If you're like me, then getting a sick pump in the gym is something you continuously strive for every session. I absolutely love that feeling of blood rushing to the muscles, the muscle fullness that has your arms, pecs, shoulders (my personal favorite), etc.. feeling like they might explode at any moment, and even the joyous pain that comes along with a massive pump. As the man himself (Arnold) would say -- "The greatest feeling you can get in a gym or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump." -- If you are always chasing a massive pump in the gym, or want a huge boost in performance without adding in stimulants to your pre-workout, pump capsules are an absolute game changer!
Capsulated muscle pump inducing products have been all the rage lately, with new and innovative pump formulas and ingredients taking the supplement world by storm. These small but mighty formulas have built a very strong case for why that is. While the capsules themselves may be small, the effects and benefits they deliver are anything but. Each capsule in these formulas comes loaded with a highly concentrated and very specific dosage of ingredients that have been scientifically tested and proven to increase nitric oxide and blood flow leading to not only massive muscle pumps, but highly amplified performance as well.
Today, we're going to take a look at some of the top capsulated pump products available on the market, discuss the benefits of each formula, what makes each formula unique, how these little capsules can pack such a colossal punch for boosting performance, which one may be best for you personally, and my personal experience with each. Welcome to Pump Capsule MVPS (Massive Pumps, Vascularity, and Performance.
WHAT IS "THE PUMP"?
The pump is a phenomenon whereby muscles become engorged with blood following resistance training. It's primarily achieved by performing multiple sets with moderate to high reps. During a moderate-rep set, the veins taking blood out of working muscles are compressed by muscular contractions. However, the arteries continue to deliver blood into the muscles, creating an increased amount of intra-muscular blood plasma. This causes plasma to seep out of the capillaries and into the interstitial spaces, the areas between muscle cells and blood vessels.
The buildup of fluid in the interstitial spaces along with the osmolytic properties of lactate creates an extra-cellular pressure gradient, which in turn causes a rush of plasma back into the muscle. The result is blood that pools in your muscles, causing them to swell. Scientifically, "the pump" is known as hyperaemia or "cell swelling."
Many consider the pump a temporary condition that's strictly cosmetic. This is extremely shortsighted. Multiple studies have demonstrated and concluded that a hydrated cell stimulates protein synthesis (a naturally occurring process in which protein is produced to repair muscle damage caused by intense exercise) and inhibits proteolysis (protein breakdown). Muscle hypertrophy (growth) is ultimately a function of protein balance – synthesize more muscle proteins than you break down and you'll pack on size. The fact that cell swelling simultaneously increases synthesis while reducing degradation is a muscle-building triumph!.
WHAT DRIVES THIS SWELLING-INDUCED
Increased fluid in muscle fibers leads to a stretch of the cell membrane. It's like an overinflated water balloon. The muscle, in turn, perceives this as a threat to its integrity and responds by initiating an anabolic signaling cascade that ultimately serves to reinforce its ultrastructure.
Targeted movements that keep constant tension on the muscle induce the pump. The occlusion and hypoxia created from "chasing the pump" leads to a long list of hypertrophy-boosting mechanisms. One of these includes increased satellite cell activity, which also increases the muscle cell's ability to continue expanding.
Pump inducing products (like the ones we will be discussing in this blog) contain a combination of ingredients that have been scientifically studied and proven to increase N.O. (nitric oxide) production in the body, which can dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow to working muscles. Basically, these products act like jet fuel for powering intense muscle pumps and also fuel performance. If you want to stimulate maximum nitric oxide production for powerful pumps you need to use a scientifically researched and precisely dosed formula with a technologically advanced delivery system. Capsulated pump products are perfect for this because they contain precisely dosed formulas that boost nitric oxide production, and help increase intracellular swelling.
TOP PUMP CAPSULE PRODUCTS
PUMPIES by Axe & Sledge
Pumpies is one of the hottest pump inducing products on the market today, and for very good reason! This pump inducing, nitric oxide maximizing behemoth, is lead by a very powerful and potent duo -- Inositol-stabilized Arginine Silicate aka Nitrosigine, and Vasodrive-AP.
Nitrosigine is one of the most effective nitric oxide boosters to hit the market in years! It stands out from the crowd because it can increase blood levels of arginine within a half-hour, making it perfect for a pre-workout pump inducer. More importantly, and this is huge, it keeps blood levels elevated for up to 6 hours. Yes, you read that correctly. Your muscles will feel tight, look vascular, and look pumped for up to 6 hours! How’s that for a great pump? Not only does NItrosigine promote skin tearing pumps that last for HOURS... but that extended pump will also aid in dramatically enhancing recovery between workouts.
Considering its effectiveness as a pump ingredient, you might not think it goes beyond bodybuilding. Yet, there are nitrosigine health benefits. By this, we mean cognitive function. One of the interesting and recent uses of Nitrosigine is that it helps prevent cognitive decline. It also improves overall cognitive ability that relates to brain complications. These include dementia, Alzheimer’s, and traumatic injury to the brain. Of course, these mental benefits can translate to elevated focus in the gym. Also, nitrosigine can improve your ability to mentally multi-task. Nitrosigine helps you think about multiple ideas at the same time. This is known as cognitive flexibility.
VasoDrive AP is derived from a compound that you probably consume on a regular basis: casein, which is one of the most abundant proteins found in dairy products. Casein protein is actually a peptide, and VasoDrive AP is very similar. The benefits of VasoDrive AP are largely due to its ability to help increase nitric oxide production in the body. In fact, it has been scientfically proven to be highly effective at increasing nitric oxide, greatly enhance muscle pumps, reduce muscle soreness between workouts due to the influx of fresh blood, oxygen, and nutrients, and even improve heart health as casein has been shown to help reduce stiff arteries in people who had high blood pressure or signs of atherosclerosis.
Pumpies is also formulated with 2 other performance and pump boosting ingredients. Epicatichens -- which works by reducing the amount of myostatin, thus facilitating more muscle growth through increased follistatin, and basically improves your capacity to build more muscle. Pine Bark Extract -- an all-natural adaptogen, which delivers powerful benefits such as boosting nitric oxide, higher mental focus, and lower stress hormones. Pine bark extract also helps the body repair tissue and raises pain thresholds which is beneficial for workout recovery as well as overall joint and body health during lifting.
Put all this together in one formula and you have a massive muscle pump inducing, and performance boosting masterpiece! PUMPIES is an excellent choice, and one I would highly recommend if building lean muscle is your primary goal.
My experience with PUMPIES was nothing short of miraculous! I took the 5 capsules about 45 minutes before my workout to give the capsules time to dissolve and to saturate the body with all of the ingredients. Of course, I worked shoulders this day, which is always my favorite body part to work for a nasty pump and who doesn't love building some 3D delts. Like most of my shoulder days, I started off with Dumbbell overhead press, and supersetted these with some side lateral raises. From the very first set, my shoulders felt extremely full, like someone had blown them up like a balloon, and that sweet pain that usually kicks in after the 3rd or 4th set was already very prominent.
Every rep and every set intensified the pump in my shoulders even more, and it was without a doubt one of the best pumps I have ever had in the gym. Not only were the pumps absolutely MASSIVE, but it did not fade out midway through the workout like I have experienced with some pump agents. This one lasted for the whole workout, on the drive home (it was hard to grip the top of the steering wheel from how pumped my shoulders were lol), and even through my post-workout meal, I was still feeling the effects. Needless to say, I'll definitely be keeping this one in the gym bag!
Ryse Project: Blackout Pump Cap Max
RYSE Supplements is an up and coming superstar company in the world of sports nutrition and performance. One of their newest and highly sought out products is Ryse Project: Blackout Pump Cap Max. This is one of my personal favorite products from their line, and one that I have also used frequently since its release. The pumps this one produces is absolutely ridiculous, and the boost in performance should definitely not be overlooked. Before I talk about my experiences with this product, let's breakdown this small but ultra mighty formula so we can get an understanding of exactly how it actually works.
Pump Cap Max contains a very potent and concentrated blend of Citrulline Peptides at 1.5 grams, Betaine Nitrate (as NO3-T®) at 1 gram, and Lactotripeptide (as VasoDrive-AP™) at 255mg. Now, I know that blend is very simple and doesn't seem very vast, but it doesn't need to be. The highly concentrated dose of each ingredient packs a huge punch for increasing vasodilation (blood flow), increasing plasma nitric oxide levels, boosting cellular hydration and ATP (the source of energy that is used to power the movement of contraction in working muscles), improving time to exhaustion, and enhancing peak power output.
Citrulline is a nonessential amino acid that serves as an endogenous precursor to arginine, thereby greatly enhancing nitric oxide synthesis through what is known as the arginine-nitric oxide pathway. Nitric oxide has various performance-boosting functions in the body including a vasodilatory effect, which will increase blood, oxygen, and nutrient delivery to working muscles. Furthermore, nitric oxide can also reduce the oxygen and energy cost of exercise allowing you to push the working muscles longer and harder.
Citrulline Peptides are a combination of citrulline and peptides isolated from fresh whey, which increases its bioavailability and effectiveness. Citrulline peptides can significantly increase vasodilation and the volume of blood flow compared to raw citrulline. In fact, several studies have shown that just 1.5 grams of citrulline peptides to be even more effective than 3g of pure L-Citrulline.
Betaine nitrate is the combination of betaine anhydrous with nitric acid. Betaine, also known as trimethylglycine, is a metabolite of choline and like nitrates, acts as a methyl donor to either help eliminate harmful molecules like homocysteine or form S-adenosyl methionine (another methyl donor that helps make creatine endogenously).
Much like creatine, betaine is an osmolyte, meaning it increases cellular water retention through osmosis. This gives betaine the distinct ability to cause muscle fibers to swell, which will also stimulate muscle protein synthesis, promoting muscle growth. These increases in cell volumization and muscle cell uptake can significantly increase anaerobic power aka strength gains, as well as improve both endurance and power/force output. Simply put, betaine pulls water into the muscle cells. This increases muscle fullness or volume. This process is also called water-based pumps.
Nitrates are an incredibly powerful nitric oxide booster that comes along with a huge list of other benefits to improve your workouts/training sessions. Blood flow is something that you should not only want to improve during workouts but generally all of the time. Not only can Betaine Nitrate help improve blood flow during workouts, but upwards of eight hours after. Increasing blood flow not only carries oxygenated blood to your muscles but also key nutrients that aid in the recovery and muscle-building process. Additionally, during workouts, dilating the blood vessels and increasing blood flow can help remove lactic acid buildup in the muscle to help improve your workout performance.
As we discussed with PUMPIES, VasoDrive AP is derived from casein protein. The benefits of VasoDrive AP are largely due to its ability to help increase nitric oxide production in the body. In fact, it has been scientfically proven to be highly effective at increasing nitric oxide, greatly enhance muscle pumps, reduce muscle soreness between workouts due to the influx of fresh blood, oxygen, and nutrients, and even improve heart health as casein has been shown to help reduce stiff arteries in people who had high blood pressure or signs of atherosclerosis.
Now that we've discussed the formula, here are my experiences with Pump Cap Max. My first experience with this product was one to remember. Typically, I like to stack pump products such as this with a carbohydrate product to further boost muscle fullness and performance, but I wanted to get the true experience of this product as a stand alone, so I omitted the carbs for that arm session. The first thing I noticed was the feeling of extreme fullness in both my biceps and triceps. I mean they felt FULLLLL... after the first set I could feel both muscle groups tightening up, and immediately noticed an apparent increase in size.
The pumps were great, but the muscle fullness, and noticeable increase in performance really stole the show here. Not only did I feel stronger and bigger, but I was moving more weight than normal, even during the middle and end of the workout, and I was pumping out more reps than what I normally did on particular exercises. I was hooked after just the first session.
My second session, I decided to add in carbs along with Pump Cap Max, and boy... oh boy... the muscle fullness I felt in my chest was absolutely absurd!! If you're looking for a product to take as a stand alone or one to add to your current pre-workout to help boost muscle fullness, strength, power, and performance, this one is a must try!
Phase1 Pump Phase Extreme
Pump Phase Extreme caught my eye, and was on my radar since it's release as well, and is now one of my go-tos anytime I want a skin tearing pump! Phase1 rightfully named this product, as the pumps and muscle fullness are absolutely extreme. First, let's see what is inside this diabolical formulation that produces these "extreme" pumps.
Pump Phase Extreme is a trio of some of the newest vasodilation ingredients on the market, and let me tell you, this combination provides some FREAKISH PUMPS and MASSIVE INCREASES IN BLOOD FLOW. The first ingredient in this powerful trio is NitroRocket® (2,000mg), which is a specially engineered extract of Arugula developed specifically for Sports Nutrition. NitroRocket represents one of the few all-natural products that actually delivers real world results both during and promotes recovery after exercise. Arugula is by far the most potent all-natural nitrate on the market, boasting 480 mg nitrates/100g (almost twice as much as a cup of beet juice).
As I mentioned previously, nitrates are an incredibly powerful nitric oxide booster that comes along with a huge list of other benefits to improve your workouts/training sessions. Nitrates also have the distinct ability to reduce oxygen depletion and therefore help you train longer and harder. Om top of that, nitrates also increase energy supplies to muscles for increased performance. When ingested, the nitrate molecule is converted to nitric oxide via the nitrate → nitrite → nitric oxide pathway. Similar to citrulline, nitrates have been noted to help reduce blood pressure, support cardiovascular function, and serve as a potential ergogenic aid for athletes as they can decrease oxygen consumption for a given workload.
Next up is VasoDrive AP (256mg), which we have already touched on a couple of times in this blog, so we'll move on to the third and final ingredient in Pump Phase Extreme -- FitNox® (250mg). FitNox contains three key botanical extracts to provide a superior impact on vasodilation & endurance by increasing NO levels within the body without the addition of nitrates.
Clinical studies have shown FitNox can increase nitric oxide (NO) levels up to 336% thereby promoting increased vasodilation and blood flow. It supports many of the components related to NO production and improved endurance by minimizing the factors that cause fatigue and limit performance. These studies were conducted with both long-term and short-term usage.
Short term supplementation with FitNox significantly increases Nitrate and Nitrite levels with a fast acting (1 hour) and long lasting (10 hours) response which indicates the ability for immediate elevation in nitric oxide levels for improved pump and blood flow. Long term supplementation with FitNox significantly increases Nitrate and Nitrite levels before and after exercise which indicates its ability to provide long lasting elevated levels of nitric oxide over an extended period of time for improved pump and blood flow.
My first experience with Pump Phase Extreme is one I'll definitely never forget. I remember it like it was yesterday! It was my first of two back and deadlift sessions that week, and I have never had such an intense pump while doing deadlifts. My entire back felt like it was lit up and blown up, because it was!! My traps, all the way down to the lumbars had a massive pump, and I could feel the blood surging more and more with every rep.
After deadlifts, I moved on to barbell rows, and this is where the fun really began. At this point, I already had a massive pump going, and now every single rep was intense to say the least. After just a few sets of rows, I had one of the best back pumps I can ever remember in a single session. After rows, I moved on to lat pulldowns. If you've ever heard someone say wide grip will give you wings, imagine that with an already extreme pump and muscle fullness. It literally felt like I was building wings on my back, as I pumped more and more blood into my lats.
By the end of the workout, I was astonished at just how great the pumps were. Even the pump in my lumbars was still prominent. The muscle endurance and boost in performance from the nitrates was great as well. This is definitely one I'll be keeping around for another cycle.
Alchemy Labs Pump 365
Have you ever gotten a stupid pump in the gym and as you're walking out, said to yourself "Man... I wish this would last all day?" Trust me, you're not alone! In fact, the first thing that grabbed my attention about Pump 365 (previously 24 HR Pump) was the name. The name and the formula itself was so intriguing, I had to give this one a go, and I'm damn glad I did. While I love all of the products in this blog, and will continue to cycle with them, this one is definitely my personal favorite!
When I first saw this formula, right away a few things caught my eye. The high doses of Sodium Bicarbonate, Agmatine Sulfate, L-Norvaline, and AmentoPump immediately had my attention, and I was amped to give this formula a go! Sodium bicarbonate is quickly becoming a pre-workout staple for its ability to improve power output, muscular endurance, anaerobic work capacity, and aerobic output. Consuming sodium bicarbonate increases blood bicarbonate levels, which can increase peak power and total work of anaerobic work periods of 120-240 seconds. Increased peak power and total work means more weight moved at a faster velocity which provides more stimuli for direct muscle growth and strength gains.
Agmatine sulfate shares many of the same benefits as L-arginine, but it actually has a better oral bioavailability and can be taken at much lower dosages to, among other functions, drastically boost nitric oxide (NO) levels to achieve and sustain massive muscle pumps. On top of the skin splitting pumps this potent vasodilator delivers, it also provides some serious benefits to increase workout/exercise performance. These benefits include better overall intra-workout energy, works as a nootropic to improve mental clarity, increase focus, and a sense of well-being, helps to promote healthy insulin sensitivity, promoting leanness and muscle building, and even increases appetite even when full, making it easier for underweight individuals to gain weight and muscle.
L-Norvaline is derived from the branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) valine, and serves as an inhibitor of arginase -- the enzyme that breaks down arginine aka the “fuel” for nitric oxide production. By limiting the effects of arginase, l-norvaline helps promote greater arginine concentrations, resulting in stronger, longer-lasting muscle pumps from pre workout to post workout, and even beyond. Essentially, L-Norvaline sustains the actions of the other nitric oxide boosting ingredients in Pump 365, creating a potent combination that ensures maximum nitric oxide production for massive pumps and performance during training.
AmentoPump® is an incredibly potent and multi functional ingredient in this formula. Its main duties/benefits are to increase the levels of calcium in the blood, stimulate the uptake of mineral into muscle cells, increase vasodilation (blood flow), and boosting strength levels. AmentoPump® greatly increases the level of calcium in the muscles and drastically affects their full appearance (more muscle fullness). The success of complete muscle contraction is the release of calcium into muscle cells. The more calcium available for use in muscle tissue, the stronger the contraction.
Not only were the pumps absolutely monstrous, but the boost in strength, endurance, and overall performance was actually astonishing, and each and every muscle contraction was absolutely peaked!! From the very first set, all the way to the very last rep, the pump and muscular fullness was maxed out. My traps and delts felt like they could not hold even a single extra drop of blood. It was hands down one of the best pump experiences I have ever had in the gym. This has been my experience with Pump 365 each and every time I have ran this product, which is why it is to this day, my favorite on this list.
Not only were the pumps absurd, but the performance and muscle contractions were just as massive. While I've had numerous amazing workouts that had me aching for another, this one was different. Every rep, I could feel the working muscles fully contracting and getting peak benefit. I could feel them expanding more and more with every rep and set. Literally every rep felt better than the last. This was truly a fantastic feeling and experience.
But the experience didn't stop there. Strength levels were slightly risen as well, and the boost in endurance was absolutely phenomenal. While the strength gains weren't astronomical, I could definitely notice a slight difference in the weights I was pushing in comparison to other workouts. The endurance however, was definitely noticeable! Not only was I not fatiguing during a set at the rate I normally would, I was maintaining that additional push and drive for the entire workout! This was one workout where I can say with absolute certainty, I had pushed my body to it's absolute limit! It was a struggle to even raise my post-workout shake to take a drink after this one lol!
Purus Labs Noxygen
Purus Labs has long been the frontrunner in the realm of pre-workout pump additives with their signature product NOXYGEN. This formula combined potent doses of Hydromax Glycerol and Sodium Nitrate (as N03-T®) and a staple (and industry first) pre-workout pump amplifier was born! This staple combination seems very simple, so you may be thinking this product won't really do all that much. Well... I'm here to tell you, you could not be more wrong. This potent cvombo delivers out of this world muscle pumps and extreme muscle fullness.
It starts off with Sodium Nitrate (as N03-T®). Nitrates have the distinct ability to reduce oxygen depletion and therefore help you train longer and harder. They also drastically increase N.O. (nitric oxide) levels and blood flow to deliver fresh blood and nutrients to muscles for better recovery and endurance, and enhance muscle contraction efficacy during workouts which can lead to significant gains in both muscle size and strength.
Hydromax Glycerol improves hydration and nutrient absorption by enhancing cell volumization (the cell’s ability to absorb water). Imagine Hydromax transforming your cells into ultra-absorbent sponges and allowing them to soak up extra water and nutrients, thus improving endurance, performance, muscle fullness, vascularity, and strength and power output!
Drawing water into your muscles, allows for a “hyperhydrated” state. This facilitates what we call a “water pump” that makes our muscles larger and fuller than usual. So, the better hydrated you are, the better the pumps will be! As muscles contract while under tension during training, blood and hydration flow into the muscle cells which increases their volume and size. Because Hydromax absorbs quickly it helps to readily distribute high amounts of fluid to the skeletal muscle.
This is helpful to athletes because of the increase in blood flow and hyper-hydration. As this increase happens it stimulates protein synthesis rather than breakdown. When vascularity expands (the pump) blood and fluids can quickly carry muscle-building amino acids and nutrients to help the muscle recover.
If that isn't enough, glycerol has also been shown to increase aerobic and anaerobic power output and even increase endurance time by as much as 24%. Due to the increase in energy production through the use of glycerol, you have the ability to push further than what you could without the use of glycerol which can help with exercises such as the squat and deadlift which are really taxing on your central nervous system (CNS).
Like many of you out there, NOXYGEN was the very first capsulated pump inducing formula I ever tried, and boy did it set the bar high! Throughout pretty much my entire fitness journey, I have loved hypertrophy training, and typically always have chased after a massive pump. Since I got my first taste of a sick pump, and that incredible muscle fullness, I was hooked.
NOXYGEN not only ramped up the blood flow and delivered a nasty pump, but the muscle fullness from the glycerol had me feeling like I could smash through a brick wall with ease (don't worry, I didn't actually try to see if I could). With every rep I could feel the muscles expanding and getting fuller and fuller. This was an upper body day, and everything from my chest, to my back, to my shoulders and arms felt absolutely massive! But the aesthetic difference wasn't the only difference here... not even close!
Performance, strength, and endurance were also enhanced throughout the workout. I was pushing my body longer and harder, I could see a slight difference in the weights I was pushing, and I was recovering between sets at a faster rate than what I was accustomed to. These shorter rest times allowed for me to drive more blood and oxygen into the muscles, and induced hypertrophy that much more. I typically take no more than 60 seconds between sets to recover, but I was only resting maybe 40-45 seconds max between sets during this workout, as I was dying to hit the next set.
If you're looking for a great pump, with some massive muscle fullness, and the performance to match, NOXYGEN is for sure a solid choice and one you will more than likely keep in your arsenal.
I had awesome experiences with every one of these products, and while I have my favorite (just like everyone does), that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best out of these great products. It just means, I personally had the best experience with Pump 365. You may a different experience, and one of the other products in this blog might become your new favorite. Everyone's experience will be different, and we all have different likes and needs, but if you're a fan of hypertrophy training, and love chasing "the pump", all of these pump inducing formulas pack a colossal power punch for massive pumps, increasing vascularity, and ramping up performance! Take your pick, and let the PUMPS and GAINS commence!!