I’m always asking the same questions: Are you looking to get stronger, add muscle, or build endurance? My reasoning behind this has always been to ensure that your current training methodology matches your current goal. What I’ve failed to address, however, is the importance of establishing specific goals prior to programming your workouts.
Now, I know that our readers are not likely to be the type to set New Year’s resolutions when it comes to fitness – you guys are health conscious year round. Having said that, you are still likely to set goals for the year. Poorly defined goals can be as fruitless as broken resolutions. So, before January first rolls around again, let’s resolve to establish measurable goals.
Clearly defined goals demand specific approaches to training. Specific approaches to training are the most likely to yield precise results. We know that when we get desired results, more often than not, goals are met or programs are modified accordingly.
If we don’t base our programs on clearly defined goals, how will we know when we reached them? Say your goal is to get bigger… What does bigger mean? You want to get stronger… How strong? Now, I know there are ladies and gents out there that have specific goals that are based on weight, but that number alone still isn’t precise enough. Where do you want to gain or lose the weight? In what proportions? How will you control for that? Even if your goal is centered on the scale, you still should have a clear vision of how you will carry your new body weight.
How might this look. For me, for instance, I’m sitting at 192lbs (87kg) and would like to grow to 200lbs. That’s my goal in general. My specific goal is to:
• Grow to 200 lean pounds at the beginning of competition season in April
• Carry that weight at 5% Body Fat
• Maintain a 30-inch waist
• Increase chest circumference by 1 inch
• Increase arm circumference by .5 inch
• Increase calf circumference by 1 inch
• Widen lower lat width by 2 inches
• Maintain shoulder, hip and quad/hamstring width/circumference
By establishing clearly defined goals, I can program specific courses of training to match the development I want to see in each area of my body. The primary focus of my chest, arm and calf training will be pure hypertrophy for growth. Because I want to add mass to a specific section of my back, I’ll have to incorporate targeted hypertrophic exercises for the lower back, while limiting myself to muscle maintenance in the shoulders, upper back, as well as with my legs.
Because I want to maintain such a small waist for my 6’2” frame, I’ll also need to restrict my core training to gravity-based movements in lieu of weighted exercises to limit my potential for developing thick abdominal muscle.
What’s more, my nutrition will also have to be substantial enough to support my growth goals while keeping me close enough to my goal body fat percentage so that I won’t have to shed muscle on the way back down to competition leanness.
Of course, this is all based on me, and my specific goals and my past history of trial and error in attempting previous goals. These are all things that we should come to know and understand about our bodies and how they respond to specific approaches to training as we mature.
Why do I find this so important? Even dedicated exercisers can get derailed if they’re not getting the results they want. In fact, perceived lack of progress can be one of the biggest deterrents to sticking with a program or diet. So, let’s take a closer look at where we really want our exercise programs to take us ― down to the most minute detail ― and then plan accordingly. Then, and only then, will every workout count.
Michael Anderson, CPT NCSF
IFBB Physique Pro