The Necessity of Process Goals over Static Goals in Powerlifting

What's in a Goal?

There is lots of goals. But, a super common one this time of year is I'm going to lift X. However, saying I’m going to deadlift 200kg  may be a poorly phrased goal.

Let’s say, for example, you can deadlift 160kg, and 200kg is your end of year goal. That’s a big goal increase, but reasonable for some.


Broadly, by the time you try to max out, you will

  1. Be able to hit 160 for 8
  2. Be in a recovered phase
  3. Not be injured
  4. Be practiced at one rep maxes
  5. Have an applicable mindset


How to Goal Set in Powerlifting

Do you know how the squirrel lives through the winter? He collects little acorns one by one all summer until he is ready. You need to break down big goals into small.

It is very hard to keep you eye on a 12 month goal – and grind away in uncertainty of its success. Here is another way you could look at this

  1. Stretch goal – 200kg
  2. Goal – 180kg
  3. Goal – 160kg x 3
  4. Goal – 150kg x 2

Now – these are entirely realistic, and if you keep your head in a straight line – you can probably get them done earlier in the year. If you have some giant setback (injury or life problems) you can still hit your base goals and move the stretch to further in the future.


How to Process Goal Set in Powerlifting

Process goals a simply ones that celebrate the process, rather than the endpoint. The journey not the destination in more ‘insta’ talk.

A solid list of those might be

  1. To deadlift 9 out of 10 weeks
  2. To train 3 or more times a week
  3. To sleep an average of 7 hours at least
  4. Not to max out, or fall off program until all goals are achieved
  5. To write a program with all goals in mind
  6. To write down your distance to the next goal each week

If you hit the above process goals, it would be hard to imagine the above goals are not all achievable. In fact, they seem hugely achievable


How this looks in a program

Every coach, want-to-be coach, Instagram account holder and lifter has their theories with how to program. While they all have merit, it is perfectly acceptable (perhaps even better) to stay on straight linear loading while not a high end intermediate lifter or advance lifter.

150 x 2 is already within this lifters wheelhouse, and is set to build end of phase one, a PR of 160x3.

Here is a very practical week by week breakdown

Week by week

  1. 140 x 4 – 2 sets
  2. 140 x 5 – 2 sets
  3. 145 x 3 – 2 sets
  4. 150 x 2 – 2 sets – Goal One – 4 weeks
  5. 140 x 6 – 2 sets
  6. 145 x 5 – 2 sets
  7. 150 x 3 – 2 sets
  8. Deload – 120 x 4 – 3 sets
  9. 150 x 3 – 3 sets
  10. 155 x 3 – 3 sets
  11. 160 x 1 – 3 sets
  12. 150 x 4 – 3 sets
  13. 155 x 4 – 3 sets
  14. 160 x 2 – 2 sets
  15. Deload
  16. 160 x AMRAP

Lifters who have written programs will see in this progression, the lifter is only beyond his starting strength for short periods of time, but is building solid work capacity. If the 160x2 looked like 8RPE on the first set, the lifter is also pretty dang close to a 180kg pull. For a beginner or intermediate – the above deadlift work with accessories in weak points is likely to get the lifter there.

How this progression was written

If you are just starting, you can use a 1RM calculator and it will list projected rep maxes. Most lifters are actually pretty close to these, and you can test different ones online and get to know where you differ.

If the lifter here has a 160kg 1RM – that means the lifters 5RM would be around 143kg. In week one, we’ve but the lifter at 4 reps at 140kg, which should equate 8RPE. If you are coaching yourself, and you are nowhere near 8RPE on week one, you have shocking form on your single, or you are overtrained.

From there, you add weight or add reps. Its that simple. If you simply are dying in form or hitting 9RPE, then you may not be a beginner or early intermediate – and may need to restructure your program.

Technically, a lifter may find 145 for 5 harder than 150 for 3. Practically, the harder week is put earlier when the lifter does not have the stress of bigger weights or being closer to goals.


Let's not get lost in program arguments

No matter what your programming preference is (the above is only for example sake) the basis of this is the process is very controllable, but the destination goal is often not.

You can’t stop the bad luck of catching a cold on max out week. You can’t stop your boss from giving you overtime.

You can largely control the process because you have longer to adjust. You can mentally feel much stronger and more confident on max out day, if you know you took all the steps on the way.

Moral of the story? Don’t stress missing that big lift, and know if you hit all the little steps on the way, you are a few adjustments away from hitting it next time!