SMART Bodybuilding Goal Setting

bodybuilding goal setting

It’s the first day of a new year everyone is thinking about the changes they’d like to make in their lives in the coming months.  New Year’s resolutions often come in the form of results based bodybuilding goals such as “I want to lose 20 lbs” or “I want to look good in a swimsuit”.  This is great, but often these types of goals don’t translate to actual results because they’re not structured to drive change.

Having a well thought out goal is essential to progress in any endeavor.  If a goal is too vague or unclear it will not be of much use for guiding action.  That’s why it’s important to develop a goal that is “SMART”, which is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.


Setting a specific goal creates a better definition of the target.  It involves using precise language or numbers to define your goal.  The target should be a clear, otherwise it will be difficult to develop a plan and actions to achieve it.  Also keep in mind the 5 W’s when drafting a specific goal, i.e. Who, What, Where, When, Why.  Who is involved?  What do you want to accomplish?  Where will it take place?  When will it start?  Why is this goal important?


A good bodybuilding goal is also measurable.  There’s a saying in the engineering field, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.”  This means you must quantify the current state and be able to measure changes in order to track progress towards an ideal state.

A measurement could be subjective (qualitative) or objective (quantitative).  Qualitative data is based on opinion, such as a visual perception of leanness, for example.  While quantitative data is an actual dimension with units, like body fat percentage as determined by skin fold measurements in millimeters using a caliper.  Both can be effective as long as the measurement system is repeatable such that progress towards the goal can be tracked.


Of course, a bodybuilding goal needs to be realistic.  It must not be so difficult that it could not possibly be attained in the given time frame, but it must also be challenging enough that it will push your limits.  When defining your fitness goal, keep in mind what is physically possible and safe in terms of fat loss and muscle gain.

For example, it is not reasonable to expect to lose more than 1.5 lbs of actual body fat per week (excluding rare cases of extreme obesity).  Weight loss in excess of 1.5 lbs per week is typically due to water loss.  Similarly, it is not realistic to expect to gain more than 0.5 lbs of muscle per week; it is simply not possible for the body to generate lean mass tissue that quickly.  Weight gain in excess of 0.5 lbs per week is again likely attributed to water retention, fat gain, or other factors.  The take away is to set realistic, attainable goals.


It’s important to keep goals relevant to the bigger picture and your overall direction.  If your long term goal is to lose fat to look good in your swim suit, it’s probably not relevant to start a 12 week fat loss plan in November (for those of us in colder climates).

To determine relevance ask yourself; is this the right time?  Is this worthwhile?  Does it fit into my long term plan?  If the answer is no, then simply restate your goal with a different short term objective that feeds into the long term plan.


Finally, a bodybuilding goal needs to have a time-frame, a completion date or deadline that forces you to focus on the task at hand and creates a sense of urgency.  A target date could be a special social event, a bodybuilding contest, or simply a designated duration in which to complete your objective.  Challenge yourself with an aggressive timeline, but also remember the reasonable rates of fat loss and muscle gain discussed earlier.

More on bodybuilding goal setting can be found in the Motivation & Mindset Manual which is included as part of the Premium package.  Head over to the Get Started page to get a custom meal plan that is guaranteed to help you reach your fitness goals in 2018!

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