I believe that as “athletes” we have bought into the idea that we have to peak for everything. I believe we all have a base I call “365 Strength”. This is a set of numbers that no matter what you could accomplish any day of the year, hungry, tired, overtrained, etc. These numbers are what I monitor. I believe that if I can constantly increase my “365” then I am a better lifter for it. I have a couple of moments, that if I am honest are sheer stupid pride, but at the same time that there is something to what I am saying. I have pulled 815 lbs to near lockout without any warm up (plates fell off before I could complete the lift), I deadlifted in the Animal Cage, and competed the next day with less than 24 hours rest. I benched 525 no warm up on a bet, and walked out, and squatted 610 lbs. in a pair of swimming trunks, a tank top, and flip flops because someone said I couldn’t do it. I focus on squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, and pull ups. For me I believe any day of the week, on a moments notice I can be ready to perform at a high level. If I were honest I would say that I could work up to a 675 lbs raw no belt squat, 700 belt squat, and 765 squat with belt, and wraps. I can bench 500 lbs. at 308, and 525 at SHW, overhead 300 lbs, and Incline 120 lbs DB’s for 25 reps. I can pull 750 beltless or belted at any time. Those numbers mean a lot to me, and I have worked my ass off to be able to say that. I’m not bragging, I’m just stating what I have done and replicated. I have pulled 750, 760, and 777 lbs. in three straight days. I have also benched 500 lbs. in 6 consecutive days. The idea that you have to sacrifice strength is ludicrous. Do I believe you can have improvements through “peaking” of course, but why would ever concede that you can’t be strong all the time?
When I think of myself, and my identity in this sport, I classify myself as a powerlifter, but in reality I would rather be classified as an all-around strength athlete. We have gotten so separated in our little “titles” that we have lost sight of a lot of things, one of those being strong. “I’m a powerlifter, I’m a strongman, I’m a bodybuilder, I’m a weightlifter, I’m an arm wrestler…” Do we not all have a love for strength? Do we not all devote insane amounts of time to our efforts? We should spend more time in learning from one another, and less time bashing, I think we all might realize how much better we can be if we did so.
If I gave you a scenario, that took lifting out of the equation, that would show you how absolutely ridiculous we have become in our way of thinking, we have allowed “weakness” to creep in and take hold. So here goes; imagine that you are walking down an alley with a loved one, possibly a grandparent, parent, brother, sister, child, best friend, husband, wife, you get the point, now, imagine this person is attacked by someone in the alley.
A) Calmly explain to the attacker that you are currently a little rusty, need some time to go back to the gym, take some martial arts classes, and drop a few pounds?
B) Do you do your damnedest, and start giving the attacker every ounce of your worth, and defend your loved one?
For me the answer is simple. I’m gonna try my best to defend my loved one. I always want to be ready for the unexpected. I want to be a guy that is well rounded, I want to be ready for anything, any challenge, at any time. Does this mean I will always win? Most certainly not but if you follow a few steps you can shed yourself of previous “weakness”, and start progressing towards being a badass 365 days a year. Stop limiting your human potential, and short changing yourself of the gift of a life, and a body you were given, and learn to push yourself, challenge higher than you ever thought possible. For too long all I’ve heard in strength sports is “you can’t be good at more than one discipline”. “Hey Brandon, you know if you deadlift in the Animal Cage you won’t be able to lift the next day in the XPC!!” Who says? I can give you a list of names from powerlifting that say so, weightlifting that say so, bodybuilding that say so… Do you think Mikhail Koklyaev gives a shit what those people think? Do you think that at sub 10% bodyfat, with an IFBB Pro Card Stan Efferding ever believed that because he was a Pro Bodybuilder, he’d never set a powerlifting World Record? 2303 lbs. at 275 lbs. BWT, know many have done that? One. You think Bill Kazmaier was thinking as a powerlifter that he was jeopardizing his future as THE most famous American Strongman, and possibly the most famous strongman in the world? Shane Hammond, Matt Kroczaleski, Shawn Frankl, Chad Smith, and a host of others all decided to believe differently. They pushed the envelope in multiple disciplines, and have inspired me to be the best I can be.
So, how does one become “365” strong? In my journey these steps are what I have found to work best for me, and allowed me to be great at some things, good at others, and dominant in a few , but mostly to be well rounded. There have been a few times when I have focused too much on powerlifting, and I lost a lot of base strength, I think a lot of this was an over commitment to powerlifting gear, notice I said, and OVER COMMITMENT, I think you can achieve 365 strength in gear, you just have to be aware that sometimes the gear comes off. So here is my plan to be a big, strong, jacked, fast, and powerful badass on demand.
- Train like a strongman, diet like bodybuilder, mobilize like a weightlifter, and think like a powerlifter. What does this mean? Strongmen need to be brutally strong, but they also have to be able to move with big weights. So train lifts in which you are no longer stationary. Do walking lunges, farmers walks, and stone/weight carries. Don’t like hours of cardio? Pick up a weight and start walking with it… You’ll thank me. Bodybuilders have the most necessity for food, and understanding what foods are important. There has been tremendous research done on the power of foods, and bodybuilders are leading the way for all of us, as far as pushing the envelope on how much nutrition can help you. They eat a balance of proteins, carbs, and fats that not only allow for optimum performance, looking, and feeling your strongest. I used to buy into the idea that bigger was better, but then you see guys like Dan Green, Eric Lillibridge, Mark Bell, and Stan Efferding lifting at the highest levels and looking like bodybuilders it makes you wonder if you really got stronger, or if you just fattened your way to better leverages. Don’t get pissy, I believed in being a fatty for a long time too… You can change. Weightlifters put their bodies through rigorous training filled with explosive, joint slamming lifts. They allow their bodies to prepare for this because they dedicate to mobility work. This is a must for all of us, or before too long you will end up bound by your own muscularity, and literally unable to utilize the physique you worked so hard to build. Stretch for preventative measures, and for quality of life. Thinking like a powerlifter is important because for a powerlifter it is all about one big number. Many times in life, and in competition you will have to bring it all, 100%, full out, or you will fail. That is why in the back of your mind you need to unleash the inner powerlifter. Some days when it’s a designated “light” day I’ll go in, and just say “to hell with it” and max out. Why? To see if I can? To see if I PR? No, for me it is to see that my strength is high no matter that I didn’t sleep well, I maxed out earlier in the week, I haven’t eaten enough… Being able to bring it any day, any time is 365 strong.
- Keep the main movement hard, and heavy, then scale back, and hammer the reps on accessory work. This is the basic philosophy that I built the Cube around, and since that time, shared this idea with my teammates at Lexen, and Berea Barbell. In that time I have seen some amazing improvements not only in their lifts, but their physiques as well. Make the gym fun again. Push each other on weight, reps, then when you start to fail out, use Rest-Pause Sets, sets where you burn out or do as many reps as possible. Try throwing in a set where your only goal is time. We used to do benches at Lexen for two minutes. Just see how many reps you can get without stopping. Talk about brutal!! But these types of challenges amongst your teammates, and within yourself will not only keep you motivated, but having fun, and learning to compete.
- Never Build Walls Around Your Progress. What the hell am I talking about? I train the Cube Method, and I believe in it whole heartedly, but if I found a new way of doing things tomorrow that proved to be better for me why the hell would I keep training the Cube? If you ate cold mashed potatoes with your dinner every night you might think they are good, and enjoyable, but then somebody gives you piping hot mashed potatoes, or introduces you to how to use a micriowave my assumption is that you would most likely treat yourself to hot mashed potatoes from now on. Training is the same. I never understand this blue blood, dyed in the wool stance for any training idea. I trained the Westside Method, and had great results, but in my own belief, and the numbers I’ve put on the platform would indicate that for me the Cube works better. I believe in science, and Louie has loads of it, and I respect the hell out of the 30 plus years he’s given to the sport, but you know the only man that truly holds the key to my total? Me. So if you find yourself on the Cube, 5/3/1, Westside, Juggernaut, Lift Run Bang, Starting Strength, Sheiko, Smolov, etc. if it’s not working be willing to adapt. As you gain training experience learn that you can take parts of one, mix with another, and do a hybrid… Just find what works best for you. That doesn’t mean you don’t like me, Louie, Jim Wendler, or the others, it just means you made a decision to keep chasing progression. But with that give any program ample time to work… Don’t be a program jumper either.
- Lose hope, gain strength. What? I probably have more goals than any human alive today. Don’t believe me? I literally have the goal everyday to “wake up tomorrow”, and more importantly “wake up tomorrow better than today”. I have goals for everything I do. I believe that as each day passes I should be better than before, so set yourself daily training goals, weekly goals, monthly, quarterly, yearly, 5 years, 10 years, etc. Have a clearly drawn out map in your mind, and I almost guarantee you that the body will follow. This is the best advice I ever received about goal setting… A professor of mine told me the best way to achieve anything is to “lose hope”. Hope is the expectation that God/Mohammed/ The Universe will somehow magically intervene and fix your issues. He went on to explain that when you stop expecting things to happen, you get to making things happen. I hear guys say all the time “I want to squat “x”, but when asked how do you plan to do it they lack the answers to make it happen. I will tell you right now that I have a goal of benching 600 lbs. in a raw competition. I intend to do this by continuously strengthening my shoulders (front, side, and rear delts), working my triceps in multiple positions (pause press, floor press, boards), increase my overhead, improve my rep work on incline DB Press. Outside the gym I have ideas about improving my nutrition to stay as big, strong, and healthy as possible. I even go so far as planning to improve my sleep. A goal without a plan, is like a map without roads. Clearly plan for your future, and start upon your path.
I hope that after reading this article you make some sense of it, and realize that if you limit yourself to one way of thinking, whether it is a specific discipline, training method, or idea you are limiting your ability to be the best. Always be willing to receive new ideas. Never stop believing in yourself, and always push to be better in some area, I credit Mark Bell for the line “Strength is never a weakness”, but to further that you need to admit where you are weak so you can ultimately become strong. Raise your game, dedicate to be being a badass 365 days a year.Brandon Lilly is very well traveled, Elite powerlifter. He has trained at Guerrilla Squad Barbell, Westside Barbell, Lexen Xtreme, and is now home at Berea Barbell. In his strength journey he has competed in bodybuilding, strongman, and powerlifting. Brandon is one of only 19 men to ever total over 2200 raw, having 2204 which ties him for 16th all time (826.5 squat, 573 bench, 804.5 Deadlift). He also amassed a 2612 total in Multi-Ply, and has best lifts of 1008 squat, 832 bench press, and 771 Deadlift. Brandon is the author of The Cube Method and is aiming to create a paradigm shift in the Powerlifting world. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter