Set Your Sights On Something Realistic

When it comes to weightlifting, if you want to make optimal long-term progress then you need to be realistic in your weightlifting expectations. That can be pretty hard. The world of weightlifting is bombarded with all sorts of images of fitness stars being ripped, shredded, big, tight, solid, insanely strong and well, literally perfect in everyway. Many people see these images as their ultimate goal. When you start seeing all these images you start to actually believe that achieving this might really be possible.

After all, if all these fitness stars can achieve this, then I can as well, right? Well, as a natural recreational weightlifter the reality can often be far different from what you see online, on the TV or in a magazine. Now, I am not saying you can’t as a natural recreational weightlifter, achieve a great kick-ass body you can be proud of. But, our idea of what is realistic can often be obscured by what we are constantly surrounded by. If we come across it enough, our minds can trick us into starting to really believe it. The question is: how can your long-term weightlifting gains be affected when this balance between reality and expectation changes?

Get The Balance Right

As a long-term weightlifter, you probably have a few ultimate goals in mind: to put on more muscle mass, become super strong and, lean enough to have all that hard work really show. You might have one of these goals, two or, all three. The important thing is: to what point can these goals change from realistic to un-realistic, and what is the potential cost to your weightlifting performance in the long-term. The question you are all probably wondering is: how can realistic or un-realistic goals affect my performance over the long-term? They are just goals, right? Well, it’s all about balance. Goals define what we do, our actions and, the path we take to try to achieve them. If the balance between what is realistic and what we expect is changed too much, this can affect the weightlifting path we follow. The truth is, if you can balance your expectations with reality, then your weightlifting performance in the long-term will be significantly better.

“What is the potential cost to your weightlifting performance in the long-term”.

So, what exactly do I mean between this balance in goal expectation and reality? Take a look at these typical scenarios. They happen quite frequently in the weightlifting world! The first scenario is this: you want to put on as much muscle mass as possible. Or, the second scenario: you want to be incredibly lean, have washboard abs and be closer to looking like a Greek god. The third common scenario: you want to be insanely lean, chiseled AND have a large amount of muscle mass at the same time. Although these are motivating goals to have, a lot of weightlifters don’t see these just as motivation, but as goals they HAVE to achieve and THINK they can achieve, otherwise the thought of failure and disappointment kicks in. Many times I have seen weightlifters have these sorts of goals only to tumble down in their weightlifting careers. Why? They are not long-term and they are not conducive to good health or optimal performance. Since weightlifting is an important part of your life, you need to be thinking long-term, maintaining good health and, ensuring that your performance is always optimal. You need these three things for weightlifting success! It’s not a coincidence that most of these scenarios you find, happen to come from fitness stars: chiseled, Greek-god like, lots of muscle mass, little fat. Ring any bells? The problem is when you look at fitness stars, most of the time you are not looking at reality. I can guarantee you, if you had a crystal ball you would quickly find out that none of these fitness stars maintain such goals over the long-term. They also don’t maintain their good health or performance as well. They also feel like death. Just a little extra to think about!

Expectation Vs Reality (Unbalanced).png

  • “A” represents what can happen if the expectations of a weightlifter (E) far exceed what is realistically possible (R). This can lead weightlifters to possible unsustainable, short-term, and unhealthy journeys. In turn, leading to sub-optimal results in long-term size and strength.
  • “B” represents what can happen if the expectations of a weightlifter (E) are actually lower than that what is realistically achievable (R). This can lead to weightlifters underselling themselves causing them to not push themselves as hard as they could. This can lead to a short-fall in optimal long-term results in size and strength. It can happen!

In reality, most of these scenarios work out sub-optimally for most natural, recreational weightlifters. For weightlifters wanting to gain so much muscle, in reality this can usually lead to excessive fat gains as well. Not part of the plan! On the flip side, wanting to achieve Greek-god status usually means in reality, sacrificing too much hard earned muscle in the hopes of loosing enough fat to look solid, ripped and defined. Also not part of the plan! If you are trying to maintain both high levels of muscle and low levels of fat at the same time, the reality is you will never make ANY progress. Doing both at the same time for 99% of natural recreational weightlifters is just not possible over the long-term. Not what you expected! So as you can see, the reality for many weightlifters can tend to diverge significantly from their expectations. If your expectations far exceed reality, it can lead to possible setbacks in your weightlifting career. Yes, I do agree that having high expectations can motivate you, and give you drive in your weightlifting career. But if they are too high, you are most likely to loose sight of what is optimal, what is long-term and what is overall realistic. Balancing your expectations with reality is something that every weightlifter needs to learn to do if they want to make optimal, sustainable and healthy progress.

“The reality for many weightlifters can tend to diverge significantly from their expectations”.

What about the other side of the coin: what if reality begins to exceed your expectations too far? This can also happen. In other words, are you setting your expectations too low? Why is this a problem? Well for one, you can still achieve some pretty dam good results as a long-term natural recreational weightlifter. It might not be fitness star level, but still impressive, worth fighting for and a result you can definitely be proud off! The problem is, if you don’t believe that it can happen and it’s far out of your reach, you are not likely to push yourself hard enough in your weightlifting career. What you think is not possible, might actually be VERY possible. If this happens, you risk selling yourself short and you might not end up working as optimally and as hard as you could. Even if we can’t achieve that fitness-star level like perfect body, as a natural recreational weightlifter, there is still so much potential in the long-term to be reached. Don’t overlook what you can naturally achieve! That potential is still high enough to warrant a battle.

Reality Vs. Expectations

For long-term optimal and sustainable gains in size and strength you need to be balancing reality with your expectations. It’s a tricky thing to do and mostly it’s going to be something you learn to do through trial and error and with more weightlifting experience. Let me tell you, when I first started my weightlifting career, my expectations were far out of balance with reality. In fact looking back, I sometimes cringe at what I considered possible long-term. Oops! Well, we all learn! The point is over time, I have learned through my training, my results and what my body has achieved, to better understand and balance reality with my expectations. The benefit of this is that it has helped me to program my training, nutrition and lifestyle in a much more long-term, healthier and sustainable way. In fact, since learning to better balance my expectations with reality, my weightlifting career has massively improved. No longer do I say to myself: I want to build as much muscle as possible, get as chiseled as possible or do both. Now, I say to myself: let’s see how my size and strength develops over the next few months and adjust my training, nutrition and lifestyle accordingly. If I am not happy, I adjust. If I am, I keep going. This way, I am no longer fixated on unrealistic goals, but more on the long-term journey itself. By doing it this way, I have kept a better balance between reality and my expectations and ensured that my weightlifting continues on a long-term, healthy and sustainable path.

Exectation Vs. Reality (Balanced)

  • “C’ represents the goal that every weightlifter should aim for, for optimal long-term gains in size and strength. A balance between their expectations (E) and what is realistically possible (R). This will ensure that weightlifters follow a weightlifting path that is healthy, long-term and sustainable.

It’s important to remember that this balance will be different for everyone. Not every weightlifter is the same and their limits will be different. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t actually matter. The important thing is to make sure that you are working on achieving a balance between reality and expectations. Why? It is this balance that will keep you on an optimal, long-term, and sustainable weightlifting path. Even though the reality side of the scale is usually fixed for most people, its still pretty kick-ass what people can actually achieve over the long-term with hard work, dedication, nutrition and proper training programming. Keep your expectations inline with this reality and you will certainly be on your way to making long-term gains in size and strength.


If you have any questions about the article or would like to discuss further some of the topics mentioned, then please feel free to leave comments down below. Do your goals diverge significantly from reality? Have you ever had unrealistic goals? Has this changed as your weightlifting experience has increased? Let me know!