6 Strength Training Goals That Will Boost Your Workout Results

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In past articles, I’ve talked about which exercises to do and the benefits of them, but the missing link is how you’re doing these exercises. This is where strength training goals come in! Now, these goals are different than your greater goal (or your why) for working out. Your greater goal might be something like being able to hike farther, having less joint pain day-to-day, or keeping up with your kids.

The strength training goals we’re going to talk about in this article refer to outcomes you get by lifting weights in a specific way. There are many different variables when it comes to lifting weights- like how many of each exercise you do and what weight you use. How you combine these variables actually creates different results for your body and strength.

We can see this clearly if we look at the difference between a bodybuilder and a yoga practitioner: the bodybuilder is training individual muscle groups for visible muscle growth, and the yoga practitioner is training for the endurance and balance to hold challenging poses. Both of them are most likely doing similar exercises, but they’re doing them in ways that help get their desired strength outcomes.

The Principle of Specificity

The Principle of Specificity is the way the body responds to specific demands placed on it. Using the example above, this is why a bodybuilder might struggle with yoga or a yoga practitioner might struggle with bodybuilder-style weightlifting. They are both very strong individuals, but they’ve developed different types of strength. If they want to be good at both, they would have to train for both types of strength. Essentially, you’ll get really good at the way you train consistently, but it doesn’t always transfer very well to other ways of training.

This is why a well-rounded strength training program uses all of these goals! Just because you want to focus on one or two goals doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate all six into your program at some point. These goals all complement each other and work to make you a stronger person overall. We’ll talk more about what these goals look like in a strength training plan at the end of the article!

The 6 Strength Training Goals

  1. Endurance
  2. Maximum Strength
  3. Hypertrophy
  4. Balance/Stability
  5. Movement Strength
  6. Power


Before we get into explaining each goal and why it deserves a spot in your training, here’s some definitions of terms I’ll be using:

  • Reps: How many of an exercise you do in a row before resting.
  • Set: How many rounds you do. Each round of reps is a set.
  • RPE: Rating of Perceived Exertion, or how intense something feels on a scale of 1-10. You can match this with percentages: An RPE of 5 means it’s an exercise done with about 50% effort. An RPE of 10 means it’s an exercise done with 100% effort. RPE is personal- you choose what gets you to your desired number, usually by adding or taking away weight.
  • 1RM: One rep max, or the absolute most you can lift for one rep of an exercise. Many programs give you weight calculations to use in workouts based on your 1RM.

Strength Training Goals, Explained


The results you get from training this way: The outcome of training for endurance is the ability to lift things for longer periods of time. Think about times you need to move for a long time without getting fatigued- this is where endurance shines! When we apply endurance training to squats (I’ll use squats as an example for each goal), this could look like not getting tired or sore when you have to climb many flights of stairs.

How to do it: Use high reps and lighter weights. Usually 12-20 reps per set puts you in the endurance range, but if you are newer to strength training you might get that same experience with fewer than 12 reps in each set. Aim for an RPE of 6-8. You’ll want to use a weight that is light enough (or no weight) for you to complete all the reps and still feel like you could do 1-2 more if you really had to. Lots of different equipment can be used for endurance training because of the lower weights, such as kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls, and resistance bands.

Maximum Strength

The results you get from training this way: The outcome of training for maximum strength is getting as strong as possible. You want to move something very heavy for a short period of time, the opposite of endurance training. When we put this into practice with our squat example, it could look like picking up a very heavy piece of furniture that needs to be moved.

How to do it: Use low reps and heavy weights. When training for maximum strength, you’ll want to aim for 1-5 reps per set and do the exercise with an RPE of 9-10 (even 9.5-10 if you’ve been training for a while). You can also think about this as getting close to your 1RM, matching it, or even pushing it farther. Doing exercises like this requires a high level of stability- you’ll want to do the most basic variation of each exercise to be able to lift the most weight (back squat, conventional or sumo deadlift, basic bench press, etc.), and you’ll most likely need a barbell to be able to add enough weight for the exercise.

Extra: Because training for maximum strength isn’t always the most applicable to people’s lives, I also wanted to mention submaximal training. It’s a similar idea to maximum strength, but a bit less intense (we don’t usually go around needing to lift hundreds of pounds in our daily life). For submaximal training, you’ll still want to do low reps with heavy weights, but this time with an RPE of 8-9 and 3-6 reps per set.


The results you get from training this way: The outcome of training for hypertrophy is visible muscle growth. Strength training will get you stronger no matter what, but it doesn’t mean you will “get bulky” or put on a lot of muscle mass quickly. If that’s one of your goals, this is where hypertrophy comes in! When it comes to squats, this looks like training for larger, well-defined leg muscles.

How to do it: There are two ways you can approach training hypertrophy. One is doing 6-12 reps per exercise with medium/heavy weights. The other option is doing 20+ reps per exercise with light weights. For both options, you’ll want to aim for an RPE of 7-8. The first option will feel that way because of the weight you choose, the second option because of the high reps you’re using, even if the weight is low.

Extra: It’s popular in hypertrophy training to use supersets and dropsets to promote muscle growth. A superset is putting two exercises together that work the same muscle group (but there are many options for these!), and a dropset is doing the exercise until you can’t anymore, then dropping the weight and doing more. Because of the more complex ranges and strategies for hypertrophy, it can be helpful to follow a coach’s program for this goal instead of trying to do it on your own.


The results you get from training this way: The outcome of training for balance and stability is increased body awareness and joint support. Stability and balance training helps your body focus on your core and the smaller muscles that stabilize joints. Training these muscles helps support the larger muscles that do the big movements so they can get even stronger. Using our squat example, two outcomes of using balance and stability training are less joint pain in the knees and ankles and increased confidence that your legs won’t “give out” when moving in ways where you legs aren’t in a very stable position.

How to do it: You want to use medium/light/no weights for each exercise, because you’re putting your body in a more unstable position, and aim for 10+ reps per set. Your RPE might still be on the higher side, even with the light weights, because it can take a surprising amount of effort to balance! Time can be a big factor in training this way- experiment with slowing exercises down, adding a pause in the exercise, or holding a position for a longer period of time. There are three ways you can train balance and stability: You can make the weight unstable, put your body in a more unstable position, or you can make your surface unstable.

If I apply each of the three balance/stability options to squats:

  • Unstable weight. Sometimes this takes specialized equipment, but this is usually the most effective at strengthening all of the stabilizing muscles in your body. For a squat, this could looking like using a barbell for the squat, but add resistance bands on each end with kettlebells hanging off of it. The kettlebells will dangle and move, causing your body to use all your muscles to keep you from stumbling.
  • Unstable body positions. Standing on two legs and laying on the ground are both very stable body positions. By choosing a different body position, you can make your body use more stabilizing muscles to stay upright. The best body positions for this are kickstand (one leg behind the other helping you balance, like a bike kickstand), standing on one leg, or a half-kneeling position (one knee and one foot on the ground). For a squat, this could look like using one leg instead of two, like a pistol or shrimp squat. Another options is balancing on one leg, like in a step up to balance.
  • Unstable surface. Doing exercises on a hard surface is the most stable, and you can challenge your balance by making the surface more unstable. Start by standing on a softer surface, like a foam pad. After that, you can challenge yourself even more by standing on something that moves, such as a foam roller, balance board, or bosu ball. When you start adding unstable surfaces, you want to keep the exercises simple, otherwise it starts to look more like a circus act than a balance exercise.

Movement Strength

The results you get from training this way: The outcome of training for movement strength is the ability to feel stronger in many different, unusual body positions. There are three planes of motion that your body moves within: sagittal, frontal, and transverse. When you move in the sagittal plane, you’re moving forward and back. The frontal plane is when you move side-to-side, and the transverse plane is when you twist or move rotationally.

Most strength training exercises move in the sagittal plane. Calling back to the Principle of Specificity, if the only exercises you ever do are sagittal plane movements, you won’t be as strong with frontal and transverse plane movement. During daily life you probably move in all three planes, but if you’re only training one in the gym, you’re significantly more likely to get injured when you do things like bend, reach, or twist.

How to do it: Use light or no weights with lots of full-body movement and do 8-15 reps per set. Incorporate exercises for each plane and/or do variations of basic exercises that move in the frontal or transverse planes.

  • Lateral movement (frontal plane)- Think about choosing exercises that go side-to-side, or variations of the basic exercise. I like exercises like skaters that step or hop to each side. For squats, this could mean doing a lateral lunge.
  • Rotational movement (transverse plane)- Choose movements that make you twist through your hips or torso. One of my favorite examples of a transverse plane exercise is a chop. Using the squat example, adding rotation could like doing transverse lunges or lunges with an upper body twist.
  • Full body movement-based exercises- There are many exercise that involve full body movement in multiple planes, such as a Turkish get up. In most strength training programs, exercises like these are absent or barely used. Focusing on movement strength will help you pull these types of exercises into the spotlight and help your body movement smoothly in all three planes of motion.


The results you get from training this way: The outcome of training for power is the ability to move and react quickly. Any time you need to react quickly, you’re using power. This way of training generally gets associated with athletes, but it’s important for everyone to train power so they can move quickly when necessary. Generating power in your body can look as simple as standing up from the floor.

How to do it: Do exercises explosively with light or no weight for 4-8 reps. You want to stop when you feel yourself not having as much power as when you started the set. Your goal is to help your muscles turn on an off quickly. Power includes training acceleration (quickly starting movement), deceleration (quickly stopping movement), and plyometrics (short but intense bursts of activity) with different exercises.

With squats, you could choose to do a more intense squat variation such as being explosive on the “up” part of the squat or doing jump squats. In a less intense but still powerful exercise, you can practice standing up from the ground or off of a chair. Whichever exercise you do, you want to more quickly and make it as explosive as possible.

Using the Strength Training Goals in Your Workout Program

Now that you know all six strength training goals, let’s talk about how to implement them in your workout plan. To do this, we want to look at our workouts on a larger scale, like multiple months at a time instead of just what’s happening next week. It’s helpful for me to get a calendar, or have sheets of paper that represent a month of workouts.

It takes time for your body to adapt to how you’re doing your exercises, so you generally want to stick with a goal for 2-3 months before switching to a new one. Our bodies need each of these goals, which is why it’s so beneficial to cycle through all of them. If there are goals you don’t want to focus on quite as much, you can add those in as one month “breaks” in between other goals you want to prioritize.

Before you get into specific exercises, you want to plan out which order you want to focus on goals in. This can always adjust as your life changes, but it helps give you a larger overview of what you want your workout program to look like. After working towards one goal for a while, your body will adapt- remember the Principle of Specificity? You might notice some plateauing (not making much progress). That’s usually a sign that it’s time to switch to a different goal for a while.

Specific Goal Recommendations

If you’re new to strength training, I highly recommend starting with endurance as your goal for the first 2-3 months. Because it uses higher rep ranges, you get lots of practice with the basics before trying other things. It’s one of the most beginner-friendly options and gives you results quickly. From there, you can start incorporating other goals.

If your goal is power or maximum strength, you’ll want to plan months where you focus on the less intense goals like balance and stability. Doing high intensity workouts or using heavy weights a lot can burn out your body and cause symptoms of overtraining. Even weightlifting pros focus on less-intense workouts for some parts of the year to let their bodies recover. In this same thread, doing a bunch of power or max strength exercises in one day or week can have similar burnout effects.

But what if I have multiple goals?

Now here’s where it gets extra fun: you can choose different goals for different exercises!

In a span of 2-3 months, maybe I want to work on endurance for squats but balance for my upper body. Both can coexist in the same workout. Choose an exercise, then choose the training goal that will give you the results you want. Make sure you’re doing that exercise 1-3 times per week to see results. If you’re setting things up this way, here are some good guidelines to follow:

  • Start with the power or maximum strength exercises. These are going to be the exercises that take the most energy, so you want to do them right after your warm up. If you wait until later, you might already be exhausted from the other parts of your workout. You won’t have the energy to perform power or maximum strength exercises the way you want to.
  • Endurance and hypertrophy exercises can be done in the middle of your workout. After you’ve done any power or maximum strength exercises, you can move on to other exercises in your program. If you don’t have either of those, you can head right to your endurance or hypertrophy exercises! Depending on your goals, doing these exercises might be your entire workout. Note: depending on the exercise, balance/stability can go here too.
  • Do movement strength and balance/stability exercise at the end. Because these exercises use lighter weights, they go well at the end of a workout after you’ve done exercises with medium or heavy weights.


No matter which goal you’re working towards, make sure you’re resting in between sets. There are rest recommendations for all of these strength training goals, but the important part is that you are resting enough in between sets or exercises. You want to feel recovered enough to make it through the next set. If you let yourself get too tired, your form might start to waver and you risk getting injured, especially with high intensity or high rep exercises. It’s always better to stop when you feel this happen instead of continue to push through.

Tracking Your Workouts

When you’re training to reach specific goals like this, tracking your workouts is a must. Over time, you’ll want to know things like:

  • the exercises you’re doing
  • how you’re doing each of them (which goal?)
  • what weight you used
  • how many reps and sets you did
  • the RPE

Tracking these things will show you how you progress, especially over the 2-3 months you’re working towards a goal. For example, if you’re working towards maximum strength for squats, you want to know you’re making progress and lifting more weight! Some people use apps where you can input these numbers, other people prefer a notebook they can keep in their gym bag. Figure out what works best for you!

While the idea of strength training goals is a more advanced concept, using these ideas in your workout is how you truly customize a workout routine to your goals and achieve results. If these goals are something you want to get serious about and focus on, it can be helpful to hire a coach to help you with a workout program. Planning out these goals and how they fit together can take a lot of time and energy, but this is the area where a strength coach shines! Then all you need to do is follow what the program says and experience the results.

Interested in putting these goals into your training program? Let’s build workout routine together!

Sarah Siertle

Hey! I'm Sarah!
I'm an inclusive strength & movement coach who helps people get hella strong so they can have fun and live their lives in full color!

My coaching is beginner-friendly, movement-based, and size-inclusive. I believe in coaching that is kind, not shaming or judgmental as so many fitness experiences are.

If you're ready to start your strength journey, you can check out your training options or get started with a free workout!

Mindset Tips

Blog Categories

Strength Training Tips

About Me & My Business

Inclusive Fitness


Hey! I'm Sarah!
I'm an inclusive strength & movement coach who helps people get hella strong so they can have fun and live their lives in full color!

My coaching is beginner-friendly, movement-based, and size-inclusive. I believe in coaching that is kind, not shaming or judgmental as so many fitness experiences are.

If you're ready to start your strength journey, you can check out your training options or get started with a free workout!

Mindset Tips

Blog Categories

Strength Training Tips

About Me & My Business

Inclusive Fitness



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