In addition to having extremely cut muscles that bulge out every which way along the body, bodybuilders have another defining feature that pops on their bodies—their veins.
For example, in much the same way that the shredded biceps and triceps pop up off the sculpted arms of a muscular bodybuilder, the vast network of interconnected veins pops up off the muscles themselves.
But how do you get more vascular?
As much as there’s an endless amount of information and workouts explaining how to build muscle, there are not as many resources specifically geared toward how to get vascular arms or how to become more vascular in general.
In this article, we will discuss how to get more vascular so that you can increase your vascularity as much as you increase your muscle mass, getting that iconic bodybuilder physique.
We will cover:
- What Is Vascularity?
- How Do You Get Vascular Arms and Legs?
- How To Get More Vascular: 6 Steps
Let’s get started!
What Is Vascularity?
In terms of bodybuilding or physique, vascularity refers to the appearance of prominent veins.
When your arms have vascularity, it means that the veins stand out atop the muscles under taut skin rather than being embedded in subcutaneous fat where they cannot be individually defined.
When people first start bodybuilding, one of the common questions is, “How do you get veins on your arms?”This is essentially the layman’s way of asking, “How do you train for vascularity, or how do you increase vascularity?”
The short answer is that the way to achieve vascularity is to lean out by decreasing your body fat percentage to extremely low levels so that you have virtually no subcutaneous fat concealing and surrounding your veins.
At the same time, you need to build muscle through high-intensity hypertrophy strength training.
As your muscles enlarge and become conditioned through consistent, heavy resistance training, you not only increase the size and number of the blood vessels perfusing your muscles, but the blood vessels also migrate more to the surface of the skin.
With very little subcutaneous fat, the blood vessels then pop out of the skin and off of the defined muscle belly, giving the vascularity appearance bodybuilders are known to display.
While everyone can learn and put into practice how to become more vascular, your genetics and sex can influence your vascularity.
Some people naturally have blood vessels that lie closer to the skin, blood vessels with a larger circumference, and/or a higher percentage of type II muscle fibers. For these people, it will be easier to have more vascular arms and legs.
Men also tend to have an easier time achieving vascularity in their physique due to the ability to attain a lower body fat percentage, larger muscle size, and increased vasculature size and density.
It’s also important to mention that if your veins are always popping out but you don’t have particularly low body fat, it can be a sign of high blood pressure or stress, so you might want to speak with your doctor.
How Do You Get Vascular Arms and Legs?
The primary factors that affect how vascular you look are your body fat percentage, your muscle mass, your blood vessel size and density, and your hydration status.
Therefore, if you’re looking for how to get more vascular legs and arms, you’ll need to address both your body fat percentage and your muscle mass, meaning that the steps to increase vasculature involve decreasing body fat percentage and simultaneously increasing muscle mass.
Then, to maximize how vascular your arms and legs look, you can employ additional training techniques and tweak your diet and hydration to pump and pop your veins.
How To Get More Vascular: 6 Steps
Here are the steps to get more vascular:
- Reduce Your Body Fat Percentage to Become Leaner
- Build More Muscle Mass Through Hypertrophy Training
- Employ Training Techniques to Maximize Vascularity
- Tweak Your Diet
- Consider Nitric Oxide Supplements
Let’s look at each of these steps for how to get more vascular in more detail.
#1: Reduce Your Body Fat Percentage to Become Leaner
An absolute must for getting vascular is having a low body fat percentage.
Body fat percentage refers to the relative amount of total body fat (adipose tissue) you have in your body compared to lean body mass.
For most people, if you’re doing all the right strength training exercises and working out consistently but still can’t see veins in your arms or legs, you have too much subcutaneous fat concealing the blood vessels under the skin.
Although exercise can be a means to lose weight, your daily diet will significantly impact your fat loss results.
In order to lose body fat, you need to be consistently generating a modest caloric deficit, which entails consuming fewer calories than you are burning on a regular basis.
To lose one pound of body fat, you need to create a 3,500-calorie deficit.
When tailoring your diet to increase vascularity, it’s also a good idea to eat a low-sodium diet and reduce your carbohydrate intake somewhat because excess body water is stored with each gram of glycogen.
Therefore, a diet high in carbohydrates or sodium can make you look puffier and can prevent you from getting the leaned-out, cut look you need to see your veins pop out.
In terms of the exercise component for fat loss, cardio workouts are a great addition to your resistance training sessions because aerobic exercise burns a lot of calories while simultaneously increasing the number and size of your blood vessels—a win-win for becoming more vascular.
So, we’ve referenced needing to have a low enough body fat percentage to have prominent vascularity, but what is “low” enough? At what body fat percentage do you start to look vascular?
The body fat percentage needed to see good definition muscles and vasculature is about 6-13% for men and 14-18% for women; however, there is a fair amount of variability on either end of these ranges based on your specific build and genetics.
#2: Build More Muscle Mass Through Hypertrophy Training
Consistent strength training geared towards hypertrophy, using the principle of progressive overload, is the best way to build muscle mass.
Lift heavy weights, perform compound exercises, and gradually increase your training volume to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Make sure you are consuming enough protein.
Evidence suggests that the most effective diet to follow when trying to build muscle in a caloric deficit is to consume 2.3-3.1 g/kg of lean body mass per day of protein, 15-30% of your total calories from fat, and the remainder from carbohydrates.
#3: Employ Training Techniques to Maximize Vascularity
Once you have dealt with the low-hanging fruit of reducing your body fat percentage and building muscle mass, you can increase vascularity by fine-tuning your training techniques.
For example, you can do pump sets, which involves including some sets with a high number of repetitions and very short rest between each. Pump training increases circulation to the muscles, leading to larger veins due to increased blood flow.
You can also try blood flow restriction training (BFRT), which involves restricting blood flow to the working muscles during the exercise and then releasing the restriction to allow rapid reperfusion.
Flexing and posing between each set of an exercise also help increase vascularity by causing an isometric contraction of the muscles.
This pushes more blood into the muscle and expands the blood flow, helping your veins pop out of your arms and legs.
#4: Tweak Your Diet
If you have a bodybuilding competition or want to temporarily increase your vascularity, you can also tweak your diet by including foods that have a diuretic effect or a dilatory effect on your blood vessels.
These foods can help lean you out and widen the blood vessels.
Foods that reduce body water and can increase vascularity include asparagus, watermelon, lemon, cranberry, celery, garlic, onion, and eggplant.
Foods that are naturally high in nitrates can increase nitric oxide in the body, which acts as a vasodilator.
Examples include beets and dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, collard greens, beet greens, and Swiss chard.
The more hydrated you are, the higher your blood volume will be, which will make your blood vessels that much plumper and more prominent.
Moreover, staying well hydrated helps flush excess sodium and bloat from your body so that you look cut rather than puffy.
#6: Consider Nitric Oxide Supplements
Nitric oxide supplements, such as beetroot supplements, can encourage vasodilation, which will make your blood vessels stand out on your body.
Additionally, beetroot juice and beetroot extracts, which are high in natural nitrates, have been shown to confer exercise performance benefits, so you might be able to work out harder and increase your muscle gains.
Increasing vascularity takes serious training and dieting, but with dedication, you should be able to get the veiny look you’re seeking, all while getting stronger and fitter.
For more explanation on the difference between hypertrophy and strength training to ensure you are doing the right type of exercise, check out our comparison of the two.