By Alex Ayliffe


Gyms all over the world are filled with amateur lifters each day going through the motions and seeing very little return for their investment of time and effort. I believe this is due to a lack of intention and purpose. Not in the woo-woo-new-age sense, but in the dedicated-effort-to-achieve-success sense.

The vast majority of lifters can be divided into two groups:


This is the majority. These are the people who just do whatever they feel like doing, or what they’ve always done. They show up, work hard (sometimes) and then they do it again the next day. But they have no semblance of a plan. I spoke a little about these guys in my last article ( There is something to be said about just putting your head down and working – it’s a great work ethic to have. However, it lacks direction.


These are the guys who watch all the YouTube videos, read all the articles, and listen to all the interviews they can. They know every internet-coach, every mobility exercise, and every program. They think about their training constantly and how to make it better, and they actually design a plan. However, they’re constantly filling their brains with reasons it won’t work, or reasons something else is better.

The end result for both of these types of lifters tends to be the same. Their training changes every day, or week and they never follow through with a consciously developed training plan. The Do-ers simply don’t give a shit, and the Thinkers give far too many. We want to harness the great traits of these lifters, and discard the self-sabotaging ones. I believe this can be solved very simply.


If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter how you get there. Most people have an idea of what they want out of their training, but it is rarely specific. Typical answers being: “I want to get bigger/stronger/leaner.” Or some variation of those three things. Those goals are far too broad. Say we want to drive to Alaska, and all we do is get in the car and start driving, we could very well end up in Buffalo. Fuck Buffalo – I want to go to Alaska. So how do we fix this?

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Sensitive (SMART) Goals

Goals do not need to be grandiose or unique. Too many people fall into the trap of trying to find the “perfect” goal to set. We just need a stepping stone. We want a goal that we can design a training cycle around achieving. Each cycle leads towards the bigger picture. For example, if you wanted to get strong, and your current Squat is 350lbs; we could aim for 10-20lbs on your Squat in 1-2 months and design a system to achieve that. Now you’re closer to your bigger goal, and we can continue to do that through different methods (Hypertrophy, attack weak points, speed work, develop strengths etc) to achieve the bigger goal of a 400lb Squat, then 500lbs, and then 600lbs. But this all comes back to creating a purpose for each session; no matter how minute or inconsequential it may seem.

Specific Goals Require Specific Training

Training needs to be specific to what you wish to accomplish. This is true in the broad sense, and the detailed sense. For instance, if you’re looking to put on some mass, everything you do in training should be geared towards putting on mass. The main lifts, supplemental lifts, assistance lifts, conditioning, mobility, and recovery all need to work synergistically to help achieve that goal. For example; don’t go run a 5k if you’re trying to get bigger. Spend that time eating and sleeping to recover from your voluminous training session, because that is what is required to get bigger. If you are doing something that doesn’t benefit your goal; stop doing it, or alter it to benefit your goal. I.e. Go for walks instead of doing hill sprints, to promote recovery and keep fat gain in check, rather than burn a shitload of much needed calories and wear down your legs and nervous system. Steady State, Met-cons, H.I.I.T., or whatever-the-fuck-conditioning all have their place and they can all be great but they are simply tools in our tool box. This applies to all facets of training. Don’t do Zumba to get bigger, or a no-carb diet to get stronger. You wouldn’t try to frame a house with an Auger. Use the right tools for the job.


So now that we’ve set the Do-ers straight, it’s time to deal with the Thinkers. If the Thinkers were to embark on our road trip to Alaska, they would look up directions, and spend 3 weeks deciding which route to take, only to change their mind after the first couple exits. I have a new rule for the Thinkers: Once you start a training cycle, you are not allowed to change it until you complete it.

I can hear their lamentations already...

“But I didn’t address my weak points!”

“I need to do more speed work!”

“Johnny Marketing says that snatch-grip overhead deficit rack presses with chains are the secret to developing slabs of lean muscle!”

Stop with the silliness people; when you decided on the plan it was good enough. The plan hasn’t changed just because you watched a video on Romanian Deadlifts last night. The plan will still work. Finish the plan, evaluate it, and learn through experience. If you’re still worried about your speed work or weak points or carb sensitivity or tight calves; address them in the next cycle. Chances are you’ll forget about them because they aren’t really a big deal. Have some conviction in your training.

Once you give your training a purpose, you will be amazed just how quickly you can propel yourself in the right direction and see real progress. Create a plan, train with intention and be consistent. Move forward, and create a path paved with purpose.


Grind. Evolve. Thrive.