Goal-Setting Guide

When we speak about resolve, we are referring to a firm decision to do something. On elitefts™, we often refer to extraordinary resolve, which is the ER in strong(er). Resolve comes into play when we stay on course throughout a long sixteen-week training cycle, despite personal crises or setbacks. It comes into play when we are gasping for air after three Prowler® runs and we do a fourth, even though no one is there to see. Resolve comes into play when we lock our upper back into place on that third rep of squats in order to keep our form tight for the entire set. Resolve comes in play when we are pulling, squatting or pressing a new PR. In each of these cases, extraordinary resolve begins and ends in the mind...and our progress, or lack thereof, can be traced back to if we dug deep and showed extraordinary resolve or made that split-second decision to settle for ordinary failure.

People often forget that from the word resolve, we get the word resolution. Resolution gets a bad rap amongst serious lifters, most likely because at most gyms we are forced to deal with dozens of slack-jawed early January New Year's resolution lifters. Since we see so many of these people failing at their goals, it places a blemish on the word resolution and makes the concept of New Year's Resolutions seem a bit silly. Nothing could be further from the truth. With the new year upon us, you are provided with a blank slate in which you can set new objectives and create a game plan for accomplishing them. There is great power in this. While many mock New Year's Resolutions, they are far better than no goals at all!

We live in a world in which training techniques, nutrition and supplements have advanced to the level that nearly any healthy individual has the ability to have an impressive body and post big PRs. Unfortunately, most lifters progress little from year-to-year. Goal setting is a powerful catalyst for success and will provide a huge payoff with only a minor time investment. You do not have to wait for the New Year to develop extraordinary resolve, but if the calendar is a useful reminder, use it to your advantage. If you are ready to take your training to the next level and want potent techniques to bring about noticeable progress, then this article is for you.

Why are goals important? Anton Chekhov wrote, “If you cry ‘Forward,’ you must make plain in which direction to go.” This is the very core of goal setting. At the most fundamental level, goal setting involves consciously choosing the direction in which one focuses their efforts.

Numerous studies have shown that correct application of goal-setting not only increase the possibility of reaching one’s goals, but can dramatically increase the level of the results and decrease the length of time it takes to reach your objective. In other words, by following the guidelines in this article you can build greater strength or pack on more muscle faster than ever before. By following the simple steps in this article, you can learn to sidestep these motivational landmines and program yourself for maximal success.

If at this point you cannot see yourself investing a few minutes each day towards goal-setting then maybe you need to decide how badly you really want to succeed as a lifter.


Greek philosopher Epictetus simplified the goal process when he said, “First say to yourself what you would be, then do what you have to do.” This illustrates the point that your life goal is directly tied into your identity. Deciding exactly what you want is the starting point of the goal-setting process. How do you picture yourself in the future? This should be a realistic but idealized version of you.

The key component in driving your success is your personal passion for your goal. German-born uber-philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “He who has a why to live for can endure almost any how.” Since anything of great worth comes at a price, this passion will be the component that allows you to hurdle over or navigate around the inevitable obstacles that you will encounter.

Your life goal should cover a variety of different areas. The aspects that need to be addressed include: 1) physical development, 2) education, 3) social growth/ personal relationships, 4) family relationships, 5) financial improvement, 6) career growth, and 7) spiritual improvement. While focus is important, being a complete individual is also crucial. Having been around the lifting industry for over two decades, I’ve seen numerous individuals that are single-mindedly obsessed with the sport. These athletes live powerlifting or bodybuilding and eliminate all outside interests, thinking that blinded focus will speed their success. What happens, sooner or later, is that these unfortunate lifters find that they have neglected their financial and career growth, have not developed solid friendships and have not grown mentally or spiritually. When they reach this burn-out zone, they often completely disappear from the gym entirely. I can personally admit that this is a mistake I made in the past.

Young lifters that abandon their education in pursuit of lifting do themselves a great disservice. The regularity of a class schedule or career is ideal for success in lifting, providing regular breaks for meals and mental challenges so that both the mind and body are equally developed. An attempt to improve in all of the above listed areas tends to encourage greater growth in ALL of the aspects of yourself, as well as an overall improvement in your level of happiness.


Goals are NOT wishes. Wishes are things we hope for, as a child hopes to find a particular toy under the Christmas tree. Goals, on the other hand, are accomplishments that we INTEND TO MAKE HAPPEN. We are all responsible for our own future. The decisions and actions we take today determine how we will live our lives from this point forward. Goals allow us to determine the direction in which our future will unfold. To be effective, goals need to be:

  1. Realistic
  2. Have measurable outcomes
  3. Have a time limit in which they need to be accomplished

Why must a goal be realistic? Few of us have the genetic gifts to become a professional bodybuilder, national champion fitness competitor or world record-holding powerlifter. With enough time and effort though, most of us ARE capable of creating impressive physiques and enhancing our physical abilities far beyond the norm. By setting goals that are unrealistic (i.e. putting 50 pounds on your bench in two weeks), you will tend to only demotivate yourself and crush your drive. A goal that is achieved, followed by a second goal and a third, sets in motion a winning momentum that makes success a regular part of one’s life.

Tying a measurable outcome to your goal is also vital. Without a concise objective, how can one really tell that they have reached their destination? By giving yourself a calendar date, a PL total, an exercise poundage, bodypart measurement, bodyfat level or bodyweight to strive for, it creates a solid, tangible finish line, able to easily be grasped by the mind.

Without a time limit, goals are meaningless. Putting a deadline on a goal adds a sense of urgency to your task. An impending deadline is your best motivator for success.


German novelist and playwright, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “It is not enough to take steps which might someday lead to a goal; each step must itself be a goal and a step likewise.” When one looks at that lofty goal spelled out on paper it might, in and of itself, seem to be an overwhelming task. For this reason, we need to break the goal down into bite-sized segments. A fifty-pound increase on your bench press by this time next year may seem like a huge goal, but breaking it down into five-pound increases each month (with two months to slide) not only seems manageable, but seems a highly-probably, if one works hard.
As you can see from this example, the monthly increases are reasonable and achievable. Individually, a five-pound increase on your bench is nothing to brag to your friends about. Putting fifty pounds on your bench in twelve months however, will translate to a dramatically thicker chest and more powerful upper body.

An anonymous speaker once said, “Set short term goal and you’ll win games. Set long term goals and you’ll win championships.” Whether you want to win championships or just become the best you can be, goals of various time lengths can make that possible. To simplify things, let me describe each level of goals:

Life Goal: This can be thought of as your mission. Its purpose is to provide direction for all of your goals, defining the path of your life’s journey. Because of the long-term nature of life goals, they are the most malleable in nature. This is because they will need to be adjusted as life circumstances change. This does not mean that they should be vague or haphazardly formed. The more detailed your life goals are, the greater they will serve to direct and inspire you. Marcus Aurelius once said, “A man’s worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions.” The ambitious pursuit of worthwhile goals leads to a fulfilled life.

Yearly Goals: A calendar year is an ideal length of time for making big improvements in your body. Gains of up to 50-65 pounds on your power lifts are possible with a year’s worth of concerted effort. Also, noticeable changes in bodyweight and composition are possible over this length of time.

Seasonal (Quarterly) Goals: Three to four-month periods are perfect for goal setting. This allows for a different focus over various seasons of the year, all building towards your yearly goal. For example, one might spend a season prepping for a meet (blast) followed by a lower intensity recuperative (dust) phase. You might also spend three months on a hypertrophy-based block in which you give your typical movement patterns a break and pack on some added size. While all of these phases have differing focuses, they work together to reach the goal of increased strength with greater muscle size.

Monthly Goals: A month is a perfect length of time for goals relating to modest bodyweight changes or increases in training poundages.

Weekly Goals: These may also include goals that have more to do with establishing consistency (i.e. cardio three-times a week). See the sidebar on Consistency-Based Goals.

Daily Objectives: Daily goals are an essential part of your goal-setting program. These can include nutrition goals (consuming a certain amount of protein daily or keeping daily carb intake below a certain level). You also should make workout objectives a regular part of your training days. This might be a new PR in the Safety Bar Squat and a rep increase in something like Chins. The important thing is that you give yourself something to shoot for so that, a year from now, all those small incremental increases add up to noticeably bigger weights in all of your exercises.


Those that find that the hectic pace and multiple priorities in their lives makes it difficult to get to the gym, might choose to set a calendar consistency goal. This is an excellent method for developing the scheduling habits you might lack. A good time period for this is four weeks. Let’s say you have completely fallen off the wagon and your goal is to consistently train four times a week. Get your calendar and mark a red square around the entire week from Sunday to Saturday with a magic marker. Do this for the next four weeks. Each week counts as a separate goal and is counted as a victory when you complete your four workouts. Once you’ve accomplished this goal for four weeks, you should find that you have reset your patterns and organized your life again so that training has becomes priority.

I used this technique during a particularly busy period of my life. I found that my career and family obligations were interfering with my normal training consistency. Since I love to train, missing my workouts just served to further diminish my quality of life. I made a firm commitment to a consistency goal. Knowing that my workload on some days might make me work late into the evening, I decided that, should I miss my scheduled workout, I would drive to the nearest 24-hour gym (nearly an hour away), pay the daily guest fee and get my training done, regardless of the time. After two 45-minute drives for 3:00AM workouts in a row, you will be amazed how quickly I became more efficient with my time!

When it comes to reaching physique goals, your priorities should always be: 1) training, 2) nutrition, 3) sleep and recovery. Training ALWAYS comes first. Without it, what does one need to recover from?
At its simplest level, if you were to clearly define your ultimate goal and do one thing each day to move yourself closer to reaching that goal, you would reach levels of success far beyond those of the average person!



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