How To Set Smart Strength Training Goals
By Mekita Rivas, VIDA editor/member
It’s a new year, and you’ve got goals! Strength training goals, to be exact. But what does that actually mean? As with many fitness-related goals, it depends on the person. Some may wish to build upon the foundation they already have, while others may be starting off with a totally fresh plate.
No matter where you are in your fitness journey, strength training is essential. Lisa Lipscomb, Director of Personal Training and Nutrition at VIDA Fitness, says that strength training improves bone density, increases metabolism, and has been shown to boost your mood and brain activity. Ahead, Lisa walks through everything you need to consider as you’re setting your strength training goals for the upcoming year.
If you’re new to strength training, what should you keep in mind?
One year is a long-term timeframe, so you have to have daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals. All goals should be slightly challenging, but they should also be doable, measurable, and specific. And there should be consequences if you don’t execute your plan. You also need to be prepared to re-evaluate your goals and plans as time goes on. It’s important to be realistic, which will help you be successful.
What are some examples of common strength training goals you often hear about?
Some people say they want to get “toned,” “bigger,” “healthier,” and “stronger.” All these goals are not specific enough for you to know that you’ve attained them. Defining goals with a specific timeline is a much better approach, such as wanting 14-inch upper arms by June 1 or squatting 250 lbs by Christmas.
Which kinds of goals do you recommend, especially for novices?
I recommend figuring out what your ultimate goals look and feel like. Be very specific and prioritize the goals. Then ask if they are realistic for real life today — not next week or next month. Going to the gym five times per week is a good goal, but if realistically your schedule will only allow twice per week, then you may need to adjust expectations. Think of framing it as: “I will go to the gym no less than two times per week, and be excited when I’m able to go three times per week.” Specific to strength goals, I would set up a baseline on certain test exercises that relate to certain goals. I would do those test exercises every two to six weeks to see if they are improving.
Is there a secret to actually reaching your goals?
You have to keep your goals at the forefront of your thought process. It’s a good idea to set up social support systems, such as having friends and family with the same goals, hiring a trainer, having a daily mantra, and keeping up with weekly check-ins or measurements for progress.
Progress can be measured in several different ways depending on the person. I would suggest process goals and outcome goals. Examples of process goals include going to the gym three days per week for the next 12 weeks, working with a registered dietitian, and training with a personal trainer for 12 weeks. Outcome goals are things like being able to do 12 pull-ups or having 14-inch arms. Also, many novices do well on the fitness side or the nutrition side, but they rarely do both well. It’s good to meet with qualified professionals so you don’t make common mistakes, which will accelerate your progress more than anything.
For more seasoned athletes and lifters, how can they come up with goals that put them on the path to improved performance and setting new PRs?
Having an additional set of eyes on movement, developing a well-rounded periodization plan, and sticking to it are the best ways to improve performance. Seasoned athletes and lifters all do the things that they like, and they avoid things they are not good at. You should be willing to be uncomfortable, but you have to balance that with rest. Some athletes and lifters overtrain in an effort to reach their goals, but they often lose muscle or performance due to too much activity or not properly fueling up. Work with a trainer to make a plan with adequate rest and specific periods to work on endurance, maintenance, and power. Also, work with a registered dietitian to ensure that you are fueling correctly for each phase. Most success is made in those planned transitions.
What makes VIDA an ideal place to work on your strength training goals, regardless of your experience level?
We have great, well-educated personal trainers and registered dietitians who work with all skill levels. They are available to discuss realistic goals, no matter what phase of the fitness continuum you are currently at. Plus, each member gets a complimentary personal training and nutrition session to help put them on the right track. Taking advantage of those benefits is a great first step toward reaching your goals.