Goal Setting

Planning Your Fitness Goals

Pop quiz! Who said the following quotes? -Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a seed a long time ago.

-A goal without a plan is just a wish.

-Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

-Man does not plan to fail, he just fails to plan.

-Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

The theme of the day (if you haven't guessed) is an often overlooked aspect of the fitness game: Planning. Coming up with a solid training program for long term success is a key component to reaching your goals.  Let's enlist the wisdom of some historical individuals to discuss the importance of planning for your fitness endeavors.

Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a seed a long time ago.

Answer: Warren Buffet

If fitness is your goal, understand that it is not an overnight pursuit. Developing a strong, fit, athletic body requires a ton of time and patience. If you haven’t started a training program yet, “plant the seed” now! The longer you delay starting on a training regimen, the longer it will take to reach your goals.

If you are a complete novice to training, get some help from a professional to put together a well thought-out plan individualized to your goals, your current levels of fitness, and any limitations you may have.

Those that are completely new to training can't just jump in to a program used by weight room veterans.  A necessary preliminary phase of "developmental" training must be administered to ensure that the trainee learns how to train.  During this phase the intensity will be low, the volume will be moderate, and the primary focus is to become proficient at the basic movement patterns.

A similar approach is often used for incoming freshmen in collegiate sports.  It cannot be assumed that they can just pick up a senior's lifting sheet and follow along.  During a developmental phase we will learn how to stabilize the spine, squat, hinge, press, and pull in multiple planes of motion.

This phase cannot be rushed.  It is always best to prolong a developmental phase and ensure that the trainee moves correctly before bumping up the intensity or volume.  Don't be too hasty to rush into heavier weights before proper movement patterns are completely ingrained.  The consequences may be severe.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Answer: Antoine de Saint-Expurey

What’s your goal? Do you want to be big and strong? Do you want to lose weight? Improve body composition? Destroy your opponents this coming season?

Define and specify your goal, and draw a road map of how you’re going to make it happen. You’re going to have to answer several questions, including but not limited to:

-How many days a week can/will you train? -Which exercises will help you toward your goal? -Which exercises can you do safely? -How will you track progress? -How many weeks/months/years do you have?

Write out your plan of attack and visualize the process toward your goal.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Answer: Abraham Lincoln, CSCS

My man Abe was obviously using this next-level metaphor to allude to the importance of taking the necessary amount of time to build the foundation and base for your fitness goals.

Often labeled “accumulation” stages of training, these initial stages of the training cycle utilize higher volumes and lower intensities, typically in the 50-75% ranges of your 1 rep maximum. These phases have been successfully used to improve work capacity, cardiovascular endurance, ability to recover, hypertrophy, and mobility.

Although these accumulation phases do not employ the use of super heavy weights, these phases “sharpen the axe” so to speak, and make your next stages of training more efficient.

Man does not plan to fail, he just fails to plan.

Answer: Frederick Douglas

Freddy D hits us with the truth with this one. Maybe summer came too early and you aren’t as ripped as you wanted to be. In fact you’re not ripped at all. Were you training consistently year round? Did you eat right even during the wintertime when abs are overrated?

Or maybe you expected to come into the next sports season stronger with some more size, but you show up on the first day underweight. Did you take advantage of the off-season to beef up and train hard?

You should always be thinking ahead in terms of preparation.  If you want to improve performance for the next season, understand that the off-season starts the day after your last game or meet.  Spend those precious weeks wisely.

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

Answer: Iron Mike Tyson

Plan on being flexible! Things will not always go “according to plan” and there will be sudden obstacles that you will have to face. You might get sidelined with the flu, or you might need to take a two-week business trip in the middle of your training cycle. You might even get injured. It happens, and you have to be able to work around it and adjust your plan. Stay calm and continue working towards greatness.

Bonus Link

For a very in-depth overview of detailed planning, check out this legendary two-part series by Dave Tate.

The Periodization Bible

Maximize Each Workout: 3 Practical Tips on Mindset

The mindset associated with any training plan is really what makes the difference in achieving your goals. Sets, reps, exotic exercise selection, equipment, etc. doesn't make a drop of difference if you are only 60% engaged, focused, and mentally committed. Here are 3 practical tips to get you in the zone - and keep you there - for your next workout session:


  • Music: I think everybody knows about this one, but it bears repeating. Music is so powerful because it has the ability to change your mindset and push you in the direction you want to go or need to be for a great training session.
  • Environment: Make sure your training environment is conducive to you achieving (and be able to focus on achieving) your goals. Constantly getting stopped by other gym members to chat? Always feeling ashamed of making any noise whatsoever? Tired of being harassed for breaking out chalk? Well, all these are signs that you may need to reconsider your training environment and get into one that supports your focus and goals.
Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm

Alright, you've got at least two of three tips that you can implement TODAY to get your training dialed up and instantly more productive.

Build Muscle: Top 5 MUSTS!

How is it some build muscle with, seemingly, little to no effort? Putting meat on the bones comes easy for some: they’ll do a couple curls and drink a glass of milk then BAM, they’re swole.  For the rest of us, it can feel like we have to grind and suffer day in and day out for an ounce or two of muscle.  The methods used and the advice given can sometimes become overwhelming.

Do this program... “Take these supplements... Eat 22.75 grams of protein every 76 minutes... Train each bodypart once every ten days.”

Sometimes you’ll hear fitness experts give advice that can be contradictory or confusing, or just plain unreasonable for you and your lifestyle.

Amongst the sea of information on the quest for building muscle out there, here are my top five tips for beefing up.

1. Make Strength a Priority

If your goal is purely to build muscle and you couldn’t care less about your deadlift max, that’s great!  Good for you, and to each their own.  However, understand that as you get stronger you can increase the muscle building stimulus by utilizing greater loads.  We know we need time under tension via resistance training to stimulate growth, but if you continue using the same loading schemes over a period of time your body will eventually adapt and the stimulus dies.

How do we avoid this?  Focus on getting stronger!  Have a handful of “indicator lifts” to use to track progress.  These lifts are ideally big compound lifts that you strive to become stronger in.  Personally I use the the biggie compound exercises: back squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press to track my progress in strength.  Other good options to use are any squat exercise variation (front, box, goblet), push-ups, pull-ups, single leg movements, row exercise variations, prowler work, or farmer’s walks.  Heck, if your goal is to grow enormous biceps focus on getting stronger at the curl.

The point is we want to look back at our own records after months and years pass and see that we are capable of throwing more weights around.  If you make awesome improvements in strength over a significant length of time I’d be willing to bet that you’ve made progress in your lean body mass as well.

2. Volume

This is where we see a big difference in the typical comparison of how a bodybuilder trains versus how a powerlifter By joining a RED franchise, you could earn in excess of ?1,300 more per year than at other national truck driving schools – and significantly more than if you choose to operate as an independent instructor. trains.  The bodybuilder, whose primary goal is to build muscle, will utilize a ton of volume into their training.  A bodybuilder"s workout for his (or her) chest may do something along the lines of the following:

Bench Press


DB Incline Press


DB Flyes


Pec Deck


The powerlifter, on the other hand, may work up to a heavy single on the bench, do a few sets of rows and go home.

Now this is a very simplified comparison of the two training disciplines but you get the message: if mass is your goal, you need more volume in your workouts.

More volume, however, does NOT necessarily mean that you have to be lifting in the 10-20 range for each exercise.  If you did that, you’d be sacrificing too much tension to get those reps in.  Try some different set x rep schemes that will allow for significant volume with moderately heavy weight.  7 sets of 4, 5 sets of 5, and 4 sets of 6 are all good options, especially for your “main movement” of the day.

3. Eat Better

This is a problem for a lot of younger athletes that stay very active year-round.  You need food to live, and you need food for energy, but you need even MORE food to build muscle.

Be honest with yourself!  You want to be bigger and stronger but all you had for breakfast was… nothing?!  Re-think that strategy.

The nutritional side of muscle gain is underestimated too often, and it needs to be a consistent effort everday.  If you eat like an infant all week, but binge at a Chinese buffet on Saturday it doesn’t count.  Eat a lot of good food every single day.

Sometimes it’s not an issue of eating enough food, but eating enough of the right foods.  A diet consistent with cookies and cokes probably won’t be the key to building a big strong body that you work so hard for.

Keep a food log and make sure you’re eating right.  If your still confused and overwhelmed, just have Kelsey analyze your diet and she’ll tell you everything you’re doing wrong.

4. Aim for a Horomonal Response

Your hormones are the key to growth.  Without them we’d be nothing.  No need to go into a complex physiology lesson right now, but here are some quick tips you should keep in mind.

Testosterone: Stimulated by lifting heavy weights.  Hit it hard and heavy, and get adequate rest between sets.

Human Growth Hormone: Stimulated by moderate weights, higher volume and lower rest periods.

Cortisol: Evil. Catabolic stress hormone that doesn’t want you to gain muscle.  Keep it low by getting enough sleep and doing whatever helps you de-stress your life.

5. Be Aggressive!

Building muscle takes hard work and focus.  You can’t just casually hit the gym once every couple of weeks and expect huge gains.  Lift and eat with a purpose, and be stubbornly consistent.  If you hit a plateau, change something up and keep grinding.

Make your goal important, and put in the necessary effort it takes to make it happen!

Give Me Strength!: The Process

It hurts.  The short-term effects from strength training often leads to pushing the body to places the mind may not want to go.  But, if the mind is open and willing, the body can be pushed to places it may not realize are possible.  Strength-training, like any activity, requires a detailed process, which focuses on daily progression.  Below are three tips to help your mind stay right as you get your body tight:

  1. Goal-Setting:  It’s imperative to have daily, weekly, and monthly fitness and strength goals.  These should not just be based on weight loss/gain or amount of weight lifted.  Instead, there should be deliberate practice goals, which focus on progression.  Focus on the process of improvement rather than simply end results. Examples: Daily - Commit to trying one new exercise [pick one to help you put extra emphasis on a weak area or an area you enjoy training] for each daily training session for a month; Weekly - Commit to a weekly schedule of weight training, avoid a haphazard approach... what time does your workout begin? Don't be late!; Monthly - Did you achieve your daily and weekly goals? What does the next month look like, what are you planning to accomplish on a daily level? Is it time to do a quantitative test yet?
  2. Willpower Talk:  Use committed words like “will” over words like “gotta”.  Direct attention to what you will do rather than what you gotta do.  The more you talk about will the more you will get. For example, what is your weakest area that you WILL improve to build muscle and strength? A lower body unilateral exercise, perhaps?
  3. Expectation Scorecard:  Create a scorecard for yourself to grade your mental performance during a strength-workout.  Have categories like attitude, positive self-talk, energy management, etc. so that you will grade your mental-toughness.  This will hold you accountable to maximizing performance.

A couple other things to consider: what is your pre-workout preparation? It probably involves some foam rolling and a warm-up, but are you preparing your mind to take full advantage of the soon to start training session? Are you fully focused when the first set begins?

Like most things in life, success in strength training, fitness, endurance training, fat-loss, etc. is at least 50% mental. The process of engaging in a long term progressive program also teaches excellent (mental) practices that translate into many other areas of life (discipline, goal setting, enjoyment, commitment, etc.).


Great teams hold each other accountable. They are held accountable not just by the coaches, but by the players as well. It’s the players that don’t allow one player to be bigger than the team. The players ensure each player is doing their job. The players often dictate the culture. The players enforce the standards, expectations, and rules of the team. So, as a player, do you have an accountabili-buddy? The accountabili-buddy is a “buddy” or teammate, who will hold you accountable no matter the situation. It needs to be someone you respect, who won’t be afraid to put you in your place when you are acting against your own standards. Teams that have accountabili-buddies are better able to police themselves and meet their daily expectations.

Who is your accountabili-buddy? Who can you rely on in stressful stituaations? What other systems are in place to ensure accountability exists on your team?

Great Balance

The NBA, NHL, and PGA Tour all had pressure filled weekends. Athletes work countless hours to put themselves in a position to perform under that pressure. Sacrifices like missing Mother’s Day, birthdays, and weddings are often made this time of year. Greatness is a word engrained in every athlete’s vocabulary. The one’s who achieve it are applauded and revered. However, what often gets lost in greatness is the power of balance. Balance gives perspective, creates freedom in choices, and allows for the right decision at the right time. It may not be as glamorous as greatness, but it may be harder to achieve, and create more long-term value.

So while continued directed attention to greatness is important, sometimes a little balance goes a long way.