Many bodybuilders who wish to build substantial levels of muscle mass aim to produce a muscle burn or pump during their weight training workout sessions, feeling that such a sensation is indicative of muscle fatigue and breakdown, therefore enhancing the opportunity for muscle growth. Bodybuilders will even specifically search for the muscle burn or pump by modifying certain weight training workout techniques in order to encourage such a feeling, and often tell other bodybuilders how their workout was extremely effective or describe a specific weight training exercise as feeling superior specifically due to the muscle burn or pump that is part of each set.
But, is there a serious flaw with this bodybuilding concept? Certainly, any individual who has lifted weights is well aware of the muscle burn and pump fascination, as bodybuilders often refer to this concept, but how exactly is the muscle burn or pump achieved, and are the methods that foster such a sensation actually beneficial towards muscle growth?
The muscle burn and pump are a function of high rep ranges, where a bodybuilder uses less weight in order to fail using a much greater number of repetitions, which results in muscle fatiguing in a much different way than with higher weight and lower reps. Because a muscle is able to function for a greater period of time during a weight training set when using higher reps, there is a muscle burn and pump that surfaces during the latter portion of a high rep range, as the muscle begins to approach failure, but by virtue of utilizing less weight in order to achieve the muscle burn and pump rep range, muscle building is adversely impacted, and although the workout session may actually seem more intense and effective due to the muscle burn and pump, the class of fatigue, which is focused upon endurance, is not the most effective for those who wish to accumulate the greatest level of muscle gain.
When using a lower rep range and higher weight, the workout set will usually not experience anywhere near the level of muscle burn or pump as compared with higher rep, lower weight workout sessions, but because the weight used is greater, the muscle receives a more substantial level of overload and shock, therefore causing superior overall bodybuilding progress in most muscle groups. Therefore, although the muscle pump and burn is much less noticeable in heavier weight training sessions, since muscle gains are superior, there is no legitimate reason for a bodybuilder to seek a muscle burn or pump during workout sessions that has as its primary focus muscle building.
Lower weight and higher rep workouts are helpful for muscle recovery, overtraining prevention, and joint recuperation, but are far less effective at muscle gains in most areas as compared with heavier weight training workouts that do not offer any significant muscle burn or pump. There are also particular exercises that result in a greater sense of muscle burn or pump, especially those that stretch the muscle significantly (such as pec deck), but they also function in the same method just described, in that the muscle burn and pump will greatly increase with lower weight and higher reps, but, the most important point to remember is that the greatest level of muscle gain will not occur by aiming for a muscle pump or burn, but rather through structuring weight training workout sessions to function within a lower rep range where greater weight can be utilized to produce a much higher workload level.
If you wish to experience a muscle burn or pump, then you can always implement one set at the conclusion of each weight training workout exercise that is composed of higher reps and less weight (a burn out set), as this will not hamper muscle building assuming that all prior workout sets are organized using heavier weight and a lower rep range, which is conducive towards maximum muscle growth. The goal is not to feel as if a muscle has increased in size during the actual weight training workout session, but rather to produce weekly measurable muscle gains, so do not make the mistake of believing a muscle burn or pump during a workout will translate into any extra sustainable muscle gain unless you have structured your weight training session with heavier, lower rep workouts for the greatest muscle overload.