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By: Caroline Weihl

Caroline Weihl (@strongsweetcaroline) – a Vital Proteins fan, 4-year bodybuilding athlete and holistic health coach – shares how to get the most from your weight training session. 

The first time I walked into a public gym, I was a little intimidated. I had been in the recreational facility at college and you get to know your way around. The cardio equipment is lined up along one or two different walls. Dumbbells are positioned in front of the mirrors. Squat racks, bench presses, and other weight training machines are in the center of the floor.

The layout is usually the same at private or public gyms. The resources are accessible. Now, I need to decide how to use them. Four years later, I am much more comfortable using the weights, creating and following workout programs and pushing myself to and past its limits. How can you get the most from your weight training sessions? Here are 4 tips to help you train like a pro.

1. Define Your Workout Goal

The biggest mistake I made when I was younger was before I started bodybuilding. I would go into the gym and not really have a goal in mind. Sure, I wanted to lose some weight and put on some muscle. But what smaller decisions does that include? When you define your goal and get really specific, you are more likely to succeed and achieve it!

What is one thing I do now? I select what body part or muscle group I want to train that day. I recommend you create a training split to repeat each week. Consistency will help you stay accountable to your goal.

My split is usually training five days per week. Right now, I do Monday: Legs, Tuesday: Chest and Shoulders, Wednesday: Back, Thursday: Off Day, Friday: Arms, Abs and Calves, Saturday: Legs and Sunday Off Day.

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strength training for beginners

2. Put Together Your Plan

Now that you know what you are training on certain days of the week, how will you train it? If you hire a coach, use online or app workouts or create your own workout routines, you must put together a plan. Most programs/plans are between 8-12 weeks long. As you progress, certain workouts will be more effective than others. When you get stronger, you will need to add weight, create time under tension and have movement variety to challenge your body and muscles.

My coach John Meadows puts together my plans for about 12 weeks. Each week, I add more weight and push my physical workload to a new level. I also add in condition and cardio to improve my stamina, endurance and heart health.

3. Locate Your Needed Equipment

With a workout goal and a plan in hand, your steps into the gym will be more confident. What’s next? Find what you need to achieve that goal. Machines, dumbbells or equipment you want to use might be taken. This gives you an opportunity to meet someone, ask to work in with them or just ask how many sets they have left. It’s much more courteous than standing around behind a squat rack while the person is trying to achieve their max.

You can also bring some of your own equipment. I like to have a few bands, wrist wraps and a belt for my workouts. Some days, I use all of them. Other days, I might use none. I prefer to be prepared because the gym does not always have everything you want.

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4. Work Out Smart & with Intention

If you want to train like a pro and your equipment is ready, you can now start training. But you need to be smart. Warm up your muscles before getting into the heavy weights. Once you feel contractions and a mind to muscle connection, you can start your workout. Be intentional. Train with intensity, using good form. If you are unsure on your form, YouTube can be your best friend. It can also help to have a personal trainer or friend watch you while at the gym.

The more you train, the more comfortable you will be using the weights, equipment and doing the movements. At that level, it will be time to push yourself one step further. Push your body outside of its comfort zone. Feel the pain and tension. This will yield your growth.

Most professional athletes hit this stage after years of training. It will not happen overnight for you either. That is part of the fun. By defining a goal, creating a plan, finding your equipment and working out with intention, you are setting yourself up for success. You can constantly be challenged, physically and mentally. Enjoy the process and see how weight training can make you stronger on the inside and outside!