Muscle Burn – Muscle Pump

I want to talk about another grossly mistaken fallacy in weight training and building muscle. You often hear people screaming at their training partners in the gym things like “Come on, make it burn.”, “No pain, no gain.”, “Give me another rep!” and other silly gym lingoes that make them feel as if they are training with ultimate intensity. And don’t get me wrong, some train quite hard and these outbursts seem to help them with their intensity. What I’m leading to are training myths that have become accepted as muscle-building indicators.

Jeff Willet Max-OT upright rowsMuscle Burn

The burning sensation that certain types of training bring on is believed by most to be a sign of a successful growth promoting workout. Many seek it out and strive to achieve this burning sensation as an indicator to a good workout.

Well let me tell you, that muscle “burn” is not an indicator of an optimum workout. This burn is caused by infusion of lactic acid. Lactic acid is a byproduct of glycogen metabolism in muscle tissue. Lactic acid is not good for muscle growth. In fact, it impairs growth. Where does this burning sensation come from? It comes from lactic acid due to high reps. Not only does high rep training supply insufficient overload for growth it also causes high muscle lactic acid levels that lead to tissue catabolism, oxidative stress and delayed muscle recovery.

Muscle Pump

The muscle pump you feel when training is a result of blood actually being “trapped” in the muscles being worked. The muscle pump is certainly a good psychological boost during training and accompanies just about all resistance exercise. And as your muscles become larger so will the pump you get while you train. Now while this muscle pump is not really a bad thing, it is not necessarily an indicator of optimum muscle overload. As you progress in your development you will find that achieving a noticeable pump even during your warm-up sets to be much easier and more prominent. More muscle – more “trapped” blood – bigger pump.


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