In my opinion, there aren’t many feelings you can experience as a bodybuilder that are better than walking out of the gym after an awesome workout! Striving for productive and efficient training sessions is usually our number one priority. After all, this is the very first step toward developing an outstanding physique.

How do you define a “great” workout? What are your criteria? What specifically needs to happen during your training session for you to consider it great? As you already know, the method of evaluating the quality of a particular workout can differ from person to person.

Aren’t your workouts much better now than they were when you first started training? Of course, they are! Most bodybuilders I talk to feel this way about their training sessions.

I feel as though my workouts are better than they have ever been. In fact, the quality of my workouts has dramatically improved since just last year. That’s quite an accomplishment when you consider I’ve been training at a high level of performance for over a decade.

Every step of the way along my bodybuilding journey, however, I would have told you my training sessions were great. How could that be possible? Why did I feel that way? With my initial level of knowledge and experience, they all couldn’t have been great back then–no matter what I thought at the time.

Haven’t you always felt your workouts were great as well? Although you may not feel that way now about your past workouts, didn’t you think they were fantastic? Overestimating the quality of our training sessions is a common problem for many of us.

Specific Training Goals Set the Stage for Outstanding Workouts

In my case, I didn’t set specific training goals during my first few years of training; so, how could I realistically have come to the conclusion I was having great training sessions when I had no clear-cut definition of what that meant? I couldn’t have!

Most of us go to the gym and have a general plan for which body parts we are going to train. Hopefully, we also have a good idea of which exercises we will do. If we are very good at planning our workouts, we have a goal of how many repetitions we want to perform and how much weight we are going lift on that particular day. The extent of our planning usually stops there. Very rarely do we get specific about what our goals are for that session.

The purpose of this article is to get you to set specific training goals and review them before every workout.

As I stated earlier, how to determine the quality of a particular workout can vary from person to person. What does a great workout mean to you? Do you need to lift a certain amount of weight? Do you need to perform a certain number of repetitions during every set before you feel a workout is great? Do the muscles you’ve trained need to feel a certain way? For some people, if they just show up at the gym, they feel their workouts were great!

However you choose to determine the quality of your workouts, you must first set clear standards in your mind. How else would you know that your efforts are right on track–or in dire need of improvement?

I urge you to invest the time to get specific about what’s most important to you during your training session, set new standards, and evaluate your past performance with the new set of standards you’ve created. Then, to make sure you are always aware of those standards, I encourage you to review them before every workout.

The Steps for Creating Your Training Goals

Step One: Brainstorm

First, generate a list of objectives or goals you wish to accomplish during your workouts and as a result of your efforts. Don’t spend too much time thinking about which ones you value the most. During this step of the procedure, just “brainstorm,” or create a list. After listing all the things that come to your mind first, you’ll have plenty of time to add more goals or narrow down your list later.

The objectives or goals you write down can be long-term goals (e.g. getting your bodyweight up to 190 pounds or becoming a national-level bodybuilder); medium-range goals (e.g. getting in great shape for beach weather or winning next year’s bodybuilding show); or short-term goals (e.g. lifting your heaviest weight or remaining especially focused during every workout). I suggest that you choose a combination of all three types of training goals.

Step Two: Select Your Most Important Training Goals

Secondly, narrow your list. Select the training goals you feel are most important and write them down on a piece of paper. When you list your most important training goals, be specific. The more clear you are about exactly what you want to accomplish, the better your opportunity to achieve success.

You may want to start off with only five or six of your most important goals. You can add a few more but only after you’ve consistently met your initial objectives during most of your training sessions.

As you determine your goals, be sure you are asking enough from yourself. The more you ask from yourself, the more productive you will become. Are you currently asking enough from yourself during your workouts, without any excuses or rationalization, to achieve your definition of “great”?

That said, you must avoid overwhelming yourself with a list that is too long. How will you know your list is too long? You’ll know you are overwhelmed when you have trouble reaching the majority of your training goals. Instead of feeling the tremendous power of this exercise, you’ll start feeling as though you are disempowered. You’ll begin to feel like a failure after every session by overwhelming yourself. Ironically, you may actually be doing very well but are unable to realize and appreciate what you can accomplish. You may have just established too many ambitious goals too soon!

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Step Three: Review Your Goals Before Every Workout

You must invest the time to review your training goals before each and every workout. A couple of minutes needed to read your list will prove invaluable over time.

I can’t stress upon you enough the power of your subconscious mind when you choose to use it to its full potential. When you read your list of goals before every workout, you plant the seed of productivity that is activated when you are training–even when you are unaware it’s working. Trust me on this one!

Creating one specific training goal alone (and reviewing that goal before every workout) has catapulted my training performance to a higher level. This far into my career, that’s a big statement!

If you were to look at my list of training goals, you’d notice Number 10 states;

“I will constantly redefine what ‘absolute failure’ means to me by pushing myself to give more effort than ever before during every set. I will remind myself to do this before every set.”

Because I have read this training goal, along with the rest of my goals, before every workout for quite some time now, I train this way without even consciously thinking about it. This type of effort, especially over the course of time, generates a tremendous amount of momentum and rock-solid muscle as well. Consistently producing workouts in which every set is trained until absolute failure will undoubtedly build an outstanding physique.

I’m pleasantly surprised by how my workouts have constantly improved year after year. One of the most important reasons why this has occurred is that I’ve taken the time to set specific training goals over the last four or five years. I’ve made sure I’ve reviewed them before every session. After consistently meeting the standards I’ve set, I’ve always set even higher ones and reviewed them before every workout as well.

I’m always dumbfounded when a bodybuilder who has only been training a couple of years tells me he has plateaued and his training performance is just about as good as it can possibly get. Assuming that person has even taken the time to create specific training goals (which I seriously doubt), he can always set more ambitious ones.

Take the time to list your training goals. Commit to reviewing them before your next workout and before every one after that. You will soon create such a high standard of mental preparedness, productivity, and intensity, that you will never go back to the level of performance you once thought was great. You’ll soon see why I believe your previous workouts won’t compare to the outstanding sessions you’ll begin to have!

Example Of Training Goals – Simple

1. Win the Team Universe Heavyweight and Overall Titles. Train heavily and challenge myself to train heavier each and every workout. Train with focus, passion, and intensity.

2. Constantly strive for a better, more effective range-of-motion during every set.

3. Work every set to true, undeniable absolute failure.

4. Push my cardiovascular training to be just as effective and efficient as my weight training.

5. Support my weight training and cardiovascular training with exceptional nutritional and supplementation habits. Drink at least two gallons of water a day.

Example Of Training Goals – More Involved

1. I will build upon my outstanding training habits by improving my form and range of motion-while still lifting heavy weight!

2. My quadriceps will be my most improved body part this year. I will add mass and shape–making my physique totally complete and unbeatable!

3. I will achieve these ambitious goals by taking my training performance to an entirely new level, paying meticulous attention to my nutritional habits, implementing efficient cardiovascular training, and mastering my emotional state on a consistent basis.

4. I will arrive at the gym on time–in a peak state and expect to have an outstanding workout.

5. I will pre-frame and plan what it will take to have an outstanding workout and identify the challenges I must overcome.

6. I will constantly search for ways to become more efficient during my workouts.

7. I will constantly strive to learn more about training and the way my body responds to my training. I will record my observations for later use.

8. I will constantly strive to become more focused during my workout session. I will remain quiet from the moment I finish my last warm-up set until the end of my weight training to help my concentration.

9. I will strive to push myself to a higher level of performance during each workout by lifting more weight, doing more reps, improving my range of motion, improving my form, or all of the above.

10. I will continually redefine what “absolute failure” means to me by pushing myself to give more effort than ever during every set. I will remind myself to do this before every set.

11. I will review and evaluate my daily workout performance-whether by doing so mentally or writing it down after every session. I will ask myself What was great? What wasn’t perfect YET? What can I do to make my workouts more enjoyable, efficient, and productive?

12. I will finish my workout promptly and efficiently.

13. I will pre-frame and plan what it will take to have an outstanding workout during tomorrow’s session and identify the challenges I must overcome.

14. I will meet the cardiovascular training goals I set for myself each day.

15. I will take my post-workout supplements immediately after my training session.

16. I will start the recovery process immediately by eating meal #1 right after my workout.

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How to Use the Power of Goal Setting to Take Your Workouts to the Next Level!

by AST Sports Science time to read: 10 min