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Do Pre Workouts Make You Stronger?

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There could be a million reasons why you’d swear by your pre workout.

It might be because it gives you the energy to run harder or faster on cardio days. It might be the cognitive focus it gives you to zone in on your weights sessions. It might even be the confidence you get when you’re walking around the gym with an insane pump on.

But there’s one thing you want – to be stronger. To lift heavier and feel confident with a heavy barbell above your head.

Can your pre workout really help you to boost your strength?

Let’s take a look at what the research says…


What is Strength?

What are we talking about when we say strength?

It could mean different things to different people so a good place to start here is to define exactly what we mean by strength. And a standard definition would be something like this:

“Muscle strength is the ability of a muscle or a group of muscles to exert maximal force against a resistance in a single contraction or repetition”.

So essentially, muscle strength is the ability to lift as heavy a weight as possible for one rep. This could be for any exercise – a squat, a press, a pull, a curl. It doesn’t matter what the exercise is as such; strength is just how much you can lift.

In bodybuilding, strength and conditioning and other athletic circles, muscle strength is often known as a 1RM or 1- repetition maximum.


Strength training to boost fitness man on grey background

What are the Benefits of Being Stronger?

There’s an old saying – “there are no bad points to being strong”.

And whilst that might not necessarily be one hundred percent right for every person, it does ring true for most.

Improved athletic ability

Strength training improves not only the size and quality of lean muscle, but also athleticism too.

Having strong muscles, tendons and connective tissue are all likely to reduce the risk of injuries or imbalances, and strength is often associated with an improvement in flexibility and muscle balance too.

Being stronger means you can run quicker, jump higher and move more powerfully. And you’ll use less energy to do so.

Decreased musculoskeletal health risk

Lifting big and heavy isn’t just about being quicker or more forceful – it’s about health too.

There are endless research papers that have linked an improvement in strength to healthier bones, improved metabolic health, reduced cardiovascular disease risk and elevated metabolism.

You’ll be more skillful

Being strong requires your central nervous system to ping electrical impulse messages to your muscles to fire quickly, with more force and with more synchronicity.

That’s especially important with the bigger lifts that require multiple muscles to fire in unison.

Being stronger means having a more precise, coordinated nervous system. And that carries over to a number of different skills such as speed, agility and balance too.

Other benefits

And it doesn’t end there either. Being strong can also help…

  • Improve sleep quality
  • Make you feel more confident
  • Reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety or stress
  • Improve posture
  • Carry over to every day activities – carrying, lifting, walking
  • Better body composition – more muscle means more calories burned in a day
  • More effective immune system

Woman in CrossFit gym holding a medicine ball

Can a Pre Workout Really Boost Strength?

The short answer is yes. And there’s a hell of a lot of research to back it up to – pre workouts do make you stronger.

Study #1: Beck et al [1]

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published an interesting paper back in 2006. They wanted to see if a supplement containing caffeine would make a group of almost 40 trained men more athletic.

The group took part in a range of different tests including a power-based cycling test, 1RM test on bench press and muscle endurance testing too.

They then went away for a couple of days and when they returned they were asked to repeat the tests. But this time some of them were given the supplement which contained caffeine, B vitamins and other pre workout nutrients.

When the supplement group took the tests again, they saw a significant improvement in strength with their 1RM test being much heavier in weight than previously.

Study #2: Kalmar et al [2]

In a similar study from the Journal of Applied Physiology, 11 men were examined for their strength or ‘maximal voluntary contraction’ (MVC) on a leg extension machine.

An hour before the test, some of the men were given a caffeine-rich supplement. And by taking this pre workout drink, significantly increased lower body strength.

Not only was MVC higher on the leg extension, but the time that the men were able to hold 50% of their MVC weight increased too – by 25%.

Pre Workouts can boost power too

Study #3: Woolf [3]

This study found that when 18 athletes were asked to participate in a range of strength and power tests, moderate doses of a caffeinated pre workout helped boost power and strength.

In tests such as a chest press and an anaerobic power test on a bike called the Wingate test, the supplement was seen to improve the total amount of weight lifted, as well as peak power on the cycle test. 

It also had favorable effect on post-exercise glycogen and insulin levels as well.


Key Point: Pre workouts supplements containing caffeine have been found to improve strength, power and anaerobic performance 


Summary – Pre Workouts Boost Strength

Pre workout supplements have the ability to boost endurance, time to exhaustion and mental focus.

And as more and more research is made available we are finding an increasing number of studies showing that they can enhance strength and power too.


4 Gauge

4 Gauge is a pre workout nutrient that has been found to improve muscle strength in the following ways:

  • Boost maximal muscle activation and neuromuscular transmission
  • Increases secretion of catecholamine hormones such as adrenaline 
  • Enhanced calcium release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum meaning stronger contractions
  • Improves skeletal muscle contractility meaning enhanced nervous system stimulation

References

  1. Beck, TW et al. The acute effects of a caffeine-containing supplement on strength, muscular endurance, and anaerobic capabilities. J Strength Cond Res. 2006; 20(3): 506-510
  2. Kalmar, J et al. Effects of caffeine on neuromuscular function. J Appl Physiol. 87: 801-808
  3. Woolf, K et al. The effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in anaerobic exercise. Int J Sport Exerc Metab. 2008; 18(4): 412-29

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