SMART Weightlifting Goals

I’ve had some goals in mind for my weightlifting, but nothing ever committed to. On reflection, I realized that I am in danger of making this a VAPID goal, not a SMART one.

I had the idea of a set of targets for the three major lifts. For simplicity, I think of it as “2/3/4.” That is, 200 lbs for the bench press, 300 pounds for the squat, and 400 pounds for the deadlift. This gives me a simple 1/1.5/2 multiplier (plus a fudge factor) times my bodyweight.

Let’s check this vs. the SMART criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable

Check.

  • Action-oriented

I know the action steps required to meet this goal. The plan is to follow the Starting Strength method, modified as required to train around injuries.

  • Realistic

Aye, there’s the rub. I think this is a realistic strength level to aim for – I won’t be doing any powerlifting competitions, but this is a good baseline for what a strong man ought to be able to do. Hopefully it is realistic given my age, physical condition, and other life commitments.

  • Time-defined

Here is the part I was missing. In my previous thinking about it, I hadn’t set any time frame for actually getting this done. Other than “sometime before I die.”

So I will modify the goal to “2/3/4/20.” That is, have a 200 lb bench press, 300 lb squat, and 400 lb deadlift before the end of 2020.

There, that’s SMARTer.

The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer

I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it…

… Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony
thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what
I say I don’t know. It is not the only or the easiest
way to come to the truth. It is one way.

SMART vs. VAPID Goals

I was listening to the Art of Manliness Podcast #204: How To Be Miserable and got inspired.

Not to try to be miserable – guest Dr. Randy Paterson’s advice is to find ways that you are already making yourself miserable, and stop doing those things. At least, not do them as much.

After all, there is no magic pill or psychological technique that can take anyone from “black dog gnawing on my soul” to “move over, Pollyanna!” in one giant leap. On the other hand, it is possible to make small, incremental changes to make tomorrow suck 2% less than today. String enough of those days together and… suddenly, life may not be awesome but it can be a lot better than it was before.

One of the ways to make yourself miserable is to set VAPID goals. Paterson created VAPID as the opposite of SMART goals. If SMART goals are

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Action-oriented
  • Realistic
  • Time-defined

then VAPID goals are

  • Vague
  • Amorphous
  • Pie in the sky
  • Irrelevant
  • Delayed

I know I’ve set VAPID goals for myself before. Paterson is right, they are a great way to be miserable. I recommend avoiding them.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport is two things:

1. A thorough debunking of the “passion” hypothesis (“follow your passion”, “do what you love the money will follow”).

2. An alternative approach summed up by the title, which Newport calls the “craftsman” hypothesis.

This is a simple but powerful change of perspective.

As Mike Rowe says, “just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.”

Newport’s advice is instead to first, stop sucking at what you do. Then you may have a passion worth following.

As someone who has struggled with the question of mission and meaningful work, I wish I had found this book ten or even twenty years ago.

A Standing Ground

Flee fro the prees, and dwelle with sothfastnesse;
Suffyce unto thy thyng, though hit be smal…

However just and anxious I have been,
I will stop and step back
from the crowd of those who may agree
with what I say, and be apart.
There is no earthly promise of life or peace
but where the roots branch and weave
their patient silent passages in the dark;
uprooted, I have been furious without an aim.
I am not bound for any public place,
but for ground of my own
where I have planted vines and orchard trees,
and in the heat of the day climbed up
into the healing shadow of the woods.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup

— Wendell Berry

Barbell Training

“Physical strength is the most important thing in life. This is true whether we want it to be or not.”
― Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength

Overstated? Of course. Virtue in this life and eternal life in the next are more important. (But note: “virtue” was originally just Latin for “manliness.”) Rippetoe has clearly heard this objection before:

“A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence. It is instructive to see what happens to these very people as their squat strength goes up.”
― Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength

It’s working for me. As an allegedly intellectual and spiritual person, life does feel better as my squat number goes up.

Am I a great lifter? No. See this blog’s tagline. I’m happy because I passed a milestone this week, and got my squat to pass my bodyweight. Rule of thumb is that a “good” squat strength should be 1.5 times your bodyweight. As long as I can keep progressing I should get there. Eventually.