Bodybuilders who include the best pre-workout supplements that boost nitric oxide for better vasodilation and muscular "pump" in their workout routine may notice a significant improvement in muscle hypertrophy.
As an athletic trainer and bodybuilder, I spent years analyzing and testing many pump pre-workout supplements that boost muscle pumps, which I now recommend to several of my fitness clients.
In this review, I'll detail the best pre-workouts for pump, and explain why our recommended supplement can help you gain muscle mass faster.
The Best Pre-Workouts For Pump
- Best Overall Pre-Workout for Pump: Gorilla Mode
- Cheapest Pre-Workout for Pump: EVL ENGN Shred
- Best Hydrating Pre-Workout for Pump: 4 Gauge
- Best Pre-Workout for Strength and Pumps: Altius Pre-Workout Supplements
- Best Tasting Pre-Workout for Pump: Cellucor NO3 Ultimate
- Best Vegan Pre-Workout for Pump: Vintage Blast
- Best Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout for Pump: Animal Pump
Our Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Pump (December 2023)
1 - Gorilla Mode (Best Overall)
Gorilla Mode has been getting a lot of attention in the fitness community lately because it’s marketed as “aggressively dosed,” which means that it’s formulated to provide the maximum dosage of ingredients per serving.
Each pump pre-workout serving contains 4.5 grams of l-citrulline. However, a daily dose is equivalent to 2 servings with 9 grams of l-citrulline. It also contains caffeine, which gives you the laser mental focus, energy, and endurance without jitters.
After taking this supplement for three weeks, I noticed improved mental focus, energy, and endurance without jitters. This allowed me to do more reps while decreasing the duration between rests.
- L-Citrulline: 4500mg
- Creatine Monohydrate: 2500mg
- Caffeine: 175mg
- Agmatine Sulfate: 1000mg
- Contains a blend of L-citrulline, caffeine, creatine, and other best pump-inducing ingredients
- Shown to increase mental clarity
- May be used for bulking or endurance training
- Tastes better than most products we’ve tested so far
- We did not encounter any shortcomings with this product
I typically recommend this pre-workout pump to my clients seeking to increase muscle growth and bulk up. However, I also noticed that it may also work for endurance workouts.
This stim-free pre-workout is also reasonably priced while offering a high level of quality compared to other pre-workouts.
Gorilla Mode pre-workouts may be too strong for some people -- so it’s better to start with one serving (1 scoop) and see how your body will react to it.
Get 10% off using coupon code: TOTALSHAPE
2 - 4 Gauge (Best Hydrating)
4 GAUGE offers a “Made in the U.S.A.” pre-workout that hits all the marks regarding pumps, focus, energy, and hydration.
4 Gauge contains L-citrulline D-malate to boost nitric oxide levels that will provide more oxygen to hard-working muscles, increasing performance and promoting recovery, according to the International Journal of Molecular Science .
During the weeks I tested 4 GAUGE, the blend of caffeine and L-theanine notably enhanced my energy and focus without inducing jitters, a common issue with high-caffeine supplements .
I liked the unique addition of coconut water powder to the formula, as it can help maintain hydration and restore electrolytes after a challenging workout .
- L-Citrulline DL-malate: 6000mg
- Creatine Monohydrate: 1000mg
- Caffeine: 150mg
- Coconut Water Powder: 300mg
- A solid dose of L-citrulline DL-malate to boost nitric oxide levels
- Coconut water powder to promote hydration
- Gun Club subscription saves you 10% on each bottle
- Many users report clumping issues
3 - Altius Pre-Workout Supplements (Best for Strength and Pumps)
Altius was a brand I had only heard of, but I was pleasantly surprised by the formulation and effectiveness that I have experienced.
What stood out for me the most is the added creatine, which is great because it means you can save taking an additional stim-free pre-workout supplement.
In the majority of Altius pre-workout reviews, there was a lot of positive feedback about the increased strength and best pumps they were able to achieve, and I personally saw it with the clients that helped me do some before and after testing.
- Vitamin B12: 500mcg
- Citrulline malate: 8000mg
- Creatine Monohydrate: 3000mg
- Citrulline malate and beta-alanine for strength, performance, and pumps
- Creatine can help with better endurance for longer sets
- Doesn’t contain any unnecessary fillers
- Good bulk discounts available
- Quite a strong dose of caffeine
While caffeine is a great mental booster, the 325 mg in this pre-workout product is quite high, especially for women or anyone sensitive to stimulants. Definitely avoid taking it later in the day.
4 - EVL ENGN Shred (Cheapest Option)
This is a pre-workout supplement that includes most common pre-workout ingredients. I would generally recommend that you use this in the cutting stage of training to achieve more muscle definition.
L-Tyrosine is one of the essential amino acids, and the makers claim that it helps to improve your mood and concentration . It also comes in delicious flavors like Blue Raz, Cherry Limeade, and Fruit Punch.
During our testing of EVL ENGN Shred, it was challenging to confirm the impact of L-Tyrosine on mood and concentration due to the substantial caffeine content, which is known to enhance alertness and focus.
We recently did a full review on ENGN Shred.
- L-Carnitine: 500mg
- Folic Acid: 800mcg
- Beta-Alanine: 1600mg
- Contains thermogenic ingredients
- L-Tyrosine may help with concentration and motivation
- Added vitamins to help with protein and carb processing
- Agmatine Sulfate for pain reduction
- Many users comment that it doesn’t come with an energy crash
- Some nutrition information is hidden behind a proprietary blend
The only thing I don’t like is the proprietary blend of pre-workout ingredients which really should have no home on a nutrition label. But because of the thermogenic benefits, I still like to use it regularly.
5 - Cellucor NO3 Ultimate (Best Tasting)
Another very simple pre-workout for best pumps is N03 by Cellucor. I had some experience with some of their other post- and pre-workout supplements, but a colleague at the gym introduced me to this one.
The only focus here is increasing nitric oxide production. As a nitric oxide booster, it increases blood flow.
I found the flavors of Cellucor NO3 Ultimate to be quite tasty during my testing phase. The availability of an unflavored version provided more flexibility as well, allowing me to mix it with various beverages and other supplements without conflicting flavors.
- Vitamin C: 250mg
- L-Citrulline: 4000mg
- Clear and simple label with no fillers
- A potent dose of L-citrulline for improved nitric oxide levels
- Good selection of flavors
- Great subscription savings available
- Some creatine for endurance and strength would have been a bonus
This pre-workout is not the cheapest product, but I managed to find some great discounts by subscribing to a plan. Also, while all the reviews point to the best pumps possible, some creatine for strength would have been a nice bonus.
Another thing that users wished it had is citrulline malate (or l-citrulline mixed with malic acid). The malic acid in citrulline malate has shown to be better at enhancing muscle pumps, while also offering you improved strength .
Cellucor NO3 Ultimate is also backed by a 30-day full money-back guarantee.
6 - Vintage Blast (Best Vegan)
I have to admit, the marketing of this pre-workout product did attract me at first, as the packaging does make it stand out from all other pre-workouts.
When I researched the label details during our testing of Vintage Blast, I discovered there was more to it, and it seemed promising for enhancing workout sessions.
With added vitamins and D-aspartic acid, I can see why this pre-workout wasn’t just good for increasing energy but also helped me with faster recovery times.
Check out our full Vintage Blast review.
- Vitamin C: 250mg
- L-Citrulline: 5000mg
- Beta-Alanine: 1000mg
- Added D-aspartic acid to help with recovery times
- Many online reviews point at it providing a steady boost
- Allergen-free and suitable for vegetarians
- Good selection of muscle vitamins
- Better selection of flavors to avoid getting bored of it
This pre-workout is allergen and GMO-free, which is always good to see, but it falls a little short on the flavor side. A few more options would help avoid getting bored with it too quickly.
7 - Dr. Jekyll Nitro X
This pre-workout for pumps is a solid option for anyone who goes training later in the day as it has a limited amount of caffeine.
It’s still helped me boost my alertness and motivation, but not too strong to keep me awake all night.
It has one of the stronger doses of beta-alanine and creatine that I could find among various pre-workouts, and there are plenty of people that confirm that it works well to give you the best pump that feels good.
- L-Citrulline: 1500mg
- Beta-Alanine: 2500mg
- Creatine Hydrochloride: 1000mg
- Helps to keep you motivated
- Good choice of flavors that taste quite good
- Beta-alanine and creatine combine well to increase strength
- A lower dose of stimulants makes it a good choice for everyone who want to achieve the best pumps
- Can be difficult to mix properly
Now, from a flavor perspective, I think this pre-workout is actually quite nice, but you might find it a bit difficult to mix. Not quite a blender job, but I needed to give it quite a shake.
With a 30-day 100% satisfaction guarantee, this pre-workout is worth trying to boost those muscle pumps.
8 - Animal Pump (Best Caffeine-Free)
Last on my list of best pre-workout supplements is another product with some really cool branding behind it.
While testing Animal Pump, we appreciated its caffeine-free formulation, which is a boon for anyone who is sensitive to stimulants, ensuring an energetic workout without subsequent sleep disturbances.
What I thought was a great idea is that each pre-workout supplements serving is packaged in a separate sachet, so you can just throw one in your gym bag ready to use later in the day.
- Magnesium: 72mg
- L-Citrulline: 2000mg
- Very conveniently packed into individual servings
- It's without stimulants making it a good option to avoid jitters
- Scores quite well for flavor
- Nice to see some antioxidants
- Unfortunately, it hides behind a proprietary blend
Back to my pet peeve again, this pre-workout brand hides behind a proprietary blend. While it is free of stimulants, it is difficult to stack with other products to get better results.
What To Look for When Buying Pre-Workouts for Pump?
When buying pre-workouts for pump, you should look for ingredients such as l-citrulline malate, beta-alanine, creatine, and caffeine.
1. L-Citrulline Malate
This is an essential amino acid, which means that you have to take it in with your diet . It’s not something that your body can synthesize, which means you can end up lacking in it.
In a recent study, a much clearer direct and indirect connection was established between L-citrulline malate and the human cardiovascular system, where it can help to relax blood vessels and boost nitric oxide levels.
This, in turn, will increase blood flow, which will result in more blood, oxygen, and nutrients getting to your muscles.
In my research and experience, this is the best ingredient in pre-workouts.
Another important amino acid in pre-workouts is beta-alanine, but studies are a little bit more inconclusive. However, it positively impacts exercise intensity and duration .
Because it basically has no side effects, this is a good one to see on the label.
It doesn’t really give you the best pump but instead, it will help to improve your strength and endurance . It’s a critical substance for every cell in your body to process energy.
And that includes your muscles where it can help you to get more out of your training sessions.
In fact, without creatine, energy production during high-intensity bouts of exercise would not be possible. Supplemental creatine has been shown to further enhance this process, a fact not lost on the scores of athletes who depend on it to enhance their performance.
- David Robson, Personal Trainer
This is one to be careful with, as overstimulation can (a) give you the jitters and sleepless nights, and (b) you can become tolerant, and the effect will completely diminish .
I like to see it on the pre-workout labels as it also helps improve your focus and motivation.
It's also important to note that some avid pre-workout users have claimed that these pump ingredients are also found in pre-workouts for runners because of the energy boost.
How Do Pump Products Work?
Pump products work by increasing nitric oxide production in the body with carefully selected ingredients. This dilates the blood vessels, enhancing blood flow to the working muscles.
Pump products also work by increasing the oxygen-rich blood cells in the working muscles, which can accelerate the removal of muscle toxins like ammonia. This results in quicker recovery time between sets and better growth stimulus to perform more repetitions.
When Should You Take Pre-Workout?
You should take a pre-workout supplement for about 20 to 30 minutes before starting your warm-up routine. This will take a bit of experimenting as it depends on how fast you can absorb the active nutrients.
I recommend that you start with pre-workouts 20 minutes before training and see if you start noticing the benefits while you’re warming up and increasing blood flow.
Over time, you can adjust the pre-workout timing to get the best benefits when you need them most in the high-intensity parts of training.
What Are the Benefits of Pump Pre-Workouts
The benefits of pump pre-workouts are increased blood flow, enhanced physical appearance, and improved focus and motivation.
You should expect to notice a bigger swelling of your muscles after taking pre-workouts. Unless you’re going to use some measuring devices, you’ll really have to use your own judgment.
As well as the benefits from the increased blood flow, you should feel like you’re much better able to deal with your reps in each set.
And if you pick a pre-workout with caffeine, then your mental focus and motivation should improve as well. Less doubt and more willpower to push through the pain will be the positive impact to look out for.
What are the Possible Side Effects of Pump Pre-Workout?
The possible side effects of Pump pre-workout are jitters, insomnia, itchy feelings, and headaches.
A pump pre-workout can have some side effects that depend on some factors. We created a list below so you can avoid experiencing these symptoms.
You might find that you struggle to stay focused and concentrate on a task, or you just can’t sit still like a 3-year-old after a can of soda. This is most common if you buy a pump pre-workout supplement with a lot of caffeine and drink a few cups of coffee during the day.
The good thing is that it will wear off within a few hours, and you just need to keep an eye on your caffeine intake. In most cases, avoiding other supplements with caffeine content will do the trick.
Similar to the jitters, excessive stimulation with a pre-workout can mean that you end up staring at the ceiling for most of the night. This will also mess with your recovery as you won’t be able to relax your body and muscles enough. If you want to avoid this side effect, consider looking for pump pre-workouts with little to no stimulant ingredients.
3. Itchy Feeling
This is very common and quite normal after taking pre-workout supplements. It’s mainly down to beta-alanine and vitamin B3, which can stimulate your nerve endings, especially in your skin and muscles. It can feel like a tingling sensation or even like pins and needles, and will usually only last an hour.
In some rare instances, you can experience some headaches after taking muscle pump supplements, which is usually due to overstimulation from caffeine. This is something to keep an eye on, and possibly switching to a caffeine-free pre-workout option will be the better choice. It often happens when you get the strongest pre-workout options in the market.
How Can I Get Better Pumps?
You can get better pumps by drinking lots of water, avoiding too much rest, and lifting heavier weights.
Whether you choose to use one of the above best pre-workouts or not, there are a couple of things you can do to really make a difference.
1. Drink Lots Of Water
You need to achieve increased blood flow into your muscles and that requires water. And I don’t mean have an extra few glasses of water before training. This needs to be constantly on your radar throughout the day.
2. Don’t Release The Squeeze
When you get to that maximum strain and pain point, don’t give in to what your body wants to do. Releasing too soon won’t maximize the amount of plasma filling your muscle fibers.
3. Avoid Too Much Rest
Some people are tempted to admire the results in between sets and end up spending too much time in a rest phase. Sure, have a look in the mirror, but focus on your plan.
4. Pile On The Weight
Don’t use your usual weight limits and reps. You can go down as low as 2 or 3 reps in a set with something very heavy. This will have a more significant impact and combined with holding the squeeze, you’ll achieve more in less time.
The Science Behind Muscle Pump and Long-Term Benefits
The science behind muscle pump, often termed 'cellular swelling', intricately intertwines with muscle hypertrophy and long-term muscle health.
When engaging in resistance training, the enhanced blood flow to working muscles - the 'pump' - induces cellular swelling, which has been linked to muscle protein synthesis and, subsequently, muscle growth.
This swelling effect can act as a physiological stress that triggers anabolic signaling, fostering an environment conducive for muscle development.
Furthermore, the muscle pump not only provides immediate visual enhancement but also contributes to the long-term benefits by potentially influencing muscle fiber adaptation and enhancing nutrient delivery to muscle cells, thereby supporting sustained muscle health and growth.
The Psychological and Confidence Aspect of Experiencing a Muscle Pump
Experiencing a muscle pump, often hailed as a gratifying post-workout phenomenon, is also linked to psychological aspects, notably impacting confidence and mental well-being.
The visible enhancement in muscle size, even if it's temporary, can bolster self-esteem and motivation, potentially propelling consistent workout adherence.As a personal trainer, I can tell you that there is a symbiotic relationship between exercise, body image, and mental health, suggesting that the immediate physical alterations post-exercise, like a muscle pump, may foster positive body perception and mental states.
This psychological uplift, in turn, can serve as a motivational trigger, encouraging individuals to adhere to their fitness regimens, thereby perpetuating a positive cycle of physical and mental wellness and establishing a foundation for sustained healthful behaviors.
The Impact of Pre-Workout Supplements on Sleep Quality
The interplay between pre-workout supplements and sleep quality is a pivotal aspect to consider for holistic health and optimal fitness performance.
Particularly, supplements containing stimulants like caffeine can significantly impact sleep patterns, potentially disrupting sleep onset and reducing overall sleep quality.
Caffeine, especially when consumed later in the day, can prolong sleep latency and shorten subsequent sleep duration.
This underscores the importance of mindful supplementation, ensuring that the pursuit of enhanced physical performance through pre-workouts does not inadvertently compromise sleep, which is crucial for recovery and overall well-being.
Balancing the timing and selection of pre-workout supplements thus becomes imperative to safeguard sleep health while optimizing workout performance.
How We Selected Optimal Pre-Workouts for Pumps
In order to analyze and research pre-workout supplements, especially those formulated to amplify muscle pumps, we had to look at a few key factors.
And recognizing that fitness objectives can be diverse, our selection process was specifically crafted to cater to a broad spectrum of needs while also focusing on enhancing vascularity and pumps during workouts.
While the efficacy of pre-workouts can somewhat be subjective, certain universal attributes (affordability, premium ingredients, and taste) were important in our evaluation. And we applied a star rating for each one based on our test results and research.
While the ingredient list in pre-workouts for pumps can be extensive and ever-evolving, our focus remained focused on both innovative and time-tested ingredients.
Our selection process meticulously ensured that both new and established ingredients were scrutinized for their proven impact on enhancing muscle pump and overall workout performance.
Most pre-workouts for pumps are typically priced between $1.50 and $2.50 per serving. Those that include multiple ingredients like creatine, BCAAs, and other specialized ingredients often command a premium in excess of $2.50 per serving.
Our recommended list leans towards the $1.50 to $2.00 range, ensuring a blend of potent, high-quality ingredients without compromising affordability. Investing in a reliable pre-workout, we believe, justifies a slight financial stretch.
While some pre-workouts come in capsule form, there are plenty that come as a dissolvable powder. And the last thing you want is a supplement that tastes chalky and clumpy right before a workout.
That's why we have carefully assessed the flavor and texture of the pre-workout supplements to ensure that they offer a pleasant and refreshing experience.
The other thing we watched out for is the sweetness. While you don't what a sugary sweet supplement that could mess with your diet, you also don't want one that contains artificial sweeteners that could mess up your gut flora.
Is Pre-Workout Safe?
Yes, a pre-workout is safe to take. Unless you have underlying medical or health issues or are allergic to some pump ingredients, you shouldn’t notice any serious downsides to using one. However, keep in mind that most people will react sensitively to stimulants in some pre-workouts. To be extra safe, you might also want to learn how to make your own pre-workout.
Do Pre-Workout Drinks for Pumps Work?
Yes, pre-workout drinks for pumps work. When combined with a carefully planned gym routine, you can achieve some really good results and develop a ripped appearance.
Is Coffee a Good Pre-Workout to Increase Your Pumps?
No, coffee is not a good pre-workout to increase your muscle pump. Caffeine is common in a lot of pre-workout supplements but is mainly added for the fat burning and mental benefits that it provides. However, if you're sensitive to caffeine, consider getting a caffeine-free supplement to avoid getting jitters and sleeplessness at night.
Should You Take Pre-Workout on an Empty Stomach?
Yes, you shoul take pre-workout on an empty stomach. Doing so will result in the ingredients being absorbed quicker.
Our #1 Recommendation...
Of all the top-rated pre-workout supplements that I have researched and tested out, the one I tend to recommend to my clients is Gorilla Mode.
The reason this might be the best pre-workout for pump is that it is packed with creatine, caffeine, and L-citrulline which all aid in increasing mental clarity. The caffeine ingredient boosts your physical performance by giving you an energy boost.
Between the online reviews, clients’ feedback, and my personal experience, I find that this pre-workout has the most suitable ingredients that can help you achieve the best pumps and workout experience.
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