Real World Goal-Setting

Reaching Measured Objectives

By: Steve Colescott
Featured Training

Goals for bodybuilders, fitness competitors or powerlifters?

Who needs ‘em? Well, if you want to push your strength potential and build the best physique of which you are capable you do! We live in a world in which nutrition, supplements and training techniques have advanced to the level that nearly any healthy individual has the ability to build an impressive physique. Unfortunately, most lifters progress little from year-to-year.

Goal setting is a powerful catalyst for success and will provide a huge payoff with only a minor time investment. If you are ready to take your training to the next level and want potent techniques to bring about noticeable progress, then this article is for you.

Why are goals important? Anton Chekhov wrote, If you cry ‘Forward,’ you must make plain in which direction to go. This is the very core of goal setting. At the most fundamental level, goal setting involves consciously choosing the direction in which one focuses their efforts.

Numerous studies have shown that correct application of goal-setting not only increase the possibility of reaching one’s goals, but can dramatically increase the level of the results and decrease the length of time it takes to reach your objective. In other words, by following the guidelines in this article you can build more muscle faster than ever before.By following the simple steps in this article, you can learn to sidestep these motivational landmines and program yourself for maximal success.

If at this point you cannot see yourself investing a few minutes each day towards goal-setting then maybe you need to decide how badly you really want to succeed as a bodybuilder.


Greek philosopher Epictetus simplified the goal process when he said, First say to yourself what you would be, then do what you have to do. This illustrates the point that your life goal is directly tied into your identity. Deciding exactly what you want is the starting point of the goal-setting process. How do you picture yourself in the future? This should be a realistic but idealized version of you. Since you are reading this magazine, it is a safe conclusion that part of this vision has to do with improvements in your appearance, health and physical abilities.

When choosing goals, they should be outcomes that are challenging. Past articles in this magazine have shown people making truly dramatic improvements so do not be afraid to choose a bold, body-transforming life goal.

The key component in driving your success is your personal passion for your goal. German-born uber-philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, He who has a WHY to live for can endure almost any HOW. Since anything of great worth comes at a price, this passion will be the component that allows you to hurdle over or navigate around the inevitable obstacles that you will encounter.

Your life goal should cover a variety of different areas. The aspects that need to be addressed include: 1) physical development, 2) education, 3) social growth/ personal relationships, 4) family relationships, 5) financial improvement, 6) career growth, and 7) spiritual improvement. While focus is important, being a complete individual is also crucial. Having been around the bodybuilding/fitness industry for over two decades, I’ve seen numerous individuals that are single-mindedly obsessed with the sport. These athletes live bodybuilding and eliminate all outside interests, thinking that blinded focus will speed their success. What happens, sooner or later, is that these unfortunate lifters find that they have neglected their financial and career growth, have not developed solid friendships and have not grown mentally or spiritually. When they reach this burn-out zone, they often completely disappear from the gym entirely.

Young lifters that abandon their education in pursuit of bodybuilding do themselves a great disservice. The regularity of a class schedule or career is ideal for success in bodybuilding, providing regular breaks for meals and mental challenges so that both the mind and body are equally developed. An attempt to improve in all of the above listed areas tends to encourage greater growth in ALL of the aspects of yourself, as well as an overall improvement in your level of happiness.


Goals are NOT wishes. Wishes are things we hope for, as a child hopes to find a particular toy under the Christmas tree. Goals, on the other hand, are accomplishments that we INTEND TO MAKE HAPPEN. We are all responsible for our own future. The decisions and actions we take today determine how we will live our lives from this point forward. Goals allow us to determine the direction in which our future will unfold. To be effective, goals need to be:
  • Realistic
  • Have measurable outcomes
  • Mave a time limit in which they need to be accomplished
Why must a goal be realistic? Few of us have the genetic gifts to become a professional bodybuilder, national champion fitness competitor or record-holding powerlifter. With enough time and effort though, most of us ARE capable of creating impressive physiques and enhancing our physical abilities far beyond the norm. By setting goals that are unrealistic (i.e. putting 50 pounds on your bench in two weeks), you will tend to only demotivate yourself and crush your drive. A goal that is achieved, followed by a second goal and a third, sets in motion a winning momentum that makes success a regular part of one’s life.

Tying a measurable outcome to your goal is also vital. Without a concise objective, how can one really tell that they have reached their destination? By giving yourself a calendar date, an exercise poundage, bodypart measurement, bodyfat level or bodyweight to strive for, it creates a solid, tangible finish line, able to easily be grasped by the mind.

Without a time limit goals are meaningless. Putting a deadline on a goal adds a sense of urgency to your task. An impending deadline is your best motivator for success.


Chris Mithcell bicep curls
A dream without a goal is just a wish.Chris Mitchell

German novelist and playwright, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, It is not enough to take steps which might someday lead to a goal; each step must itself be a goal and a step likewise. When one looks at that lofty goal spelled out on paper it might, in and of itself, seem to be an overwhelming task. For this reason, we need to break the goal down into bite-sized segments. A fifty-pound increase on your bench press by this time next year may seem like a huge goal, but breaking it down into five-pound increases each month (with two months to slide) not only seems manageable, but seems a highly-probably, if one works hard. A breakdown of the goal may resemble the chart at the bottom of the next page.

As you can see from this example, the monthly increases are reasonable and achievable. Individually, a five-pound increase on your bench is nothing to brag to your friends about. Putting fifty pounds on your bench in twelve months however, will translate to a dramatically thicker chest and more powerful upper body.

An anonymous speaker once said, Set short term goal and you’ll win games. Set long term goals and you’ll win championships. Whether you want to win championships or just become the best you can be goals of various time lengths can make that possible.

To simplify things, let me describe each level of goals:

Life Goal: This can be thought of as your mission. Its purpose is to provide direction for all of your goals, defining the path of your life’s journey. Because of the long-term nature of life goals, they are the most malleable in nature. This is because they will need to be adjusted as life circumstances change. This does not mean that they should be vague or haphazardly formed. The more detailed your life goals are, the greater they will serve to direct and inspire you. Marcus Aurelius once said, A man’s worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions. The ambitious pursuit of worthwhile goals leads to a fulfilled life.

Yearly Goals: A calendar year is an ideal length of time for making big improvements in your body. Gains of up to 50-65 pounds on your basic compound exercises (bench press, bent row) or 80-95 pounds on lower back exercises (squats or deadlifts) are possible with a year’s worth of concerted effort. Also, noticeable changes in bodyweight and composition are possible over this length of time.

Seasonal (Quarterly) Goals: Three month periods are perfect for goal setting. This allows for a different focus over various seasons of the year, all building towards your yearly goal. For example, one might spend the winter months building strength in the basic powerlifts. Spring might be reserved for transferring that strength towards more bodypart-specific exercises and an increase in muscular bodyweight. Summer months might involve goals of losing a certain amount of bodyfat while maintaining muscle size. Autumn months might be spent whittling bodyfat levels down to contest levels. While all of these phases have differing focuses, they work together to reach the goal of in increased strength with greater muscle size.

Monthly Goals: A month is a perfect length of time for goals relating to modest bodyweight changes or increases in training poundages.

Weekly Goals: These may also include goals that have more to do with establishing consistency (i.e. cardio three-times a week).

Daily Objectives: Daily goals are an essential part of your goalsetting program. These can include nutrition goals (consuming a certain amount of protein daily or keeping daily carb intake below a certain level). You also should make workout objectives a regular part of your training days. This might be a new PR in the leg press and one more rep on your previous best in the Seated Calf Raise. The important thing is that you give yourself something to shoot for so that, a year from now, all those small incremental increases add up to noticeably bigger weights in all of your exercises.

At its simplest level, if you were to clearly define your ultimate goal and do one thing each day to move yourself closer to reaching that goal, you would reach levels of success far beyond those of the average person!

Hard work and goalsetting gave Rainer Hartman a string of contest victories

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  • Goal Setting. Susan B. Wilson. 1994. AMACOM
  • Setting Strategic goals and objectives. Max D. Richards. 1978. West Publishing Company.
  • Gold Minds. Audrius Barzdukas. 1995. Masters Press.
  • Goals! Brian Tracy. 2003.Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
  • Motivation and Goal-Setting. Jim Cairo. 1998. National Press Publications.
  • Goals and Goal Setting. Laurie Rouillard. 1993. Crisp Publications.
  • The Achievement Zone. Shane Murphy, PhD. 1996. Berkley Books.
  • The Ultimate Athlete. George Leonard. 1974. North Atlantic Books
  • Profile of a Winner. James G. Bennet and James E. Pravitz. 1997. Sports Science International.
  • In Pursuit of Excellence. Terry Orlick, PhD. 2000. Human Kinetics Publishers.
  • Athlete’s Guide to Mental Training. Robert M. Nideffer, PhD. 1985. Human Kinetics Publishers


Those that find that the hectic pace and multiple priorities in their lives makes it difficult to get to the gym, might choose to set a calendar consistency goal. This is an excellent method for developing the scheduling habits you might lack. A good time period for this is four weeks. Let’s say your goal is to consistently train four times a week. Get your calendar and mark a red square around the entire week from Sunday to Saturday with a magic marker. Do this for the next four weeks. Each week counts as a separate goal and is counted as a victory when you complete your four workouts. Once you’ve accomplished this goal for four weeks, you should find that you have organized your life again so that training becomes a priority.

I used this technique during a particularly busy period of my life. I found that my career and family obligations were interfering with my normal training consistency. Since I love to train, missing my workouts just served to further diminish my quality of life. I made a firm commitment to a consistency goal. Knowing that my workload on some days might make me work late into the evening, I decided that, should I miss my scheduled workout, I would drive to the nearest 24- hour gym (nearly an hour away), pay the daily guest fee and get my training done, regardless of the time. After two 45-minute drives for 3:00AM workouts in a row, you will be amazed how quickly I became more efficient with my time!

When it comes to reaching physique goals, your priorities should always be: 1) training, 2) nutrition, 3) sleep and recovery. Training ALWAYS comes first. Without it, what does one need to recover from?

Protein (250 gr/day)1 points per gram
BCAA, Glutamine, HMB2 points per gram
Desiccated Liver, Amino Acids1.5 pts per gram
Creatine Monohydrate10 points
Muscle Synergy29 points
Glutamine Select Plus17 points
Olive or Flaxseed Oil (1 TbspP/ twice daily)10 points a serving
Weight training300 points
Cardio50 points
Sleep (7 hours)100 points
7-9 hours50 points for every half over above 7 hours
Less than 7 hourssubtract 100 pts for every half-hour under 7 hours
Mid-day nap (20-30 minutes) 
720-800Very Good


 If your biggest roadblock to maximizing your gains is consistency, you may find that a Daily Scorecard approach helps to develop good habits. The Daily Scorecard system involves attaching a numerical value to different components of your ideal lifestyle. The graph to the right is an example. This system allows for days in which the participant falls short but, since each day is a fresh start, it encourages them to reboot and do their best the next day.


Lets say your goal is to weight train four days a week and get in at least three twenty-minute cardio sessions a week, as well as to consume 300 grams of protein a day in order to profit from your hard training. You might want to try using a weekly scorecard, similar to the one below.

In this example, the person charting their consistency completed all of the weight and cardio sessions but did not get the full 300 grams of protein on Tuesday, which set back the effectiveness of the entire training week. Having this chart mounted on the refrigerator will serve as a regular reminder of the importance of these three objectives. A perfect week is cause for pride, as one knows they have done their best to move themselves closer to their long-term goals. A week in which one DOES NOT reach all of the requirements should serve as a reminder that more consistent effort is needed.