Set SMART Goals

Goal setting can be used for an upcoming meet or a lift you want to hit. Whatever it is you need to have a clear understanding what your goals are and how you want to achieve them. The best principle for successful goal setting is the SMART principle. SMART is an acronym for: Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Realistic, and Timely. Let’s dive into the types of goals before we break down how to write SMART Goals.

The three types of goals are: [1] outcome goals, [2] performance goals and [3] process goals. Outcome goals are the standards of performance that focus on the results (long-term goal; end result). Performance goals are the improvements relative to one’s own past performance (weekly goals to achieve your long-term goal). Process goals are procedures in which the performer will engage during performance (the daily grind; better yourself 1% at a time; what will you do daily to improve?).

When I sit down with athletes I first get to know them as a “person” and as an “athlete.” As I talk with them I am being an active listener to truly “hear” what they are saying. They are telling me about life and their sport and I am hearing their goals, their possible performance issues, etc. After we have talked, my first meetings typically end with setting goals. For example, if I am working with a swimmer and we are in season then we will set up in season goals. The outcome goal should not extend three months out because there is a high chance we will lose focus on your goals.

Now that we know the three type of goals, let’s take a look at how to correctly and effectively use SMART goals for each platform of goal setting.

Be specific. What is your goal or goals you want to achieve? Don’t say you want to lift a lot or do well at your next meet. What is a lot? Define well? Get detailed with your goals. I want to be able to snatch 126kg at a body weight of 84kg (don’t analyze my numbers as I am just giving an example). This is specific because now I know what weight you want to reach in the snatch compared to your body weight or weight class you are competing in.

For best results we want to be able to measure your performance; this gives us specific feedback. During your journey and goals if you starting snatch weight is 112kg and you are progressing each month closer to your outcome goal (end goal) then we can measure that your goal setting is working. If not, we can adjust or reflect on your goals and programming to make sure you are on the right path to achieve your goals.

Goals have to be flexible to a point because we do not live in a perfect world where everything goes our way. There are outliers that we cannot control that could possibly hinder our goals or redirect our goals. For example, small injuries, body fatigue, strength goal met too soon, training facility burns down, etc. I know these are some extreme outliers but nothing is impossible. If something happens that directly affects your goals then we need to be able to adjust/tweak your goal/journey to still achieve your outcome goal. Be ready for the unknown.

This tends to be a hard thing for athletes. The truth. Let’s be realistic about your goals. This is a time to reflect on your ability and potential ability. What are your truly capable of achieving with the correct progression? Your goal shouldn’t be a 272kg snatch at a 54kg body weight. Not going to happen. Sorry. So, be real with yourself and be humble. It’s okay to be cocky only if your cockiness is a reflection of your self-confidence and not a disguise of your lack of self-confidence (side note, I will write about self-confidence vs. being cocky later). So be honest with yourself.

Timely is where the three month time frame comes into place. If you set up a goal three months out it is easier to stay on task versus having a goal that is a year out. You can make a yearly goal but you still need to break down that goal into smaller goals. Also, this is a time to set dates for each goal (I will achieve “x” by this time).


Sean Chamberlain, MA, USAW, FMT, has nearly a decade of education and experience as a Strength & Conditioning Coach, Sports Performance Coach, CrossFit Coach, Personal Trainer, Sport Psychology Consultant and Kinesiology Instructor. Sean has been weightlifting since he was 14 years old and has always believed that weightlifting is the key component to a successful athlete. He has a Master’s in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Sport Psychology and a Bachelor’s in Kinesiology with a dual minor in Health Science and Coaching Science and has worked with athletes from multiple sport domains and at all skill levels.