Vascularity, in bodybuilding, is the condition of having many highly visible, prominent and often extensively ramified superficial veins. The skin appears "thin" — sometimes virtually diaphanous — due to an extreme reduction of subcutaneous fat, allowing for maximum muscle definition.
Vascularity is enhanced by extremely low body fat (usually below 10%) and low retained water, as well as the muscle engorgement ("pump") and venous distension accentuated by the vigorous flexing and potentially hazardous Valsalva effect which characterize competitive posing. Genetics and androgenic hormones will affect vascularity, as will ambient temperature. (And although some bodybuilders develop arterial hypertension from performance-enhancing substances and practices, "high" venous pressure — being an order of magnitude lower than that of arteries — neither causes nor is caused by vascularity.) Some bodybuilders use topical vasodilators to increase blood flow to the skin as well. Although historically controversial, nowadays vascularity is a highly sought after aesthetic for many male bodybuilders, but less so for female bodybuilders where the target aesthetic is relatively more towards aesthetic symmetry than extreme development.
Bodybuilders or athletes sometimes dehydrate themselves, a few days before a competition or show, to achieve this so-called "ripped" vascular look. Self-dehydration is not recommended by medical professionals, as the negative and sometimes tragic effects of the resultant water-electrolyte imbalances are well documented.
Notable vascular bodybuilders
- Jay Cutler
- Ronnie Coleman
- Rich Gaspari
- Dave Draper
- Frank Zane
- Eugen Sandow
- Vince Gironda
- Frank McGrath
- "Vascularity Definition: What is Vascularity?". Muscle Mass Magazine. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Brainum, Jerry. "All in Vein: Vascularity in Bodybuilding is Controversial". Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Kendler, Michael; Makrantonaki, Evgenia; Kratzsch, Jürgen; Anderegg, Ulf; Wetzig, Tino; Zouboulis, Christos; Simon, Jan C. (2010). "Elevated Sex Steroid Hormones in Great Saphenous Veins in Men". Journal of Vascular Surgery 51 (3): 639–646. doi:10.1016/j.jvs.2009.07.128. PMID 20045626.
- Vogel, Steven (1992). Vital Circuits: On Pumps, Pipes, and the Workings of Circulatory Systems. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508269-9.
- Sisco, Peter (1999). Ironman's Ultimate Bodybuilding Encyclopedia. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-80-922811-4.
- Marteski, Steve. "Diuretics in Bodybuilding: The Good, the Bad, the Tragic". Retrieved September 21, 2012.