“Shut Up and Lift” is usually as inspirational as I get, but for my first blog entry of 2016 I thought it would be a good time to switch gears and talk about something warm and fuzzy… like crushing goals!!!   A timely topic considering how many people often use the new year as a time for setting goals and making resolutions at the gym.

New Year resolutions are great and all, but if you’ve ever said to yourself “this is the year I’m going to ____________” (get big, get fit, get in shape, etc etc), you’ve fallen into the trap of setting soft goals.  Vague and non-specific, soft goals yield soft results at best.

During my NASM Certification Training I was introduced to the concept of S.M.A.R.T. Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely).   These principles give focus and direction to your goals, making them more tangible and achievable. Aside from sounding like an inspirational poster, I felt there just wasn’t enough pain and brutality in the S.M.A.R.T. goal formula, so I put my own spin on it and came up with M.E.T.A.L. Goals!!!

M.E.T.A.L. (Motivational, Exact, Timely, Attainable, Lifestyle)

Here is a M.E.T.A.L. Goal I set for myself at the start of this year.

  • I want to Squat a 1-Rep Max of 666 lbs. within 6 months

I’ll be referring back to this example to illustrate how a M.E.T.A.L. Goal works.  As of January 2016, my 1-Rep Max Squat = 625 lbs.



Goals by their very nature are motivational. Whatever your goal, write it down and keep it visible.  Use it to stay focused and motivated.  It should be something you want badly enough to inspire you to work hard and make sacrifices.

Seek out motivation everywhere it can be found. Share your goals with others; workout buddies, friends, family, personal trainer. Let people know what you want to accomplish and let them support and encourage you. Sharing your goals with others makes you more accountable as well.

Investing in training gear, gym membership fees, hiring a trainer … everything you direct toward the achievement of your goals is an investment in yourself and further adds to your motivation.

Stay inspired. There are many sources of inspiration out there: goal pics, lifting videos, books, online articles, and personal stories. Seek out people who have what you want and find out how they got it.

  • For my own M.E.T.A.L. Goal – Squats have long been my best lift and one I have been pushing to the limit for years.  I’ve invested in training gear such as a lifting belt, knee wraps and special shoes just for my Squat.  Working with a trainer, sharing my goal with others, recording progress videos… these things make me more determined than ever to stay on track toward making my goal.


A clear goal and a plan to get there is the best formula for success at the gym.

For a goal to be achievable, you need to know exactly what it is; losing weight, gaining muscle mass, a new PR for a 1-rep max… whatever your goal, be exact.  Usually an exact goal will have a number attached to it.

Being exact should also include a plan for how you achieve your goal.  Whether it’s selecting a diet plan, using a specific workout routine, setting a training schedule or hiring a trainer, include specifics on how you will get there.

Record where you’re at now and determine how far you have to go to reach your goal.  Regular weigh-ins, body fat measurements, training-log entries; these will help you keep track of your progress.

  • My goal is exact and clear, a 1-rep max Squat of 666 pounds in 6 months.  I need to add 41 pounds to my current 1-rep max (625 lbs) within 6 months to achieve my goal.  My plan involves a weekly squat routine working with sub-max loads and attempting a new 1 rep-max every month (adding 5-10 lbs each attempt).


Once you have a clear vision of what your goal is and how to get there, you should be able to formulate a reasonable but challenging timeframe in which to achieve it.

A timeframe for your goal creates motivation and urgency.  Allowing too much time takes motivation and urgency out of the equation.

Goals to be achieved within 3-6 months are great because they have a sense of urgency and they increase the rate of accomplishment and reward.

  • I gave myself 6 months to accomplish my Squat goal.


Goals should be challenging and require you to work hard, but setting the bar too high is a formula for discouragement. For a goal to be attainable it must be realistic for your current level of fitness and ability.

For those just starting out, you may not know if your goals are within your ability or fitness level.  You may need help and guidance in determining your goals.  Seek help or contact me if you’d like some feedback.

If you have any experience at the gym, you should be able to evaluate your current abilities and past progress to determine if your goal is attainable.

Once an attainable goal is achieved there will be a sense of accomplishment and motivation for you to set new, more ambitious goals.

  • I know from previous experience that I average a 50-60 lb increase annually to my Squat. Adding 41 pounds to my 1-rep max in 6 months is a little ambitious. Reviewing my plan, my level of commitment and assuming there will be no external factors such as injury to get in the way, I feel this is an attainable goal.


What we do out of the gym is just as important as what we do in the gym when it comes to achieving our goals. There is no sugarcoating the fact that strength and fitness goals require sacrifice.

Consider external factors that may impact your ability to reach your goal.  Do you work long hours several days a week?  Do you travel frequently?  Do you drink or smoke?  Do you sleep enough? Do you overeat or eat poorly? Take an honest look at these factors and ask yourself what you are able and willing to do (sacrifice) in order to reach your goal.

Not all external factors are within our control. Time constraints due to work or family life are unavoidable, so these should be considered when determining goals. Other factors are within our control and if pursuing your goal inspires you to make better lifestyle choices then it is truly transformative.

  • Being a personal trainer requires me to be in the gym long hours, many days a week.  My lifestyle challenges are gym burn-out, eating right and getting enough rest and sleep.  Recognizing and working with these challenges I have to take steps to ensure I am taking good enough care of myself by eating right and sleeping as much as I can so that I’m ready and focused for my workouts.

*** And here is that 666 lbs. squat, 6 months later.  M.E.T.A.L. Goal accomplished.

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