The 'Pump' and stretch - not just for body builders

The pump wasn't just for golden era bodybuilders.

Stretch aided hypertrophy and/or the cell volume theory of hypertrophy rely on enough stuff being in the muscle to stretch it, then loading it up with blood, then stretching it under load.

As a strategy, keeping the muscle strong and supple through a full range of motion also has good potential benefits for injury prevention. It's an intensive way to train so make sure you are ready for this with a good baseline of strength and average flexibility.

To increase cellular hydration or intra muscle substrate - you need carbs, water, creatine, glutamine, taurine and glycerol. Glycerol is off the banned list thankfully that madness is behind us. So can now be used as a hyper hydration strategy or to pull more nutrients and fluids into the cells.

So Easter can be good and this is a good strategy to use after a cheat day or Easter Egg day.

Here's what you do. Make sure you've got enough of the above nutrients into you as part of normal dietary intake and supplementation. The Amino Man Power Loader and Creatine all do the job nicely.

You can increase blood flow, which helps with the 'pump' and motivation and drive with the Male Plus and Focus Formula.

Glycerol can be used the morning of training or the night before, you can use 5 grams in 1 litres of water, with some carbs is ideal.

Here's the ideas behind the strategies;

You get a full muscle belly pump - so doing 12-15 with a heavy weight, several sets, drop sets and so on.
Then after each set of exercises or even after each exercise you do a stretch for 30 seconds, combined with a full muscle contraction.

This ties into the positions of flexion style of training, where you have mid range, and peak contraction to get the 'pump' then stretched exercises to get the loaded stretch. I can send a couple of routines if you email me.

Here you go and have fun.

Theory and Practise Regarding Stretch Aided Hypertrophy

It has been suggested that of the many influences limiting the growth of muscular hypertrophy from training, one of the most important is the constraining influence of connective surroundings of muscle tissue, specifically the Fascia. This article will present evidence that explains examples of extraordinary muscle gains possible, in the context of relieving the constraint of the fascia. Resistance training routines that incorporate stretching are likely to reduce this prohibition to muscle-gain, and when combined with suitable nutritional (including supplemental), hydration and recovery strategies can bring about accelerated muscular hypertrophy.

Muscle structure
Muscle exists as long actomyosin fibres within cellular confines that are then grouped into larger bundles or fascicles, in turn being combined into whole muscles. Muscle fibres, fascicles and muscles are compartmentalised by sheaths of connective tissue and cortex, specifically named the endomysium, perimysium, epimysium and fascia (below).

  • Sarcolemmais the cell membrane that encloses each muscle cell (also known as a muscle fibre).
  • Endomysiumis connective tissue that wraps each individual muscle fibre.
  • Perimysiumis connective tissue that wraps bundles of muscle fibres - the "bundles" being known as fascicles.
  • Epimysiumis connective tissue that wraps the whole muscle.
  • Fascia(or "deep fascia") covers the entire muscle and is located over the layer of epimysium.

There are many limitations to muscular growth. The body seems initially reluctant to invest so much energy in hypertrophy and factors such as limited nutrition, elevated inflammatory hormones and the inhibitory growth-factor myostatin, all conspire to oppose muscle gain. Evidence is currently accumulating to suggest that a major limiting factor to hypertrophy is the volumetric constraint imposed by the fascia that surrounds the muscle (Millward 1995). It literally resists the increases in volume and size strived for by athletes such as body builders.

The basic premise of stretch-aided hypertrophy is to stretch the fascia, thus increasing the volume of the muscle and allowing your body to import the various nutrients needed, as well as to start building structural components, to increase the size of the muscle.

Stretch-induced hypertrophy

Throughout natural growth, it has been shown that the continual passive mechanical stretch imposed by growing bone on muscle is responsible for muscular adaptations in length and size (Gajdosik 2001). These results have been replicated by subjecting animals to a continual stretch from a weight (Winchester et al. 1991). Studies have been conducted that show that adolescents undergoing their growth spurt increase in lean body mass in a manner directly proportional to the growth of the skeleton (Millward 1995).

In addition, local hormonal changes are initiated by the stretching to facilitate these gains. For example, during the growth spurt in puberty, age-triggered elevations in testosterone and growth hormone, coupled with increased intracellular triglycerides and increased energy intake increase insulin levels as well as stimulating bone formation. The continual stretch imposed by growing bone on the muscle, combined with that of increased cellular uptake following insulin release causes the influx of water and local release of insulin-like growth factor (IGF1). This hormonal shift has been seen as a response to stretching in animals and to increase the recruitment of muscle-cell precursors or “satellite cells” in animals (Winchester et al. 1991). Growth during puberty can then temporarily be a self perpetuating process.

The evidence would seem to suggest a theoretical relationship between continual stretching and increased muscular mass.

Examples of stretch induced hypertrophy can be found in a more relevant context if we consider the phenomenon of “muscle memory” in body-builders. This is where an athlete who had previously reached certain standards in strength and achieved great gains in size is able to regain these attributes following loss from detraining.

Size and strength can often be regained close to original levels after relatively short periods of training. This can be partly explained by the fact that strength gains are greatly dependent on neural adaptations and these are retained, even after detraining and atrophy. Resumption of training will mean that the athlete can start from a greater base of initial strength due to the original neural adaptations (Kraemer, Deschenes, & Fleck 1988), thus allowing an accelerated hypertrophy phase. However, the gains in muscle size and mass may be more fully accounted for if we also consider “bag theory”, or the effect of stretch-induced hypertrophy. It is likely that the initial size gains stretched the fascia so when the detrained (and atrophied) athlete resumes training, the fascia (or “bag”) is more compliant, thus allowing a greater influx of nutrients as well as cellular construction.

In addition to the mechanical stretch imposed in a workout, the anabolic state of the muscle fibre also depend on its state of hydration, which is secondary to the amount of osmotic [the ability to attract water] substances in the cells, such as sodium, potassium, creatine, proteins, glycogen, and free amino acids like glutamine.Anything that aids in muscle water retention will have a general positive effect from this induced stretch. This could be an alternative explanation for the effective use of creatine and carbohydrate loading prior to a workout. As well as both being sources of rapidly available energy (essential for the phosphocreatine and anaerobic systems respectively), enabling higher intensity exercise, their osmotic potential may enhance fascial stretching (Haussinger 1996).

Stretching also initiates relaxation of the muscle, or the “stretch response” which may further add to compliance and influx into the muscle.

Eccentric contractions (ie resisting/being stretched by an external load , such as the “down movement” when doing squats) have been associated with increases in muscular power, or “speed strength” as they take advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle and prior storing of elastic energy before a rapid, explosive movement(Hue et al. 2008;Miyaguchi & Demura 2008). These improvements may also be linked with the fact that eccentric exercise is more damaging to the muscle than a regular, concentric contraction (the “up phase” of a squat) and so could induce greater regeneration. Indeed, stretching of muscle cells damages the connective tissue and will stimulate membrane-bound enzyme complexes, triggering a release of growth factors such as TGF-beta, FGF, and IGF-1 from the muscle(Gessin et al. 1993), meaning it could possibly enhance growth by counteracting the constriction from the fascia.


Nutrition to enhance the stretching of the “muscular bags” must take into account:

  • Energy for syntheses and exercise needed for hypertrophy
  • Osmotic potential for a continual stretch stimulus
  • Syntheses of connective tissues such as collagen
  • Vitamin C is vital for collagen synthesis and can easily be at suboptimal levels if you fruit and veg intake is low. It may be worth supplementing to achieve a grams a day, but be careful as this nutrient can cause gastrointestinal discomfort of you overdo it!
  • CHO intake should be increased in post workout window for optimal glycogen repletion and associated water intake, as well as for energy expenditure involved with hypertrophy.
  • Creatine should be taken to aid training intensity as well as to increase osmotic potential. Start at around 5g per day, but if you’re a habitual user or already well on your way to increasing your mass, you’ll need more. It's 1/16th your body weight in g/kg so an 80g person needs the 5g.

Workout Routine

Example: dumbbell bench presses.

Perform a set of 12 repetitions, followed by a drop set of 12 repetitions so that the pectorals should be so full of blood, they are at their maximal “pump”. It’s important to understand that the connective tissue is not only increased in temperature, but also being stretched extremely by this process!

Now you need to find a stretch that expands the fascia of the pectorals to a maximum. A great stretch would be to simply extend your arms straight out to your sides as wide as possible and then extend your arms backwards, as if you were performing the negative on dumbbell flys. Now, when performing a “facial stretch” you will need to stretch with applied pressure to the area. You need this, because the stretch has to be applied past the point of comfort in order to expand the connective tissue surrounding the muscle. Therefore you have a few options. Firstly you can have your partner grab your arms and pull backwards, secondly you can use a wall and apply your own body weight as resistance.

Lastly simply choose an exercise that stretches the muscle and hold it in the stretched position (e.g. dumbbell flys and held in the bottom position of the exercise). Complete the procedure while the muscle is fully pumped. First slightly stretch the muscle. Do this by slowly extending your arms until you have reached a maximum stretch. It should feel almost soothing. Hold this for 10 seconds. Rest for about 5 seconds and then extend your arms all the way back until they are stretched to a maximum. This is a very painful and intense stretch. Hold this for a total of 30 seconds. You are getting a double stretching effect, not only manually but with influx of blood.

Thought you could relax! Unfortunately that is not an option! While the connective tissue is pliable, get one final influx of blood into the target muscle to assist in the expansion process by tensing the target muscle group as hard as possible for 30-60 seconds.

Week One: Apply deep fascial stretching after every exercise.

Week Two: Only use this technique once in the workout and do it on the set in which you are most “pumped”. This will be enough to continue the process of hypertrophy, but also relieve the stress placed on the body. 

Week Three: Use Deep Fascial Stretching within each section of the workout.

Week Four: Allow your connective tissue to recover fully.

Week Five: Repeat


Gajdosik, R. L. 2001, "Passive extensibility of skeletal muscle: review of the literature with clinical implications", Clin.Biomech.(Bristol., Avon.), vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 87-101.
Gessin, J. C., Brown, L. J., Gordon, J. S., & Berg, R. A. 1993, "Regulation of collagen synthesis in human dermal fibroblasts in contracted collagen gels by ascorbic acid, growth factors, and inhibitors of lipid peroxidation", Exp.Cell Res., vol. 206, no. 2, pp. 283-290.
Haussinger, D. 1996, "The role of cellular hydration in the regulation of cell function", Biochem.J., vol. 313 ( Pt 3), pp. 697-710.
Hue, O., Racinais, S., Chamari, K., Damiani, M., Hertogh, C., & Blonc, S. 2008, "Does an eccentric chainring improve conventional parameters of neuromuscular power?", J.Sci.Med.Sport, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 264-270.
Kraemer, W. J., Deschenes, M. R., & Fleck, S. J. 1988, "Physiological adaptations to resistance exercise. Implications for athletic conditioning", Sports Med., vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 246-256.
Millward, D. J. 1995, "A protein-stat mechanism for regulation of growth and maintenance of the lean body mass", Nutr.Res.Rev., vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 93-120.
Miyaguchi, K. & Demura, S. 2008, "Relationships between muscle power output using the stretch-shortening cycle and eccentric maximum strength", J.Strength.Cond.Res., vol. 22, no. 6, pp. 1735-1741.
Winchester, P. K., Davis, M. E., Alway, S. E., & Gonyea, W. J. 1991, "Satellite cell activation in the stretch-enlarged anterior latissimus dorsi muscle of the adult quail", Am.J.Physiol, vol. 260, no. 2 Pt 1, p. C206-C212.