Pumps, Muscle Burn & Growth

If your goal is to build bigger muscles, a tried and true approach is to determine your one rep max (the heaviest weight you can lift for one repetition) for a variety of upper body and lower body exercises and work out using 60% to 75% of that weight for a relatively low number of reps.

Don't be too concerned about whether the muscles being trained get really pumped. You can work up a pump with low weight and lots of reps. That generally won't translate into size or strength gains. Here's another thing. That burning sensation you feel toward the end of your workout? That's lactic acid and ammonia buildup, not some magical growth-inducing potion. The same thing happens when you peddle a stationary bike on the easiest resistance setting as fast as you can make it go. Muscle burn has nothing to do with muscle growth.

The Bigger Picture: The talk you hear about pain and gain relates to exertion, not blood flow (the force behind the pump) or muscle burn (the previously mentioned lactic acid and ammonia buildup). Although these metabolic occurrences are brought about by training, gains are made through progressive resistance. Lift your starting weight until it gets easy. Then add some pounds and/or more reps until that gets easy. You'll keep getting bigger and better as you continue to progress.
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