Pump Training vs. Strength Training

What is Pump Training & Strength Training 

Pump training consists of lifting light weights for a high number of sets and reps with short rest periods. The goal is to deliver a wicked pump to the working muscles to trigger an increase in muscle growth via sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This type of muscle growth increases the fluid like substance within the muscle cells, allowing you to better handle a high volume of training.

Strength training consists of lifting heavy weights with long rest periods for maximum performance. Strength training usually consists of only a few sets per movement for 4-8 reps.

With strength training, you’re triggering what is known as myofibrillar hypertrophy. This results in an increase in size of the contractual filaments of your muscles, which has a direct effect on strength and power.

What’s Better, Pump Training or Strength Training?

What you must realize is that muscle gains from pump training only account for a small percentage of overall muscle growth. You see, there’s only so much sarcoplasmic growth you can trigger before you are maxed out. Afterwards, the only way to continually add muscle size is to get stronger. Usually you can gain about 6-10 lbs of this ‘pretty muscle’.

I call it ‘pretty muscle’ because it is just there to look good. It doesn’t have any direct influence on strength and power. Most people following pump training routines have already built about all the pretty muscle they’re ever going to get. Therefore to continue seeing results they need to direct their attention on heavy strength training and cut back on the pump n tone stuff.

With strength training, as long as you’re consistently lifting heavier in the 5-8 rep range, you will be building muscle. Your muscles will become bigger and more dense as they adapt to lift heavier and heavier weights. On top of that, all the muscle you’re building is highly useful. You’ll have the strength to go along with the look. Furthermore, you’ll be able to gain size and make progress on your physique with only a few short workouts each week.

This is why strength training is hands down more effective than pump lifting. So my recommendation is to focus 80% of your efforts on strength based training. In fact, I wouldn’t even think about any pump training until you’ve reached a decent level of strength and size. Then adding some pretty muscle strategically to your physique, where you need it most, will create an awe inspiring look.

Flipping the Script on Muscle Building


In my Greek God Muscle Building Course, the first three to six months are dedicated to strength and density work. The goal is to build up your weighted chin ups, incline bench and standing press. These are your core lifts! Weighted chin ups build an incredible wide back and sculpted biceps. Incline bench develops a masculine square chest. Standing press creates strong and powerful shoulders, triceps and core. 

As your lifts start increasing each week, you can’t help but notice your muscles firming up and increasing in size. After three to six months of focused training you will become strong, powerful and you will possess incredible muscle density. Then you can supplement this size and strength with some strategic pump training to get the extra 6-10 lbs of pretty muscle. This is when the MEGA (minimum effort growth acceleration) workouts from the Greek God Program come into play.

That said, until you’ve built your base of strength and density, you are not ready for any of the pump work. You must build this ‘pretty muscle’ on a strong and capable physique. Otherwise you’ll end up gaining a bit of muscle only to see it disappear as you focus on gaining the necessary strength that your physique depends on.

Kinobody Strength Standards 

How strong is strong enough? Good question! Let’s talk about upperbody, because after all, I’m not after developing super big legs. A huge lower body is easy to develop and plain and simple, doesn’t look aesthetic at all. You can’t fit into nice pants, your thigh’s rub together and everyone’s attention is drawn down to your bulky legs, instead of the physique as a whole.

I consider leg training to be accessory training, this keeps everything balanced and in proportion. Now the three main lifts for building a Greek god physique include the incline bench, weighted chin ups and standing press.

1. Weighted Chin ups*: 55% of bodyweight attached for 5 reps (180 lbs man = 100 lbs weighted chins)

2. Incline Bench Press: 125% of bodyweight for 5 reps (180 lbs man = 225 lbs incline press)

3. Standing Press: 90% of bodyweight for 5 reps (180 lbs man = 160 lbs standing press)

*When adding weight to chin-ups, it’s really important that you use a high quality weight belt that can support the weight with making you uncomfortable and distracting you from your training.

These are some pretty advanced lifts but most people can get there in one to two years of proper training. If you’re following my Greek God Program, you’re looking at gaining about 10-15 lbs per month onto each of these three lifts. So after 4 months of training, that’s 40-60 lbs onto your lifts! You can imagine the effect this will have on your physique.

If you go from incline pressing 140 lbs to 200lbs, standing pressing 100 lbs to 140 lbs and doing chin ups with 20 lbs to 80 lbs, well hot damn you’re going to look awesome!  Then you can stack some pump training (standard pyramid or rest pause) onto your stubborn muscles and you’ll have that breath taking Greek god look. Plus you’ll walk around with the deep confidence that you contain a level of strength that very few people have witnessed, let alone possess.

Final Note

Stop concerning yourself with trying to build a ton of muscle. Instead, direct your attention on achieving advanced lifts. I guarantee that when you’re well on your way to possessing incredible strength on the kinobody lifts, you will be deeply satisfied with your development and progress. It’s likely when the point comes that you’re ready to incorporate some pump training, you won’t even need it at all.

I’ve only really needed to use pump training on my lateral and rear delts. With my coaching clients who are already at the intermediate/advanced level, I select one or two stubborn body parts to add a little bit of pump work to maximize their physical development over the 12 week program. This works gangbusters because it’s tailored and it’s calibrated. If you try to stack too much pump work into the mix, you’ll retard your strength gains, which will backfire on your muscle building progress.

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[shadowbox] Want to take your physique to the next level? My Greek God Program will have you looking like a modern day Adonis! [/shadowbox]

*Your results may vary. Testimonials and examples used are exceptional results and are not intended to guarantee, promise, represent and/or assure that anyone will achieve the same or similar results.
 Your Kino Question For The Day: How did this article help you with building a muscular physique? Let me know in the comments below.

About the Author


I'm Greg O'Gallagher the founder of Kinobody.com

86 responses to “Pump Training vs. Strength Training

  1. Greg, i’m having a really hard time lifting heavy weights. Most of the time my form is off. Will I still be making progress in spite of the sloppy form? I’m really confused between the balance of choosing light weights for form, and choosing heavy weights as they “force” the muscles to grow, but the disadvantage is pure form which may lead to injury. I’m weak, and can’t lift as heavy as 100 lbs. 30 lbs and i’m already struggling with it.

  2. Greg…

    Big fan of the principle of intermittent fasting, and getting my head around having more carbs, having been a low carb fan for years! Biggest challenge is low rep / high weight workouts. I moved from that around a year ago to just 2 insanely intense full body workouts each week. Lots of dynamic movements, zero rest, low weights, high reps to failure, full body both times (greater focus on upper)…. and I’ve had massive success – I’m stronger, leaner and more flexible then ever, with larger and more defined muscles, all in fewer workouts then ever before. Bottom line is do you think I can make the warrior programme work this way? Thanks in advance!

  3. Greg,

    Do you have any studies to back up the ‘sarcoplasmic hypertrophy’ / pretty muscle stuff? I’ve been unable to find anything about it aside from some broscience articles on bodybuilding.com and a study done on rats. I have however found at least one study and a plethora of articles suggesting that training specifically for sacroplasmic hypertophy is a myth. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3698998 for example.


  4. A great read, and thanks for sharing.

    Personally, I also think before choosing a path, we should understand our bodies well to see where improvements can be made. Sometimes strengths are genetic, and sometimes the lack of it as well, and I believe we should address our workout depending on our needs.

    But this is just me.

  5. Greg is there just thing as building dense muscle? am following rusty s visual impact program an in one of the phases he states do 2-4 reps per exercise, I know you can bloat the muscle using a pump (Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) filling the muscles with fluid but the actual muscle growth itself, can you gain hard dense muscle by doing low reps? or is muscle just muscle?

    1. Yes I believe there is a difference in gaining muscle via heavy strength lifting vs. gaining muscle from pump. But I don’t think it’s necessary to go down to 2-4 reps. It’s best to work with a heavy weight in the 5-8 rep range with long rest periods. This works better. And sarcoplasmic growth isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can actually help improve your physique big time.

  6. Greg,

    I’m still a little confused which order is the best to follow your muscle building program
    First it’s important to build strength: So it’s best follow first the Strength and Density Workout (for 6 months)

    Second: change after 6 months to the 3 Day Workout Split (your Bonus Routine, for how long should I follow this routine)

    Third: Mixed it up with some Mega training (btw why is even the Mega Training important?)

    Thx in advance

  7. Good morning, Greg! Hope you’re having a great day! How do you work through plateaus during the strength training phase? I feel like I quickly increased my weights during the first few weeks, but now I can’t seem to get passed my current weights. I was also curious if you’re supposed to move your entire body when you do heavy weighted military presses. I see a lot of people do this at the gym, and I’ve always wondered if that’s correct. Thank you for your time. Hope you have a great day!

    1. No for military presses your entire body should remain stable. I think you’re referring to push presses or clean and presses.

      Just build up the reps on the lifts and then you should be game to increase the weights.

  8. Hey Greg,

    I know this might be a dumb question… I have done pump training primarily for the past year or so and obviously i havent really grown in strength, I have grown in size but not in the way i want,

    Here’s my question. will all this pump training have negative effects on the way I look permanently or will I still be able to reshape my physique to have the golden ratio look?

  9. Hi Greg,

    As a former buyer of Rusty’s Visual Impact course, I’m now offered the discounted pre-release of his new program ‘Visual Impact Frequency’. What are your thoughts about doing his program 2 months a year, since it’s very opposite to your method?

    Thanks man!

    1. It’s very opposite but it can work because it’s just for 2 months and then you’re supposed to go to a more minimalist routine. I think it could be effective if you have some decent muscle and are around 8-12% body fat. If you don’t have much muscle then you’ll see the most visual change gaining some solid muscle. IF you’re above 12% body fat then the only way you’re going to see more definition is by dropping fat through proper diet.

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