When we refer to a muscle pump, we aren’t talking about when your arms get huge from working out hard (like Arnold). This is actually in reference to the muscles in your body that contract and squeeze the venous blood towards the heart to assist in the flow. When you walk, your soleus, calves, quads and other muscles of the leg are contracting which are putting pressure on the veins and pushing the blood upwards against gravity towards the heart. This process is the muscle pump.
When an individual is sitting still and not moving, like on an airplane, the heart is fighting against gravity without assistance. The heart is required to force the blood out from the left ventricle and into the arteries which then pushes the blood in the veins back up. When you flex your muscles, they assist the heart and make the process easier. Therefore, by moving around and engaging your muscles, you’re actually taking a type of stress off of your heart! This can be beneficial if you suffer from being overweight, having hypertension (high blood pressure) or other similar medical issues.
So, how does this apply to you? Aside from the health benefits for all, if you exercise it is important to understand that the muscle pump is in your favor. The human body is intelligent and there are countless buddy systems implemented just like the muscle pump. When you are exercising strenuously there can be a lot of byproducts that develop such as lactic/pyruvate acid. When you rest between exercise sets, the blood is pumping these byproducts through your other organs like your liver which is “cleaning” your blood. Now consider this, the human body only has 4-6 liters of blood and this amount is influenced by the individual’s age, gender, body size and more. Also, it takes approximately 1 minute for blood to circulate through the entire body one time. Therefore, if you are resting for only 30 seconds, you’ve allowed ½ cycle of blood to circulate. This is why it is harder to start up your next set with such a short rest. Now compare the idea of 1 minute to 3 minutes and how it compares to the “cleansing” of blood. Basically, get up and get moving though to engage the muscle pump and speed up the recovery time and flow of your blood.
This is why rest is actually goal oriented! If your goal is to improve strength, resting for 30 seconds isn’t going to benefit you as much as resting for 3-5 minutes. If your goal is to improve muscular endurance and to keep the intensity high, keep the rest time low! This is in favor of those specific goals! If you have any questions at all, please reach out to one of our personal trainers and they’ll gladly explain how to program rest into an exercise program for you!
If you’d like to learn more on the muscle pump or other little “tricks” of the body, please contact Full Scale Fitness and one of our personal trainers! We help any individual we can, even if they aren’t a client of ours. We understand that education is the key to success so it’s our responsibility to be of resource to all!