As the title indicates, it is becoming evident in weight training that the more blood that can be transported through a muscle, the more it will respond to weight training, other things being equal.
It if receives more blood, it is served with more nutrients, and waste removal is speeded, greatly enhancing conditions for growth.
Several articles have recently been published concerning routines in which a muscle is frequently pumped, say once an hour. Fast gains have been reported for short periods of time. Peary has mentioned that in a week, he succeeded in increasing his arm size about one inch by pumping his arms every hour or so. This was no mere pumping of capillaries, because his gain was permanent, negating any argument for pumped tissue.
I have been aware of a related phenomenon for some time, and I have touched upon it in my articles, but until now, I have not given it the emphasis it deserves.
First, we must agree that in order to grow, a muscle basically needs two things. First, it must have the STIMULATION to grow, and second, it must have the ABILITY to grow.
In a healthy muscle, the stimulation is given by any sort of heavy training, but this is not enough by itself. Unless the muscle can recover and rebuild before the next workout, it will not, of course, be stronger. The recovery ability is almost as important as the exercise. It is aided by a healthy body, good general conditioning, a good diet containing plenty of material to build muscle, as well as a fairly fast metabolism, for those who are blessed with it. But most important, the blood is the only means of transporting materials to the muscle and removing waste. So almost anything that will increase the blood supply to the muscle will result in faster muscle gains.
The kind of high intensity workouts I have been discussing in my articles will give the muscle the STIMULATION to grow, but it is not intended to increase the ABILITY of the muscle to grow except for increasing local endurance.
In my opinion, the frequent pumping mentioned earlier affects the ability of the muscle to grow, by greatly increasing circulation for a short time.
Thus we arrive at an axiom in muscle building -- if the circulation to a muscle is increased, the muscle will grow faster and larger, other things being equal.
We have had reports of runners who tried weight training before they started their running program, and after they ran for some months, being pleasantly surprised to find that they were stronger in the upper body muscles. Admittedly, they were quite weak to start with, and this is not the recommended way to build great muscle size, but the point is that increased circulation apparently was responsible for the increase in muscle size.
At the other extreme for increased muscle mass is the great Paul Anderson. Although many people believe Anderson did very low reps, actually he did a lot of high rep work, especially to start and end his routines. Sometimes he di high reps during the routine at intervals in order to maintain a large flow of blood.
When he started training, he found that his legs increased in size and strength rapidly, but his upper body muscles did not. He reasoned that the blood could drop to his legs, but did not have as good a circulation to the upper body muscles.
So Anderson developed a number of upside-down movements to pump blood into the upper body, letting it simply drop to the upper body as the muscles were pumped with high reps.
As an example, he would rig up a pulley on the top of a special decline board, and then he would lie with his head at the bottom of the board and his feet at the top. Then he would, using the pulley and a handle, do some high pulls to pump the shoulder area, and some upside-down deadlifts to pump the lower back. All at once, his upper body muscles began to grow to match his lower body strength.
Note, also, Anderson: "By now I had not only discovered the importance of more than one exercise to advance in a lift, but also found the great value of getting the greater amount of blood into the muscles that I was trying to develop. Armed with this valuable knowledge I started seeking an exercise to get the maximum amount of blood into the pressing muscles. Through common horse sense I knew the best way to do this was in an upside down position. The first movement I used was the handstand press which did not quite do the job. Carrying out the same idea, I developed an apparatus that proved to be the greatest assistance exercise I have ever used for the press.
"This apparatus is very simple. It is made of two bicycle wheels connected by a three foot axle. This axle is covered by a small, float platform about 2 ½ ft. by 3 ft. The way I use this machine is to put my feet and lower legs on the platform and pull it along by walking on my hands. By using this I can stay in the position as long as I want to, getting an abundance of blood into the pressing muscles as well as receiving the benefits of the exercise."
In my opinion Paul Anderson did not require a great deal of stimulation to build great size and strength, as much as he needed more recovery ability. His upper body just could not remove wastes and bring in nutrients fast enough to keep up with his heavy training programs. In fact, Anderson had the ability that few men do to carry a lot of muscle mass with very little stimulation. He was a big strong man when he started weight training
and he rapidly got bigger when he started. But it was actually his recovery ability that kept him from getting bigger, rather than a lack of hard work. It is quite possible that if he had only done some light pumping at first, he would have gotten bigger and stronger anyway, even without heavy training, just because of an increase in circulation. There are other men like this, and some are top bodybuilders who train with light weights and lots of reps, and wonder why everyone else does not do the same thing. Unfortunately for us, our hormone level and inheritance does not stimulate great muscle mass to be built without very heavy training.
So while the frequent pumping does not stimulate the muscle growth in the way that heavy training does, by making the body believe such increase is necessary, it does increase the ability of the muscle to respond to the stimulation that may be present. Thus the muscular growth of the routines spoken of only lasts for a short time, in my opinion, because the stimulation for growth came not from pumping, but from whatever heavy training the trainee did before that kind of program. After a short time, the frequent pumping had allowed him to completely recover from the amount of stimulation toward building muscle, so the increases stopped, and there was no more heavy training. More on this later.
But how much can the blood flow be increased to the muscles?
Is it enough to make great changes?
How much do you think the circulation increases when a muscle is pumped? Twice normal? Three times the normal flow of blood?
It may sound bizarre, but the circulation is capable of increasing to a whopping FIFTY TIMES NORMAL! So what pumping a muscle really does is increase the recovery ability some 25 to 50 times normal, depending on the pump!
From reading the above facts stated in the order and manner they are presented here, I know some of you are one jump ahead, and getting some ideas for your own training. What would happen if you did some heavy to promote growth from great stimulation, and then did some light, high rep pumping to increase blood flow. Would you get the best of both worlds?
Well, yes and no.
Much depends on WHEN and HOW you do the light and heavy training. If you do the heavy training first, as I have steadily been pointing out in my articles, fatigue products are produced in the muscles that are what actually stimulate growth. Then if you do your light training, you flush the fatigue products out of the muscle before they have had time to do their job of stimulating muscle growth. So doing a few sets of five reps with a heavy weight, for example, and then doing a high rep pump set, may or may not be the best idea. Some people will make less gains from the pump set, rather than more.
Most of us have a limited amount of time, and I am as guilty as anyone of watching my training become nearly nonexistent because of business pressures, although I hope to be in very heavy training again soon.
But for those who can do it, better results will be had if the body is flushed at a different time by pumping routines than when the heavy training is done.
This leads to the next important point. When the muscles are being pumped just to increase circulation, the weight should be so light that no effort at all is being made to tax the muscles, as that should have been done in the regular workout. You simply want to increase the blood flow. So you do light, quick, movements, or whatever will increase blood flow without taxing the muscle. You should feel refreshed when you finish rather than tired, if you're doing this right.
I could, at my best, press 260 pounds behind the neck, but when I do these flushing movements I include a dumbbell press with 20 pound bells, etc.
How many times should this flushing be done? If you are doing heavy training, I rather favor adding flushing movements three times a day. It is not a time consuming thing, as it takes about five to 10 minutes for the whole body. However, twice a day works well, and even once a day after your heavy training will make a big difference.
Regular readers will recall we have talked a great deal about the careful use of fatigue products produced from a working muscle to build more muscle. We have mentioned on several occasions that if fatigue products are left in the muscles for 20 minutes or so after a muscle has been worked by very intensive training, the result in muscle growth is better in most individuals. Thus we suggested that anything that increased the circulation during this time be discouraged. We argued against going immediately to the next muscle group after working a small area of the body because this flushes the body part just worked of the fatigue products you have worked so hard for, before they have had time to do their job. We advised against running right after training for the same reason. We even pointed out that in any kind of split routine, a small area of the body can be saturated with fatigue products and thus stimulated to grow, but that the entire body can never be filled to the same level with fatigue products, so there is an argument that splitting your workout allows the muscles to be stimulated to a higher degree.
So it may seem contradictory when I am now postulating that increasing the circulation will build more muscle. In actuality, there is not a contradiction at all. There is simply the problem that it is not possible to do both at once and generate results!
It is probably now obvious that some people do not need much stimulation to build muscle, but need to increase the recovery ability with flushing systems. And some people need great stimulation, but have recovery system that is more than adequate. But if you are a hard gainer in the same way I am, YOU NEED BOTH! You need to have the very intensive training, and you need to augment your recovery system.
I have purposely abstained from giving reps and sets for the flushing techniques, as you will want to experiment with what works the best for you. We are NOT talking about another workout, we are talking about a quick, fast technique that will leave you feeling better, rather than worse. It could consist of some freehand squats a superset for the arms with a 15 pound dumbbell, and some partial bench presses and rowing with a 20 pound bell. I say partial bench press because I find that the first 1/2 of the bench press pumps the muscle without tiring me. You may find something that works better for you.
I hope this gives you some ideas for your own training. Just remember, if you try light flushing to augment your recovery system:
1) Use very light weights, and do not tax the muscles more than necessary for increased circulation.
2) Do it at a separate time from your heavy training -- at least 20 minutes after.
Make it a quick refreshing adjunct to your regular training. Do not make it another training session in itself.
Enjoy Your Lifting!