I’ve come up with.
Oh! Before I get too far ahead of myself and dive right into my tips to increase vascularity and pumps, if you didn’t know vascularity is the term for the arm, leg, shoulder, and sometimes even ab veins you’ll see on people who are really cut up in the gym. Pumps on the other hand are when your muscles feel big and full as a result of training. The two go hand in hand in my opinion, as both are at their peak during an intense workout.
Below are a few ways I’ve found to increase vascularity and pumps, some from research, and all from experience.
#1) Cut down the body fat
If you’re looking to see some impressive vascularity, getting down to a low body fat % is number one!
I’d say in reality it’s the biggest factor because you won’t be able to see any veins or definition if everything is covered up by a layer of fat. Now I’m not talking bodybuilder contest lean here- that’s pushing it to a level that’s not the healthiest nor is it maintainable- dropping down below 10% body fat would make a huge difference.
I know this sounds difficult especially if you’re overweight and new to health and fitness. Truthfully however, once you get past the uncomfortableness of getting started and making it part of your lifestyle, it only gets easier and more enjoyable as time goes by. Stay consistent and the results will come!
#2) Drink enough fluids
We’re made up of 70% water. Drinking too little water will actually cause our bodies to hold onto water, making it hard to see those pipeline veins you know you have hiding throughout your shoulders, biceps, and forearms. This can be avoided by simply taking in enough fluids.
How much fluid does a person need a day?
The general advice is to drink 8 glasses daily, but in reality it varies from person to person depending on activity level, temperature, etc.
What I’ve found to work best for me is to drink two tall glasses of water when I wake up in the morning and follow up by just drinking when I’m thirsty throughout the day. A good indicator of if I’m drinking enough or not is the color of my pee, I know I’m good and hydrated if it’s clear or a very light yellow.
Remember, there also is such thing as drinking too many fluids which can be harmful. So like everything else in the fitness game don’t overdo it. Research, experiment, and find out what works best for you.
#3) Consume plenty of vasodilators
There are actually quite a few foods out there that act as natural vasodilators!
Vasodilators open up the blood vessels, which leads to bigger pumps in the gym and increased vascularity even when you’re sitting at home relaxing.
They are also great for managing high blood pressure, reducing the risk of strokes, prevent artery blockage, and for the guys- produce stronger and more frequent erections.
Vasodilator foods include:
- spicy foods
- beets and beetroot juice
- pomegranates and pomegranate juice
- leafy greens
- citrus fruits
- dark chocolate
I’ve been drinking pomegranate juice daily for a couple years now because of it’s natural testosterone boosting and blood pressure reducing qualities and I can tell you first hand that it works! Lately we have also been experimenting with daily celery juice and beet juice. Its been very effective in not only opening up the blood vessels but for a nice energy boost and improved brain function. Using food as a supplement is cool!
Looking for a good juicer?
We use the Breville Juice Extractor (you can purchase here). It’s just under 100 bucks on amazon and works great for making your own juice. We highly recommend!
#4) Get adequate sunlight
Aside from sunlight aiding in giving you some vitamin D, I found out while writing this article that getting some sun on your skin will also increase vascularity!
When sunlight hits your skin, it causes it to produce nitric oxide making it another powerful natural vasodilator. So not only is it good for vascularity, but also has the same benefits as the foods mentioned above.
For more on sunlight and NO production, check out my source from this claim here.
#5) Consume pre workout carbs
I generally don’t eat a breakfast because I follow intermittent fasting, but one particular Sunday morning I was up early and had the opportunity to hit the gym before church, so I figured I might as well eat a pre workout meal because fasted training doesn’t work for me.
My meal was almost all carbs: a baked russet potato with butter and pink salt, followed by 2 bananas.
About an hour later I hit the gym and the pump was huge! So from my experience a high carb meal had my muscles full and dense, with crazy vascularity.
And speaking of hitting the gym…
#6) Lift big weights
Lifting big weights leads to bigger muscles. Having bigger muscles at a low body fat percentage pushes your veins closer to your skin, thus making them more visible.
What I’ve found best for me to add mass is to follow a pretty minimalist workout routine made mainly of compound movements.
Heavy dumbbell bench presses, weighted chin ups, and heavy deadlifts all in the 4-6 rep range are a few of my go to movements. I like to use progressive overload, meaning I strive to add weight to these main movements every week so I’m always moving forward.
These movements are the core to my training routine, but of course my workouts don’t end there.
#7) Finish up workouts with some pump work
No workout for me is complete without some pump work at the end shuttling blood to the muscles, leaving you feeling huge.
My favorite techniques for really blowing up would either be to do rest pause sets, drop sets, or do some of my workout finishers.
For rest pause choose a weight you can 12-15 reps with, take it to near failure, and rest only 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2-4 times for basically one long excruciating set giving you one of the best pumps of your life.
Drop sets are pretty self explanatory, start with a heavier weight to near failure, then reduce the weight so that you can bust out a few more reps without any rest in between sets. These work especially well with arm exercises.
As for the workout finishers check out my previous workout finisher articles by body part:
Bonus tip: get rid of body hair
If you’re already doing everything on the list and you still don’t have pumps and vascularity that stand out I have one bonus tip: shave your body hair!
There’s a reason why competitive bodybuilders shave off all of their body hair prior to competitions. All of the definition and vascularity you’ve worked so hard to achieve will be hidden away if they’re covered in a thick layer of hair. So even if it feels counterproductive to your manliness a good shave might be just what’s needed as a final effort to show off that vascularity.
What about preworkout drinks?
That’s totally up to you. I don’t use them and haven’t for years, and I’m leaner and more vascular that 75% of guys I run into the gym. That includes even the guys who suck down pre workout drinks like it’s their job.
Pre workout drinks can be helpful-but I’d rather spend my hard earned money on way better things, like tacos, new shoes, and my kids. Or the awesome fruit and vegetable juicer I mentioned above which makes it easy to make all natural pre workout drinks using food.
To be fair there are a lot of supplements out there that have been proven to increase vascularity and add to the pump. The biggest would have to be l-arginine, which is a supplemental vasodilator. I have used it in the past and it does work, but isn’t any better or worse than anything I mentioned above just from my experience. There are others, which a quick google search will help you find. Remember too to do your research and check with a doctor before making any decisions with diet changes or supplements! I’ve made the mistake in the past of overdoing it with the supplements so now before starting anything I check in with someone who knows more about the body than me.
Thanks for the read! Remember- get lean, drink enough, eat the right stuff, and train hard! If you have any additional tips on how to increase vascularity and pumps feel free to leave me a comment below.