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Written by Kim Leggett (Clean Health Online Master Coach)

Whenever you start coaching a new client, one of the first questions you should ask them is, ‘what is your goal?’ More often than not, they will say, ‘I want to get stronger.’ But that goal isn’t good enough. Not because it’s not something to strive towards, but rather it doesn’t establish a CLEAR DIRECTION for their training.

This is why when we discuss setting ANY goal with our clients – including strength goals, they should be SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. 

What are SMART goals?

SPECIFIC
They lay the foundation for all other details related to the goal and answers what the client is trying to accomplish. 

So with a strength goal, ‘I want to get stronger.’ Stronger…what? Stronger bench press? A heavier squat? In other words, what exactly is it that they want to be able to do or achieve?

MEASURABLE
Being able the measure the goal in some way allows you to track your clients progress and assess success. Goals should ideally be quantitative as this makes it easier to track, so for example a 100kg squat PB target. 

ATTAINABLE
The goal should also be something that has the possibility to be completed in general. We’re not looking to beat Hafthor Bjornssons Deadlift numbers in 6 months time but rather upping our 1RM to say, 150kg. 

REALISTIC
YOU must be capable of achieving your goals. Be honest with yourself and consider all current/future capabilities and obstacles. Can your work schedule or love of socialising getting the way? Think about all facets of your life before committing to a goal. 

TIMELY 
This makes things time bound and allows your goal to have an end date. Having a timeline introduces an element of accountability and makes it more difficult to put off work. 

Now that we have established what exactly SMART goals are let’s look at how to set STRENGTH goals with your clients. With many fitness related goals, it will depend on the person as some may wish upon the foundation they have whilst others may be starting off completely fresh. Remember defining goals with a SPECIFIC TIMELINE is a much better approach than wanting to hit a 200kg deadlift by Christmas. 

For beginner clients, I recommend figuring out what the ultimate goal looks like – be very specific and prioritise them. Then take a step back and assess if they are realistic for where the client is at today – not next week or next month.

For example, going to the gym five times per week is a great goal but if they realistically can only allow for two sessions then they may need to adjust expectations. Similarly with strength goals, set up a baseline on certain exercises which relate to certain goals and incorporate these into a program that utilises progressive overload – then look at whether these are improving as each phase changes. 

Is there a secret to reaching your goals? 

Keep them in the forefront of the clients mind, ensure they have set up social support systems and keep up with weekly check-ins. These ensure that progress is measured and adhered to. Beginners also often do OK with the training side of things but fall short when it comes to their nutrition to support these goals – you need to ensure they are doing both well!

For seasoned lifters – goals are more inclined to improving performance or setting new PBs. 

This is where things start to get a lot more fine tuned. Having an additional set of eyes (a coach), having a well crafted periodisation plan and sticking to it are the best ways to ensure these client are edging towards these targets. Seasoned lifters however always do things they LIKE and are GOOD at but need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This means they need to bring up weak points, strengthen supporting muscle groups and ensure they aren’t overtraining in an effort to reach their goals. Again, this is where working with a knowledgable coach to make a plan with adequate rest, reloads and periods of maintenance and power are very important! So trust your own knowledge and authority as a coach and assert yourself with them.

A good rule of thumb when approaching any strength goal, no matter if you are a beginner or seasoned lifter is that you should be able to add 2% to the bar or do an extra rep with the same weight each time you repeat a workout. After 4-8 exposures to the same stimulus, once you can no longer put any more weight on the bar or you can’t do more reps with the same weight, then its time to change it up.

Most success comes when goals are planned and followed. So don’t skip the initial (and oh-so critical) goal setting process because it can often be the tipping point of whether your client reaches their strength targets once and for all.

To learn more about how to tailor your programming for a range of populations and a range of goals, click here & enrol into Sebastian Oreb’s Strength System International Certification online courses!

References:

  1. Barbell Logic. (2020). How to set SMART goals for strength training. Retrieved from: https://barbell-logic.com/smart-goals-for-strength/
  2. Clean Health Fitness Institute. (2020). Performance PT Coach Certification Level 1.
  3. Oreb, Sebastian. (2020). Strength Systems International Certification Level 1. Clean Health Fitness Institute. 

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