Does lifting weights make you more vascular?

We’ve all seen him in the gym; the perfect specimen with bulging muscles and even more bulging veins. We’ve probably all also wanted our veins to pop like that.

And it’s not just for us, the ladies also love a man with really vascular forearms, just ask them. 

So how do we get to be like him? How can we get our veins to pop like that? Well, we’ll have to work on our vascularity and it turns out that how we thought vascularity worked is a little bit incorrect.

Let’s dive into if lifting weights makes you more vascular and some other ways to increase vascularity.

Does lifting weights make you more vascular?

The short answer is yes it does, but it turns out that the way we used to think it worked was incorrect. We used to think that exercise forced the heart to pump more blood which increased blood volume and pressure in the veins which made them ‘bigger’. However, recent studies show that what actually happens is that the exercise causes the muscles to swell and harden which pushes the veins against your skin making them more visible.

This vascularity effect when lifting weights only lasts for about 15 – 30 minutes. Which begs the question: how can I increase vascularity more long term?

What creates vascularity?

As answered above lifting weights can increase vascularity but so does any exercise that works the muscles. This effect, however, only increases vascularity temporarily. In order to make our veins “pop” for a longer time, there are some steps we will have to take. Some steps may require hard work, but hey, we lift heavy metal plates until we can barely move for fun.

Have good genetics

Sorry to break it to you but some guys are just naturally more vascular than others. If you have naturally bulging veins, then hey you’re lucky but if not then you’re going to have to put in some more work. But it’s not hopeless as we still have the other steps we can take to increase vascularity.

Get lean

Body fat is stored right beneath the skin putting it right between your veins and your skin. So the more you drop your body fat percentage the more prominent your veins are going to show. How do you lose body fat? Well, that would require a whole article on its own, but the basics are: eat in a calorie deficit, do strength training, and do some form of regular cardio.

Build muscle

Although the idea that exercise expands the veins to pump more blood is incorrect it is not entirely wrong. In the longer term, building bigger muscles is going to force your body to expand its blood pumping capabilities to meet the demands of your new muscle size. What does this mean? Bigger veins.

Don’t leave out cardio

As mentioned above it is not only lifting weights that can make your veins pop. Any exercise that works the muscle can (temporarily) increase vascularity, this includes cardio activities such as running or rowing. In the longer term, cardio helps you to get leaner which, as we already said, will help your veins to show through your skin. Another reason to do cardio; regular exercise that increases your heart rate (aerobic exercise) increases the number of tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that go to your muscles. This gives you more veins to show off.

Take supplements

One way to boost your ‘pump’ (veins popping out) is to use supplements. When you exercise, your body relaxes your blood vessels which increases blood flow.

This effect is thanks to the production of Nitric Oxide (NO). Some supplements that boost NO production are; Citrulline, Nitrates, Creatine, and Thermogenics.

But before you go and use these supplements please do your research or seek educated advice as some supplements may have negative side effects.

Lower your water retention

Another barrier between your muscles and your skin? Water. If you want to increase your vascularity you need to minimize your water retention.

The best ways to lower your water retention are to lower your stress, balance your salt and potassium intake, and drink enough water.

High stress releases the hormone Cortisol which can affect water retention as well as other body functions. Sodium (found in salt) is absorbed by cells along with water, increasing water retention, so you need to be mindful of taking in too much sodium.

If you don’t drink enough water your water retention increases since your body thinks it is not getting enough water and will try to hold on to what it has.

What foods make you more vascular?

As vascularity is all about promoting a healthy and strong vascular system and as the adage goes ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’, you would be remiss if you forget to eat the right foods for vascular health. Here are some of them:


Salmon is rich in heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 is important for heart health as it is known to lower blood pressure, reduce blood clots, and more.


Blueberries pack a lot of great health benefits in a low-calorie punch. Blueberries can help to lower LDL cholesterol, are full of antioxidants, and are a great source of Vitamin C and fiber.  

Spinach and other dark leafy greens

Spinach as well as other dark, leafy greens are great for vascular health. These are rich in minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium which help regulate blood pressure.


So does lifting weights increase vascularity? Yes. By swelling and hardening your muscles, your veins are pushed to the surface giving you that ‘pumped’ look.

But this will only last 15 – 30 minutes. For longer-term vascularity, you need to work on getting lean, building muscle, doing cardio, (possibly) taking supplements, and lowering your water retention.

Don’t forget to eat the right, heart-healthy foods such as salmon, blueberries, and spinach. Now that you have the knowledge and the tools, get out there and get that pump on!