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Vascularity in an adult forearm

Vascularity, in bodybuilding, is the condition of having many highly visible, prominent, and often extensively-ramified superficial veins.[1] The skin appears "thin"—sometimes virtually transparent—due to an extreme reduction of subcutaneous fat, allowing for maximum muscle definition.[citation needed]

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[2] will affect vascularity, as will ambient temperature. Additionally, 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[3]— neither causes nor is caused by vascularity. Some bodybuilders use topical vasodilators to increase blood flow to the skin as well. Although historically controversial,[4] vascularity is a highly-sought-after aesthetic for many male bodybuilders,[5] but less so for female bodybuilders,[4] where the target aesthetic is relatively more towards aesthetic symmetry than extreme development.[citation needed]

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-fatal effects of the resultant water-electrolyte imbalances are well documented.[6]


  1. ^ "Vascularity Definition: What is Vascularity?". Muscle Mass Magazine. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Vogel, Steven (1992). Vital Circuits: On Pumps, Pipes, and the Workings of Circulatory Systems. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508269-9.
  4. ^ a b Brainum, Jerry. "All in Vein: Vascularity in Bodybuilding is Controversial". Retrieved September 21, 2012.
  5. ^ Sisco, Peter (1999). Ironman's Ultimate Bodybuilding Encyclopedia. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-80-922811-4.
  6. ^ Marteski, Steve. "Diuretics in Bodybuilding: The Good, the Bad, the Tragic". Retrieved September 21, 2012.