"No soreness means no gains."
This is a quite common belief for aspiring bodybuilders.
But experiencing soreness and pumps means nothing in terms of muscle growth.
What really helps is a high-protein diet and a tough training program to build muscles. However, maximizing your pumps can create enough strain to indicate that you actually worked your muscles.
With this, the advice I give most people is to specifically choose pre-workout supplements that will boost performance, endurance, and pumps.
Over the past year or so, I have been researching and reviewing dozens of pre-workouts for pump with a dietitian and tested them out with clients and on myself.
Here's a list of the best pre-workout supplements that you should seriously consider ordering for your next high-intensity day.
Our Top Pre-Workouts for Pump (2021)
1 - Gorilla Mode (Editor's Choice)
Gorilla Mode has been getting lots 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 serving contains 4.5 grams of l-citrulline. However, a full daily dose is equivalent to 2 servings which contains 9 grams of l-citrulline.
It is interesting to note that while many pre-workout supplements would contain a form of l-arginine, it is not present in Gorilla Mode. It is because l-arginine does not increase nitric oxide levels as well as l-citrulline. The liver and kidneys can overproduce urea when metabolizing l-arginine.
It also contains a bit of caffeine, but I didn’t experience jitters. What I got was laser mental focus and the best pumps.
- 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 focus and clarity
- May be used for bulking or endurance training
- Tastes good
- Dosage may be too much for some
I typically recommend this to my clients who are seeking help increase muscle growth to bulk up. However, based on some online user reviews, it may also work for endurance workouts.
It is also reasonably priced while offering a high level of quality compared to other pre-workouts.
Gorilla Mode 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.
2 - Cellucor NO3 Ultimate
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 your nitric oxide production. As a nitric oxide booster, its positive effect is increasing blood flow.
The flavors are quite tasty, and it’s even available unflavored, so you can stack with other products or with a smoothie.
- 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
It’s not the cheapest product, but there are some good discounts available with a subscription plan. Also, while all the reviews point to 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, also.
Cellucor NO3 Ultimate is also backed by a 30-day full money-back guarantee.
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 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 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 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 includes fat-burning 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.
It’s difficult to say whether this actually helps as there is a significant dose of caffeine as well.
We recently did a full review on ENGN Shred.
- L-Carnitine: 500mg
- Folic Acid: 800mcg
- Beta-Alanine: 1600mg
- Contains thermogenic ingredients for weight loss
- 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 - 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
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
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 pre-workout for pumps 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 the best pump that feel 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 women who want to achieve the best pumps
- Can be difficult to mix properly
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.
With a 30-day 100% satisfaction guarantee, this pre-workout is worth trying to boost those muscle pumps.
7 - Animal Pump
Last on my list of best pre-workouts 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.
- Magnesium: 72mg
- L-Citrulline: 2000mg
- Very conveniently packed into individual servings
- Stimulant free 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 brand hides behind a proprietary blend. While it is stimulant-free, it is difficult to stack with other products to get 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, here are a few pre-workout 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 ingredient in pre-workout
Another important amino acid is beta-alanine, but studies are a little bit more inconclusive. However, it positively impacts exercise intensity and duration (2).
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 (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.
- 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 (4).
It's also important to note that some avid users have claimed that these pump ingredients are also found in pre-workouts for runners because of the energy boost.
How Do Pre-Workouts for Pumps Work?
You may wonder how pre-workout supplements help with muscle growth.
These supplements contains pump ingredients that increase the nitric oxide production in the body. This dilates the blood vessels which then enhances blood flow to the working muscles.
Pump products use a combination of ingredients that increase nitric oxide production in the body, which can dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow to working muscles.
It also works by increasing the oxygen-rich blood cells to the working muscles which can accelerate the removal of muscle toxins like ammonia. This results to quicker recovery time between sets and better growth stimulus to perform more repetitions.
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 really 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 to get the best benefits when you need it most in the high-intensity parts of training.
Expectations For Pre-Workout For Pumps
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.
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 increased 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 pick 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-workouts 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 pump 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 increased blood flow.
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.
Tips For Getting Better Pumps
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.
Is Pre-workout safe?
Yes, pre-workout is safe to take, and unless you have any underlying medical or health issues, or are allergic to some pump ingredients, you shouldn’t notice any serious downsides. Most commonly, people will react sensitively to stimulants, so just keep that in mind.
But to be extra safe, you might also want to learn how to make your own pre-workouts.
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
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...
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 the Gorilla Mode.
This pre-workout supplement is packed with creatine, caffeine, and L-citrulline which all aid in increasing mental focus and 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.
Make sure you keep us updated on your own results with some before and after pics.