Science of Sports Performance

The Compounding Effect of Goal Setting

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Today we are going to discuss compounding.  In life, everything builds on each other and compounds on previous gains.  Whether it is cash interest, skill, ability, knowledge, or essentially anything for that matter, starting from a base level and slowly adding to it will yield a huge return will help you more than ANYTHING else.


The way it works is simple.  With compounding gains, every single day you are adding, slow but sure, to your account / ability / knowledge base.  Let’s say you knowledge of periodization today is a 5/10 (arbitrary).  If you read specifically about periodization for 15 minute, everyday, you can increase that to 5.005 (again, arbitrary unit).  Tomorrow, it will be 5.010, next day 5.015 and so forth.  These very small, very incremental gains will increase your programming knowledge to 6.825/10 by the end of the year.  That’s over a 33% increase in your ability to write a program, in just 15 minutes a day, in 1 year.  How would that help your athletes, and your career?  Is it worth 15 minutes a day?

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]This applies even more greatly to a topic you know nothing about.  My current topic is marketing.  As of June 2015, I knew NOTHING about marketing.  Today, I know worlds above what I did then, and my skill and knowledge is only growing more and more daily.  Over the next year, by studying and listening to marketing podcasts every day, what will I know then?  The compounded knowledge of any topic is limitless; you can always go further.

Heres the thing: every day that you miss or skip is a missed opportunity to contribute to that compounded ability, and if you wait long enough, just like old summer vacations, you spend a significant amount of time re-learning what you previously knew instead of building upon it.  Just like a bank account, if you don’t invest today, you cannot reap the interested rewards tomorrow.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”4881″ border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]

This also applies to physical ability. If you want to get better at squatting, try doing it EVERY day.  It doesn’t have to be intense all the time, but if you do it, your total training volume will be worlds above what it would have been at 1, 2 or 3x per week.  Want your athletes to increase their hand-eye coordination? At every workout, spend just 5 minutes doing hand eye drills.  If they average 3x per week for a year, that’s 13 hours a year of hand eye coordination they would not have done otherwise.  And think of the increased training ability at the end of the year, that’s because that skillset compounded on previous training sessions.


The one caveat to this is unlike a bank account, this works inversely the more skilled you get.  You will accumulate more interest with a million dollars than 100 dollars, however if you squat 600 it is clearly harder to add 25 lbs than if you only squat 200, so the compound effect is goes the opposite way.  However, it also becomes significantly more necessary.  To go from 600 to 625 is more difficult than if you only squatted 200 and want 225, but you NEED more volume, intensity and frequency to add that 25 lbs, otherwise you wont achieve your goal anyway!  The compounding effect becomes even more important.


My challenge to you is pick several things that in 2016 you want to learn more about, do more of, and track it.  Here is a screenshot of an amazing app called Chains.CC.  I cant recommend it enough, you simply enter what you want to do and what days you want to do it, everyday you perform that task / read about that subject / invest that time in that topic, you swipe it.  Over the course of days and months, this chain will become longer and longer, and you do NOT want to break the chain!

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Several ways to implement this: find topics you can do passively.  You can read before bed, so make your knowledgeable goals books you read before bed.  You can listen to podcasts in your car, so make your “go from zero to nothing” goals podcasts, there are so many great ones to choose from.  Set the days you want to do them.  On Saturdays, I don’t do any book “studying” or formal “exercise” goals.  A missed opportunity, yes, but also an opportunity for me to spend with my family.  Learning HUGE amounts of information does not require a significant change in your life, a few small changes will create a big reward in your knowledge and ability.


Be specific as to what you are going to do, but slightly vague enough that it leaves some interpretation and wiggle room as you learn and grow with your goals.  Don’t be too specific that it pigeonholes you into something you are not benefitting from or cannot sustainably keep up.  A bad version of a goal would be to lose weight.  A good version would be to eat vegetables and exercise atleast 6x per week.  A bad version would be to learn, a good version would be podcast and book daily.  From there, figure out what works for you and do it!

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”4883″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”” img_link_target=”_self” title=”Download a Time Compounding Calculator” img_size=”full” link=””][vc_column_text]This also applies to productivity. If you own a business, wouldn’t spending 30 minutes on your website, twice a week, over the course of the year, how much would that 52 hours of content and development improve your website?

So lets do it.  I strongly urge every coach out there to pick a few major tasks, and several minor tasks, that you want to improve in your life, and begin the compounding effect today![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Steve Olson

Steve Olson is a sports performance coach with a special interest in program design and periodization. He believes training is planning and tracking, and uses many different but effective methods of training for the short and long term development of athletes. He has trained Athletes from youth, high school, collegiate and professional, and utilizes different periodization models, training systems and modalities for each to maximize the athletic return from that athlete. He is also the owner and founder of Excel Training Designs, and can be reached at

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