Do You Train HARD or SMART

Do You Train HARD or SMART

By: Coach PK Mills

Are you training H.A.R.D. or S.M.A.R.T?  

By HARD I mean; Hopeless, Archaic, Reckless and Dangerous! Unfortunately, many athletes fall into this category and it really hurts their progress. Let’s break things down further.


A HARD training athlete simply goes into the gym or to the practice session without any plan or strategy. He or she may want a better physique or to become stronger or to make the starting lineup on a team but has no idea how to get from point A to point B. This in my opinion is hopeless and is the equivalent of a hamster spinning on a wheel – it leads to nowhere.


An athlete who trains HARD doesn’t see the need to use cutting edge training principles based on science. He or she is content to do the same exercises in the same order for the same rep ranges using the same weights day after day, month after month, year after year. Of course, this athlete is shocked to realize he has made zero progress after all these years.


Warming up, cooling down, and strict form might as well be words from another language to the HARD training athlete. Instead of gradually preparing the body for intensity the HARD athlete just starts with the heaviest possible weight with horrendous form. He has “no time” for mobility and claims it’s “too boring.”


The HARD training athlete is a danger to himself. His training approach, or lack thereof has him on the fast track to a debilitating injury and equally worse, no results for the time he has invested. This aimless approach is unnecessarily hard. There is a better way.

The SMART athlete chooses a goal that is meaningful and intrinsically important.

Now let’s contrast the HARD athlete with the SMART athlete. Muscle growth is important to both athletes but their methods couldn’t be more different. By SMART I mean this athlete approaches his or her goal in a Specific, Meaningful, Action Oriented, Realistic, and Time Oriented fashion. Let’s dive deeper into this:


The SMART athlete looking to build more muscle outlines his goal in specific terms. For example, the SMART athlete will say “I would like to add 5 lbs. of lean muscle to my frame.” This is clear and measurable target to aim for. With clarity around the goal, the SMART athlete can determine which type of training is best for muscle growth (i.e., bodybuilding) and what to put on the back burner (i.e., excessive cardio).


The SMART athlete chooses a goal that is meaningful and intrinsically important. This is a huge component of effective goal setting. The athlete sets the goal of building more muscle because it will provide fulfillment and a sense of purpose. When things get hard, as they inevitably will, the SMART athlete uses this sense of purpose to push through adversity.

Action Oriented

The SMART athlete is a person of action. He sets a goal and takes deliberate actions to achieve it. When faced with adversity, the SMART athlete assesses the situation, adapts and keeps moving forward.


The SMART athlete lives in the real world and not in a fantasy land. His goals are a stretch to accomplish – meaning that he will have been dedicated and disciplined – but they are also rooted in reality.

Time Oriented

The SMART athlete sets a goal with a deadline to create a sense of urgency with his actions. The deadline is set far enough in advance that he has enough time to achieve his goal but not so far that the he loses interest. For example, if a beginner/intermediate athlete wants to gain 5 lbs. of muscle, this can be realistically achieved in 8-12 weeks. For an advanced athlete with many years of training experience, the time horizon would be much longer (i.e., 16-20 weeks).