The strongest pre workout supplement can mean different things to different people.
Some people seek high stim energy, others seek an intense focus, while other folks want hardcore intensity and aggression in the gym.
As anyone who has tried a variety of pre workout supplements can attest, strong pre workouts have their own unique effects that aren’t fully captured on the ingredient label. This round up is for the stim junkies, the true pre workout connoisseurs.
Here’s the quick summary of the strongest pre workouts and their effects:
October 5 Update: Limited stock now available!
Dark Labs has *just* released a limited edition gold version of its infamous Crack pre workout.
This is top shelf.
As usual, another heavy hitter in the stim category:
DMAA (100 mg), DMHA (200 mg), eria jarensis (300 mg), caffeine anhydrous (300 mg), and caffeine citrate (100 mg yield) - and that's not even everything...
Restocked in October 2021! Limited stock!
Hard-hitting, "happy" DMHA experience. This one will make the stim junkies soar.
All stims, no pumps, but if you want energy, focus, and euphoria then Flame is the answer. One of my personal favorites.
Two of the strongest pre workouts of all time: Assassin and Hooligan... combined.
600 mg Caffeine, 300 mg Eria J, 75 mg Hordenine, 7g L-Citrulline, 2g L-Tyrosine, 1g Lion's Mane, 600 mg Alpha GPC, 2.5 mg Alpha Yohimbine... the list goes on.
You don't need a full scoop. Trust me.
LIFTVAULT = 15% off at Nutri Cartel
LIFTVAULT10 = 10% off at Supps Central
August Update: Restocked! Limited availability.
In collaboration with Review Bros, this is a limited edition, stim-heavy upgrade to the original Wrecked Pre Workout.
Strong without being overpowering. Productive energy, laser focus, and epic motivation.
El Jefe is a powerful DMHA pre workout that delivers euphoric energy and long lasting focus.
One of my personal favorite pre workouts! Get the peach rings flavor if you can.
LIFTVAULT = 15% off at ASC Supplements and Nutri Cartel
150 mg of DMHA per serving - super strong effects with excellent focus + euphoria. Not for beginners.
LIFTVAULT = 15% off at Nutri Cartel
Sept 2021 Update: Back in Stock!
A heavy DMHA hitter.
For those looking for a strong smack of energy for the most intense training sessions.
Hooligan is the strongest pre workout without banned substances, bar none. 600 mg caffeine, 600 mg Alpha GPC, 1,000 mg Lion's Mane, and much more create all day energy + focus.
LIFTVAULT = 15% off at Nutrition Cartel
LIFTVAULT15 = 15% off at Supp Kingz
A bit more aggressive, quicker-hitting version of the legendary El Jefe.
One of my favorite DMHA pre workouts.
LIFTVAULT = 20% off at ASC Supplements
A DMHA pre workout newcomer offering "unbelievable mood elevation" and "astonishing focus."
Fresh from the underground: Light Year.
LIFTVAULT = 15% off at Supp Kingz
- 1 Strongest Pre Workout Supplements for 2021
- 1.1 Assassin Pre Workout (Most Intense Pre Workout)
- 1.2 Crack Pre Workout (Energy + Pumps)
- 1.3 Pre Phase Pre Workout (Focus + Mood Elevation)
- 1.4 Hooligan Pre Workout (Long Lasting Energy)
- 1.5 1’3 Volt Pre Workout (Euphoria + Endurance)
- 1.6 El Jefe Pre Workout (Energy + Mood Elevation)
- 1.7 Excelsior Pre Workout (Focus + Motivation)
- 1.8 Shockwave Pre Workout (Motivation + Mood Elevation)
- 2 Ingredients Found in the Strongest Pre Workout Supplements
- 3 A “Strong Pre Workout” Is Not Always Optimal
- 4 Closing Thoughts
- 5 Pre Workouts That Didn’t Make the Cut
- 6 How to Make Any Pre Workout “Hardcore”
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
- 8 More Pre Workout Reviews
Strongest Pre Workout Supplements for 2021
- Assassin Pre Workout
- Crack Pre Workout
- Pre Phase Pre Workout
- Hooligan Pre Workout
- 1’3 Volt Pre Workout
- El Jefe Pre Workout
- Excelsior Pre Workout
- Shockwave Pre Workout
Each of the pre workouts below is unique in their own special way. They’re all strong pre workouts, but the one that is “right” for you depends on what you’re looking for. Any of these can be used as a successful tool in your health journey.
If you’re looking to cut down on your caffeine consumption, I recommend checking our list of the best pre workouts without caffeine.
Assassin Pre Workout (Most Intense Pre Workout)
Assassin pre workout is a powerful, rage inducing hardcore supplement from Apollon Nutrition. It is for going full beast mode. When I think of the most intense pre workouts, Assassin is the first thing that comes to my mind. This is definitely “stim junkie” approved.
I take Assassin on my heaviest lifting days, which usually means squats or deadlifts. Even taking 3/4 scoop fills me with an all-encompassing feeling of energy, focus, and purpose. These things blend together to form an overall aggression and desire to rip into heavy weights.
Could you take this for a bodybuilding style pump workout? Sure – absolutely.
Could you take it and go for a long run? Yes.
But what I really want to do when I take Assassin is hit a PR squat. That is it’s time to shine. It is built for RPE 10 sets.
I’m not going to break down the ingredient label line by line (I do that in my full Assassin pre workout review), but I’ll note a few highlights.
In each serving of Assassin, you’ll get the following ingredients:
- 500 mg caffeine anhydrous + 133 mg dicaffeine malate = 600 mg caffeine
- 300 mg Eria Jarensis
- 1,500 mg L-Tyrosine
- 300 mg Theacrine
- 3.5 Beta Alanine
One of the reason I love Apollon Nutrition products is that they rarely skimp on ingredient dosages. If they include an ingredient, you can expect it to be fully dosed. They don’t believe in including ingredients just so they can slap it on the label for marketing purposes.
Crack Pre Workout (Energy + Pumps)
Crack is an insanely strong pre workout that has a fully dosed stimulant and pump ingredient portfolio.
On the focus and energy side, you’ll get the following ingredients per serving:
- 400 mg of caffeine anhydrous
- 120 mg of DMAA
- 500 mg of choline bitartrate
Even though it’s a short stimulant profile, it’s a powerful combination for endurance and intense energy.
On the pump and blood flow side, you’ll get the following ingredients per serving:
- 8 grams of citrulline malate
- 1.5 grams of agmatine sulfate
- 1 gram of arginine silicate
- 1 gram of beet root powder
- 300 mg of VASO6
This is a fully loaded, powerful pump formula.
The 3 grams of CarnoSyn branded beta alanine will deliver all the tingles you want, too.
Thought it only has 20 full servings in a tub, I would wager that 1 scoop, which equates to 40 servings, would be plenty for most lifters.
Pre Phase Pre Workout (Focus + Mood Elevation)
For a blend of energy, focus and mood elevation, it’s hard to beat Pre Phase pre workout by Phase One Nutrition. This kicks in with an uplift in mood, similar to Dark Energy pre workout, but with more energy and focus.
Pre Phase feels more like a stimulant, but is much less intense than Excelsior. Still, I’d recommend starting with a half scoop to assess how you respond. I took a full scoop and ended up with a bit of a downward mood spiral afterward. The next day I took a 3/4 scoop and made sure to eat plenty of food and I had a much smoother experience.
Notably, each serving of Pre Phase pre workout contains the following ingredients:
- 150 mg of DMHA
- 200 mg of Eria Jarensis
- 350 mg dose of caffeine anhydrous
- 1.5 mg Alpha Yohimbine
Of course, you’re getting the standards like 6 grams of Citrulline Malate and 3 grams of Beta Alanine.
I personally would like to see a larger dose of L-Tyrosine here, but overall I was very impressed with Pre Phase pre workout.
Hooligan Pre Workout (Long Lasting Energy)
Hooligan pre workout is the second supplement from Apollon Nutrition on this list.
Like its sister, Assassin, Hooligan really earns the designation of a fully dosed pre workout and is truly one of the best hardcore pre workout supplements. This label is a bit simpler and includes fewer stimulants, but it is no less serious – it’s just different. In fact, both products are included on my list of the best pre workout supplements.
Hooligan is excellent for folks looking for an intense pre workout that delivers long lasting energy and skin ripping pumps. If you’re seeking endurance, then be sure to check out Hooligan.
A few highlights from the Hooligan ingredient label, per serving:
- 450 mg caffeine anhydrous + 150 mg dicaffeine malate = 600 mg caffeine
- 300 mg Alpha GPC
- 200 mg Theobromine
- 3,000 mg Betaine Anhydrous
Of course you’re getting 6 grams of L-Citrulline for pumps and blood flow and 3.2 grams of Beta Alanine for power output (and tingles).
Hooligan is overflowing with powerful ingredients to fuel even the most grueling workouts. In terms of feeling, Hooligan is predominantly an energy-focused pre workout, with the normal feelings of mood elevation and motivation associated with caffeine. It doesn’t make you feel crazy or aggressive, but it’ll help you do that last set (and then some).
The 133 mg of di-caffeine malate (yielding an effective dose of 100 mg of caffeine) is an “extended release” version of caffeine, which helps negate any negative “crash” effects resulting from the strong 600 mg dose of caffeine anhydrous.
But don’t let the caffeine content scare you aware. The 1,500 mg of tyrosine helps smooth out your experience as well and reduce any negative side effects from the hefty caffeine dosage. You also, of course, don’t have to take a full scoop. I usually don’t!
Overall, Hooligan is very thoughtfully crafted supplement; they didn’t just throw a bunch of stimulant ingredients in a tub and call it a day.
1’3 Volt Pre Workout (Euphoria + Endurance)
1’3 Volt pre workout is a breakout pre workout supplement of 2020 and vying for the “Best of 2020” title.
It came ready to take on Dark Energy for the title of best DMAA pre workout. While both contain DMAA, 1’3 Volt delivers more energy and focus, while Dark Energy is more of a mood enhancer.
If you want to kill a heavy workout, I’d go with 1’3 Volt pre workout.
If you want to feel amazing, then Dark Energy pre workout may be a better choice.
Notable ingredients in each serving of this supplement include:
- 6.4 grams of beta alanine (not a misprint!)
- 3.6 grams of citrulline malate (again, not a misprint!)
- 100 mg of 1,3 DMAA
- 300 mp of Alpha GPC
- 30 mg of Noopept
For a full ingredient list break down, check out my 1’3 Volt Pre Workout Review.
El Jefe Pre Workout (Energy + Mood Elevation)
El Jefe from ACS Supplements is a DMHA (Juglans Regia Extract) propriety blend pre workout designed for the stim junkies.
I don’t usually like supplements that use a proprietary blend because I think transparency is important, especially when it comes to stuff you’re putting into your body, but it’s hard to argue with the effects.
From what I can tell from the ingredient list, El Jefe contains DMHA, two types of caffeine, eria jarensis, hordenine hcl, and alpha yohimbine, most notably.
El Jefe hits really nicely, providing smooth mood enhancement and a solid energy boost. It finds a sweet spot between stimmed out pre workouts that have negative side effects and ordinary daily driver pre workouts.
I feel great when I take El Jefe, mostly happy and productive, and don’t have a wicked crash afterward. It also works pretty well at a half dose (1 scoop) for days when you don’t need to go full tilt.
Even though its a proprietary blend, I’d definitely recommend El Jefe for those looking for a “happy pre workout” that doesn’t totally burn you out.
Excelsior Pre Workout (Focus + Motivation)
I have mixed feelings about including Excelsior on this list. On one hand, I don’t take this pre workout after a disastrous experience with it that left me with significant side effects of depression, detailed in my Excelsior pre workout review. For my own health and well being, it’s just a no-go.
On the other hand, it is absolutely one of the most unique pre workouts available today, providing extraordinary feelings of focus and motivation. If you are a true stim junkie, this is the one for you. In terms of pure stimulants, Excelsior is probably the strongest pre workout available right now. It’s also an excellent thermogenic pre workout for weight loss.
With just a 6 gram serving size, this pre workout delivers an incredibly strong experience that is reminiscent of Ritalin or other amphetamines. The only hint of this on the label, which uses a proprietary blend, is the Kigelia Africana Extract, which is a naturally occurring source of DMHA. Since this ingredient appears before caffeine anhydrous on the label, and ingredients are supposed to be listed in descending order of volume (i.e. the most prevalent ingredient is listed first, followed by the second, and so on), and most hardcore pre workouts have at least 300 mg of caffeine, it is possible Excelsior pre workout has a very large DMHA dose in it. Unfortunately, we can only speculate as to what gives this pre workout its legendary focus.
Another interesting choice in this supplement is the complete lack of any beta alanine in this product, which is unusual for a pre workout.
The downside? The crash. Lots of folks, myself included, highlight the crash that can come from just a single use of Excelsior, not to mention repeated usage. Proceed at your own risk. For me, it’s not worth it, but if you’re looking for something truly next level, Excelsior may be what you’re looking for.
Shockwave Pre Workout (Motivation + Mood Elevation)
Shockwave is another high stim pre workout supplement from Static Labz. This is the “sister pre workout” to 1’3 Volt, which is another excellent pre workout on this list.
The key difference between Shockwave and 1’3 Volt is that Shockwave contains DMHA instead of DMAA and does not have any beta alanine. This is a bold choice for a pre workout, but will surely make some folks happy, as not everyone is a fan of the beta alanine tingling.
Shockwave also has more “traditional” pre workout stimulants like eria jarensis, octopamine, hordenine, and higenamine, while 1’3 Volt includes Alpha GPC and noopept, ingredients more often seen in nootropics.
Shockwave is a very nice experience, providing superior mood elevation and energy, along with excellent motivation in the weight room.
In terms of how “strong” it is, I’d say Shockwave is a bit less strong than 1’3 Volt, but as a result I’d say I’m more likely to choose Shockwave over 1’3 Volt. Simply put, I don’t always need to be choosing the most powerful pre workout at all times. Both are excellent and I don’t think you’ll go wrong with either one.
For more info, including the full ingredient label breakdown, check out my complete Shockwave pre workout review.
Ingredients Found in the Strongest Pre Workout Supplements
Here are a few ingredients that you’ll want to pay attention to when buying a hardcore pre workout.
Caffeine anhydrous is the classic form of the caffeine known for energy, motivation, and focus.
I usually look for supplements that has between 400 mg and 500 mg of caffeine in them, though some, like Hooligan or Assassin, have 600 mg of caffeine (when counting both caffeine anhydrous and dicaffeine malate, discussed below).
Di-caffeine malate is the extended release version of caffeine. I like to see this ingredient included in pre workout because it helps the pre workout last longer and it helps smooth out “crash” effects that can occur from high doses of caffeine anhydrous.
100 mg to 133 mg of dicaffeine malate is a good amount to look for.
Tip: Dicaffeine malate yields 75% caffeine, so if you see 100 mg of dicaffeine malate on the label, that means it is equivalent to 75 mg of caffeine. The other 25% is malic acid.
DMAA is a stimulant that provides energy, focus, and euphoric feelings by increasing the concentration of dopamine and epinephrine. DMAA made a comeback in 2019 after disappearing from the pre workout scene for a few years. There are now several different pre workouts with DMAA.
Honestly, the amount of DMAA on an ingredients label is usually pretty unreliable, which is why it is so important to read pre workout reviews to understand what the true effects are.
DMHA is also a stimulant that behaves in a fashion similar to DMAA: energy, euphoria, focus, etc. It grew in popularity over the last several years as many pre workout manufacturers shied away from using DMAA, creating DMHA pre workout supplements instead.
DMHA is frequently included in dosages ranging from 100 mg to 200 mg.
It can also be labeled as juglans regia extract, 2-aminoisoheptane, octodrine, 1,5-dimethylhexylamine, and 2-amino-6-methylheptane.
Eria Jarensis is a stimulant that is becoming a popular alternative to DMAA or DMHA. Sometimes you’ll see those ingredients combined, like with Pre Phase. It increases levels of dopamine and noradrenaline in the user and can enhance mood, increase motivation, and dial in concentration.
A solid dose of Eria Jarensis usually ranges between 150 mg and 250 mg, with 200 mg being quite common.
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that increases the synthesis of dopamine and helps improve concentration and memory during stressful situations. It can help balance the effects of high caffeine doses by “smoothing out” some of the jittery effects. Since the strongest pre workouts often contain a lot of stimulants, it is important to balance them out with L-Tyrosine.
I like to see at least 500 mg of L-Tyrosine in a pre workout, with the best ones usually including between 1,000 mg and 1,500 mg.
While other ingredients like L-Citrulline and Beta Alanine are important, most high quality workout supplements will get these right.
A “Strong Pre Workout” Is Not Always Optimal
I, like many people, assumed for a while that what I needed for my workouts was the most powerful pre workout. This turned out to be a false assumption.
If you’re relatively new to pre workout, check out my list of the best pre workout supplements for beginners. I include pre workouts with over 300 mg of caffeine on that list, so you might be surprised by my definition of beginner. 😉
It’s always a good idea to save your strongest supplements for special occasions, not every training session. I take these kinds of pre workouts about once a week, maybe twice a week at most.
My favorite pre workouts for regular, daily usage are Legion Pulse and Game Day. If you are new to taking pre workout, I’d recommend checking those out first. That way you’re not needlessly increasing your caffeine tolerance, exposing yourself to potent stimulants, and potentially building unhealthy habits.
The final ranking of the strongest pre workout supplements is:
- Assassin Pre Workout
- Crack Pre Workout
- Pre Phase Pre Workout
- Hooligan Pre Workout
- 1’3 Volt Pre Workout
- Excelsior Pre Workout
- El Jefe Pre Workout
- Shockwave Pre Workout
There you have it – the strongest pre workouts currently available. You can’t go wrong with any of the above, it just depends on what you’re looking for.
I tend to use Hooligan the most, followed by Assassin and El Jefe.
I stay away from Excelsior these days, but it truly is an extraordinary experience for those seeking a high stim pre workout. The choice is yours.
Pre Workouts That Didn’t Make the Cut
The pre workout supplements listed above were proven to be the strongest after extensive testing. Here are some pre workouts that were tried but did not make the final list:
- Transparent Labs – Bulk
- Transparent Labs – Lean
- Beyond Raw – Lit
- Ronnie Coleman Signature Series – Yeah Buddy
- Bucked Up – Woke AF
- Pro Supps – Mr. Hyde NitroX
- Kaged Muscle – Pre-Kaged
- Old School Labs – Vintage Blast
- EVLution Nutrition – ENGN
- GAT Sport – Nitraflex
- Man Sports – Gameday
- Legion Athletics – Pulse
- Ghost – Legend
- RSP Nutrition – DyNO
How to Make Any Pre Workout “Hardcore”
If you don’t want to be ingesting a hardcore pre workout all the time, another option is to add your own DMAA or DMHA. These can be found online from vendors like Bulk Stimulants or ELV Bio.
This has the advantage of allowing you to fine tune exactly how frequently you’re taking these ingredients and adjust the dosage.
Learn more: Where to Buy DMAA Powder and DMHA Powder Online
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the highest caffeine pre workout?
The highest caffeine pre workout is Hooligan pre workout v5. Hooligan contains 600 mg of caffeine in total. This is sourced from 450 mg of caffeine anhydrous and 200 mg of dicaffeine malate (yielding 150 mg of caffeine). It has even more caffeine than Koala Freak by Staunch Nation.
This is actually a reduction from Hooligan v4, which had 600 mg of caffeine anhydrous and 133 mg of dicaffeine malate (yielding 100 mg of caffeine) for a total of 700 mg of caffeine.
But don’t worry, surprisingly Hooligan v5 is even stronger than v4, boasting a wider array of nootropic and focus ingredients.
What are the strongest pre workouts of 2020?
This is subjective, but I’d say that 1’3 Volt, Crack, and Hooligan are the strongest pre workouts released in 2020. 1’3 Volt and Crack contain DMAA, while Hooligan has a clean ingredient label – all three are powerful.
What is the strongest pre workout for bodybuilders?
As bodybuilders tend to have long workouts, they often benefit from pre workouts that last several hours and offer incredible pumps.
For that, Hooligan comes highly recommended.
What is the strongest pre workout for powerlifters?
Powerlifting doesn’t really require any specific type of pre workout for successful training sessions. With that said, the personality of powerlifters tend to enjoy pre workouts that get them “in the zone” and focused on achieving technical lifting proficiency with near maximal loads.
Assassin and 1’3 Volt lend themselves well to this type of use case, but really this is up to your personal preferences. Also, be mindful of whether you’re competing in a drug tested powerlifting federation, as both of these pre workouts contain banned ingredients.
Which pre workouts have been banned?
This is not as straightforward as you might expect. Individual pre workouts are not really “banned,” but they can be flagged for containing pre workouts that are illegal to market or sell as a dietary supplement. This is a small difference, but I think it’s worth pointing out.
As such, a product can be reformulated to remove the infringing ingredient.
With that said, when the FDA began issuing warnings in 2013 to manufacturers that sold products containing DMAA, two products that were specifically called out were the pre workout Jack3D and the fat burner Oxy Elite Pro, both by USPlabs. Because USPlabs challenged the FDA in court, it ended with USPlabs agreeing to cease operations and liquidate.
Even still, both of those products are still available in reformulated versions, so they’re not banned, they’re just different.
Another infamous pre workout that has been reformulated and is no longer available in its “original formula” is Craze. This was another pre workout that got swept up in the DMAA crackdown circa 2015.
A more recent hardcore pre workout that is no longer available in its original formula is Mesomorph, which got reformulated in 2017.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a quick history of some of the more notable pre workouts to be reformulated as a result of regulatory scrutiny.
More Pre Workout Reviews
Check out more pre workout reviews below!
- Best Pre Workouts
- Strongest Pre Workouts
- Best DMAA Pre Workout
- Best DMHA Pre Workout
- Best Pre Workout for PUMPS
- Safe Pre Workouts
- Best Caffeine Free Pre Workout (Stim Free Pre Workout)
- Best Pre Workout for Beginners
- Best Pre Workout for Women
- Best Pre Workout without Creatine
- Best Pre Workout without Beta Alanine