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Finding Your KPILs – A Key Step To Designing a Good Program

What is a KPIL?
It stands for Key Performance Indicator Lift

These are the lifts you want to build your training around. Furthermore, these are the lifts that you want to use as an indicator of progress.

I think of them as global indictor of a programs effectiveness.

Sure, you want to see improvements on all lifts, but progression on the KPILs shows the program as a whole is working.

So, how do you go about choosing your KPILs?

Firstly, I like to have a KPIL for all the foundational movement patterns.

These are:

  1. Upper Body Push
  2. Upper Body Pull
  3. Squat Pattern
  4. Hip Hinge Pattern


That list might well be the following for a lot of people:


  1. Bench Press
  2. Chin Up
  3. Back Squat
  4. Deadlift


As a beginner, I think those 4 will take care of things. As you become more advanced your results are slower and harder to monitor so, at that point you could extend this list out a bit further. I’d make it a 7-point list at that point:


  1. Upper HORIZONTALBody Push
  2. Upper HORIZONTALBody Pull
  3. Upper VERTICALBody Push
  4. Upper VERTICALBody Pull
  5. Squat Pattern
  6. Hip Hinge Pattern
  7. Single Leg Squat Pattern


This list might well look something like this:


  1. Bench Press
  2. Bent Over Row
  3. DB Shoulder Press
  4. Pull-Up
  5. Back Squat
  6. Romanian Deadlift
  7. Bulgarian Split Squats


To pick your own lifts for each movement pattern, begin with the basic compound lifts (e.g., the ones listed in my first 4-point bullet point list above).


Add in some accessory work. Then, over time, carefully analyse your training. You’ll probably notice that most of your results come from a small number of exercises. These are the most effective for you and are strong candidates as your personal KPILs.


The other exercises you do almost certainly have benefit, but the return on investment is smaller. They provide less ban for your buck compared to your KPILs.


Still not sure how to determine your KPILs?


Use this simple tip…


…Start by asking yourself:


“If I could only do one exercise for this movement pattern, based on my needs and goals, what would it be?”


Write it down. I know you’d never do just one exercise, per muscle group long-term, but stay with me. Then ask the same question again for the other movement patterns listed above.


You now have your KPILs.


Program these first in your sessions and focus on training them for performance. Aim to get stronger over time with these. If you’re consistently adding weight and/or reps to these movements then you are almost certainly building muscle and your program is effective.

If progress stalls then, it’s time to take a step back and analyse the overall program. Perhaps you need to make some adjustments to the program, your nutrition, or recovery to get things moving again.

Note. Having KPILs does not mean that you only do these exercises. You can (and almost certainly should) add other exercises to increase overall volume, hit muscles from different angles, or points on the strength curve.


But your KPILs are the most important markers of overall progress. Do not sacrifice progress on these for tons of cute, cool looking “fluff” exercises you’ve seen on Instagram. The other lifts you do should assist your strength on the KPILs and fill out some

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