goal setting

Remember Why You're Here

The other day, one of our baseball guys was deadlifting and, upon finishing his second work set, turns to me and asks if he can put another ten pounds on the bar. Given that his form was less-than-impeccable, I gave him a simple "No." In fact, I wanted him to take it down ten to twenty pounds, as it was his lumbar spine that was buckling (I wouldn't have been as concerned if it was something like failing to keep his neck packed or forgetting to finish the movement with his glutes). He immediately became exceedingly frustrated and started rambling about how he felt like he wasn't as strong as he thought he should be, and that he ought to move UP, not down, for his next deadlift set, how he felt it had been too long since he improved in his squat and deadlift, yadda yadda yadda.

I asked him: "Well, how have you been playing on the baseball field?"

He replies: "I've hit more home runs, my 60-yard dash time improved, and my movement, positioning, and throwing from home plate has become way better as compared to last year." (note: he's a catcher)

I then reminded him that he had averaged only one training session every 7-10 days over the past six months at SAPT (due to in-season baseball and then traveling the country playing on various club/select teams), so he was not only fortunate to have maintained his strength levels in the weight room but also - and more importantly - his markers of sport performance had IMPROVED.

I concluded with: "Don't you think this is a pretty darn good indicator that we have accomplished what you came to SAPT for in the first place?"

Our goal with him was not to put up huge lifting numbers, but to help him become a better baseball player. Does squatting, deadlifting, performing single-leg work, and movement training help us get there? Absolutely, but there's a point where we can't force bad form just for the sake of hitting a weightlifting PR that day. Not to mention, we each get only one spine. Yes, just one. It's not worth destroying it over a 10-lb deadlift personal best.

Now, this athlete is pretty accomplished (committed to a Division 1 program and was one of only two players in the entire Northern Va region to be named to the Nationals roster for the Area Code Games), so I couldn't blame him for wanting to succeed in every endeavor he put himself into. But it reminded me of something I heard from Jim Wendler when he was talking about strength training the football team under him:

"We're chasing wins, not numbers."

So simple and profound. So often we get caught up in the minutia that we forget what our primary goal was in the first place. We can't see the forest for the trees, so to speak.


Don't forget to keep the primary goal, the goal.

- If your goal is sport performance, remember that it's not the end goal to have a gigantic bench press or squat. - If your goal is fat loss, why are you obsessed about your strength levels not being what they used to be? - If your goal is maximal strength development, should you really be performing three to four conditioning sessions a week so that, heaven forbid, your "work capacity" slightly diminishes?

Heck, I remember during the Fall of 2009 I was following a program specifically designed to improve my squat, bench, and deadlift numbers. Yet, I was also performing these insane conditioning sessions multiple days per week (see video below), and wondering why my numbers were stalling!

Note: Yes, if I could go back in time, I'd give myself a quick scissor kick to the face.

My mentality in 2009 reminded me of a football player we're currently working with. He's about 170lbs soaking wet, and has been musing that he can't seem to put on any weight. But when we give him some very practical suggestions on adding some size he responds with, "Well, I also want to keep myself looking good, too."

(Dude, don't worry, your six-pack isn't going to go anywhere if you pack on some size in order to open up a can on the football field).

It's tempting to chase multiple qualities at one time, but I've found that the body responds better to sticking to ONE goal at a time, as opposed to trying tackle everything at once. In other words, it would be better for you attack fat loss, HARD, for one to two months, and then go back to your standard strength-oriented program afterward than it would for you to try and accomplish both (fat loss and setting lifting PRs) at the exact same time.

So, to conclude, remember why you're in the gym in the first place. The big picture, so to speak; and allow that to dictate your choices. Don't miss the forest for the trees.

Forward Thinking


As many of you know, Steve Jobs (CEO and co-founder of Apple) passed away earlier this week. While I'm not going to pretend that I closely followed his career or that I know more about him than any of the local magazines or newspapers can tell you, I will say it's obvious he was a brilliant inventor, played a major role in expediting our plunge into the digital age, revolutionized the music industry, and was overall Head Ninja in the technology sector. And, although I've never been too "big" on most graduation speeches (I honestly don't remember a thing from mine) Jobs's commencement speech to the Stanford graduates of 2005 was pretty incredible. I think anyone, college-aged or not, can learn something from it and apply it to their life:

Here are a few other Jobs quotes I stumbled across through a quick Google search:

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” (taken from the speech in the video)

It's clear that, judging from his products and quotes, Jobs was a very forward-thinking person. Regardless of your views on Apple products or on Jobs as a person, there's no denying that he accomplished what he set out to do by always thinking multiple steps ahead. He was light years ahead of society when it came to technology, and a possessed a creative force that most of us would only dream of. And, as a result, put a ding in the digital universe, just as he said he wanted to do.

Anyway, this got me thinking: those with forward thinking mindsets in the training realm are always the most successful.

Always train for what you want to happen one year, five years, and even ten years from now, but not necessarily for what you want to happen immediately. In the future, when you're older, do you want to be strong, healthy, and be able to play a Thanksgiving game of flag football with your kids without pulling a groin? Or able to go on a hike with your church group without becoming winded? OR, do you want to be injured, overweight, and hardly able to walk the stairs to your office without gasping for air?

You might be able to get away with it now, but sooner or later bad training and eating habits are going to catch up with you.

Some of the athletes at SAPT get very frustrated when I don't let them move up in weight because their form simply wasn't good enough. Given that they're paying me to improve their performance in a sport, my first and foremost goal is to do my absolute best to keep them injury free. And, if their form isn't as close to perfect as they can get, then sorry, but you may not be the Don Juan you think you are. Stay put right there until you can move it WELL. Can I prevent them from walking in front of a bus or getting scissor kicked to the face by Jack Bauer if they step in his way of killing terrorists? No, but I can at least do my part with what I'm given.

Some of the guys have become very impatient when I don't let them back squat. Well, you have to earn the right to back squat and say, using one of many examples, you have anterior shoulder instability, it's highly unlikely that I'll give you that exercise! Even if you can get away with it now and push through some slight discomfort, I want to play no role whatsoever in contributing to the chronic shoulder pain you may experience down the road.

Along a somewhat-similar line, it blows me a way when some of the baseball guys or volleyball girls in our area show up at SAPT 6-weeks out from the season and say, "Uh, yeah, I really want to make varsity this year so you gotta get my sprint time down and/or vertical improved."

What?! Lol. Umm, hate to break it to you but you should have gotten started, oh, I don't know, maybe last year when your previous season ended? (Don't mistake me, I'm not talking about early sport specialization here....more just the mindset of doing SOMETHING year round, even if it's going snowboard in the winter and remaining in a solid strength and conditioning program year round to keep you moving well).

Anyway, forward thinking. That's the point of all this. Think of where you want to be five years from now and then trace back the steps that are required to get you there, starting with today. Is what you're doing right NOW going to put you one step further?