How to set your strength goals

Many people find that the urgencies in life take up so much time, there’s no time to set goals. As much as we throw around the term ‘goal setting’ these days, it’s still a hugely over-looked factor in increasing motivation and purpose in your training and life.

This article deals with some ideas on the best ways to go about it, particularly in regards to goals for strength.

Take action on your ‘wants’

A lot of people say things like ‘I want to get stronger’ or ‘I want to put on muscle’ and simply leave it at that when it comes to setting their goals. But this type of statement is their desired outcome – simply what they want – like a wish. We need to go a step further than this and decide on some specific goals – things we will do – in order to obtain this outcome.

Set your action and performance goals

Outcome goals are your target – your desired end result. Action goals are different; they are things that you need to DO (perform, act upon) in order to GET the goals you ultimately want.

Having action / performance goals in different areas of our training helps us stay motivated and see continued progress.

Most people want to set goals along the lines of strength, fitness and fat loss. If you want to improve in all three of these areas, you’ll need to set different goals for each – and you’ll probably end up with numerous goals. Having a few goals (within reason!) means you are more likely to hit at least one of them, and feel a surge of satisfaction and fulfilment.

Remember your habit and behaviour goals

Remember, don’t spread yourself too thin by setting too many habit and behaviour goals; these tend to work much better if you focus on one at a time.

Action goals are different to habits. Action goals are outcome related and have a time-frame. Habits are something you want to master and continue to keep as a behaviour in your life, such as exercising every day or getting enough sleep.

Goal setting for strength

Setting goals for strength differs greatly to setting goals for fitness. When it comes to fitness goals, there are many recommendations to base your increases on roughly 10% each week. Strength can be a lot trickier, because there are many more variables to consider than with fitness goals. If your goal is to get stronger, and you try to increase your strength by 10% each week, you’ll find the figures for many exercises are completely unrealistic.

Rather than using a percentage of increase, you may wish to increase the weight by one ‘increment’ every week. In most cases, this will be a total of 2.5kg (1.25kg on each side of the bar if you are using a barbell).

Want strength results quicker?

If you wanted to get stronger quicker, you could set your goal to increase in 5kg increments. As long as you are recovering properly with sufficient rest and nutrition, it can be done – but there are many factors which will affect your success. These include your training history, time between sets and workouts, genetics, mental strength, time of day, day of the week, hydration and energy levels and much more.

Consider also the difference with smaller muscle groups like triceps and biceps. Dumbbells generally go up by 2 or 2.5kg so for smaller muscles and harder exercises, you’ll increase slower.

Be the best you can be – target your goal

Remember you can always do half the set at the heavier weight, quickly drop down and continue until you get to your desired number of reps.

If your goal is simply to get stronger and you don’t care about hypertrophy (muscle gain) or fat loss, then keep your reps low – around 4-6 to failure.

If you want muscle growth (and women, don’t be scared of this! You won’t suddenly look like a sumo wrestler) then keep the reps around the 8-10 rep range – as in, you physically can’t perform more than 10 reps with good technique. The last few reps should be hard.

For muscle endurance, go for 12+ reps, even up to 20 reps, but don’t mistake the ‘burn’ you get from high reps from the muscle pain of ‘DOMS’ (delayed onset muscle soreness) which is responsible for muscle tears and subsequent growth.

Photo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – Ambro

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