I always tell my aspiring bodybuilder clients, "No pumps and no soreness means no gains."
It really is as simple as that, and one thing so many people completely underestimate when they set big muscle goals.
Sure, all you need is a high-protein diet and a tough training program to improve your muscle growth. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy, and unless you maximize your pumps, you won’t create enough strain and soreness.
The advice I give most people is to specifically choose pre workout supplements that contain ingredients that will boost your performance, endurance, AND pumps.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been researching and reviewing dozens of products with a dietitian and tested them out with clients and on myself.
The result is a list of the following products that you should seriously consider ordering for your next high-intensity day.
Our Top Pre Workouts for Pump (2020)
#1 Pump Surge
#2 Cellucor NO3 Ultimate
#3 Altius Pre Workout
#4 EVL ENGN Shred
#5 Vintage Blast
1. Pump Surge: Editor's Choice
This is one of those no-nonsense pre-workouts where the makers aren’t arrogant enough to hide behind some secret recipe.
All the ingredients and the exact amounts are printed on the label. And my dietitian was rather impressed with the simple concept.
Rather than add loads of ingredients where some of them may or may not work, Pump Surge includes just a few that have some scientific backing for their ability to boost blood flow.
There’s no caffeine which means you can take it later in the day and avoid jitters and sleepless nights.
Check The Gym Rat's Review on Pump Surge below.
While the available flavors actually taste quite nice, they do leave a bit of a chalky feel in your mouth. Best to take a drink of water immediately after.
Overall, I believe this is the pre workout that gives the best pump.
2. Cellucor NO3 Ultimate
Another very simple pump performance enhancer is N03 by Cellucor. I had some experience with some of their other post and pre-workout supplements, and a colleague at the gym introduced me to this one.
The only focus here is on increasing your nitric oxide levels, which will have a positive effect on your blood flow.
The flavors are quite tasty, and it’s even available unflavored, so you can stack with other products or with a smoothie.
It’s not the cheapest product, but there are some good discounts available with a subscription plan. Also, while all the reviews point to a good impact on pumps, some creatine for strength would have been a nice bonus.
3. Altius Pre Workout
Altius was a brand I had only heard of, but I was pleasantly surprised by the formulation and effectiveness that I experienced. What stood out for me the most is the added creatine, which is great because it means you can save taking an additional supplement.
In the majority of Altius pre workout reviews, there was a lot of positive feedback about the increased strength and pumps, and I personally saw it with the clients that helped me do some before and after testing.
While caffeine is a great mental booster, the 325 mg in this product is quite high, especially for women or anyone sensitive to stimulants. Definitely avoid taking it later in the day.
4. EVL ENGN Shred
This is a pre workout supplement that also includes fat burning ingredients. I would generally recommend that you use this for a cutting stage of training where you want 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’s difficult to say whether this actually helps as there is a good dose of caffeine as well.
The only thing I don’t like is my pet peeve of proprietary blends which really should have no home on a nutrition label. But, because of the thermogenic benefits, I still like to use it regularly.
5. Vintage Blast
I have to admit, the marketing of this product did attract me at first, as the packaging does make it stand out from all other pre workouts. But once I looked at the label, I did see that there was more to it.
With added vitamins and D-aspartic acid, I can see why so many people online said it wasn’t just good for extra workout energy, but also helped with faster recovery times.
It’s 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.
6. Dr. Jekyll Nitro X
This one is a solid option for women or anyone who goes training later in the day as it has a limited amount of caffeine. It’s still enough to boost your alertness and motivation, but not too strong to keep you awake all night.
It has one of the stronger doses of beta-alanine and creatine that I could find, and there are plenty of people that confirm that it works well to give you some really solid pumps that feel good.
Now, from a flavor perspective, I think it’s actually quite nice, but you might find it a bit difficult to mix. Not quite a blender job, but you’ll need to give it quite a shake.
7. Animal Pump
Last on my list of best pre workouts for pumps is another product with some really cool branding behind it. Again though, it’s not one of those products that spend more on marketing than actually creating something useful.
This one doesn’t contain caffeine, which is positive if you are sensitive to stimulants, but it does mean you get less of a weight and fat loss effect.
What I thought was a great idea is that each serving is packaged in a separate sachet, so you can just throw one in your gym bag ready to use later in the day, rather than dragging around a large container.
Back to my pet peeve again, this brand hides behind a proprietary blend. While it is stimulant-free, that makes it difficult to stack with other products to get some better results.
What Ingredients Should You Look for?
While most pre-workouts will do a pretty good job at boosting your mental and physical performance, there are a few ingredients that you want to look for to get that great pump feeling.
1. L-Citrulline Malate
This is an essential amino acid, which means that you have to take it in with your diet (1). 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 pre workout for pump and vascularity ingredient.
Another important amino acid is beta-alanine, but studies are a little bit more inconclusive. However, my dietitian pointed out that several products that take advantage of this ingredient have been positively reviewed (2).
Because it basically has no side effects, this is a good one to see on the label.
It doesn’t really give you a better pump but instead will help to improve your strength and endurance (3).
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.
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 (4).
I like to see it on the labels as a fat burner and to improve your focus and motivation.
When Should You Take Pre-Workout?
The best time to take a pre-workout supplement is about 20 to 30 minutes before you start your warm-up routine. This will take a little bit of experimenting as it very much depends on how fast you can absorb the active nutrients.
I recommend that you start with 20 minutes before training and see if you start noticing the benefits while you’re warming up.
Over time, you can adjust the timing so that you get the best benefits when you need it most in the high-intensity parts of training.
Expections For Pre-Workout For Pumps
You should expect to notice a bigger swelling of your muscles after taking a pre-workout for pumps. Unless you’re going to use some measuring devices, you’ll really have to use your own judgment.
But if you pay close attention or work with a personal trainer, then you should be able to notice the difference.
As well as the benefits from the blood flow, you should feel like you’re much better able to deal with your reps in each set.
If you start to add more weight because the burn doesn’t kick in as soon as it used to, then you’re probably on the right track.
And if you picked something 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.
Side Effects of Pump Pre Workout
Yes, pre workout can have some side effects, and it’s important that you understand what they can be. That way, you can immediately take action to reduce your dose to avoid feeling crappy.
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 supplement that has a lot of caffeine, and you tend to drink a few cups of coffee during the day as well.
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.
Similar to the jitters, excessive stimulation 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.
3. Itchy Feeling
This is very common and quite normal. 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, which is usually due to overstimulation from caffeine. This is something to keep an eye on, and possibly switching to a caffeine-free option will be the better choice.
Why Do Pumps Matter?
There is a lot of debate over how much they actually matter and if they actually help to build muscle.
In a way, I can see that many people don’t see the benefit of swelling muscles with extra blood.
If you set aside the debate on whether they actually matter for your bodybuilding goals, there are some other good reasons to chase them.
First of all, they can have a huge motivational impact. As you see your muscles swell, and your shirt stretches more than ever before, it’s a good sign that you’re getting closer to the ripped appearance you’re looking for.
Secondly, if you’ve ever prepared for a competitive event, then you’ll know how important it is to fill your muscles like water balloons. And with the right supplements, you can get the best pre workout pumps that can significantly change your appearance.
Tips For Getting The Best Pumps
Whether you choose to use one of the above best preworkouts or not, there are a couple of things you can do to really make a difference.
1. Drink Lots Of Water
You need maximum blood plasma to 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.
Is Preworkout safe?
Yes, preworkout is safe to take, and unless you have any underlying medical or health issues, or are allergic to some ingredients, you shouldn’t notice any serious downsides. Most commonly, people will react sensitively to stimulants, so just keep that in mind.
Do pre workout drinks for pumps work?
Yes, pre workout drinks for pumps work, and when combined with a carefully planned gym routine, you can achieve some really good results for a ripped appearance.
Is coffee a good pre workout to increase your pumps?
No, coffee is not a good pre workout to increase your pumps. Caffeine is common in a lot of supplements but is mainly added for the fat burning and mental focus benefits that it provides.
Can you take pre workout on an empty stomach?
Yes, you can take pre workout on an empty stomach, and this will result in the ingredients being absorbed quicker. As a result, you may not want to take too long before you hit the gym. Just watch out for any symptoms of stomach cramps that can happen in rare situations.
Our #1 Recommendation...
Because I regularly take fat burners with caffeine as well, I like that Pure Surge doesn’t contain stimulants.
Between the online reviews, my clients’ feedback, and the input from my dietitian, it just has the cleanest, simplest, and most suitable list of ingredients.
Make sure you keep us updated on your own results with some before and after pics.
Our #1 Best Pre Workout For Pump