Charting the Course: Get a GRiP on your Training Goals

by Jason Kapnick

Johnny Pain and Jason Kapnick exchanging friendship bracelets at a recent Greyskull Methods Seminar. His took me 16 hours to make, and I used 6 colors of floss.

People are always asking me for advice on fitness and nutrition. “What should I be eating?”, “What do I do in the weight room?” etcetera. The first thing I ask these people is “Well, what are you goals?” The answer I normally get is along the lines of “I want to lose weight”, “I want to get stronger,” “I want to get jacked.” These are fine places to start, but ultimately your goals need to be more clearly defined, have a good reason behind them, and be directly applicable to your programming. People with nebulous, poorly-defined goals invariably find themselves in a place where they may have made some progress, but are unfocused and unable to take the next step. Almost always, they fall off the wagon. For the past 8-9 years, I have made a conscious effort around New Years to observe and interact with people (new faces in the gym, people at the office, friends, family, etc.) who are starting a new diet/training regimen, and I’ve tried to observe what the qualities of a successful lifestyle change are. What separates winners from losers? By far, the single most important factor which determines these peoples’ success is whether or not they have appropriately defined their goals, and whether or not they re-visit and re-evaluate these goals on a regular basis. This article will discuss how to appropriately define one’s goals and how to apply them to a proper program. Successful goals will have the format Goal, Reasoning, Plan, or “GRiP.”

Goals

Set your sights on 1. Long Term Goals (a year or two) 2. Medium Term Goals (A few months) and 3. Short Term Goals (next week).  Your long-term goals must inform specific, actionable Medium-Term and Short-Term goals. For example, you could say “In the next 18 months, I want to bench 2x bodyweight and squat 3x bodyweight at 10% BF or less. In the next 3 months, I want to bench 315 and squat 455 for reps, and complete VC #1.This week, I will hit 295×7 on my 5+ set for bench, squat 425×6, and I will do VC1 training 5 days this week, hitting 30 burpees in 90 seconds by Sunday.  ” Notice how each layer contributes to the one above it.

Further, all of these goals should have certain characteristics:

  • “Reaching”—Your goals should push you to your limit, or just beyond. If you are setting goals that you will hit with 100% certainty, you’ve set your sights too low. Pick something that makes you a little nervous about whether or not you’ll actually accomplish it, but that you feel confident you can actually do if you work your ass off. Of course, this will require you to actually work your ass off.
  • Affirmative—Your goals must be worded in affirmative terms.  In other words, you need to say what you ARE going to do, rather than what you aren’t going to do. “I’m not going to eat junk food” doesn’t work. You won’t eat junk food, but what WILL you eat?
  • Quantifiable—I’ve touched on this a bit already, but you need to be able to determine whether or not you’ve hit your goals. In science they use the term “falsifiable hypothesis”—that is, a good hypothesis needs to be able to be disproven through experimentation. If your goal is “I want to look great”, that’s not quantifiable—how will you determine when you look great? “Good enough” is never good enough.  Choose a number to hit, a competition to participate in, etc.

Reason

This is pretty basic—you need to know why you are doing things. There should be an overarching reason for why you’ve set these goals. Why do you train? For your Short and Medium terms goals, the level above it should be a big part of your reason. To continue the example above “I want to bench 295×7 this week because it will further me along the path to benching 315 for reps, which will eventually get me to 2x bodyweight. This will help me achieve a standard of strength associated with looking and being strong. I want to look strong and be strong because it will make me healthy, functional, confident, and a walking water park.” The goal and the reason are inextricably linked—don’t just do shit for the sake of doing it.

Plan

If you’ve done all of the above, the path to success ought to be pretty clear by now. A few points I’ll make as far as keeping on the path:

  • Pick a plan and stick with it—at least for the medium term. See your plan through. Having clearly defined goals should keep you pretty well focused here, but it bears mentioning: Unless you have a compelling reason to abandon your plan, stay with it. We all know the guy who spends a few weeks focused on strength training, and then decides he wants to do a sprint triathlon, and then a month and half later he’s focused on strength again, never having achieved his goals in either. A moving target is hard to hit—stay focused. By the way, this includes “program shopping.” Don’t do it.
  • Be accountable—make your goals public. You’re a hell of a lot less likely to welch out on your commitments when you’ve told half your friends you’re planning on competing in a Tough Mudder next spring (or whatever your goal may be).  Posting your goals on your StrengthVillain.com log (if you don’t have one, start one) is a great start, but I’d recommend telling actual people too. It’s much easier to stop going on the forums than it is to tell your friends “Lifting weights got too tough so I quit.”
  • Track your progress—Goes hand-in-hand with the above. Keep a log, journal, or some written record of what you are doing. Where are you on the path? Again, all of this ties together—tracking your progress will keep you accountable, and will help you evaluate and tweak your goals as necessary. If you don’t already have a log on SV, start one as soon as you finish reading this.
  • Evaluate and re-assess—Your goals are not static. They will evolve. Obviously your short term goals need to revisited often. Sit down on Sunday night and look at your log from last week. How many reps did you get—did you meet last week’s goals? How many reps do you want next week? Every 8-10 weeks, look at your medium-term goals. Did you accomplish the goals you set for yourself 8-10 weeks ago? Do your long-term goals still apply? Basically, every few months, start back from the beginning of this article and make sure you’re still on track.

Your Homework: If you can’t immediately tell me what your goals are, do some soul searching and figure out what they are. Why do you train? What do you want to accomplish in the next few months? What will you do this week that will help you get there? Chart your course, and then post it on your log. Let’s see it.


Iron enthusiast and StrengthVillain contributor Jason Kapnick has amassed a wealth of training knowledge across many disciplines throughout his career. He has previously competed at very high levels in lacrosse, brazilian jiu jitsu, and raw powerlifting. You can follow him on twitter (@jkapnick) and follow his log in the SV Training Logs section under the name “Atlas Deadlifted”. Jason works lives and works in Manhattan, and is a terrific resource for anyone training out of that area.

 

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7 Responses

  1. Kyle

    Jason, thank you for the great article! Goals, goals, goals!

    May 14, 2011 at 2:14 am

  2. sapper09

    JP,

    Is that friendship bracelet embedded in the back of your hand, or what?! haha 🙂

    May 14, 2011 at 9:21 am

  3. sapper09

    Jason,

    Congrats on the article, mate! Just finished reading it and it is excellent. A great step-by-step guide to setting better goals. I think i definitely fall into the category of having nebulous goals and not sticking with them over time.

    Looking forward to revising my goals and regaining some focus.

    Cheers!

    May 14, 2011 at 9:33 am

  4. Vim

    Good stuff. Ive always been pretty good with sticking to something; i get quite obsessive with things if im interested in them, maybe a little too much. Works though 🙂

    Couple of my goals atm are to squat 300lbs and bench bodyweight. Hopefully shouldnt be too long.

    May 14, 2011 at 11:30 am

  5. The Dane

    I don’t do this in a very structured manner myself, yet everytime I do bother to review the last 3-6 months, I usually reap great benefits, in adapting my training.

    Very good article. Thanks

    Dave

    May 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm

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