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Cube Kingpin: How Can It Work For You

By Brandon Lilly | In Powerlifting | on October 28, 2013

To start off this article I guess I should start with a “Thank You”. Thank you to the people who took a chance, and ventured onto a different path in their training, and believed in the Cube. The Cube is always evolving, but the core principles are the same, and that is the rotation of the varying intensities (Heavy, Repetition, and Explosive). The latest variation, and the cycle I used for my preparation for CAPO, and again for the contests that are coming up is called “CUBE KINGPIN”.

The reason for the name is a long story. Basically I visited Dan Green at his gym (Boss Barbell), and while I was in California I ran some ideas by Dan, and he ran some by me that he believed would benefit my training. As I was going through my cycle people began asking about what I was doing I decided to pay respect to Dan, and his gym and called it “Cube Boss”. Since then there came about some confusion of people thinking Dan was training the Cube, which is not the case so to avoid any further confusion I changed the name to Kingpin, and here is why Kingpin will work for you!

The basis for the Cube Method came from my transition from geared lifter, to training, and competing raw. I wanted to identify issues within my training, and narrow down the pieces of the puzzle that I believed would benefit me the most in this path:

Piece one of the puzzle was muscle hypertrophy as a goal Piece two was rep work. My time in Ohio was spent chasing the ever important 1 Rep Max, and I seldom ever did reps over a triple. I had gotten damn strong doing sets of 6, 8, 10, and 15’s before, so I needed to get back to that. Piece three was heavy training. I had to come up with a systematic approach to training heavy without going backwards, and also find a way to lift the heaviest weight possible on meet day. The final piece was explosive power. I noticed that when I had trained with just a barbell I was damn strong, and very damn fast. I had used bands a lot, and chains even more, and I had slowed down. That’s not to say those tools don’t work, I had just never utilized them properly, so I wanted to start over with just a bar, then add in the extra tools as I saw fit.

The Cube Method is somewhat of a throwback and I appreciate it every time I hear it referred to as “old school”. The reason the Cube will work is because it is very basic but can be applied to all levels. The “secret” is the rotation of the lifts and the waves involved.

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On this method you will notice a variety of rep ranges, exercises, and an intense focus on realizing that a training cycle is supposed to build you up and prepare you for one day: Meet Day. On this method Meet Day will become something sacred to you. It should, that is the only place the lifts count. In a day and age of immediate social media networking anyone can become what I like to call a “YouTube Superhero”. These are guys that PR every workout and somehow never produce at meets. On my method you may be the guy that showcases solid training in your videos or logs, but nothing over the top, and then BOOM a meet full of PR’s. You decide where your biggest lifts matter, and if it isn’t on the platform, and you need an ego boost every time you walk in the gym, then I apologize… This method is not for you. This type of training will kick your ass, and humble you. But like an unpolished stone along the way you will see the reps and sets are getting easier and easier until you walk under the bar for your opening squat and destroy it… MEET DAY IS KING!!

Cube Method Philosophy

Every single powerlifter has one common goal in mind. That is to become the best that they can be. Some will strive to be the best in their gym, the best at a meet, state, country, or World, but all that means is we have a desire to improve. If you don’t want to get better then I don’t understand why you chose powerlifting, as it is incredibly difficult, and I’m not sure why you are reading this article. I believe that each powerlifter has a deeper connection with themselves than the average person on the street. I believe that we have a driving force inside of us that will not let us be “normal”. I believe if times were different we would be the ones waging wars on the battlefield, we would be the warriors that rise up, and fight. Why do I say this? Because this sport has cost me dearly, but I can’t turn it off. It is a refusal to be complacent, or average. If I didn’t have this sport I can almost guarantee you I would be in prison for beating the shit out of someone daily. Nothing fulfills me like heavy weight. The fire within me is not something I learned, or can teach you. The fire is either there or it’s not.

On the platform we have to perform the three classic lifts: the Squat, Bench, and Deadlift. On the Cube we will attack them intelligently, but we will also bring back into the fold a much over looked lift, the Military Press. Ideas I like to adhere to:

The only PR’s that matter are those on the platform, and for those of you that don’t compete the PR’s at the end of the cycle is what we train for. You may not hit a PR for 9 weeks, but when you test them on week 10 you should blow your old PR’s away. Now, for those of you freaking out right now you will have chances to PR before then, but you need to buy into the fact that a 5 lbs. PR today is ok, but I want a 20 lbs. PR later, so don’t let your short term training diminish your long term results. Stop one set early. We all know the feeling of defeat when you are in the gym, you hit a good lift, then the next jump is iffy, we take it anyway and miss. We WILL NO LONGER MISS WEIGHTS. Make a plan, stick to it, hurt feelings. I haven’t missed a weight because of strength in over 15 months. I might miss on a technical failure, but if that is the case I can reset and immediately do the weight. Check your ego at the door. Your rep and explosive day are just as important as your Max day because they are what lead to successful PR’s, take them seriously, attack the weights each time you are in the gym.

Cube Programming

On the Cube Method you will train three or four days per week, I prefer four. It is a 10 week cycle. Upon completion of the cycle you should either do a meet, or a “mock meet” in your gym to establish new PR’s. Base your next 10 week cycle off of your new PR’s. Why a mock meet? Sometimes this sport can take a toll financially, so to avoid the hassle, and expense of a meet pick a Saturday at the end of your cycle and go into the gym just like it is a meet. Perform your best, and build from there. Believe me, psychological conditioning is every bit as important as the physical side of training. My waves are 3 weeks for squat bench and deadlift and they are modeled like this.

Week 1-Heavy Work Day, Explosive Work Day, Rep Work Day, Body Day

Week 2-Explosive Work Day, Rep Work Day, Heavy Work Day, Body Day

Week 3-Rep Work Day, Heavy Work Day, Explosive Work Day, Body Day

Week 4-Recycle the Wave

I called it “Cube Training” as when it’s mapped out it looks like a “Cube”. I never lift heavy on two lifts within a week. If I deadlift heavy training, my bench is explosive training, and my squat is for repetitions, and as the weeks rotate the “Work Days” are rotated also. Keep in mind that if we are constantly “testing” a lift, we cannot appropriately “build” a lift. At some point the body will reject the training and injury, or burnout will occur. On my method you are constantly stopping early, or training sub-maximally which creates the “dog on a leash” effect that I like to refer to. Think about holding back for 10 weeks, and holding back, and holding back, and then on meet day you are let off the chain. That is when you attack the platform with renewed ferocity, and I swear the PR’s will come.

Here’s the setup:

WEEK- 1 2 31 4 5 62 7 8 93 10x

Deads- 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 x

Bench- 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 x

Squat- 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 x

Key- 1=End of Wave 1, 2=End of Wave 2, 3=End of Wave 3, , x=Meet Week

Sundays are always a bodybuilding day. Every Sunday I have three exercises that are never rotated. They are Military Press, Bicep Curls, and Calf Raises. From there I pick three weak bodyparts, and I choose one exercise for each. I vary my sets and reps depending on feel. If I am feeling beat up from the week I will do more sets (no more than 5 per bodypart, never less than 3 sets) with more reps (never more than 20, never less than 6 reps), if I feel fresh I do less sets with heavier weight for fewer reps.

A typical Sunday:

Military Press- 3 x 10 Bicep Curls w/EZ Curl Bar- 4 x 15 Calf Raises- 4 x 15

Weak Point Training

Leg Curls for Hamstrings- 5 x 20 Lat Pulldowns- 4 x 12 Pec Flyes w/Dumbbells- 3 x 12 Abs (Abs are done every training day)

The bodybuilding is a great day because it allows for a whole different style of training, as well as focusing only on hypertrophy, and forgetting about heavy weight. Take this day seriously, but be mindful to enjoy it. Understand that you are building your body to look like a lifter instead of a fat piece of shit which long ago became acceptable in our sport.

Now that you have somewhat of an idea about what the Cube Method originated from let me introduce you to the newest phase of the Cube, and the cycle that I believe has made me stronger than ever before. I do recommend that you run a cycle or two of the Cube Method before you jump right into the Kingpin cycle, but if you want a challenge then jump right in!! Just make sure to focus on your recovery…

CUBE KINGPIN

What I want to be clear with you about the CUBE is I am not trying to sell you on an easy path. I’m not a scientist, I don’t use big words, I don’t give two shits about making people feel special. I don’t promise you miracle gains overnight, and I sure as hell don’t promise results without effort. What I do promise is a system that has proven to be effective over, and over again so long as the stimulus is increased for the lifter, and when we hit PR’s, we increase the stimulus, so the issue of success takes care of itself. So long as you work for it. The way I look at the body, and the longevity of a lifter is strictly dependent upon the base he builds. Imagine building your body like climbing Mt. Everest, in an attempt to make it to the top sometimes you have to stop for a few hours, maybe ever track back down the mountain a bit to find the path to best move forward, and give your body the ability to acclimate to the thinning air. A straight up ascent would lead to lung failure, and potentially death. Now, apply that to a powerlifter. I see guys make monumental strides for a year or two, and then they are gone. Where did they go? Why did their numbers stall?

My belief is that they rose too quickly. To be the best your body has to be working in unison. Tendons, ligaments, muscles, neuro activity. All of this has to build gradually. So how do we achieve this steady progression, that is not only realistic, but in a way that allows our body to work together?

Steady progression. I have a map that I lay out for lifters that looks like this. We run five, ten week CUBE KINGPIN cycles in a year with a goal of a minimum of 5 lbs. progression each lift.

Squat- x 5 cycles x 5 lbs Progression x 1 year = 25 lbs.

Bench- x 5 cycles x 5 lbs Progression x 1 year = 25 lbs

Deads- x 5 cycles x 5 lbs Progression x 1 year = 25 lbs

That gives us a yield of 75 lbs. progress per year in theory. Now, some of you may laugh at this and say you can add that to each lift in a cycle. Maybe you can, but I am talking about raw strength. Not getting a tighter suit, or bench shirt, but real measurable strength. Now my geared lifters don’t get in an uproar! I am just saying that a shirt, or suit can be great today, lose a pound and it’s rendered ineffective tomorrow. I am talking about raw progression as it is consistent.

So, in theory 75 lbs. per year x 4 years = 300 lbs. (In theory)

Take a 220 lifter (raw), with a 1500 lbs. total. Have him stick to this plan, and lets say in year one he doubles his expectations and hits 10 lbs. per cycle, then for the next 3 years stays on point. He is now an 1875 lbs. lifter, and if he can maintain another year or two like that then you are talking about a lifter that is now on the Top 20 List All-Time!!!

I am not here to promise you bullshit. You will not make it to the top quickly. People look at Dave Hoff, or Eric Lilliebridge both doing massive numbers by 24 years old… Guess what? Dave joined Westside at 15 years old!! Eric began training with his dad at 13 years old, so they have over 10 years invested, many of those years in the quiet shadows as an unknown working their ass off. I added in the Strongman Movements, and Chin Ups (almost every Euro Lifter I look up to does chins on the regular… YouTube Konstantin Konstantinovs for example) to make you mentally tougher, as well as physically harder. That will make you better overall. But it will still take time. My question to you, rather my challenge is can you pull the reigns back and progress more methodically, and purposefully? Can you set your goal at 3 years of constant progress instead of 2 years of zig zagged effort? If you can understand that champions are not built overnight, but rather over a career then here is a plan for you.

Formula

(Here is a 3 Week Wave of the Kingpin Cycle)

Week 1

Heavy Deadlifts

Competition Stance from Floor 80% x 2 reps x 5 sets

Block Pulls 85% x 1-3 reps x 2 sets

2” Deficit Pulls 75% x 4-6 reps x 2 sets

Lat Pulldowns 15 reps x 4 sets

Shrugs 10 reps x 3 sets

Heavy Dumbell/Barbell Walks 30 secs x 3 trips

Pull Ups x Failure x 3 sets

Rep Bench

Competition Bench 70% x 8-12 reps x 2-3 sets

Close Grip 75% x 6-8 reps x 2 sets

Bench w/Pause 1” Off Chest 65% x 10-12 reps x 2-3 sets

Lat Pulldowns 15 reps x 4 sets

Side/Front Raises 10 reps x 3 sets

Pull Ups x Failure x 3 sets

Explosive Squats

Competition Stance Squats 65% x 3 reps x 8 sets

Olympic Squats or Front Squats 70% x 5 reps x 2 sets

Pause Squats (Pause in the hole) 60% x 8 reps x 2-3 sets

Heavy DB/Barbell Walks 30 secs x 3 trips

Leg Curl/GHR 15 reps x 3 sets

Back Raises 12 reps x 4 sets

Pull Ups x Failure x 3 sets

Week 2

Explosive Deadlifts

*My personal deadlift days on the explosive day are different than what is listed. I choose to do a wave of 65% for 12 reps in under 20 seconds, 70% for 8 reps in under 15 seconds, 75% for 6 reps in under 10 seconds. This is just my preference, my clients usually stick to the program as listed. Competition Stance from Floor 65% x 3 reps x 8 sets Block Pulls 70% x 5 reps x 2 sets 2” Deficit Pulls 60% x 8 reps x 2-3 sets Lat Pulldowns 15 reps x 4 sets Shrugs 10 reps x 3 sets Heavy Dumbell/Barbell Walks 30 secs x 3 trips Pull Ups x Failure x 3 sets

Heavy Bench

Competition Bench 80% x 2 reps x 5 sets

Close Grip 85% x 1-3 reps x 2 sets

Bench w/Pause 1” Off Chest 70% x 4-6 reps x 2 sets

Lat Pulldowns 15 reps x 4 sets

Side/Front Raises 10 reps x 3 sets

Pull Ups x Failure x 3 sets

Rep Squats

Competition Stance Squats 70% x 8-12 reps x 2-3 sets

Olympic Squats or Front Squats 75% x 6-8 reps x 2 sets

Pause Squats (Pause in the hole) 65% x 10-12 x 2-3

Heavy DB/Barbell Walks 30 secs x 3 trips

Leg Curl/GHR 15 reps x 3 sets

Back Raises 12 reps x 4 sets

Pull Ups x Failure x 3 sets

Week 3

Rep Deadlifts

Competition Stance from Floor 70% x 8-12 reps x 2-3 sets

Block Pulls 75% x 6-8 reps x 2 sets

2” Deficit Pulls 65% x 10-12 x 2-3

Lat Pulldowns 15 reps x 4 sets

Shrugs 10 reps x 3 sets

Heavy Dumbell/Barbell Walks 30 secs x 3 trips

Pull Ups x Failure x 3 sets

Explosive Bench

Competition Bench 65% x 3 reps x 8 sets

Close Grip 70% x 5 reps x 2 sets

Bench w/Pause 1” Off Chest 60% x 8 reps x 2-3 sets

Lat Pulldowns 15 reps x 4 sets

Side/Front Raises 10 reps x 3 sets

Pull Ups x Failure x 3 sets

Heavy Squats

Competition Stance Squats 80% x 2 reps x 5 sets

Olympic Squats or Front Squats 85% x 1-3 reps x 2 sets

Pause Squats (Pause in the hole) 70% x 4-6 reps x 2 sets

Heavy DB/Barbell Walks 30 secs x 3 trips

Leg Curl/GHR 15 reps x 3 sets

Back Raises 12 reps x 4 sets

Pull Ups x Failure x 3 sets

As you can see the formula is the first movement is always the competition lift, and it holds to the Cube rotation of Heavy, Rep, or Explosive but the added benefit is that you really work all three each day! This is done by adding 5% to the second movement, and then on the 3rd movement dropping 10% from the second lift percentage. So each lift will be worked from three intensities, and in three different forms. What I have found this does it allows the lifter rapid development in each lift, as well as building a solid base to build upon cycle to cycle, and hits the lifts from various angles so you become virtually unstoppable once competition begins. At the end of each three week wave you just revert back, and up the percentage so that you consistently climb in a linear progression, but you always slack back just a little after the heavy week, this allows for maximum recovery, as well as the heightened excitement to go that much harder in the gym when the heavy days do roll around. I have found in myself that when the heavy comes for each of the lifts I am not bogged down, and dreading the work, rather I am anxious and excited about the fact that I get to handle maximum work capacity. This is the kind of lifting that builds confidence over time. Consistently handling weights in excess of 90% at all times may work for a while, and especially for a geared lifter, but for the majority it will lead to burnout, and frustration from the impossible task of hitting PR’s every week. The only PR’s that matter to me are on the platform, or in your arena of athletics… Last I checked official records aren’t kept on what you do in practice.

(To date six men have competed, and totaled over 2,000 lbs. raw using the Cube Method. Hundreds have hit their Elite totals, and numerous Best Lifter trophies. I want to personally thank all of you, as well as the people who doubted our abilities. If it weren’t for people doubting me I’d never have started competing in the first place. Thank you!)

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9 comments
102sy
102sy

What constitutes a "block" pull? From the knees, below knees, etc...?

DJ
DJ

Where can we find a complete cycle of programming for cube kingpin method? And what was the response to Cubist question about percentages? Was that a typo or are the % different for the heavy squat and heavy bench?

cubist
cubist

Are there typos in the percentages listed for the heavy bench day in week 2 and the heavy squat day in week 3 of the exemplary 3 week wave?

I ask, because the percentages listed for the heavy bench day in week 2 and the heavy squat day in week 3 seem to deviate from this statement:

"This is done by adding 5% to the second movement, and then on the 3rd movement dropping 10% from the second lift percentage."

My understanding is that if the percentage for the first movement is X, then the percentage for the second movement should be X+5% and the percentage for the third movement should be X-5%.

The above holds true for the percentages listed for all three days in week 1; i.e. the percentages for the three movements on heavy deadlift day are 80/85/75 respectively, the percentages for the three movements on rep bench day are 70/75/65 respectively and the percentages for the three movements on explosive squat day are 65/70/60 respectively.

The percentages for the three movements for the explosive and rep days for weeks 2 and 3 are consistent with the above, being 65/70/60 and 70/75/65 respectively; however, the percentages for the three movements for heavy bench for week 2 and for heavy squat for week 3 deviate from the above, in that they are listed as 80/85/70 respectively, whereas I would have expected them to be 80/85/75 in order to be consistent.

Please clarify.

NateConder
NateConder

Is there an excel template for the Kingpin version of The Cube? I'm asking because it just makes it a lot easier to manage my training. 

Thanks

Jeremie
Jeremie

To the person asking about Kindle - there's an app you can download from Kindle that allows you to send PDFs and web content to your Kindle.  You can right click the PDF and the option to send to Kindle is there.

president kang
president kang

Any chance of 365 Strong being released on the Kindle?

Andrew317
Andrew317

Brandon, is the percentage listed for the 2nd movement based off the main lift?  So does the front squat at 85% mean 85% of the your front squat max or 85% of the main lift max?

tcul72
tcul72

@DJ  It's in the 365 Strong book. I'm sure he isn't going to post it here.

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