Dan John is an excellent coach. You should read his books and absorb his wisdom. He has a quote that resonated with me when I read it:

The goal is to keep the goal, the goal.

What he means is that once you set a goal, the objective is to keep that goal. Stay the course. Own it. Set a goal and achieve that goal.

I want to be the strongest dude in the room. Like The Mountain from Game of Thrones.

I also want to be the biggest guy..like people wouldn’t wanna mess with me at the club kind of big. Like Mark Wahlberg or Wolverine.

But I don’t like this little extra fat that I’m carrying..I should get rid of that and have Ryan Reynolds’ abs!

Sounds awfully familiar doesn’t it?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these goals. They’re admirable. They’re good goals to have, and mostly, they’re achievable.

So what’s the problem?

They’re conflicting goals. They all require different strategies in order to get there. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

To get STRONG, you have to lift super heavy, eat boat loads of food (I mean seriously ingest some calories), and rest often. I’m talking 3-5 minute rests between sets. And you’ll be working on only a handful of exercises: bench press, and variations; squat, and variations; deadlift, and variations. Add more weight each week.

Example Lower Body Strength Workout (the GOAL: get super strong)

A) BB Deadlift: 8×3   3 min rest

B1) BB Front-squat grip Reverse Lunge: 4×6 ea. leg

B2) Pallof Press: 3×10 ea.

C1) BB Hip Thrust: 3×8

C2) Single Leg RDL: 3×8 ea. leg

Does that 3 minute rest break make you anxious? Those of you who like to bounce around the gym like you just intravenously injected pre-workout into your eyeballs might want to punch a wall even thinking about resting. But that’s what’s required in order to get strong.

Be the biggest guy in the room? Again a different route. While I would suggest that you still have a strength movement every workout, it’s important NOT to focus on pure strength, and instead focus on VOLUME. Also, EAT. Seriously. If you want to get big you have to eat. Don’t bitch about how you want to get big and then you’re a weenie about how many calories you have to eat. But don’t be dumb either. Get your calories from whole foods, not fucking pizza and donuts. This ain’t no Planet Fitness.

For hypertrophy it’s best to stick with about 24-30 TOTAL sets of a particular muscle group each week. The emphasis here is VOLUME, and not super heavy weights. You can also rest a little less, maybe 30-90 seconds between sets.

An example upper body Hypertrophy workout (the GOAL: get BIG)

A1) BB Bench Press: 5×5   2-3 min rest

A2) 1-arm DB Row: 5×6 ea. arm

B1) Landmine Press: 4×8 ea. 60-90 s rest

B2) Chinups: 4×10

C1) Pushups: 3×15   30 s rest

C2) Inverted Rows: 3×20

D1) Band Tricep pushdowns: 1×50

D2) Barbell Bicep Curls: 1×50

Here I have 12 total sets per muscle group (chest and back), and some arm work. You’re sitting right at the midway point for that 24-30 Total set suggestion. Guess what? This is Upper Body 1, and you have another Upper Body workout this week of similar volume.

Fat loss for washboard Abs?

Again, a different approach. Now is the time to be watching EVERY. SINGLE. CALORIE. you’re putting in your body. Flirt with neuroticism

Now, amp up the workouts. Do a similar workout as the Hypertrophy workout from above, but shorten the rest period.  Add in some high intensity cardio here as well: sprints, either on the track or up a hill work great; so does the row ergometer. Work in some Dumbbell Complexes and finishers.

ADVICE: so you’ve chosen to shed some body fat and lean out for summer. Good for you! But something to remember:

You’re no longer trying to get strong, and you should expect that your max lifts won’t be so impressive. Don’t be upset if you’re not putting up big numbers anymore. You’re not trying to get big either, but you probably want to maintain all that mass you previously worked for. This is where nutrition comes into play. You need to eat enough to maintain your muscle mass, but not so much that you’re carrying excess body fat. Dial it in. You’ve picked a goal; now keep THAT goal, the goal

The goal here is to maintain muscle mass and strength. If you want to put up big numbers again, great, but change your goal from fat loss to strength gain, and stay the course.

Once you’ve made the goal, you better stick to it, and go all in. To get strong, lift heavy and eat. To build mass, eat a whole lot, and work on building volume in your lifts (more sets and higher rep range). For fat loss, try to maintain some mass, but dial in the nutrition and add some finishers and high intensity cardio to burn extra body fat so those sexy abs will show.

The only sure-fire way to achieve nothing, to miss the goal altogether, is by flip-flopping programs. Once you’ve picked a goal, stay the course for at least 12 weeks to ensure success. Anything short of 12 weeks is difficult, if not impossible to achieve.

Always remember: the goal is to keep the goal, the goal.

If you’re interested in a hyptrophy program, check out my Virtual Coaching platform, where I can build a program around your goals and abilities.

For more reading on Hypertrophy, check out this link: http://www.strengthandconditioningresearch.com/hypertrophy/#3

Andy Van Grinsven

About Andy Van Grinsven

2 Responses to “Making and Keeping the Goal, the Goal”

  1. mary @ minutes per mile

    great post. in running a similar question is often debated: can you achieve two separate goals (1. speed, 2. endurance) at the same time? not really. follow up question: can i have cake, eat it, AND have washboard abs all at the same time? please say yes.

    • Andy Van Grinsven

      You’re right-it’s not possible to train speed and endurance at the same time (or rather, it’s not possible to optimize both; you can have really great endurance or really great speed, but not both at the same time). That’s why periodization in weight training and running are important-maximize certain qualities during one training cycle, and shifting focus another training cycle. Obviously that all depends on the athlete, sport in question, and time of year/season.

      Getting stronger in the weight room would help improve your running by building stronger thighs and glutes, giving you greater power output and improving speed (maybe you sprint the last few yards of a big race). Ultimately, you should DEVELOP strength in the weight room (as opposed to DEMONSTRATE strength like power lifters), put in the miles to build endurance, and maybe sprinkle in some tempo runs and sprinting to improve conditioning and VO2max.

      As for cakes..hmmm maybe if you like to make tuna cakes? or quinoa cakes, if that’s a thing..the worst is about this time of year where I think “I want cut abz for summer” but keep getting sidetracked by the fact that I love BBQ and beer and occasionally want a Pharmacy burger..


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