Defining and Setting your Personal Goals


 setting path to goal

In order to maximize the success of your weight training program, you need to define a detailed and thorough set of personal health and fitness goals.

Your personal fitness goals should include both short-term goals (typically 1 week to less than 6 months) and long-term goals (typically 6 months to 1 year).

Define your personal fitness goals based on the specific reasons for wanting to improve your overall health and fitness level. In addition, take into account any physical limitations or time constraints when defining your personal fitness goals, as it is important to define a set of goals that, while challenging, are realistic and obtainable.

Envision defining your personal fitness goals as the road map to actually obtaining a lifestyle that is filled with good health and fitness. When defining your personal weight training goals, remember that they should be centered around specific metrics associated with your weight, physical measurements, strength levels and cardiovascular endurance. Below are a few helpful guidelines to assist you in defining realistic and meaningful short and long-term goals:

Short vs. Long-Term Goals


Most individuals will set one long-term goal for every three short-term goals. The short-term goals should facilitate the long-term goal. Examples of short-term and long-term goals include:

Short-Term Goals

  • Perform sit-ups for 3 sets of 12 repetitions on 4 individual days over the course of one week.

  • Replace one meal per day with a salad for one month.

  • Perform one set on every piece of weight lifting equipment at the fitness center during my first two weeks.

Long-Term Goals

  • Lose 50 pounds in eight months.

  • Be able to flat straight bar bench press 180 pounds within 1 year.

  • Increase the measurement of my biceps to 14 inches in 6 months.

Guidelines and Tips for Setting Better Weight Training Goals


    goal flow chart
  1. Individual goals must be specific. Make sure that your strength training goals are not vague and ambiguous as they can easily be reinterpreted based on your outcome.

    For example, setting a goal of being able to flat straight bar bench press 180 pounds is far better than setting a goal of "I want to improve my fitness level."

  2. All goals should be measurable, leaving little doubt as to when you have achieved them.

    For example, if you want to decrease your body fat percentage, you should calculate your body fat percentage prior to beginning your weight training program and then set your body fat percentage goal.

    For instance, if your starting body fat percentage is 28%, you could set a 6-month long-term goal to decrease your body fat percentage to 20%.

    In addition, you could set a 3-month short-term goal to achieve a body fat percentage of 23%. By setting a short-term goal that correlates to a long-term goal, you can monitor your 3-month goal to ensure that you are on schedule to achieve your 6-month long-term goal.

  3. Set weight training goals that are reasonable but not too easy. Goals that are too easy to obtain will provide a false sense of achievement, while goals that are too difficult to obtain will most likely reduce motivation and may even result in discouraging you to the point of giving up.

  4. Set goals with a definite time frame in which they are to be achieved. By defining a specific time frame within which you are to achieve each goal, you force yourself to maintain a high level of focus and accountability. Both short and long-term goals should include a date by which they are to be obtained.

  5. Establish a clear point in time that is your deadline for obtaining any goal. Use these deadlines to meet your long-term goals. By attaching short-term goals (milestones) that are related to a long-term goal, you will be better able to determine if your weight training program is achieving the results you desire within your expected timeframe.

    For example, if your long-term goal is to lose 60 pounds of excess body fat in 1 year, you could set 4 short-term goals, on an interval of every 3 months, to lose 15 pounds of excess body fat. Attaching a time frame to each and every goal will inspire urgency and will assist you in maintaining a high level of focus and motivation.

  6. Clearly define and record goals in a weight training log. This helps to track your progress toward obtaining various goals and can provide a great motivational boost when you see check marks next to all of the goals that you have accomplished.

  7. For each weight training goal that you set, decide on a clear step-by-step process to achieve it. Even with short-term goals, it is important to really define how you plan to obtain them. This task is often easier when you are already adhering to a detailed weight training program because you can simply make adjustments to your actual workouts.

    However, when first starting a weight training program, a simple introductory workout to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses is recommended to determine exactly where you are in terms of physical measurements and strength. For example, if you set a 6-month goal of increasing your biceps measurement to 16 inches and find out when you initially measure your biceps that they are only 12 inches, you will more than likely miss your goal. A better approach is to measure your biceps beforehand and then set your short and long-term goals.

  8. Experiment with different approaches to achieving your goals. Most of the time, the same goal will have dozens (if not hundreds) of paths that you can take to obtain it. Variety is an essential element of any weight training program and will promote even greater results as you will force your body to continually evolve and respond to the demands you are placing on it.

A Sample Goal Chart


Before beginning a weight training workout program, it is helpful to list your goals in a step-by-step format so that you can start defining your weight training workouts to achieve them. An approach such as a goal chart is extremely beneficial for obtaining short-term goals. In general, achieving long-term goals can be viewed as a culmination of obtaining short-term goals. In other words, charting long-term success can be achieved through short-term success. Provided below is a sample goal list. Notice the clarity and specific nature of each goal.

Short-Term Goal (1 week): Perform a full body workout 2 times during my first week of training. I will work out at 5:00 p.m. on Monday and Thursday. On both days I will perform the following weight training routine.


Number of Sets per Exercise: 3 Number of Repetitions per Set: 12


Exercises to be Performed:

  • Flat straight bar bench press

  • Single arm dumbbell rows

  • Seated behind the neck military presses

  • Standing barbell curls

  • Triceps extensions

  • Squats

  • Dumbbell lunges

  • Abdominal crunches

  • Abdominal oblique twists

Short-Term Goal (1 month): I can currently achieve 12 repetitions with 80 pounds when performing the flat straight bar bench press. My 1-month short-term goal is to be able to achieve 12 repetitions with 100 pounds when performing the flat straight bar bench press. I will perform the following workout twice per week to accomplish this goal. After performing the below exercise for the first week, I will gradually add weight and reduce the number of repetitions until I can achieve 12 repetitions with 100 pounds when performing the flat straight bar bench press.


    Exercise to be Performed: Flat straight bar bench press Number of Sets: 3


    Number of Repetitions per Set: 8 to 12

    • 1st Set: 12 repetitions of 80 pounds

    • 2nd Set: 10 repetitions of 85 pounds

    • 3rd Set: 90 pounds to failure

    Long-Term Goal (1 year): Be able to achieve 12 repetitions with 180 pounds when performing the flat straight bar bench press. I will continue to use my short-term flat straight bar bench press goal to progress to my long-term goal. In addition to the flat straight bar bench press exercise, I will incorporate into each workout session 3 sets of 12 repetitions of the following shoulder exercises: seated behind the neck military presses and front lateral dumbbell raises.

    As is evident, taking the time to define your short and long-term weight training goals is an excellent way to maintain focus and motivation. In fact, by using this approach as you progress in your weight training efforts you will find that achieving your personal weight training goals will become easier.

    road to success

    In addition, you will also find that not only is the obtainment of your personal weight training goals more predictable, but that your motivation and focus are heightened as well.

    Finally, as with many individuals that implement this approach to defining and achieving their personal weight training goals, they also begin to incorporate this technique into virtually all aspects and goals associated with their lives.

    For example, this approach can be used to improve your financial condition, your performance at work, and even your relationship with your spouse, significant other, or children.

    Taking the time to define a thorough and well-thought-out set of goals, and then implementing an action plan to obtain those goals, is a surefire way to achieve a lifestyle that is filled with good health, fitness and mental well-being.

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