Whether you're training for bodybuilding or to get in top shape for a holiday, vascularity is critical for physique development. Vascularity means the visibility of the blood vessels in the skin and is a vital part of aesthetics.
Some degree of vascularity is genetic; we're born with it, and this is also the case in many fitness qualities. But you can still develop it through a combination of training and nutritional methods.
You can develop higher vascularity through different exercise techniques, which can assist in the development of new and larger blood vessels. You can also use some nutrition methods to increase the visibility of existing veins.
Below, we show you twelve of these methods. We also explain how, and when you can incorporate each method into your training program, which will then help you maximise vascularity and your physique.
These methods are also ordered according to priority and timing, so you should only consider the last step after you carry out all the other methods.
1. Increase Muscle Mass
Increasing muscle mass is one of the first steps to achieving better vascularity. This is because larger muscles need both higher amounts of blood flow and more nutrients.
This higher demand encourages increased blood flow and larger blood vessels. Resistance training has also been shown to boost the size of the heart, which can improve blood flow.
It can also increase blood vessel flexibility, forming larger blood vessels which will help visibility.
2. Use Moderate and High Rep Ranges
Using higher repetition ranges causes a greater energy to be used by the working muscle. This then causes an accumulation of metabolites, causing something known as metabolic stress.
Multiple sets of a high repetition range are particularly useful for increasing muscle mass. This means more sets are also effective for achieving better vascularity.
3. Alternate Between Traditional Resistance Training and Blood Flow Restriction Training
As mentioned above, increasing metabolic stress is a fundamental element in increasing vascularity.
Blood flow restriction training promotes metabolite buildup. This offers an efficient way of improving blood vessel content and visibility, and is particularly useful during recovery periods when you are avoiding heavy lifting.
Blood flow restriction training (BFR) uses cuffs to restrict blood flow to the muscle, and then high repetitions exercises are performed. You should also alternate with traditional training to maximise muscle growth and vascularity.
It is particularly useful for the arms and legs, because you can use BFR to increase training volume without increasing the training load.
Using both methods will help prevent a plateau in training, and it will also allow greater muscle mass and blood vessel formation than if one method was used alone.
4. Avoid Cardio
Research has shown that strength training causes a bigger increase in Nitric Oxide than aerobic exercise.
This means that aerobic exercise is inferior for promoting vascularity when compared to weight training. It can also inhibit muscle growth, making it harder to gain the size needed to improve physique. These reasons make cardio a poor choice for physique development.
5. Use Foam Rolling Before and After Workouts
Foam rolling is considered as a warm up activity to help improve flexibility. But it is also an easy and fast way to increase Nitric Oxide in the bloodstream, which can enhance circulation and blood vessel flexibility, improving vascularity.
Foam rolling also helps recovery from training and can be done many time each day. It's also useful for directly before showing off your physique, either on stage or at the beach.
6. Eat a Diet Rich In Nitrates
Beetroots, spinach or lettuce, are nitrate-rich foods are high in nitrates. Consuming these leads to an increase in circulating Nitric Oxide in the blood.
This increase in NO can then cause a widening of the blood vessels and increase the ‘pump’ from resistance training.
Along with dilating the blood vessels, Nitric Oxide also helps boost blood vessel production in the body.
As such, taking in the right food before exhibiting your physique can make a significant difference to your vascularity.
Nitrates can also help improve performance at the gym, making it an ideal ingredient in a pre-workout mix.
7. Achieve a Pump Before Photos or Trips
Carrying out a short and intense resistance workout before a trip to the beach will cause muscle swelling and blood vessel dilation.
This swelling is referred to as a ‘pump.' It can help improve vascularity and physique for up to two hours afterward. You can also do it with minimal equipment.
Pre-show ‘pumping’ is common practice for bodybuilders, and is done when preparing to step on stage for competition and can make a big difference to your appearance.
8. Practice Posing
Practicing poses can be seen by some to be vain, or an exercise that is only carried out by bodybuilders. But practicing traditional poses is a great way to gain awareness of your physique, and may also help improve muscle mass and tone through acting as an isometric exercise.
Posing also offers a way to improve vascularity through restricting blood flow to the flexed areas and causing a pump and an increase in Nitric Oxide.
9. Decrease Body Fat
After developing a greater amount of muscle mass and blood vessels in the body, the next step to boosting vascularity is reducing body fat.
To maximise your vascularity, your body fat needs to be in the single digit range for men, and for women, it will need to be around the mid-teens.
This reduction is done through creating a calorie deficit in the diet. Maintaining protein intake, and fat intake for women is also important to regulate hormone levels and keeping resistance training constant to help protect muscle mass and optimise fat loss is key.
It is also vital when looking to get a low body fat percentage to track food intake carefully, which can be done using smartphone apps or food diaries. As a side note, it also may be more beneficial to lose the weight slowly than attempt to crash diet.
10. Decrease Water Retention
Once muscle mass is improved and body fat is reduced, water in the skin should be minimised. This is so that the skin 'thins' and allows the blood vessels to become more visible.
You can decrease water in the body through a process known as 'flushing,’ which entails drinking a high amount of water to increase the release of a hormone known as aldosterone. This then boosts urine and sweat production. Carbohydrates in the diet are also restricted to prevent water retention by the glucose stored in muscles and the blood. Then water is reduced, while exercise and sweating are increased.
Diuretics like XpelTM can also be used at this point but should be used sparingly to preserve health. This dehydration causes the skin to dry, improving muscle definition and vascularity.
11. Raise Body Temperature
Through exercise, saunas or steam rooms, you can increase body temperature, which will then cause the blood vessels to widen and become more visible.
Boosting body heat offers a complimentary method of decreasing water retention and will also help directly improve vascularity. This method is best used right before you want to display your new figure.
12. Supplement for Added Vascularity
This is done through ingredients in the supplements like Arginine, which can increase levels of Nitric Oxide in the blood and promote higher vascularity directly. But, it can also help indirectly with ingredients such as L-Citrulline Malate.
This helps promote vascularity by boosting the amount of volume that you can carry out in a workout, which can help in meeting the above steps of increasing muscle mass and reducing fat.
Timeline and Sample Program
Timing has a vital role in the above methods for improving vascularity. It can be the difference between a good and great physique. So, below is a sample timeline and program which can help you boost your appearance.
Muscle growth phase
Use moderate repetitions.
Maintain moderate repetitions and begin to alternate with BFR.
Alternate regularly between moderate and high repetitions and BFR.
Increase calorie intake and introduce nitrate rich foods into the diet.
Further increase nitrates and decrease calories
while maintaining protein.
Decrease carbohydrates and increase water intake during Week 11.
Introduce diuretics and decrease fluids in Week 12.