Setting SMART goals in the gym

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You’re in the gym. Good. You want to improve. Great. But to get the most out of your workouts you need to set yourself goals. Properly set-out targets, that are tailored to you, can provide the motivation to bust a gut in the gym and give you the focus you need to make real improvements.

To help you create well-structured and well-thought-out goals, you should always ensure that each one you set is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound...


Your goal should be precise and well defined in order to provide focus. For example, saying ‘I want to get stronger’ is too general and too vague. However, to provide a real target, a specific goal would be, ‘I want to increase my bench press to 90kg in the next 12 weeks.’


A goal should provide you with a tangible target to reach, this helps to gauge progress and keep you on the right track. ‘I want to lose weight’ doesn’t provide you with a quantifiable target and doesn’t give you anything concrete to work towards. ‘I want to lose 18 pounds by the time I go on holiday in July’ on the other hand, does.


Any goal you set should push you, this gives you the motivation to better yourself to hit your target. However, it’s important that the goal is realistic, otherwise you’re constantly fighting a losing battle and won’t achieve your goal, which can have a demotivating effect. The opposite is also true, a goal that’s too easy to achieve probably isn’t worth achieving and won’t motivate you to put the hard graft in to make a real difference. So, when setting goals, they need to be ambitious, but realistic and ultimately achievable.


To provide you with the drive to accomplish your goal it must matter to you, not be a goal you’re pressured into. It must also fit in with your life at present, so shouldn’t conflict with any other goals you have. For instance, if you’ve been training hard to achieve your goal of completing a marathon next month, setting yourself a new goal of increasing your deadlift by 40kg in the next 6 weeks isn’t a relevant goal to set now, as it would affect your chances of achieving your original goal of finishing the race.


All goals must have a completion date, a cut-off point to determine if you’ve hit your target or not. This gives you a sense of urgency, to push yourself to make it happen. ‘I want to be able to do 20 press-ups’ has no timeframe, when do you want to do this by, tomorrow, next year? On the other hand, ‘I want to be able to do 20 press-ups in one month’s time’ will give you the drive you need to push yourself over the next month to tick off your goal.

Setting yourself SMART goals is a vital part of training, they give you the motivation to push yourself in the gym and ensure that you’re able to focus your efforts purely on achieving something that is both worthwhile and meaningful to you. Breaking your SMART goals down into more manageable milestones is also good practice. For example, if your overall goal is to ‘increase my deadlift from 50kg to 100kg in the next 10 weeks’, you could break that down into increasing your deadlift by 5kg each week. This helps you manage the overall goal more effectively, giving you smaller targets to hit so you can track your progress easily.

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