When looking to get more vascular, there are a few things that must take place depending on where your current physique is at. Most lifters want to be more vascular as it is often a sign of being lean and having muscle.
Getting more vascular can be influenced by training, diet, hydration status, and supplementation. Having low body fat levels is a must to be vascular. In addition, adding more muscle mass and focusing on workouts that increase blood flow to the muscle and vessels are other ways to manipulate your vascularity levels.
Below, we will discuss four of the main factors that affect vascularity, and offer you tips to help you get more vascular.
If you are looking for a workout program that can be paired with a diet program with an emphasis on getting more vascular, check out the FitBod app.
Before we dive in, let’s first address the question of whether or not anyone can get more vascular or if there are genetic limitations for some people.
Can Anyone Get More Vascular?
There are certainly genetic factors that can impact the ability to become more vascular, such as blood vessel circumference, predisposition to increased body fat, and muscle fiber types.
That said, most people ask this question because they are wanting to know if they can become more vascular than their present state… and the answer is YES, 100%
When looking to become more vascular, there are four factors within your control that you can alter to improve your ability to become more vascular.
Regardless of your genetics, everyone has the ability to lose body fat, gain muscle, and improve their cardiovascular function (increase blood flow, cardiac output, etc). While it may come easier for some individuals than others, everyone can become more vascular.
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Factors That Affect Vascularity
While you cannot change your genetics, you can alter other factors through diet, exercise, hydration, and supplementation to increase your vascularity.
Below are four factors that you have direct control over to get more vascular:
1. Body Fat Percentage
Decreasing your body fat is one of the most necessary components to becoming more vascular.
Under the skin, you have subcutaneous fat, blood vessels, fluids, and muscle. The more muscle you have, the more the muscles push out against the skin, creating the visual appearance of blood vessels.
When you have more fat, this becomes less visual and often masks the blood vessels appearance from the outside. Therefore, if you are looking to become more vascular, you need to decrease your body fat levels.
We have several articles that discuss this topic:
- How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle (Science Backed)
- Cutting Without Cardio: Is It Possible? (Yes, Here’s 8 Tips)
- Should You Cut or Bulk First If You Are Skinny Fat?
2. Blood Vessel and Capillary Density Size
While your genetics play a role in the blood vessel size and circumference, you can still impact them and improve their ability to be more elastic through resistance and cardiovascular training.
When you train hard, your blood pressure increases through higher heart rate and greater pressures throughout the body.
As you do this, you push more blood through the active muscle tissues, resulting in increased localized vascularity.
3. Muscle Size
Increasing muscle size and density will allow you to produce more vascularity as the muscles will “push up” against the blood vessels and become more visible.
The visibility of your veins under the skin is highly dependent on your ability to lose body fat, however the more muscle you have when you lose the body fat, the more visible and vascular you will be.
We have several articles that discuss this topic:
- How Much Muscle Can You Gain In A Month? Here’s The Truth
- How To Bulk Up Fast: 10 Tips For Maximizing Muscle Growth
- What Should Your Calories & Macros Be When Bulking?
Hydration plays a big part in the appearance of blood vessels throughout the body. When you are well hydrated, you will have increased blood flow and delivery throughout the body, as blood is slightly less than 80% water.
Increased water intake and positive hydration status also mean that the other tissues within the body will be well hydrated and saturated, which is healthy and recommended most of the time.
The exception to this is when you are looking for an acute response to improve vascularity, similar to what bodybuilders will do before a show.
This temporary dehydration process will result in water loss from the skin and other tissues in the body, and when paired with an already very low body fat level can increase the vascularity greatly.
It is important to note that altering hydration status is a risky endeavor, and comes with serious consequences if done incorrectly, for too long, and too aggressively, which is why it is not recommended for most people, and should be avoided unless you have mastered the other tips on this list.
A Caution On Manipulating Your Hydration For Increased Vascularity
Purposefully dehydrating yourself or taking supplements to alter your hydration status (diuretics, caffeine, etc) can result in water loss, however is not recommended for most individuals as the risks of dehydration can be severe.
- Significant decreases in strength and power performance have been seen with dehydration as well, even at very slightly dehydration levels.
- Being dehydrated during cardiovascular exercise also comes with increased risk of increased blood pressure, heart stress, and heat stroke.
For these reasons, consciously dehydrating yourself is something that should be approached with caution, and is generally not recommended unless you have oversight of trained individuals and are medically cleared to participate in such activities.
12 Tips To Get More Vascular
My top 12 tips for getting more vascular are:
- Slightly Restrict Calories to Lose Body Fat
- Increase Your Energy Expenditure to Lose Fat
- Lose Fat Slowly to Retain as Much Muscle Mass as Possible
- Do More Steady State Cardio to Increase Capillary Density and Size
- Supplement with NO2 Supplements
- Get a Muscle Pump in Areas You Want More Vascularity
- Experiment with Blood Flow Restriction Training
- Incorporate Compound Exercises to Gain Strength and Muscle
- Gain More Muscle to Have More Vascularity
- Stay Hydrated to Increase Blood Flow
- Temporarily Decrease Water to Increase Vascularity
- Take Creatine to Build More Muscle
1. Slightly Restrict Calories to Lose Body Fat
When looking to lose body fat, you want to make sure you place yourself in a calorie deficit.
Generally speaking, you will need to place yourself in a deficit of 300-500 calories per day from your maintenance levels. Over the course of 6-12 weeks, you should aim to lose 1-2lbs per week, as anything faster than that could result in muscle loss, which would decrease your vascularity.
If you are looking to lose fat, you want to strategically decrease your macros over time, which you can learn more about here.
2. Increase Your Energy Expenditure to Lose Fat
When looking to increase your energy deficit (calories consumed – calories expended), eating less is not the only option. You can also increase your energy expenditure through more intense workouts, increasing your workout frequency, and increasing your daily activity outside of the gym (like going for more walks, increasing your step count, etc.).
When looking to increase energy expenditure through workouts, it is important that you have a program that focuses on not losing muscle or strength, as losing muscle size will be counterproductive to your vascularity goals.
If you are looking for a workout program that helps you retain muscle mass during a diet phase, look no further than this 3-day fat loss workout program.
3. Lose Fat Slowly to Retain as Much Muscle Mass as Possible
The rate at which you lose weight will have a huge impact on what proportion of your weight loss comes from fat loss vs muscle loss. Muscle loss during a diet phase will happen, however the goal is to lose as little as possible as losing it will decrease your vascularity in the long run because you will have less muscle mass.
Generally speaking, you want it aim to lose between 1-2lbs per week, as for most people this is a safe range of weight loss that will still allow you to have energy to attack training, put in the work to not lose muscle mass, and not have your body hold onto fat storage due to extreme calorie restriction.
4. Do More Steady State Cardio to Increase Capillary Density and Size
Steady state cardiovascular exercise has been shown to increase capillary density and size, which means that your body will have improved blood flow to the muscle.
This will result in more blood being pumped into the muscle, better nutrient supply and removal of waste products, and increased ability to express vascularity (more blood flow within the muscle).
Including 60-90 min of steady state cardio a week could help you increase capillary density and size.
Read more about Steady State vs HIIT Cardio.
5. Supplement with NO2 Supplements
NO2 is a vasodilator, which means that it dilates (increases in size) the blood vessel circumference, which in turn improves blood flow to the muscle and body.
Many NO2 products include L-arginine and citrulline malate, both of which can increase vasodilation and blood flow.
Research has shown that it could improve blood flow and performance in healthy adults and less trained individuals.
The same study found that supplementation of NO2 in highly trained lifters and adults may not have as much of an effect as in the untrained or less trained, however more research in these populations is needed.
6. Get a Muscle Pump in Areas You Want More Vascularity
When looking to have localized vascularity, such as wanting more in the arms, it makes sense to attack the arms with targeted training to improve muscle growth, blood flow, and vascularity.
Training in the moderate to higher rep range with loads that allow you to perform 15-30 reps, to complete failure, offers you a great way to get massive amounts of blood flow into the muscle.
The key with this type of training is to keep constant tension on the muscle throughout the longer duration work set.
7. Experiment with Blood Flow Restriction Training
Blood flow restriction training is a technique used to temporarily decrease blood flow to a muscle during a set to improve muscle growth, increase muscle pumps, and ultimately allow you to train to muscular failure with less loads (making it great to also limit wear and tear on joints and tissues).
Occlusion training (blood flow restriction training) has also been shown to produce significant muscle growth in as little as three weeks in populations ranging from postoperative patients, cardiac rehab patients, athletes, and even astronauts.
8. Incorporate Compound Exercises to Gain Strength and Muscle
While it is definitely important to produce muscle pumps to increase blood flow and growth to muscles, you still want to make sure to increase overall strength and muscle growth with compound exercises.
The stronger you are, and the more muscle you have will result in more muscle being built over the long run, which will allow you to continually improve your vascularity.
Some of the best ways to attack muscle growth are to use compound exercises to build strength and overall muscle growth, and then follow them up with more isolated exercises to specifically target muscle groups that you want to focus on for that session.
If you are unsure about how to program a strength and mass cycle to accompany your vascularity goals, take a look at the Fitbod app, which has hundreds of exercises that can be built to fit your goals.
9. Gain More Muscle to Have More Vascularity
In short, having more muscle will increase your vascularity, especially when you get lean.
If you are lean, and struggling to see the muscle size and vascularity you are looking for, then there is a strong chance you need to change up your workouts to attack muscle growth.
Additionally, you may also need to commit to a bulking phase so that you can add significant amounts of muscle to your frame (weight gain) and then lose body fat.
Related Article: 12 Killer Arm Exercises and Workouts For Different Levels & Equipment
10. Stay Hydrated to Increase Blood Flow
Hydration is key for performance, muscle growth, recovery, and overall health. If you are not fully hydrated, you could see decreased performance in the gym and poor muscle growth. Being hydrated also increases blood flow throughout the body, making muscle pumps fuller and bigger.
The only exception to this would be in an acute phase of dehydration for aesthetic purposes only, which is below. Note, this only is effective if you are already lean and have done other things properly, and it is not recommended for anyone but more advanced and elite lifters.
11. Temporarily Decrease Water to Increase Vascularity
This is a short-sighted decision that has consequences, however it can produce more vascularity for lifters who are already very lean and are not concerned with performance decreases and feeling less than optimal.
Decreasing water intake temporarily is referred to as a water cut, and is common in weight class sports (powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, MMA) and bodybuilding. This is done for aesthetic purposes or to lose weight in a sport.
Disclaimer: It is important to note that if you are trying to lose weight via dehydration, it is not a good idea as it has negative health effects and hinders performance. Additionally, many governing bodies in sports ban the use of diuretics and other supplements that proposedly help lifers and athletics dehydrate themselves for safety reasons.
12. Take Creatine to Build More Muscle
Creatine is a popular legal supplement used to help increase strength and muscle mass, as it helps fuel high intensity weight workouts, increases blood flow to the muscles, and ultimately can help you push out a few more reps during a weight loss diet. While creatine does increase some water retention in the muscles and body, it is also a slightly vasodilator.
Creatine is a good option to increase vascularity as it increases blood flow, helps you train harder, and can improve muscle growth.
Are you a weightlifter looking to increase your strength and power? Check out the Fitbod app for Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and barbell specific workouts!
When looking to get more vascular, you have a plethora of choices to make, all of which can increase your muscle mass, blood flow, and body compositions.
It is important to note that one of the most important factors will be your body fat levels, so prioritizing gaining muscle and then losing fat is key for long term success.
Additionally, supplements and alerting hydration status can have some impact on your vascularity, however they are no significantly effective unless you are lena, have muscle, and have done the training and eating to get the results you want.
About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.