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).

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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.

Jake Boly

Jake Boly

Jake holds a Master’s in Sports Science and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. Currently, Jake serves as the Fitness and Training Editor at BarBend. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has spoken at state conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand.

As of right now, Jake has published over 1,300 articles related to strength athletes and sports. Articles about powerlifting concepts, advanced strength & conditioning methods, and topics that sit atop a strong science foundation are Jake’s bread-and-butter.

2 thoughts on “New Research Suggests Ammonia Has Positive Effects on Force Development”

  1. The bench video was helpful – at least mentally. I am 72 and lift 3x week with around a 250 max on the bench press. I am 5’7″ and my bench is too high to effectively get my feet on the ground, so I have benched for years by putting my feet flat on the bench behind my butt. I decided to try a more ‘proper’ technique to get my lower body involved and built a 4″ platform to put under the bench for pressing. I’ve been somewhat frustrated at finding a stance that makes me ‘feel’ like I’m developing that tension from foot–>bar that I’m looking for. It’s good to hear that it’s not easy and will take maybe months to get right. This inspires me to try experimental lifts at medium-high resistance, checking my foot placement and arch and listening to my body. I’m hoping you can teach old dogs new tricks :o).

  2. You stated in the end of the article, when talking about how researchers suggest few practical uses, that powerlifting is strength based and weightlifting is explosive. That is not true. Powerlifting is all about explosive movements while weightlifting is strength-based.

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