If you've ever taken a look at Hugh Jackman's ripped, veiny arms and thought, "That's my workout goal," here's a new vocabulary word for you: Vascularity. As swelling in your muscles pushes veins toward the surface of the skin, a hardcore workout makes those veins pop, which is why vascularity has become a desirable look among those who respect the pump. With a few tweaks to your regimen, you can keep that pumped looked long after your last rep.
Combine regular strength-training exercises with low body fat to increase your vascularity.
Focus on forearms and biceps for vein workouts that'll give your arms awesome venation, working each key arm muscle group about two or three times per week. Some examples of time-tested exercises that target those muscle groups include:
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- Standing barbell and dumbbell biceps curls
- Barbell preacher curl
- Reverse-grip bent-over row
- Barbell holds
- Dumbbell farmer walks
Break out of low-rep territory and try gradually increasing to a moderate or high-rep range. Doing more reps creates more metabolic stress and releases more nitric oxide into your body, in turn stimulating the blood vessels. While blood flow restriction training is typically used in physical therapy to help patients regain strength without putting too much stress on muscle tissue, it may also serve as an optional tactic for more seasoned weight lifters looking to increase vascularity.
Blood Flow Restriction Training
If you're at least a moderately experienced fitness buff, consider grabbing a pair of blood-flow restriction cuffs and giving blood flow restriction training (BFRT) a try, preferably with a little help from your trainer.
BFRT training uses bands that put a bit of pressure on the arteries while still maintaining blood flow, potentially increasing strength gains while lifting lighter loads. This makes it a potentially ideal pairing with the kind of high-repetition weightlifting you'll be doing to maximize your arm veins, though it's probably not the best route for beginners.
Avoid BFRT if you're older, have high blood pressure or struggle with cardiovascular issues.
Read more: The Best Forearm Exercises
Vascularity and Body Weight
Speaking to Men's Health in 2018, doctor of osteopathic medicine and The Fat Loss Prescription author Spencer Nadolsky notes that the leaner you are, the more pronounced your veins appear.
Alongside upping that muscle mass with high-rep weight training and BRFT, low body fat is the other half of the vascularity equation — so don't neglect your cardio or calorie counting. Rotate your muscle-building workouts with plenty of cardio, which also brings out veins by helping to create a calorie deficit and increasing capillary density.
Registered dietitian and sports nutrition consultant Paul Salter of Bodybuilding.com recommends single-digit body fat for men and less than 20-percent body fat for women to start seeing those telltale roadmap veins. If you need to shed body fat, aim for about 0.5 to 1.5 pounds per week, as you'll still need to retain muscle mass for maximum vascularity.
More Tips for Veiny Arms
Start off your workout with pomegranate or beet juice, as the nitrates in either can help increase blood flow. Spinach and lettuce are also rich in nitrates, so don't skimp on the greens.
If there's a certain exercise that really highlights your veiny arms — be it curls or push-downs — end your workout with that set and, if a bar is involved, "crush the bar" by holding it extra tight to promote forearm strength and increase wrist control. Likewise, incorporating foam rollers into your warm up and cool down can increase circulation and promote vascularity.
And just before you snap a selfie of your newly veiny arms, hit the steam room — higher body temps widen blood vessels and increase their visibility.
Read more: How to Get Bicep Vascularity