Last updated on August 28th, 2023 at 02:51 pm
You’re definitely not the only one who worries that they can’t get a pump when they’re in the gym.
In fact, seeing and feeling your muscles swell during (and after) a workout is an extremely satisfying experience.
However, if you’re finding that it’s pretty much impossible to get a pump nowadays you may have unknowingly created an issue yourself.
So, allow me to explain the various reasons why you can’t get a pump in the gym.
The most obvious reason you can’t get a pump in the gym is due to poor blood flow. This can be caused by not warming up properly, no mind-muscle connection, not contracting the target muscles, always performing low reps, etc. Furthermore, both low hydration and low glycogen levels make it harder to get a pump. So, it makes sense to drink plenty of water, as well as eating before your workout. Finally, if a muscle hasn’t recovered it’s harder to produce a pump.
Poor Blood Flow Equals No Pump
It probably comes as no surprise that feeling a pump in your muscles is related to blood flow.
Basically, a pump simply means that the muscles are engorged with blood, thus causing them to swell.
So, if you find that you can’t ever seem to get a pump at the gym, the initial place to look is at blood flow.
Firstly, it’s important to ensure that you warm up before any workout.
Forget getting a pump for a moment, if your muscles and body aren’t warm prior to exercising, you’re at a higher risk of injury.
Therefore, it makes sense to warm up for a variety of reasons.
I would also suggest that you perform a good number of reps with an extremely light weight as part of your warm up.
So, as an example, if you’re going to squat then perform 2-3 sets of 15-25 reps with an empty barbell.
Secondly, you should always try to perform every single rep using the mind-muscle connection.
So, rather than just going through the motions, really concentrate on feeling the target muscle working with each rep.
Now, this may initially seem futile, but using the mind-muscle connection can lead to some serious gains.
Next, you must ensure that you really squeeze the target muscle with each rep of whatever exercise you’re performing.
This not only promotes blood flow, but can also increase the mind-muscle connection.
Finally, your lack of blood flow could simply be down to how you’re training.
If you like to specifically focus on strength training and always perform low reps per set, you’re going to find it much harder to get a pump.
However, you can still complete your strength sets, and then simply add a couple of back-off sets with a much lighter weight and a higher volume of reps.
Ensure You’re Well-Hydrated For a Pump
I’m sure you don’t need to tell you just how important drinking water and staying well-hydrated is.
Plus, this has nothing to do with training or getting a pump, we should all be drinking plenty of water regardless.
With that being said, if you aren’t drinking enough water, or worse, if you’re dehydrated, you’re going to find it extremely difficult to get a pump.
Basically, your sodium levels won’t be able to get low enough, plus your overall blood volume is much lower when you’re dehydrated.
And depending on just how dehydrated you are you may even find that your blood vessels go through vasoconstriction.
This simply means that your blood vessels will narrow, thus meaning that blood flow will either be much slower, or even blocked.
Clearly, this will make it pretty much impossible to get a pump.
So, you may have heard it a million times before, but please ensure that you’re drinking enough water.
Your Glycogen Stores Are Depleted
Something else to consider is your glycogen stores.
Basically, both muscle glycogen and blood glucose play a huge role in carbohydrate energy production.
If your glycogen stores are full this will typically provide you with enough energy for 2-3 hours of moderate-intensity exercise.
This decreases to around 30-60 minutes of high-intensity exercise.
Once your glycogen stores are depleted this typically leads to fatigue.
This is usually why you’ll occasionally feel as though you’ve just got nothing more to give in the gym.
Your glycogen stores will generally be quite low if you’re working out fasted, or if you simply haven’t eaten enough to fuel your workout.
And once your glycogen stores are depleted you’ll find it pretty much impossible to get a pump.
So, it makes sense to eat some carbs prior to your workout in order to refill your glycogen stores.
Nevertheless, if you do prefer to workout fasted first thing in the morning then ensure that you’ve eaten a big meal with plenty of carbs the night before.
With that being said, this can be an even bigger issue if you’re on a low-carb diet.
In fact, most lifters who restrict their carbs will find it extremely difficult to ever produce a pump while they exercise.
So, if you are on a low-carb diet, but you still wish to experience a pump in the gym, then try to ensure you get a large percentage of your daily carbs before your workout.
Your Muscles Haven’t Recovered
The final reason that you’re probably not getting a pump in the gym is because you’re training your muscles before they’ve repaired.
As you’re probably aware, the muscles become damaged during exercise, and it’s not until they’ve had ample rest and recovery that they can grow back bigger and stronger.
However, you’ll never be able to create a pump if you haven’t allowed your muscles to go through the recovery process.
In essence, irrespective of how and how often you train, you still need to allow the muscles to repair.
Even pro-bodybuilders who may train twice a day, six times a week, will allow at least 48-72 hours rest before training a muscle group again.
Admittedly, I have no issue with high-volume or specialization training, although this should only ever be done for a specific period.
In other words, if you want to hit the same muscle group numerous times a week, that’s fine, but only do this for a short time before returning to a more normal training schedule.
As an example, you may wish to perform specialization training for the bench press, which involves training the movement 2-5 times a week.
Once again, this is fine, but I wouldn’t suggest following this training plan for more than 3 weeks.
Something else you may have experienced yourself is that you get an almighty pump in the muscles when you’ve taken 3-4 days off.
Now, obviously I’m not suggesting that you take 3-4 days rest between workouts, but if you’ve been hitting it hard in the gym of late, the rest will definitely do you some good.
Remember, the muscles only grow once they’ve been rested and fed with the proper nutrients.
So, if you’re struggling to get a pump, perhaps look at how hard you’ve been training recently.
So, as you can see, there’s quite a few reasons that you can’t get a pump in the gym.
Initially, this may simply be down to poor blood flow.
Perhaps you’re not warming-up the muscles enough, or maybe you’re not squeezing the target muscles when you train them.
It’s also important to use the mind-muscle connection whenever you workout, as this can help you to correctly contract the muscles when training.
Additionally, if you’re always performing low-rep workouts it’s going to be much harder to create a pump.
You should also be wary of your hydration levels, as well as ensuring your glycogen stores are topped up through proper nutrition.
Finally, if your muscles aren’t properly recovered, not only may this hamper your muscle and strength gains, it will also make it almost impossible to get a pump.
If you’re looking for a workout to create a massive pump, while building muscle and losing body fat, then I’ve got just the thing. Check out fitness entrepreneur and bodybuilder, Frank Rich, who has created a 12-week muscle-building workout program to take your gains to a new level.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.