Weight training, veins, bodyfat, and more
November 29, 2005 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Why do some people have veins that pop out of their biceps and shoulders, while others who work out don't?

A little background: I've been working out for years, and for the first few I was mainly a runner. I had 4 - 6% bodyfat and ran half-marathons and 10ks. I weight trained daily, combined with my running regimen.

For the past year, however, I've cut the running down a lot and have been on a strict weight traning program that has bulked me up from 175 to 200lbs.

What I don't understand, is why I can't seem to get that cut look (neither as a runner, nor as a lifter) where the veins stand out. Is it a purely biological thing? Is it related to bodyfat? Please enlighten me.
posted by dead_ to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total)
I have the vein standing out thing on my biceps, but I haven't worked out in about 5 years, although I used to do it religiously. I think it probably has a lot to do with just your biological make up and your body fat percentage. To get the REALLY cut looks, you need to be dropping your body fat percentage. For the obscenely cut pro body builder look, you need to be dehyrdating yourself. If you see these guys in the gym when they are not a week or so from a competition, you'll see a lot less veinage. At about a week before a competition, they will start dehydrating and starving themselves to severely drop body fat percentage and to get their skin more translucent and closer to the actual muscle.

I think that beyond the extremes of the pro, it's just genetics and body fat management. But why do you want that anyway? Is that supposed to be attractive?
posted by spicynuts at 8:42 AM on November 29, 2005

Response by poster: Well, more just curiosity. I by no means want to look like a veiny body builder.
posted by dead_ at 8:47 AM on November 29, 2005

but some of us women find 'the vein' extremely attractive.

I'm just sayin'
posted by seawallrunner at 8:54 AM on November 29, 2005

The term used is vascular and it is a combination of muscle mass and being extremely lean. You have probably just never had the right combination of the two.
posted by trillion at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2005

This is called vascularity, and it's partly genetic. This article has a short discussion on it:

Looking at a lineup of [professional bodybuilders] on stage will demonstrate that vascularity has a genetic component. All will be very vascular thanks in part to their extremely low bodyfat but they each inherited how those veins look from their parents. Some will have freaky, criss-crossing veins while others will have very straight veins running along the length of their muscles. One will have extreme vascularity in only certain body parts while right next to him/her stands someone with visible veins from head to toe. All have tremendous vascularity but each has a different look. Your parents gave you veins, low bodyfat and lots of muscle will make them visible but you can't change the way they look.

It also links to some pictures.
posted by driveler at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2005

( Seawallrunner: some of us gay men find it pretty nice, too... )

I think it has to do with the thickness of your skin (literally), not to mention blood pressure, sub-cutaneous fat, among other things... I really do think it's more genetics (once you get down to a proper BMI) than anything you can actually do.
posted by silusGROK at 9:20 AM on November 29, 2005

On preview, what driveler said.
posted by silusGROK at 9:20 AM on November 29, 2005

Ugh. Some women also think it's grotesque.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:53 AM on November 29, 2005

a vein frequently pops out on my forehead, when i am exerting myself or bending or something
posted by poppo at 10:02 AM on November 29, 2005

You don't say what your bodyfat percentage is now, but my guess is that it's higher than it was and that if you lowered it you'd see more veins. Still, even with a high percentage if you aren't seeing any veins it's probably just not likely to happed for you. I've got a gut, but my legs are veiny because I'm a runner and my right forearm is veiny because I, well, use it a lot.
posted by OmieWise at 11:12 AM on November 29, 2005

probably unrelated, but as you get older the elasticity in your veins goes, and they stand out more. i believe. i have veins on the back of my hand i don't remember from the flush of youth... hence varicose veins and the like (a cursory google search suggests life is a bit more complicated, but that i'm not completely wrong).
posted by andrew cooke at 11:53 AM on November 29, 2005

Response by poster: OmieWise: I haven't had it tested since I stopped marathoning, but I would guess it's somewhere between 8 - 12%

Interesting answers so far, thanks.
posted by dead_ at 12:02 PM on November 29, 2005

I think vasularity is also, in part, an adaptation to certain types of exercise. At least logically, a muscle that is adapted to prolonged aerobic exercise would need a better blood supply (more and larger veins) than one that was adapted to quick bursts of anaerobic exertion.
posted by Good Brain at 12:07 PM on November 29, 2005

I'm amazed that some girls like that. I'm a guy, but I find that to be rather gross. It would definetly be a turnoff if I saw it on a chick...
posted by delmoi at 12:14 PM on November 29, 2005

where on earth is the logic in that dlemoi?! you seen the crying game..?
posted by andrew cooke at 12:41 PM on November 29, 2005

I'm a very small man. 130 pounds. A stick. Next to no muscle. Probably even less bodyfat. Hardly ever exercise. My veins pop out like crazy whenever my heartrate goes up. Especially around my biceps and on my hands and feet. That would lead me to believe it's at least partially biological. Or I'm some sort of mutant.
posted by panoptican at 5:23 PM on November 29, 2005

Seconding croutonsupafreak. You can do it for yourself or for curiosity, but please, please do not do it for women or for men. Eesh.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:29 PM on November 29, 2005

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