06 Aug Goal Setting After Your Diet Is Finished: How To Make A Successful Transition For Long Term Results
I often think the most difficult part of getting into shape is not the diet itself, but how to transition in an effective manner after it’s all over.
The previous two articles in this series written by Adam covered the best nutritional and psychological strategies to best avoid the common ‘post-diet rebound’ and the associated bingeing that accompanies it.
If you haven’t read these, or want a refresher:
What I want to talk about in this final piece is how to approach goal setting after you’ve dieted down, and how to stay focused during a time when it’s easy to let everything slip.
No End Goal: What Next?
I’m writing this a week after having competed in a bodybuilding show, followed by a few photoshoots. This year I dieted for 21 weeks straight so for the best part of 6 months, I’ve been focused on looking my best for one day. That’s been my goal.
So what next? What’s to stop me from eating everything in sight and dropping off my training and cardio?
Besides setting a good example to my clients – who this year in particular have mastered the art of the ‘transition period’ – I also don’t want to repeat my mistakes from past diets.
The real key will be to shift my mindset from being physique oriented to performance based.
To make a transition successful, you need to start thinking about ‘after’ before the diet is over, so you have a plan of attack going into this phase.
About 2-3 weeks before the end, start thinking about what you’re going to do after, what you need to focus on, and how you’re going to execute it.
If you work with a coach, ask him or her what they feel your weak body parts are, and where you need to improve your physique. At the 2-3 week mark you should be pretty lean so you’ll be able to see what needs work on, and what’s strong.
For example, after my recent contest my glaring weakness were my adductors. When discussing my training with my coach, the first thing he said was to start blasting and progressing my wide stance leg presses to help bring up my adductors while drip feeding more food into my system to support the growth.
It doesn’t have to be this specific. A more general example is from a conversation I had with my client Shyam, who recently did a photoshoot (which we detailed in this case study here) and asked me what his goal should be next.
I responded, ‘get bigger everywhere’.
To the majority of my male clients, this is usually the goal. Unless I’m dealing with a seasoned bodybuilder, physique athlete or an advanced trainee, in which case I’ll be more specific.
For women, it could be to improve the shape of their glutes, or to create a better V-taper (of which you can read about here).
The specific goal doesn’t matter too much. What’s important is you have one.
Setting Performance Goals
Once you’ve established what your weaknesses are, it’s time to set some performance goals to address them.
The best way to improve your body overall is to get stronger in a wide variety of rep ranges in the big, compound lifts.
So if you’re tasked with the goal of ‘getting bigger everywhere’, here’s what you need to do.
Pick 2-3 exercises from each of the following categories that you can perform safely and with perfect technique: upper body press, upper body pull, quad dominant and posterior chain.
In each category you may choose the following exercises:
Upper body press:
- Flat Dumbbell Press
- Incline Barbell Press
- Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Upper body pull:
- Bent Over Row
- Wide Grip Pull Up
- Chest Supported Dumbbell Row
- Front Squat
- Hack Squat
- Leg Press
- Lying Dumbbell Leg Curl
- Romanian Deadlift
- Glute Ham Raise
Test out your 6-8 and 8-12 repetition maxes on each and over the next 12 months aim to progressively push these as high as you can while maintaining perfect form.
Keep a logbook, track your lifts and make sure that each month you look back you’re seeing progress.
I can guarantee that if you can add 10-20kg to every lift you’ll look like a different person.
Remember, if after 12 months you’re lifting the same weights as now, it’s likely you’ll look exactly the same.
If you’re a woman who’s goal is to improve their V taper and glute development, you can approach it by focusing all your efforts on these areas:
- Chin Ups
- One Arm Row
- Standing Military Press
- Seated Dumbbell Press
- Romanian Deadlift
- Hip Thrust
In the same fashion, test your rep maxes, then do everything you can to drive the numbers up while maintaining pristine technique.
When Should I Start This Progressive Phase?
Immediately after a competition or a hard diet, I don’t like to be too progressive with lifts. Depending how lean you got, how long you dieted for and how hard you pushed, you may want to use the initial period of training after your diet as a ‘low-moderate intensity, higher volume’ phase.
For 4 weeks or so after dieting, being too progressive can actually be detrimental for long-term progress because of the higher risk of injury: your leverages are changing back to normal and things might still not feel ‘right’.
During this time I like to groove movement patterns and ‘reset’ form, use higher training volumes (to make the most of the additional food coming in) and have fun in the gym.
After a few weeks of working perfect technique and getting great pumps, then I like to shift gears into being logbook focused again and pushing progressions.
By now your food should be back up to maintenance and you can start transitioning into a productive muscle-building phase.
What if I’m happy with what I’ve achieved, and want to maintain my condition?
This is a common question I get from clients who’ve achieved a level of condition they’ve never seen before, but is also highly maintainable.
For many of you, once you diet down to a certain shape, your next goal is simply maintenance.
Even if this is the case, I still think you need to have a performance mindset in the gym, or it can very easy to get bored and slip into a rut. If anything, dieting to maintain with a performance mindset might actually lead to some more improvements.
Similarly, if your goal is maintain condition, you need to create reasons to allow this to happen. Working to maintain in the lead up to another holiday or for a friend’s wedding in a few months are good examples of keeping yourself accountable to holding the condition you’re in.
Hopefully after this three-part series the idea of transitioning in a sustainable and healthy manner becomes a more achievable and less daunting task.
With the right nutritional and mindset strategies, as well as setting the right performance goals, you can set yourself up for long-term success in a seamless manner.
If anyone has strategies they’ve used with success in their own transition periods, we’d love to hear more, so feel free to share your experiences!