Some of the things we do in our training have become so standard that we don’t even know we are doing them. That’s definitely true with the flushing principle. One of the touted Weider Principles back in the day, the flushing principle was actually a bit of a revolutionary practice in that it helped change training from what was into what it is.
Decades ago, it was quite common in fitness training to do only one set per body part and then move on. Multiple sets were of course practiced to develop strength and proficiency in the targeted lifts like the overhead press, but little thought was given to developing the muscles. A workout program was often done as a circuit and targeted the entire body. The flushing principle changed all of that.
The flushing principle advocated working just one muscle group or body part at a time before moving on to something else. It encouraged the use of multiple sets and even multiple exercises for the same area. The area would then become “flushed” with blood and new growth would be sparked. Hardcore trainers of the day started feeling their first real pumps and it was addicting. Plus, the increased volume from more sets and reps did overload the muscles and caused them to grow. It worked! Guys using this principle were growing bigger, faster than they ever did before. Soon, everyone was doing longer and longer workouts until ultimately, due to time and energy concerns, workouts programs started to become split routines to accommodate. The flushing principle became the standard way that people interested in body development trained. Even hard core lifters and strength athletes started to incorporate some extra movements after their main lifts to fully work and flush those muscles.
“There is nothing more satisfying than the pump!” says Arnold. Indeed, it’s a feeling that tells us we have been successful. It is positive feedback from our efforts. The muscles feel fuller and tighter and even look and measure bigger, at least for a time. The flushing principle gave us all of those things. No wonder it was a success. Imagine walking around the gym after getting your first real pump! You remember. You couldn’t wait to do more!
Today, hardcore trainers still chase that great feeling. It is the feeling of “a workout gone inside” as Charles Gains wrote in Pumping Iron. One of the most popular products in the supplement industry today are pre-workout formulas. And while they do a number of things, a main reason for their success is the way the enhance the pump. That full, tight-muscle feeling in your biceps, pecs, lats, or delts was earned and you wanted it! The flushing principle was the genesis of all this. Once discovered in the gym, then romanticized by the Weider magazines, trainers were grinding out set after set, rep after rep, in search of a feeling they had never quite felt before.
Like with anything, too much is never good. You don’t need to train one muscle all day long to utilize the flushing principle. Pick 2-4 exercises per body part and do 3-5 set of each of 10-15 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets. (Depending on experience – beginners do a minimum amount, more advance can do max amounts). As a rule of thumb, if you start to feel the pump subsiding, it’s time to move on. Overdoing it won’t give you better results.
There are numerous reasons to train. But if you want to really target and improve a certain muscle area or body part, you will need to effectively stimulate it. And while general strength increases can improve overall muscle size, nothing can connect you to a muscle and give you the immediate feedback that you are stimulating it maximally like the feeling when it’s completely flushed with blood and fully fatigued. The flushing principle is a great tool to make this happen.
Photo: Terry Goodlad