Breaking Down The Spooky Truth of Pre-Workouts

With all the ghosts and ghouls and scary stuff out there this week, I want to talk about another scary product you see in fitness facilities and gyms all over… PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS. There are several types of supplements you can take to impact your exercise routine.  Some are used for post workout recovery, others for hydration, and some for energy.  Today we will look at supplements used before (pre) a workout, meant to enhance your performance and give you an edge in the gym.

Pre-workout supplements have a large range of vitamins and ingredients that are geared towards promoting better, stronger, and faster results from your workouts.  I want to be very clear, pre-workout is not steroids! The goal of pre-workout is to put your body in a better state to reap all the benefits from exercise, and to hyper focus your mind to stay motivated and determined during a workout. Most of the time, this is accomplished with either caffeine, B vitamins, Coq-10, or some combination of those.  These ingredients tend to be the main drivers behind the mental focus aspect of pre-workouts.  

              When it comes to prepping the body for intense exercise, pre-workouts will use all types of synthetic or natural ingredients.  A few common ingredients you may see are Citrulline-Malate, Beta-Alanine, and Creatine.  There’s no need to fear all these big fancy names, I happen to have a handy little table that will help keep them straight!

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You may be thinking, “Wow, Eric can really make a chart! That thing is good! But what does it all mean?”  I’m glad you asked!  Whenever someone asks me whether they should be taking a pre-workout supplement, the first thing I ask them is about the brands and products they are interested in. Some products are packed with “filler” ingredients, and nobody needs to spend their hard-earned cash on “filler”.  The other thing to look for is how much of each ingredient there is.  For example, some pre-workouts have about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (about 95mg).  Some have almost 3 times that amount!  If you need that much help from a stimulant to get you motivated through a workout, there are other things we need to look at!  


Supplements are generally unregulated by the FDA, so they have scary leeway when it comes to disclosing their ingredients.  If you ever see “proprietary blend” followed by the amount per serving with a long list of ingredients, that usually means that the amount per serving represents some mixture of ALL of those ingredients!  

I don’t have any issue with pre-workout supplements, in fact, I use them myself. The biggest thing to remember is to research what you’re taking, ask your trainer, doctor, nutritionist, someone that may have more knowledge about it. Please follow the directions, and more than anything, remember that YOU DON’T NEED THEM!  If you take a pre-workout supplement and you feel like crap, STOP TAKING IT!  Maybe try a supplement that doesn’t have caffeine if you get light headed or your stomach hurts.  If it feels like your skin is crawling, try a supplement without Beta-Alanine! Just like exercise and diet, proper supplementation is going to take a little trial and error to figure out what works best for you!  So, don’t be afraid, at least not of pre-workouts!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Breaking Down the Squat

Chances are, you have seen some variation of a squat in the last week. Whether it’s sitting at a desk chair or getting out of your car, the natural motion of a squat can be found throughout daily life.

In the gym, squats are a focal point of many workouts. Due to the number of muscle groups activated, and the numerous benefits, squats can be found in almost any lower body, cardio, or full body workout.

Despite what you may see on the internet, depth is not the most important factor in a squat. Don’t get me wrong, depth is key to getting maximal benefits from a squat, but without the proper form, depth can be detrimental. FORM FIRST. Speed and/or weight should be one of your last concerns if you are squatting on your own.

While we always recommend having a professional help you with your squats, here are a few tips you can use if you decide to practice on your own:

  • Keep your weight on your heels, try lifting your toes off the ground and see how that changes your weight distribution.

  • Focus on a point in front of you to keep your head and chest up.

  • Break from your hip first, not your knees. Your butt should be the first thing out.

  • For beginners, watch your knees and try to keep them from pushing out in front of your toes, this may change with supervision, but it is a good rule of thumb on your own.

At Renovo, we hear concerns and field questions about squats on a daily basis, and hopefully I can clarify some of the most common ones today!

How do I increase depth in my squat?

The short answer is to keep practicing with correct form!  The long answer is that you may need to work on your hip/ankle mobility. Oftentimes, tight hips can keep you from taking full advantage of a squat, and stretches that work to open the hips can be beneficial both before and after your squat workout. Likewise, if you find your heels coming off the ground, or feel like you can’t sit back in the bottom of your squat, you may need to work on your ankle flexibility.

We are always happy to recommend some stretches for both hips and ankles!

Why do my knees hurt when I squat?

More often than not, (excluding a pre-existing injury) if your knees are hurting during a squat, it's because you’re asking your knees to do more work than your hips.

Remember that tip about breaking first from your hips instead of your knees? Your hips are more suited for a heavy load than your knees and they want to help!  

If you need practice breaking from your hips, try the box squat!  Box squats are great for practicing form and keeping the load off of the knees!

If you need advice on how to do a box squat, just ask us!

Are there any substitutes for a squat?

There are plenty of exercises that can reach the same muscle groups as a squat, but none that can work them all at the same time quite as well.

If you just want a good quad burn, try a wall sit or leg extensions!  

If hip mobility, and small muscle group work is what you seek, try a lunge!

It's worth noting that squat substitutes tend to miss the mark on core and stability.

So, in conclusion:

Don’t be afraid to squat, and don’t be afraid to let us help you!