Monday, April 16, 2012

Goal Setting Made Easy

Goal setting in weight training is akin to that of travel planning for an expensive vacation.

By that I mean, when you finally put something down on paper, you are generally pretty serious.  

I mean, I've never seen someone drop a few grand for a vacation and have no clue about when they needed to leave to get to the airport, with no clue about what gate they needed to go to, what time they would land, and how they would get to the hotel.  Even if you plan on driving a few hours away for just a quick weekend getaway, you tend to plan something in the way of your itinerary.  

But lots of lifters spend time and money on things related to lifting, with no itinerary.  They have no specific goals.  And when they do, they have no real plan on how to get there.  This is never more evident than when some young guy approaches me in the gym and asks me questions.  His questions usually tell me a bit about his mindset in regards to goal setting.  

Our conversations usually go something like this.....

Sweet necklace, brah

"Man, how'd you get your arms so big, yo?"

"Just got that way by getting stronger."

"Yeah, that's cool, yo.  I wanna get my arms bigga, knowhaI'msayin, I do like bench and then curl......(dazes off).....I work legs likes sometimes yo, but not a lot."  


"So you're a bodybuilder?"

"No.  I have done some powerlifting though."

"Oh right, right.  I feel ya, I feel ya.  So that's when you......?"

"Squat, bench, and deadlift."  

"That's right, that's right.  So, I want a bigger bench yo, knowhaI'msayin.  What should I do to bench more, yo?  I been stuck at 185 for a while now."

"Bench more.  Work on your bench technique."  

"What about my arms though?  I want big arms, knowhaI'msayin?"  

"I know what you're saying."

"Aiight yo, you cool."

First off, if you talk like this, fucking educate or kill yourself.  I'd rather someone use profanity like I do, and put together coherent sentences with lots of "fucks" and "shits" than "yo" and "knowwhaI'msayin".

Second, the issue with this tard is the same with most young lifting tards.  No fucking idea about why he is in the gym, and has no specific goals.

Saying "I want to bench more" or "I want big arms" is not a specific goal.  It's really more like a statement, or idea.  An idea can't become reality until you mold it into something tangible.

"I want to bench 275"

"I want 18" arms"

This is specific, and something you can actually measure.  When you put 2 plates and a 25 on each side of the bar, that's tangible.  When you wrap a tape around your arm and it reads 18", that's tangible.

Guys that aspire to get bigger and stronger often have vague goals, and their planning and mindset about achieving them are vague as well.  I mean, think about it.  How specific can you get when you really have no clue what you are after?

One of the ways my love of back off sets came about was, having goals related to weight or plates.

Just to give a hypothetical example, when dips didn't fuck my elbows and pecs up after a few weeks of doing them, I had rep goals for bodyweight, dips + 1 plate, dips + 2 plates, dips + 3 plates.  This makes goal setting easy because one of the things you could do, was take a shot at each one over the course of the month.

Week 1 - bodyweight for reps
Week 2 - +45 for reps
Week 3 - +90 for reps
Week 4 - +135 for reps
WEek 5 - back to bodyweight

This kept shit interesting and fun, and I knew a specific number I needed to hit every workout to beat the previous PR.

Use something like this for standard plates.  If you bench 315 write down rep goals for 135, 185, 225, 245, and 275.  You could easily do something as simple as write these weights down on a piece of paper, throw them into a hat and pull 2 out.  Now for the workout, do an over-warm up to a single, then a back off set with each of these for max reps.  Again, this keeps things fun and motivating.  And training should always be something you look forward to.  Not something you dread.

One of the best things about the big-15 template is that every week you have a very specific goal to beat, and now with the addition of the 50% sets, two goals to beat.  Over time constantly beating those rep goals, leads to the prize.  Being a viking stud muffin slayer of women and all things that are awesome.

"I want to get stronger" - 

How strong?

Name goals for everything.  Rep goals, 1 rep max goals, whatever.  Write them down.

Here, I will show you mine just to give you an example of my thinking......

Short Term -
Deadlift 675 off the 4 inch blocks (in a few weeks, this would be a PR)
Deadlift 725 from below the knee
Deadlift 500x15 in two weeks when I go out to the Strength Guild
Seated Press with the 100'sx25 (in a few weeks, this would be a PR)
Close Grip Bench 315x15 (in the next week)
Standing Press with 225x15 (in a few weeks)
Chin - 100x1 this week (just part of my normal cycling)
Get my leg healed by doing my rehab stuff, getting an MRI setup for it possibly
Tackle this new diet and give it a fair run (IF style diet)

Long term - 6 months give or take
Deadlift 725 from the 4 inch blocks
Deadlift 765 from below the knee
Deadlift 500x20
Seated Press with the 120's for 20
Close Grip Bench 315x20
Chin 100x5
Hope to be squatting without pain
Drop down to 233-235 while hitting these strength goals

"I want to get bigger?"

When size was my goal I planned out exactly what I was going to do, and what my goals were.

Bodyweight goal:
What I felt weightxrep would get me there:
Planned out my diet according to how much food I needed to eat:

Once these things are on paper, you can visualize much better what it is you need to do.  They aren't just foggy ideas in your head about where you want to get to.  They are specific ideas staring back at you.

Find tangible things you can add as goals.  What are the biggest dumbbells in your gym?  If you can't do much with them, find a movement you CAN do something with them with, and make a rep goal for them in that movement.  You don't think that if you could only do 5 reps with the 120's or 140's or whatever, in the db row, that if you built yourself to do them for 20 or 30 or whatever, that you'd be immensely bigger and stronger?  Of course you would.

Don't invest your time and money into training with zero idea of where the fuck you are going.  Plan your itinerary, and have a purpose for everything you do.  Then zero mental energy is wasted spinning your wheels.

I found this while looking for images..........


  1. man do people really talk to you like that? lol holy shit shoots myself lol

  2. PC this is good stuff. Am planning on doing a lean out, something I have said I'd do the last couple springs and haven't. And this reminded me I need something more measurable than "4 weeks on 4 shakes +1 meal a day." I need some numbers, too. Maintaining goal orientation is a constant challenge. But it's vital to success.

  3. Paul

    do agree with what you said above, once its written down, you just develop a different mindset for working towards them.

    secondly with the new template what are your thoughts about trying to run the big 3 on your "big days"

    best of luck with your rehab, been through the stage multiple times with knee blow outs, you will get through it bro.

    Happy Monday, have a grand week

    1. It's not really factored in to do the big 3 for the new template. In fact, I am against regular deadlifting in it (although it can be done) and I explain why.

      Thanks for the well wishes and same to you dawg.

  4. Great post Paul, I've been guilty of running around in gym without a plan way too often. I finally sat down yesterday and set some real goals with the timeline of a year. This is Day 1, 364 more to go.


    You'll love this song.

  6. i love goal setting...i know it's kind of strange to say but, i wouldn't be who i am now with out it. but, you would be surprised at how many people walk around everyday without any goals what so ever. i use goal setting with my clients, short and long term and it makes all the difference in the world. great article.

    1. It's all that really matters. Have a goal. Without it, you're just fucking about.....