Coach Ken Wheeler | Powerlifting 101: Goal Setting

Powerlifting 101: How to choose realistic goals?

 As usual, these are just my suggestions and should not be misconstrued as “the only way” to arrive at your personal goals. 


First consideration: Prioritizing your goals.


I like to establish goals in three areas:

  1. Short term….3-6 mos.  Where are you now? Where could you be with minimal amount of effort? Remember, at the beginning, any routine or training protocol will make you stronger, so at this point don’t be too concerned what training method to use, just train, learn proper technique and put in the time. Generally speaking, you will get stronger no matter what you do.
  2. Long term…..2-3 yrs. This goal should be more focused and fine-tuned. Ultimately this goal will be impacted a great deal by your training protocol. This should be a time of learning how to identify those weaknesses that need to be constantly addressed….a never-ending cycle. 
  3. ‘Dream’…..ultimate goal. Building on your long term. (Run with this one…it’s your dream!) 

By breaking goals down, it helps to establish what I call a “reality” basis for a long term plan. And, it breaks the upcoming work into three stair-steps that you can attack one at a time. First things first, list what your current numbers are on all three lifts. This is your “real” starting point. Now let’s consider a few things that will influence your success as your strive toward your goals.


Factors that should be considered in goal setting for PL?

      1. Experience….how long have you been actually “training”. I don’t mean working out. I mean “training” for powerlifting? How many meets have you attended or competed in? There are coaches who disagree with me on this point, but in my opinion, meet experience is more important than strength at the beginning of your PL experience. I have seen some very strong lifters bomb out of meets due to technical reasons (i.e. “dumb mistakes”) that could have been avoided IF they had taken the time to learn the rules and get some competition experience. Don’t be that guy. Get strong AND try to get in some 9 for 9 meets. Once you have achieved a class 1 ranking (look it up), then you can forget about going 9 for 9 and focus on playing the game a bit differently…(more on that in a different blog post).
      2. Existing records…are you close to a record? If so, then by all means, give it a go! Focus on the record and ease up a bit on the other lifts, saving your energy for the record attempt. 
      3. Natural athletic ability This one gets me into trouble sometimes because I’m not afraid to tell it like it is, especially in the gym, but here it goes: anyone can want to squat 700# but is it realistic for a 123# woman to make this a top priority dream goal? I know, I know, “don’t tell me I can’t lift or do ‘x’”…blah, blah, blah. I get it. No one wants to be told they can’t do something. And yes, you might be the golden child who is chosen to be the first 123# woman to squat 700# in a competition. Seriously, I would LOVE to see it happen! But do you really have that kind of natural ability? Only you, God and maybe a great coach will ever know that answer, but you get my point. 
      4. Training facility…. Or, put another way….you might love your gym, but does it love powerlifters? If your gym does not cater to PL it is going to be more difficult to achieve PL goals. And please, I am not bagging on public gyms. I respect them as businesses and I agree 100% with gym owners who claim that powerlifters are not, generally speaking, good for business. We do not bring in more members because we don’t want people in our way! Fewer people means lower profits and lower profits means why am I in business???!  My point? Don’t blame the gym owner. Maybe you should find a different place to train. If there is none available, suck it up and do the best you can or… buy your own equipment and train in your garage. Lots of lifters do this with great success. Good luck!
      5. Time available to train (job, family, school, other hobbies, holidays, vacations)… This one is self-explanatory. The less time you can commit to this, in all probability, the harder it will be to achieve the dream goals…period. I will never tell you it is impossible, as it relates to your goals, but it will be tough for those who want to be more than a “recreational” powerlifter.  
      6. Training partners. I will keep this one very simple. If your training partner does not share in your goals or your commitment (refer to #5) get a new training partner. Period.
      7. Division (gear, tested, age, weight). If you want to compete in the raw/tested division, for example, look up some of the records and get an idea of how your goals compare. Remember, be realistic, but dream a little as well, and you will do just fine☺.

        Summation of goal setting:

        -Your goals will/should change over the course of your time in the sport. 

        -Each stage will require reevaluation as increasing your total becomes harder and takes more time.


        Remember, these are your goals and you have to take ownership and I wish you well on your journey! God bless. 


        Coach Ken Wheeler USPA Multi Ply/Vice-President/HogPit Powerlifting






        Please note, comments must be approved before they are published