Friday, October 19, 2012

Transform Your Body: Phase I - Set Your Goals

I believe that I possess the tools of knowledge, experience, and theory to help most people reach their desired goals. The problem, in my experience, is that most people never think about what their actual ends are.

Ask most people you see working out at the gym and some typical responses are:
  • I want to look good naked
  • I want to be strong
  • I want to be functional
  • I want to be healthy
At first glance these look like great goals, goals I'm sure most people strive for. All of them, however, contain a fatal flaw; they all reference subjective values. Who do you want to look good naked for? What do they define as good? How much weight, in what movement, do you consider strong? Which movements are functional? What function are you trying to perform? What is healthy? Are you referring to overall wellness or results from a blood test? Ask these questions and you the response will often be vague, if you get any at all.

I believe the problem stems from people's overall unwillingness to think critically about their actions. Whether it's laziness, clinging to long-held beliefs, or refusal to evaluate oneself critically varies from individual to individual (and the same individual at different times)  makes for a good discussion, but is outside the scope of this post.

The point is that if you cannot answer the above questions then you should immediately put the brakes on any diet or training. You need to decide your specific ends to be achieved and any boundary limits you may have. It's OK to re-define your goals at any point during your training if you are not satisfied with your progress. If you achieve your goals then you can make new ones, even if that goal is just to maintain your current state.

These are my goals (with current targets):
  • I want to look good naked; I want to have 8-10% body fat @ 185-190lbs.
  • I want to be strong; I want to have a 1RM (1 Rep Max) front-squat of 250lbs.
  • I want to be functional; I want to be able to lift a weight from the floor (full flexion) to above my head (full extension) with full ROM (Range of Motion, e.g. toes forward, butt to floor, knees out, lumbar spine neutral) and no assistance (e.g. grips, belts, etc).
  • I want to be healthy; I want to achieve all of the above by working out 3 days (max) per week and no distance running so that I can enjoy other aspects of life, pain-free.
My objective targets come from the use of reason. The body weight target comes from a formula via Martin Berkhan of LeanGains to calculate your target "ripped" body weight, referred to as "Maximum Muscular Potential of Drug-Free Athletes". I also know that to have defined abs I need to be around 8-10% body fat (15-20% for women). To calculate my target 1RM I took my current 1RM and set a goal to improve that by 1-rep every week until I hit 6-reps. Therefore at the end of six weeks I should have a 6RM of 215lbs which would mean a theoretical 1RM of 250lbs.

Not only have a clearly defined my goals but they are also all linked and, most importantly, do not contradict one-another. I have implicitly defined healthy as being functionally strong, looking good nude, having free time and being pain-free. I know that the risk of injury decreases as your ability to use full ROM (i.e. full mobility) increases. Full ROM also allows me to lift more weight and improves my ballroom dancing, so I'm killing two birds with one stone. Distance running is stressful on your joints, inefficient for weight loss, and does not improve my ability to lift a weight off the floor, so it must be excluded from the means to achieve my goals.

I'm sure many people look at me front-squatting 215lbs and think I'm weak. They might think to themselves, "I can easily front-squat 280lbs" or, "I back-squat 400lbs". Fair enough but do they notice that my toes are forward, my knees are out, and lumbar spine is neutral? Back-squatting 400lbs is impressive, but how does a back-squat help you lift a weight off the floor to a level above your head? Only two lifts can accomplish this task, the clean & jerk or the clean into overhead squat, and to do this requires the ability to keep the spine in a near vertical position. It's not that I have anything against a back-squat (also referred to as a power-squat), it's just that I do not view it as an effective means to meet my goals.

Do not allow other people to define your goals. This does not mean you should not look for role models nor seek advice from others. It means that you need to figure out where you are and where you want to be.

Next up... Phase II - Make a Plan

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