The music fades away and the sounds of everyone else in the room dissipate. All you can hear now is the beating of your heart and the clanging of the weight. The only two things left in the world are you and the task at hand. You’re so focused your mind and body are now perfectly in sync. You feel every rep, every muscle contraction, even before it happens.

Your muscles feel like they are on the verge of exploding, yet you cannot stop. A deep throbbing pain sets in. The contractions become harder and harder as the reps become next to impossible to complete. You fight through the burn until you can take no more.

Finally reaching the point of failure, you drop the weight. Your muscles are so full and round you feel like you can dominate the world, even though you’re at your weakest. The burning from deep within is almost unexplainable. All you can think about after the lift is your desire to feel that incredible focus again—that unbelievable yearning to reach a level in which you are briefly indestructible. For just that moment, you felt like you were the baddest motherfucker to ever walk on this planet. That was your first experience getting, “the pump,” and you have been chasing it ever since.

What is the pump, though? This legendary thing all of the great bodybuilders, past and present, talk about as if it were a spiritual experience. The most basic explanation is that it is just a combination of blood and nutrients flooding your muscles, engorging them until they reach max capacity. But to me, it is so much more.

Almost every time I lift I get a good pump. Every arm workout my biceps and triceps reach the point where they feel like they’re going to burst. The thing is, though, it’s not the same. It’s not, “the pump.” I believe this incredible pump the greats talk about it so much more than what you get from the basic act of breaking down your muscles through heavy weight training. It is something rare that happens to you. Something that makes you addicted to lifting. What the pump truly is, is a state of mind and a state of being.

It starts off with the focus. Professional athletes call it getting into “the zone.” Unless you have ever experienced such amazing focus for yourself, it’s impossible to understand. When you’re able to fully give the weights every last bit of your attention, you can do amazing things. The weights feel lighter. The reps become easier. You feel the effects of every movement you make. You’re so zoned into what you’re doing you almost feel like you’re mentally forcing your muscles to grow. You feel as if you’re unstoppable, like you can really do whatever you want in the weight room—and in life.

The second thing that happens is the actual pump itself. Every rep you do forces more blood into the muscle. It starts to hurt like hell, but if you fight through the pain you start to like it. You embrace the pain and make it something you look forward to. It honestly sounds crazy, but if you have ever experienced it, you understand.

The last thing to happen occurs after the lift is completed: the pain sets in something fierce for a few moments. Your muscles are so full you can barely move them properly. You also appear physically larger for a brief period of time; this isn’t an illusion, this is due to the pump in your muscles. That’s more than enough to make you want to get that feeling again and again. It’s the start of something you almost cannot control. It’s the start of an addiction. You become addicted to the pump, and eventually, you become addicted to chasing the pump. Doing whatever you can to feel invincible just one more time. Even for just that moment, you become indestructible.

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