What’s Your Goal?

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I was talking shop with one of my clients last week, checking in with her progress, asking her how things have been going, when she looked up at me with a visible “look” on her face and said, “I don’t think I’m making as much progress as I think I could be.  I think I need a goal.”

This one seems kind of obvious, but it’s often surprising just how many people look back at you with a blank stare when asked one simple question:

What are your goals?

Can you answer that question?  If someone were to look you dead in the eyes and ask “why are you going to the gym today, what are your goals?” would you be able to answer them with a definitive answer?

Exacerbating the issue – almost infinitely so – is the fact that people just kinda show up and go through the motions.  Quite literally, there’s no sense of purpose in their training – no gusto or razzle dazzle, if you will.  I’m not saying this is the case with my client, but for many, going to the gym is more of a chore (or nuisance) than anything else, and they just walk around like a chicken with their head cut off – walking from machine to machine with no game plan.  In short, they’re just there.

We’ve all seen it:  The guy reading his newspaper while in the leg press; or the two women laughing hysterically as they curl their pink dumbbells ad nauseum.   Is it any wonder that these are the same people who will complain that despite paying their gym membership on a monthly basis, NEVER look different?

Just showing up ain’t gonna cut it – you NEED a goal.

Taking it a step further, you need a SPECIFIC goal.

Using myself as an example, it wasn’t long ago when I was just a skinny, cardio-obsessed, bicep curl junkie who, regardless of what I did, could never put on any weight.  Or so it seemed.

Of course, if I could go back in time and drop kick myself in the face for thinking that running 15-20 miles per week and doing 500 crunches per day was the best road to Jackedville, I would do it.  Hindsight is 20/20, right?

Anyways, it was 2003, and my girlfriend at the time just broke up with me. Balls.  Adding insult to injury, she moved in with her “new” boyfriend, less than two miles from where I lived.   Yeah, that sucked.

Needless to say, it wasn’t my finest hour, and somewhere between watching endless episodes of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (hey, it was 2003 and those guys were everywhere.  Don’t judge me!) and punching holes in the wall, I decided that it was high time that I make a concerted effort to put on some weight.

It was during that time that I first started reading t-nation.com and devouring anything and everything written by John Berardi.  I ditched the body-part splits (no more calves and rear delt day), started being honest with myself and learned to squat to depth, implemented a “new to me” exercise called the deadlift, nixed the distance running and instead started doing more sprints at the local high school track, and most important of all, stopped eating like an anorexic hummingbird.

I had a goal:  to get my swole on and there was nothing, NOTHING, that was going to stop me.    Actually, to be more specific, it was to put on 25 lbs – but “gettin my swolification on” sounds cooler.

Fast forward ten months, I went from 180 lbs to 210 lbs, and looked like a new person.   Now, I know people want photographic evidence, and while I’m normally pretty reluctant to post shirtless pictures of myself up on the internet, I think this discussion warrants a little visual perspective.

Here’s me back when all I did was run a lot, throw 82 MPH fastballs, and do bicep curls the day after a start.  This picture was taken around 1998 during one of the many summers I lifeguarded while home during summer break (I’m on the left).

That’s pretty much what I looked like all through college leading up to about 2002 – and, if you can believe it, I was even skinnier and less likely to have girls want to hang out with me when I was in high school.

Conversely, here are a few pictures I found on my laptop from around 2003-2004, which coincide when I actually stopped training like a raging pussy.

Aside from the fact that I was as white as a Coldplay concert, I was easily 30-40 lbs heavier in these pictures as compared to the ones above.  And, fast forward a decade later I’ve been able to keep the weight on and stay equally as lean year round.  One of the benefits of working in a gym.

Now, I’m not showing these to brag or show-off (okay, maybe a little), but rather, to showcase that having a goal, a mission, a purpose, can make all the difference in the world.  Looking back at my training career (which started when my parents got me my first weight set when I was 13), I can’t help but notice how much time and effort I wasted just going through the motions.

Bringing things around to you, I don’t care if your goal is to lose “x” number of pounds by the end of summer, lose the love handles, bench a certain amount of weight, or train for a show or meet – WRITE IT DOWN on a piece of paper, put it on a post-It note and plaster it on your fridge, I don’t care.  Make it concrete.  Make it real.   I’m telling you right now, it will hold you more accountable and light a fire under your ass.

As Dan John would say, your goal is to keep the goal, the goal.  If you don’t have a goal in the first place, however, what’s the point?

This is the exact same mentality that I’m using now in my efforts to deadlift 600 lbs.  My training is centered around a purpose in the hopes that I’ll eventually attain it.  If I didn’t have some sense of “why the hell am I doing this?”, I’d only be spinning my wheels – much like I did in the years described above.

So, again I ask:

What’s your goal?

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Comments for This Entry

  • Rees

    So you mean "wanting to tone" isn't a good enough goal? Glad you stopped training like a "raging pussy" (hilarious), otherwise we'd never know you the way we do.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:03 am | Reply to this comment

  • Ed Anderson

    By the end of 2011 I am hoping for: 200kg (455lb) Deadlift 3 Strict Chins with 100lbs round my waist 120kg (275lb) deep front squat Those are the main ones - inproving my pathetic single leg strength and running hill sprints on a weekly basis are my two mini goals so to speak :) Keep up th good work Tony!

    May 4, 2011 at 8:10 am | Reply to this comment

  • Bojan

    Man, your posts are getting better and better. Great read! Keep up! Bojan

    May 4, 2011 at 8:14 am | Reply to this comment

  • Steve

    Great post Tony. I just put a sticky note on my monitor that simply reads "500#". That's my deadlift goal before the end of May.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:16 am | Reply to this comment

  • Damon

    Great stuff! Looking forward to reading about your "road to 600". Keep it up!

    May 4, 2011 at 8:29 am | Reply to this comment

  • Scott Carter

    I only have 2 goals right now. 1.) Constantly be adding body weight. 2.) Get stronger in the deadlift, squat, bench, and OHP. I feel that if Im constantly achieving these goals, then many other fitness/physique rewards will follow.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:42 am | Reply to this comment

  • Nia Shanks

    My goal . . . to dominate you in our future deadlift-off! Your client, Lisa V., told me about her chin-up goals. That woman sounds absolutely incredible! Her story is so inspiring and her motivation is unstoppable. You truly have a Beautiful Badass for a client (although, I'm quite sure EVERY woman at CP is a Beautiful Badass). ; )

    May 4, 2011 at 9:15 am | Reply to this comment

  • Nock

    great post Tony.........

    May 4, 2011 at 9:27 am | Reply to this comment

  • Blake

    Awesome...I just started a monthly competition with my clients in which we list their goals for the month plus long term goals and post it at my facility so that they know others can see if they don't get it...awesome motivator. As for mine... 1. Deadlift 500 by end of 2011 2. Full Squuat 350 3. Chinup with 120 added 4. 58 Inch Box Jump and 114 Inch broad jump

    May 4, 2011 at 9:47 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kashka

    Tony, as much as I love your blogs, I have to respectfully disagree. Everybody has a goal, either written on paper or in the back of their minds. You had a goal of getting jacked when you were running 15 miles a week, you just didn't have the right method to get there. I bet the woman who said she isn't making as make progress as she could be had a goal, other wise she would have nothing to progress toward to. Most people just lack the self discipline, motivation and right method to achieve their goal. And a goal is useless without these things.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:52 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    I appreciate the input Kashka, and I definitely see your point. Thing is, though, maybe what I SHOULD have said is that people need more SPECIFIC goals. Getting jacked is just too vague. Really, my original goal (the one I posted about from a few years ago) was to put on 25 lbs. I achieved it, I think, because I put a number in my head and went for it. Even now, with my deadlift, I have a number in my head (600), which gives me something to strive for - know what I mean. Nevertheless, I definitely see your view point and it's something that I feel many trainees should strive for.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Reply to this comment

  • James

    Seems like there's a lot of people wanting to move from 400 to 500 in the deadlift here, Tony (me included) - maybe an article idea?

    May 4, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Reply to this comment

  • manuel

    dude you were already big in '98!

    May 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Felix Uhlirach

    I have been addicted to exercise in various forms since I was 8-yrs. old. My goal is to stay healthy, and train vigorously for the rest of my life. I am going to train, b/c I love to train. I don't need a mirage in the desert to run towards. The run itself is good enough. There are outcome goals, and there are behavioral goals. Both can be effective agents of change. I never set out to "get big". After I ran my knee out, (distance running), I shifted my addiction to the iron. And I gained 25-lbs. in less than a year. Was that my goal? NO. It was just a by- product of new behavior pattern. Also, TG, you looked great in '98. Your "before" picture would be an "outcome goal" for over 90% of the general public. It's fantastic if you want to DL-600, or get to 225, ripped. Your behavior then falls in line behind that.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Emily

    My goal? Getting strong. That's it. A year ago, I could hardly move because of back pain (A modern dancer for 15 plus years...that will give you pain). Today? 225 max deadlift. Strict flexed arm hang for 70 seconds. 190 max back squat. Getting strong, maintaining good mobility and flexibilty and staying healthy. ;-)

    May 6, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Reply to this comment

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