New Research Suggests Ammonia Has Positive Effects on Force Development

Two days ago, new research was published about the acute effects ammonia can have on a strength athlete’s lifting performance. For those who don’t know, ammonia is the substance you sometimes see lifters sniffing before maximal attempts, whether it be during a heavy training training session or at a competition.

Most often, powerlifters, weightlifters, and strongman competitors utilize ammonia, and it’s what Jon Call, aka Jujimufu, gave one of our writers during his interview with him. Typically lifters utilize ammonia to stimulate the nervous system to produce bigger lifts through the creation of a stronger force and power output by maximal neural activation.

Disclaimer: Ammonia is a respiratory stimulant in the form of an inhalant that isn’t necessary for training or heavy lifting. It can potentially have adverse effects on one’s health. Please seek the advice of a medical professional before using, or if side effects are present. 

The Study

In the recently published study, researchers sought out to find how ammonia could acutely benefit strength and power performance in resistance trained males. They enlisted 20 trained males with +/- 3.7 years of lifting experience, and they had to have been following a resistance training program for at least three years with the frequency of three days a week (at a minimum).

Subjects were split into three groups, which included a placebo, an ammonia inhalant, and Vick’s VapoRub. Participants came to three different assessment sessions each 48-hours apart, and were prescribed one of the three testing groups in random order. Every participant had their body mass, height, and body fat recorded, while also following the same warm-up prior to testing. Before each power and strength bout, subjects were instructed to use the ammonia inhalant, or placebo 10-seconds prior to the test for a duration of 3-seconds (the Vick’s VapoRub was used per its instructions).

To calculate peak power, researchers tracked a subject’s maximal jump height. Every subject performed three maximal jumps with 3-minutes of rest in-between. For the strength assessment, subjects performed an isometric mid-thigh pull in a power rack with the use of straps. They performed three subsequent maximal pulls standing on a force plate for a duration of 6-seconds, then rested for three minutes in-between each set.

The Results

Researchers found that the ammonia inhalant positively influenced maximal force development. They suggested this was possibly due to the mental components that ammonia can have on psychological arousal and power output. Less of an influence was seen when it came to ammonia use and maximal strength testing.

These findings led the researchers to suggest a few practical applications for the use of ammonia. They state that it may be more useful for sports like weightlifting, as its more dependent on explosive bouts of movement compared to something like powerlifting, which is maximal strength based. Either way, research is still lacking on this subject, and hopefully we’ll see more in the future as strength sports grow.