How to Track and Progress Multiple Goals at the Gym… And Win!

By on June 28, 2024

As you guys know, I like to train for multiple different goals and disciplines at once. I also like to use unconventional movements, to vary up my training, and to get outside and throw logs around and climb trees. This keeps me versatile and adaptable and it’s a lot of fun.

Tracking in the gym

But the obvious criticism of this kind of training is: how do I progress? How do I track progress? How can I improve in all these areas at once, and how do I know if I’m getting stronger when I’m lifting weirdly shaped objects?

I’m glad you asked. In this post, my aim is to convince you that you can enjoy fun and varied training while still seeing consistent progress.

First of all: there’s no reason that you can’t have multiple goals in different areas. Right now, I’m working on my boxing technique, my jump rope technique, and my hand balancing. I’m also trying to unlock a decent straddle planche, develop my biceps and shoulders, improve various aspects of my mobility… you get the idea.

If a bodybuilder can add size to their biceps and their quads and their lats simultaneously, then I can improve my jump rope and my bench press… right? Especially as skills as less difficult to develop.

Of course, training for multiple goals is always going to be harder and slower than if you were to focus all your attention on just one.

If I was totally fixated on handstand push ups, then it would make sense to stop everything else I was doing. If I did that for a few months, I could likely take the handstand push ups pretty far. And that’s certainly one option: having a period dedicated to just one skill and then simply maintaining that in the background while you work on the next.

But I don’t find that particularly rewarding. And I’d be upset to lose my physique, my cardio, and whatever else. Besides, my attention span is too short. Monday I might be all about throwing kicks, then Wednesday I want to bulk up and get super strong. Maybe you can relate.

So, I juggle these multiple goals knowing it’s a compromise. Knowing I will progress in each area more slowly. But that’s okay. I’m still progressing! And I’d rather be pretty good at a whole ton of skills than amazing at one and rubbish at everything else.

With that in mind, skills are very much what I’m focussed on for the most part. The things that appeal to me most are developing my kettlebell swing and my shield cast. Punching faster and lighter, running better, and doing cool tricks on the jump rope. I’m all about movement, after all. And strength, in many cases, is a skill. To paraphrase Pavel.

The good news is that skills fit easily into most programs. Hitting a heavy bag, practicing kicks, doing hand stands… none of it puts much strain on my nervous system. None of it requires a lot of recovery time. And even practicing these things once a week is enough. Don’t believe me? Need I remind you that most martial arts classes only run once or twice a week? Same for my old piano lessons.

Sure, if you can practice more it’s better. But if you only practice once, you’ll still make progress.

So, there’s really no reason you can’t decide to work on your juggling, your pistol squats, and your shoulder mobility all at the same time!

How do I know if I’m making progress in my skills? That’s much easier.

For starters, you can often tell simply by how well you can do the skill. These days I can do a handstand push up first try much more often – so I know I’ve made progress.

Same with the jump rope: I know I’m faster, I know I feel more relaxed, and I can usually do crossovers without fail. I can now also use the AMP handles from CrossRope, todays sponsor. These handles connect to your phone and let you literally track your jump rope workouts – so you can monitor how many jumps you can do without missing one. Just pair the handles with the app and you’re good to go – or you can follow along with a guided workout. Seeing this number go up over time is a pretty big indicator that you’re improving!

While we’re on the subject: I do highly recommend crossrope. Their ropes are made from a proprietary material that won’t get tangled or degrade over time. The handles use advanced spin mechanics so they feel great. And they let you quickly swap out ropes to increase or decrease the weight – this is another easy way to work on skills while also building strength and burning even more calories.

Bioneer viewers can get 15% off their purchase by using code BIONEER at check out. Huge thank you to those guys for sponsoring this video.

Another option for seeing yourself progress, is to film yourself and watch it back. This is amazing for seeing your technique improve over time, but also for accelerating your learning. You can see where you’re going wrong.

Getting feedback from others is also huge in this regard.

But I do ALSO want a good physique. And I want to be strong. Really strong. I want to move like an action hero but also look like one. The other good news, is that doing all this skills training builds a great physique. Hitting a heavy bag builds your shoulders and gets you lean. Same with jump rope, which also develops calves. Chest and shoulder strength make me better at handstand push ups.

So, when I’m training for shoulder and pec hypertrophy, I know that I’m also training for better handstand push ups. And when I practice handstands and pike lift offs, I’m also getting bigger and stronger shoulders.

Same goes for my push ups or crawling through woods. Or pressing a log overhead.
Here, the strength training is supplementing the skills practice and vice versa.

I get the same interdisciplinary benefits in other ways too – improving shoulder mobility is mandatory for improving handstands. And you can’t learn to sprint, box, jump rope, or swing kettlebells without also developing your cardio.

But this might still all sound a little slap dash and sporadic. Am I really getting stronger or improving cardio with such a random approach?

Well, in terms of developing max strength and size, there’s a few things to consider. First: there’s enough evidence to suggest that training once a week is enough to maintain your gains. So, as long as I can fit one session of heavy lifting in per week, I shouldn’t lose too much progress. That seems to hold true for me. And it’s especially true if you consider all that stuff I’m also doing!

If I’m doing heavy bench one day of the week and then swinging a club another and then crawling another – and doing some of that to failure… you can bet my shoulders will look and be pretty strong!

Especially when I decide to throw some extra strength training or hypertrophy work during those other workouts. Finished with handstand practice? Then why not round off with a set of pike push ups to failure? Drop sets are ideal to quickly stimulate growth.

If I’m making max effort on a consistent basis, it doesn’t really matter what the precise numbers are! Especially as there are so many roads to increasing strength and size (it’s not just about muscle damage, mechanical tensions, and metabolic build up – what about connective tissue hypertrophy, intra and intermuscular coordination, angiogenesis).

Time to think less in terms of binary “strength training or not strength training” and more in terms of a continuum.

I can still check in by seeing how much I can lift from time to time. But that’s not the focus. And honestly – I’m happy with my biceps as big as they are and my bench as big as it is. Who cares if I’m benching 130kg or 135kg max? My bench is big and it’s not going down. That’s all I need to know. More important for me are the skills and the abilities. So, if my increasing strength is resulting in better handstand push ups… well then I’m progressing. And if I feel good and look strong doing so, even better.

And I know what some people are going to say “that’s fine now but it’s not how you built your physique!” But it absolutely is. Skills training and athletics alone wouldn’t do it. But skills training and athletics with just a little bit of bodybuilding and heavy lifting? That’s enough.

So my advice is to focus a bit less on numbers and more what you want to do with your fitness. Focus on doing that and having fun, then build your program around that. That’s what functional strength is right? What’s the use in being strong unless it’s “for” something? As long as you make regular effort in each area, you’ll continue to improve.

It may not be optimal. But it’s fun and the result is actually a more well rounded performance profile that’s adaptable and versatile.

Why build a bigger squat, anyway? Unless you plan on jumping or carrying?

And don’t be in such a rush! If you’re moving, you’re improving. So have fun with it!

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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