If you’ve ever caught Greg O’Gallagher of Kinbody on YouTube, you’ve probably heard him mention the “key lifts.”
As in “the secret to a great physique is getting strong on the key lifts.”
You might be wondering… What are the Kinobody key lifts?
According to the programs and Greg himself, the main Kinobody key lifts are:
- The incline bench press – For powerful triceps and a thick upper chest
- Weighted pull-ups – For a wide back and perfectly developed biceps
- And the standing barbell shoulder press – For broad, round, 3D shoulders
You can probably piece together most of the Kinobody philosophy from YouTube and Instagram, but I highly recommend actually buying one of the programs.
They give you the full blueprint to get the body you want and leave pretty much no stone unturned in helping you get there, from exactly how to eat, to how many reps to do of each exercise and when.
You can get a ridiculously easy $20 off the program by taking 30-seconds to fill out the Kinobody Physique Builder Quiz right here.
Now let’s take a closer look!
What are “key lifts” in the Kinobody programs?
Don’t confuse “key lifts” with “only lifts!”
In the Kinobody workout programs, whether you choose to go with Warrior Shredding, Greek God, Goddess, and so on, you’ll be performing lots of different exercises!
Over the course of a given week, you’ll hit each muscle in your body at least once, but often twice, including smaller muscles that need isolation work, your lower body, and multiple muscle groups at once using big, compound lifts.
Greg calls these three (the incline bench press, weighted pull-ups, and standing press) “key lifts” because he believes the focus of your training should be gaining measurable strength on these lifts, as that will be the primary influence on how good your physique is.
Want a powerful, square chest? Get strong on the incline bench press.
(The Kinobody standard starts at about 1.1x your bodyweight for 5 reps on this lift.)
Want a wide back and thick biceps? Get strong on weighted pull-ups.
(Shoot for about half your bodyweight for 5 reps to start.)
Want incredible, round and broad shoulders? Bring up your standing barbell press.
(About 70% of your bodyweight for 5 reps is a good start, and then aim to improve from there!)
Of course, you’ll do some volume training on these workout programs, and you’ll hit smaller muscles with isolation movements (like rear delt flys and bicep curls), but in this training philosophy, it’s not volume or reps that will grow your muscles and transform your physique.
It’s gaining actual, measurable strength while staying lean.
That’s why there’s such an emphasis on these three lifts.
You should definitely be aiming to improve on smaller exercises week to week, but priority number one is mastering these key lifts.
Key lift 1: Incline Barbell Bench Press
This is probably the lift that Greg O’Gallagher is most famous for.
It’s his go-to exercise and most often it’s the biggest priority in his programs.
More often than not, this will be the first exercise you do on a given training day so you can hit it hard while you’re fresh and really push for strength gains.
Greg notes that if you can only pick one exercise to develop your upper body, this would be the one, as it hits your shoulders, chest, and triceps beautifully.
Muscles targeted: Upper chest, front delts (shoulders), and triceps
Variations: Incline dumbbell bench press
(Greg often recommends rotating to effective variations of some of the key lifts if you stall out or plateau in your training, or if you just want to switch things up!)
Key lift 2: Weighted Pull-Ups
If the incline bench press is the key to a great “front” upper body (chest and front delts/shoulders), then the weighted pull-up is the perfect compliment.
This exercise will help you develop an amazing back with perfect width and thickness, as well as hitting your biceps even harder than most curl variations can.
On most of the Kinobody programs (but not always), the only direct back work is a heavy dose of weighted pull-ups.
Muscles targeted: Lats, traps, biceps, and many other small muscles in your upper back
Variations: Weighted chin-ups and other grip variations
Key lift 3: Standing Barbell Shoulder Press
This is another truly AMAZING exercise for developing your upper body.
If you can get really strong on the standing barbell press, you’ll have incredible shoulders, a thick upper chest, and insane triceps.
(Not to mention awesome core strength and stability).
The only reason it comes in a little lower on the list compared to the incline press is because, as Greg mentions, it’s a “stubborn” exercise; meaning it can be hard to consistently gain strength here.
I’ve found this to be true in my own training on the Kinobody programs. You’ll often need to rotate back and forth between different variations of the shoulder press to keep making progress.
Muscles targeted: All delts/shoulder muscles, upper chest, triceps
Variations: Seated dumbbell shoulder press, Arnold press, one-armed dumbbell press
What lower body or leg exercises will you do on Kinobody programs?
The Kinobody programs definitely place an emphasis on upper body training, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be ignoring your legs.
No, you usually won’t be doing heavy barbell squats or traditional deadlifts on these programs.
But that doesn’t mean your legs are getting off easy!
On leg day, you’ll do exercises like:
- Bulgarian split squats
- Pistol squats
- Lunges or reverse lunges
- Romanian deadlifts
- Hip thrusts
- And more
The one-leg approach (Bulgarians and lunges) is BRUTALLY hard and will develop great musculature and athleticism in your legs without the heavy workload of barbell squats.
On most of the Kinobody programs (with the exception of the women’s programs, Goddess and Kinobooty), you’ll be focusing on improving or maintaining your strength on:
- The incline bench press
- Weighted pull-ups and chin-ups
- And the standing barbell shoulder press
You’ll supplement with direct shoulder work (reverse flys, lateral raises), bicep isolation (curl variations), tricep work, and plenty of abs to go along with your leg training.
But if you can master these three lifts, you’ll be well on your way toward that Kino Warrior physique!
Join the full programs to get a lot more detail, instruction, and guidance on how to put this all together. Start by taking this super short quiz and you’ll get $20 off your program right away.