Vascularity – How to Train For, Get & Keep It
updated January 1, 2019
There are few things that are as impressive in the gym as seeing a guy who is both big AND vascular. To see a dude with thick vascularity muscle bellies that are lined with a network of veins is enough to make you envious – and possibly frustrated that you are never able to bring out your vascularity like that.
In this article, we delve into the hidden art of how to get vascularity so that you can be that guy that your fellow gym goers are wishing they looked like.
What is Vascularity?
The word vascularity is a bodybuilding term that relates to the ability to have visible veins running across your body. Your body is intersected by a massive network of veins that do the vital job of carrying blood – which, in turn, carries oxygen and nutrients – to your muscles and organs. For most people, these veins are rarely seen because they’re hidden underneath the body fat that is directly under the skin.
To achieve a muscular body that is also vascular is the epitome of fitness. It lets the world know that you are in tip-top shape with minimal levels of body fat. Of course, there are a lot of people walking around with veins showing that have never walked into a gym in their lives. That’s because vascularity has a large genetic component. Some people are able to naturally get vascular due to their genetic predisposition. There are also medical conditions that may make a person more vascular.
Even though genetics does play a part, there are definitely things that you can do to enhance your vascularity, even if you ended up on the wrong side of the veiny genetic pool.
Lower Your Body Fat Percentage
As mentioned, your veins sit beneath the fat layer that resides under your skin. The more fat you have, the less likely it is that anyone will see your veins. So, the first thing you need to do in order to bring out your vascularity is to get your body fat percentage down.
To show a really impressive level of vascularity, you need to bring your body fat percentage down to between 10 and 12 percent if you are a guy and 13-16 percent if you’re a woman. However, you will still be pretty impressively veiny at between 13-15 percent for guys and 15-18 percent for women.
So, how do you get your body fat levels down to these impressive levels? The first thing is the most basic. You need to ensure that every day you are operating at a negative caloric balance. Try to aim for an overall deficit of 500 calories per day between the energy you’re expanding and the energy you’re taking in through food.
Secondly, cut way back on your complex carb intake. In fact, the only time you should be consuming carbs is the window that surrounds your workouts. Have a 50% carbs / 30% protein meal or shake 60 minutes before your workout, with a similar intake about an hour after.
When it comes to working out for the fat loss, complement your weight training sessions with steady state cardio. While high-intensity interval training (HIIT) will burn more calories while exercising, most of those calories will come from your glycogen stores. With a steady state, the calories will come from your stored body fat, which is what you want.
While a lot of people think that the best way to get vascular is to do a lot of high rep sets with lighter weights, the opposite is actually true. Heavy training in the 6-8 rep range has proven to be the most effective way to get both big and vascular at the same time. The harder you train, the harder your blood has to pump around the body. This causes the veins to dilate, which makes them easier to see.
You should, however, finish your workout with few high rep sets to provide a max pump effect. This will engorge the working muscle with blood to make it feel as if it’s going to explode. This is the type of training involved in the FST-7 program created by bodybuilding guru Hany Rambod, whose athletes always come in super ripped (and veiny) condition.
Throw in Isometrics
While you’re resting between sets, as well as after your workout, you should do isometric holds to further bring out your vascularity. This can and should include posing the working muscle.
Isometrics will simply have you grabbing onto an upright from a machine or power rack and squeezing the muscle under tension against the immovable object. Hold each isometric move for a count of 30 and then go on to your next set.
Flush Out Water
We’ve already mentioned that a layer of fat under the skin will stop your veins from showing through. Well, the other thing that gets between your veins and your skin is water. Of course, water is vital for your very existence, but the less of it that resides directly under your skin, the more vascular you will be. The reason that the guys on the Mr. Olympia stage look so shrink wrapped is that they have flushed all of the water from under their skin.
So, how do you flush out the water? Crazy as it may seem, you do so by actually drinking more water. You basically have to give your body so much that it gets into a flushing state in order to redress the balance. Drink up to 5 liters of water per day in order to achieve this. If you are peaking for a bodybuilding show, cut your water out 48 hours before the show. The body will continue to flush out the water, leaving you looking hard, vascular and grainy onstage. Just be sure to start reloading with water once the competition is over.
We’ve already touched on your macronutrient makeup in order to get your body fat percentage into vascularity territory. Here’s what else you should be doing nutrition wise to ensure that your veins are showing as quickly as possible:
- Eat every 2-3 waking hours
- Focus on such lean proteins as chicken breast, wild fish, eggs and whey protein
- Eat plenty of healthy essential fats such as avocado, fish oil, and coconut
- Stay away from sugar
Nitric oxide boosting supplements have become very popular to help bodybuilders to get a great pump in the gym and to bring out their vascularity. Nitric Oxide is actually a gas which is naturally produced by the body. One of its abilities is to dilate or enlarge the size of your blood vessels to allow for greater blood flow. This makes the vein more pronounced as well as engorging the muscle with blood, which brings in more oxygen and nutrients. Nitric Oxide boosting supplements includes substances that have been proven to increase the body’s natural production of nitric oxide.
The most proven nitric oxide boosters found in supplements are the following:
Citrulline Malate is a non-essential amino acid which is synthesized from the amino acid glutamine. It is purported to play a role in reducing muscle fatigue, enhancing nitric oxide production, enhancing aerobic energy production and facilitating optimal recovery.
The recommended dosage for sports supplementation is 4-8 grams of citrulline malate per day.
Arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid. It can be metabolized into glucose for energy during exercise and is important in the production of nitric oxide and creatine. Arginine is also known to stimulate growth hormone, a powerful anabolic hormone. The nitric oxide boosting benefits of arginine are well established. This effect allows for improved blood flow to the muscles. Increased blood flow allows for superior delivery of oxygen and other nutrients which enhances training performance. The potential dual impact of growth hormone and nitric oxide production would make it beneficial for strength and power as well as endurance athletes.
The recommended daily dosage of arginine for exercise applications is 2-9 grams per day.
Creatine is probably the most studied of all supplements. It has been shown to enhance your training when doing short intense workloads such as lifting weights. It does this by replacing a phosphate to turn ADP back into ATP, which is the energy source we rely on for all out, short duration energy expenditure.
When you supplement with creatine, you will be able to increase your maximum power and strength levels. This will allow you to work more intensely and lift heavier weight, both of which will help to enhance your vascularity. At the same time, your muscle mass and overall training performance will be improved.
The recommended daily dose of creatine is 5 grams.
Improving the vascularity of your body needs to be taken on as a long term project. It starts with trying to bring your body fat levels down below 15 percent. Do this with a combination of a deficit calorie diet, low carbs and meals spaced every 2-3 hours apart.
You should train with heavy weights and low reps but finish the workout with a few sets of high reps work to engorge the blood vessels. You should also do isometric stretching and posing between sets.
Supplementing with arginine, citrulline malate and creatine will also allow you to maximize nitric oxide production, which will, in turn, bring out your body’s natural vascularity.