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How to Set Fitness Goals and Crush Them in 7 Easy Steps

A new study shows that setting a goal could be the trick to a transformation. We have the how-to.

The average guy first starts his fitness journey when something makes him realize there needs to be a change. Maybe it's the number on the scale, or the feeling in his lungs after climbing a flight of stairs. Regardless of the reason, out of impulse, he goes and signs up for his his very first gym membership. Equipped with zero guidance and some bad advice from a friend at the gym (who doesn't have a clue about fitness, despite the large biceps), he starts attacking the weights and running feverishly on the treadmill.

It's a couple of weeks later and he's lost some weight, gotten a little stronger, but isn't any happier. He's already lost on his journey to fitness, because he never asked himself where it all was leading.  Shortly after, his “new gym membership high,” starts to dissipate—and before you know it, he completely stops going.

Fitness is a beautiful thing that can change every aspect of your life in a positive way, but most never take the time to figure out what it is they want out of it. Taking the time to set the goal might make all the difference — especially for men. In a new study from the University of Leicester, men and women were broken down into three sets and asked to take a test. In the first group, no goal was set. In the second, researchers set an easy goal of 10 correct questions. In the third, the goal was a more challenging 15 correct answers. Among women, setting a goal did not make a difference in performance. But for men? The low goal led to a 20% higher score, and the challenging goal a 35% higher score. Men with goals worked faster and tried to answer more questions that challenged them. They even got more easy questions right.

Read on to learn how to set goals effectively in the gym, so that you can push your limits and start seeing the changes you want. 

Target Muscles: Full Body and Mind

Level: Beginner to Advanced

Frequency: Consistently

Equipment Needed: Notepad and Pen

1. Start Now

You don’t need to wait until New Year's Eve, when you’re sipping champagne, listening to 1999 by Prince, and picking pieces of confetti out of your hair to set goals. Grab your yellow notepad and a pen and start now….no, not Monday, NOW.

2. Define What You Want

Don't just say, “I want to lose weight” or “I want more muscle mass.” This is the beauty in fitness; it doesn’t need to end with achieving massive biceps. Once that box is checked, move on and start conquering more!

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3. Goals Must Be M.A.T.

Measureable: You need to be able to measure it somehow. Whether that means weighing yourself, testing your body fat, or doing some kind of assessment/evaluation. Keep a journal as a record of everything you’re doing to achieve your goal (e.g. workouts, diet, goals). It may sound tedious or difficult, but the path to success should be both fun and challenging at times, and you need a way to measure that success as you achieve it.

Achievable: Set realistic goals for yourself. If you’re 40 and have a beer belly, you probably will never be the starting QB for the Dallas Cowboys, but you may eventually make a better training partner for your kid so maybe he can be one day.

Timed: Goals are dreams with a deadline. Set a specific and realistic time to hit them.

4. Acknowledge the Hurdles:

We all have them. Think of the last 3 excuses you had for not working out (e.g. too tired, not enough time in the day, too sore).

Answer these questions:

  1. What are your weaknesses?
  2. Why have you not already achieved the goal you seek?
  3. What are the personal, professional and circumstantial barriers that have gotten in the way?
  4. How can your time management be more effective?

*Your goals in fitness will come true only if you work on addressing these issues first. The more paper you used to answer these questions the harder it is going to be to achieve success.

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5. Make Sacrifices

What can you do day to day to achieve these goals and what are you willing to give up right now?

6. Make Your Goal Public

Not only will this hold you accountable, it will also help you find out who really does want you to succeed. People who want to see you succeed will be encouraging and optimistic. The doubters will fill you with negative energy ("You’ll never look like that.") Once you identify them, try your best to avoid them, at least until you have your new body and can rub it in their faces.

7. Take Action, Every Day

What is the first step that you can make right now to put you on your path toward achievement? It is the small daily steps that will create the momentum needed to ignite the drive in your mind and body.

If you take the time to answer these questions and stay true to these tips, you will start to see success on your fitness journey, and maybe in the other aspects of your life as well.

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